Most of my trips are made on a backpackers budget, otherwise I would not be able to visit all those wonderful places. Of course, not every destination can be economical. For example, in Norway a small pizza will cost you US$60, in Switzerland (if you are not careful) you can spend $40 on a sandwich in the middle of the financial district in Geneva without realizing, or a shot in a nightclub in New York City can end up costing you your whole day’s budget. Below are some steps that you can take when planning your trip to increase your comfort and maintain your budget.
1) Plan, plan, plan: prior to booking your flight (which is the most expensive part of the trip), check different dates and months. Usually, if you book ahead of time and you do not have specific dates that you must travel on, you can find deals. But even if deals do not exist, you can check different airlines, on different dates, and flying out and in of different destinations. For example, on my last trip to Miami, I arrived in Miami and departed from Fort Lauderdale which decreased my cost by $300. Running so many variations may take up a few hours of your life, however unless you make 6 digits a year your savings will yield more than your hourly rate.
2) Once you have your inbound/outbound flight, you should start to plan your itinerary. You probably want to check cities at dates for average hotel prices. Expedia is a great site that will show you the average. This will give you an indication of how you should plan your trip.
3) Once you have established your dates and locations. I usually scan my emails to find deals on various sites such as Travelzoo, Groupon, etc… The best place to find amazing deals is Booking.com if you subscribe to their email you will get their “secret” deals. The other reason I like Booking.com is that they list all the hotels that sites like Expedia or Hotels.com do not offer.
4) Choosing hotels, there are a few tips that I found save a lot of money:
- If you are going to rent a car or if you are going to rely on trains/public transportation, you can stay 20-30 minutes outside of the city for a lot less. Use the “map feature” to find closer hotels at different prices.
- Try to stay in family owned hotels (pensions, guest houses) especially in Europe, they are usually clean and have very interesting decor.
- Look at the total cost of the room. You would be surprised on how much money you can overpay if you look at the price of the hotel for the room. Some hotels will offer free breakfast, wi-fi, parking, etc… which if needed can cost you more at the end.
- If travelling with more than one person, it is almost always cheaper to stay in a budget hotel with private facilities compared to a Hostel. If you are on your own, then a hostel is the best way to go as you meet a lot of travellers and it will be much cheaper.
- Redeem your air miles, collectors points, etc… on hotels and collect hotel points everywhere you can. You also never know what perks it will get you! Anywhere from free access to the gym to free breakfast and dinner, not to mention a free room. Usually if you stay at a hotel chain for 10 nights in a year, you can get a free night…this maybe great if you plan to do a lot of travelling in a short period of time.
Finally, have a budget in mind prior to planning your trip. If you saved on flights and hotels, you can indulge on food. If one city is super expensive then maybe plan your trip to stay only one night but spend 2 full days there, and cheapen on another part of the trip to balance it out.
Enjoy and do not forget to indulge once in a while as you only live once!