Money is always a big issue when it comes to travel. Whether it prevents you from your trip before it even starts or limits what you can do on your voyage, finance inevitably becomes a factor when you travel. It’s an unavoidable part of taking your dream adventure. Because it is such an issue, here are some tips that I’ve compiled on how to save some money while backpacking:
- Shop at Grocery Stores: If you stay in hostels, cook in hostels with cheap food from the grocery store. Matt and I rarely eat at restaurants because we save so much money if we buy our food from a grocery store. Additionally, pick up some portable snacks to bring with you for lunch during the day. (Matt and I usually bring cheese, bread, and apples.) That will save you the cost of having to buy lunch somewhere.
- Pick the Cheapest Route Possible: Matt is the master at finding the least expensive travel routes. He pulls up a spreadsheet and writes down the potential paths and checks the transportation methods. Selecting the least expensive route can mean changing the order of cities or picking a different mode of transportation (bus v. train v. plane). Add up the costs and pick the one that saves you the most money.
- Look for Good Hostel Prices: Let’s face it. If you want to save some money, you can’t stay in hostels with a 99% positive rating on HostelWorld. Matt and I set limits for ourselves with lodging (nothing below a 70% rating, free WiFi, access to lockers, fair location, and linen included) and then try to pick the cheapest that will match those requirements. If you are cool with staying in a room with however many people, it’s even cheaper. If you can still find a cheap private room, take it because those are few and far between. Budget to get some uninterrupted sleep every once in a while.
- Forgo Public Transportation: Barring cities where it is absolutely necessary to take public transportation without having to spend half the day walking (I’m looking at you Berlin!), Matt and I opt to travel by foot. This saves us money and helps us get some exercise. Double win!
- Find Free Museums: Sometimes museums are free. Sometimes there are reduced entrance fees. Sometimes you still have to pay full price. Matt and I are going to go to museums no matter what but if there is no entrance fee or a reduced one, you’ll probably find us there. We do have our limits though. If admission is crazy, we probably won’t cough up the cash. Occasionally you need to remind yourself that just because something is expensive doesn’t mean that it is better.
- Create Your Own Tour: It’s cool when there is a free walking tour (keep in mind that “free” usually means tip based so be prepared for that) but sometimes it is worth it to make your own tour. Matt and I will outline some buildings we want to see or that we know are highlights and then we’ll visit those by foot. Thanks to the interwebs, we can get all the information we need to know online. And we save money, even if it is just a measly tip. (FYI: Matt and I did this for a chocolate tour in Brussels and saved ourselves seventy dollars each. Sure, we didn’t get to do a chocolate class at the end of our tour but we still ate at all the chocolate stores that the company listed on their route.)
- Sleep the Whole Day: Every once in a while you should take a break from your backpacking excursions for your sanity and health. It can be rough when you are constantly moving. That day you take as a break every few weeks is also a day when you will have only the expenses of your cheap hostel accommodations and some food you bought from the grocery store. Score!
- Reserve Ahead or Don’t: It’s a game that you have to play. Do you reserve ahead or wait until the last minute? Both can potentially yield cheap results. If you see a deal early on and are able to book in advance, I say why not. You just saved yourself some money. If you wait until the last minute and find a deal, great. It’s really a crap shoot. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Look for those deals and take them when you see them.
- Pick and Choose Your Experiences: You are traveling for your enjoyment even if you do need to stick to a budget. Plan for experiences that you know you’ll want to do. For example, I have money that I’m willing to expend on going to restaurants and taking the occasional pricey tour that gets us out of the cities we visit. Pick what you know you’ll love and never forget.