When it comes to travel I have a wish-list that is growing by the year. For most of us the big constraint is the cost that’s associated with all this foreign fun-having.
I spent two years backpacking and managed to actually save money to come home with. Obviously part of the fun of travel is to see and experience new things, clutching tightly to your wallet and penny-pinching all the way will quickly dampen your sunshine plans.
You really don’t need to make drastic sacrifices, it’s more about careful planning and research so you don’t waste money on the boring stuff when you really want to splurge on a skydive.
These are a few of the money-saving travel tips that I rely on. With a bit of planning, it needn’t cost you the earth to see the world.
Research and Plan Ahead
- Booking in advance is the best way to manage your money when travelling and helps to eliminate nasty shocks along the way.
- Don’t leave it to chance, do lots of research on the dates you want to travel, make sure it doesn’t coincide with peak school holidays or a big, national festival that will increase the cost and decrease your chances of finding accommodation.
- Use comparison sites to check the costs of transport and accommodation. Make sure you have accounted for all the hidden extras like transport to and from the airport or hotel and any parking costs at your destination if you’re travelling with a car.
- Remember to get yourself insured when you travel as costs can be huge if you become ill or your luggage gets lost. Don’t be tempted to forgo insurance to save cash, it’s a relatively small amount to pay and could save you thousands if the worst happened.
- Do you have a valid EHIC? A European Health Insurance Card will entitle you to free or discounted medical treatment in state-run hospitals within the European Union. It’s free and you can apply online. If you’re travelling outside of Europe research what medical help may be available to you. When I was backpacking in Australia I applied for a Medicare card which entitled me to free treatment from a doctor. Before I received the card I was paying between $50 and $70 just for the appointment!
- Think about your mobile phone and internet so you don’t get hit with roaming charges. For cost saving and security I have a cheap bottom-of-the-range mobile that I take abroad. When I arrive in a new country I buy a sim card so that I can call hotels and make travel arrangements at local rate cost. They are inexpensive to buy and you have the safety and convenience of being able to use it without restriction. It also means you can easily stay in touch with friends you meet while you’re there.
- If you want to travel without using all your savings, consider WWOOFING – world-wide opportunities on organic farms. Many rural farms will offer you free food and accommodation in exchange for labour. It’s a chance to see a new region without spending your money along the way.
- Australia has a Harvest Trail where you can work your way around the country according to what’s in season at any one time. Pick grapes near Adelaide, farm lettuce on the Gold Coast or pick bananas in Cairns. Working on a farm is a fun way to meet new people to travel with. Take a month in each location and get out to explore the region on evenings and weekends.
- When I was in Australia I worked on a lettuce farm for 88 days in order to qualify for a second year visa. The work was tiring but the food was amazing and I met some great people; best of all, I earned the right to stay in Australia for another 12 months – not bad for 88 days working outside in the sunshine.
Make a Dinner Party
- Living in a hostel and trying to cook in a hot, over-crowded kitchen isn’t fun. Ever.
Add to it the fact that someone keeps stealing your food from the fridge and that you have to eat the same meal for three nights in a row, so as not to waste your ingredients and you’ll quickly get fed up.
- I’m not a great fan of cooking and used to go one of two ways: 1. Spending a lot of money eating out (not hugely sustainable) or 2. Putting pasta/toast/salad on heavy rotation (not good if you’re already slim).
- Save money on the cost of ingredients – and your sanity in the kitchen – by joining a meal circle with a few friends from your dorm. Share the costs and the cooking and devise a rota so you take it in turns to buy, cook and wash-up.
- Money goes a lot further in the kitchen when you can buy in bulk. In my experience food is stolen constantly from personal fridge bags, so save on the frustration by buying food every day or two rather than storing a week’s worth in a communal kitchen and finding someone has helped themselves to £20 of your food!
Grab a Discount
- Get a discount card. VIP Backpakcers cards can save you money on hostel bookings, trips, attractions and transport. STA currently has an offer on the card so you can but it for £12 (usually £17). The card is valid for 12 months so you quickly recover the cost and start saving.
- Lots of restaurants and cinemas have special student nights or 2 for 1 deals. Search them out and plan around the offers and promotions to save cash on nights out.
- I always sign-up to loyalty schemes with hotels when I travel. They are usually free to join and come packed with offers and incentives. You’ll be rewarded for your brand loyalty so pick a large chain where you can easily make use of your card in any city and add to your points.
- Sign up to travel company newsletters and follow on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss special offers as soon as they are announced.
Save as you Spend
- If you’re going abroad, make sure you have the right credit or debit cards so that you’re not being charged sky-high rates to withdraw cash. Do some research to find the best deals and compare rates before you go.
- Remember to let your bank know that you will be travelling or you may find your cards get frozen. Calling an 0845 number from a mobile, outside the UK to get the account unlocked will cost you a fortune.
- If you have a working holiday visa, it’s a good idea to open a bank account in the country when you get there. When I lived in Australia I was losing money for the first month by continuing to use my UK cards. As soon as I had a job I directed my salary into my Australian bank account to avoid all the exchange charges every time I wanted to withdraw money. It cost me $5 a month to hold the account but I was spending more than that a month in exchange costs due to several small withdrawals as obviously you don’t want to be walking around with hundreds of notes in your pocket.
- The Post Office Travel Money Card is accepted in 210 countries. Load the card with sterling and use as a debit card. The card can be used in eight currencies, Euro, US Dollar, Australian Dollar, Canadian Dollar, New Zealand Dollar, South African Rand, Swiss Franc and Sterling and gives you the security of not having to withdraw cash from an ATM.
Talk to People
- My overall tip is to get connected; talk to people you meet on your travels and get tips and advice as you go. The more people you connect with, the more chance you have of finding out about a great deal. You also have more options when it comes to teaming up to rent a car, share petrol or accommodation costs.There are links below which could help you with your planning. If you have a money-saving travel tip, please share it below in the comments section.
Compare UK airport parking with Airport Parking Shop
Find out about Reciprocal Health Care Agreements
Money Saving Expert – Mobile Roaming
Work on a Farm with Harvest Trail
WWOOF – work around the world
Get the VIP Backpacker Card
Credit Card Insider travel money information
Post Office Money Card