Over the years, backpackers have unsurprisingly gained a reputation as a bunch of spoilt ‘gap yah’ kids. Don’t get me wrong, whilst travelling I’ve come across many Felix and Jemima’s whose journey of self-discovery has been fully funded by Daddy’s credit card. But I’ve also come across plenty of regular people too — like teachers, students, secretaries, and bartenders.
Whilst the reputation that backpackers have gained is somewhat justified, it isn’t completely true. You don’t have to be rich to travel — but you do have to be savvy (and maybe give up a little bit of comfort too). The average cost of a 10-day holiday is £947 per person. If you want to turn 10 days into a month (or maybe even more), use these 10 tips to stretch your travel budget.
Travel in shoulder-season
Most of my big trips have been in shoulder-season. Initially, this was just a coincidence, but it’s now become my absolute favourite season. I’d even go out of my way to backpack in this season.
There are so many things to love about shoulder-season: the weather is usually much more comfortable than the on-peak season, you can avoid busy crowds and you rarely have to pre-book for popular tourist attractions. But the best thing by far is the price. Low-cost transport, discounted attractions, affordable accommodation — everything is cheaper in shoulder-season. You can cut the cost of your entire trip by as much as 30%, so it certainly isn’t to be sniffed at. If you take just one thing away from the article, make it this tip.
Walk it off
Walking is by far the best mode of transportation when travelling. Exploring your destination on foot makes it far easier to get to know the area, and you may even make a few discoveries on your travels. We never would have come across these friendly sea lions in Antofagasta if we explored the city via bus or taxi. Not only is walking a fun way to get to know the city, but it will also slash your transport cost.
Make sure to bring a comfortable pair of shoes with you so you don’t end up hobbling after your first day. If you’re looking for inspiration, Mountain Warehouse is a great place to find affordable walking shoes, as well as other essential travel gear.
Have you ever found that your chosen flight has doubled in price since the last time you looked? No, you aren’t going mad. Websites can use your browsers’ cookies to see what you were quoted the last time you looked and raise them even further. It’s incredibly unfair and super sneaky, but don’t worry because there’s a simple way around it. Just use a private window to book your flight — this way the website can’t see your history, so you can get your ticket at an affordable price.
And if you have the option to be flexible with your departure date, try to book your flight on a Tuesday or Wednesday. These are usually the cheapest days to fly as they’re in the middle of the week, and they tend to be the quietest too.
The food at tourist attractions is always super expensive, but most of us end up succumbing to the cost at some point in our lives. You’ll be ravenous after the hours you spend exploring, which may make paying a fiver for a packet of crisps seem almost reasonable. But if you stock up on snacks before you travel, you can satisfy your stomach without breaking the bank.
Try to bring high-calorie food that comes in small packages, like nuts and high-protein cereal bars. Another great option is dried fruit, as it’s not just filling but packed full of vitamins to keep you healthy whilst travelling. And make sure to bring your favourite snack from your home country. Everyone feels at least a little bit homesick whilst on the road, so having something that reminds you of home is always a good idea.
This tip is handy for everyone, but especially for people who prefer to explore the unbeaten path. Sometimes public transport isn’t a viable option. But using a taxi for long-distance trips can seriously drain your travel budget. A great way to get around this is to carpool with other backpackers heading in your direction, by either hiring a car or hopping in a taxi together.
I’ve always found it surprisingly easy to find other people to share a taxi with, even in the most remote places. If you’re stuck, try talking to people in your hostel to ask if anyone is interested in sharing, or check out Facebook groups of backpackers in the country. Just make sure that there’s more than two of you for safety.
Check out free activities
The chances are that you’ll have a list the size of your arm of all the things you want to see and do whilst travelling. If you’re having trouble narrowing the list down, try to prioritise the cheapest options. The chances are that you’ll find at least a handful of free attractions that take your fancy, as some of the most famous sites in the world don’t charge entry fees. For example, Park Güell is one of the most visited sites in Barcelona, and the majority of the park is completely free.
If you’re struggling to find free things to do near you, your best bet is to check the activities listed on TripAdvisor. But don’t forget to chat with other backpackers, as the chances are that they’re on the lookout for a bargain too.
Make your own food
I’m not going to lie, hostel cooking is not always fun. Equipment that’s impossible to find, a pile of dirty dishes left by other backpackers, ovens that collapse when you try to use them (that’s a story for another day) — it’s not hard to be put off by the prospect. But it will help your budget stretch so much further, so it’s definitely worth it.
Plus, it doesn’t have to be as bad as you probably think it is! Opt for the simplest recipes that use the least equipment to make the process a whole lot easier. If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out this list of hostel-friendly recipes from HostelWorld. Another way to make it easier (and maybe even fun) is to get other backpackers together and cook a group meal. It’s a great way to get to know people, and it’ll make the process a lot speedier too.
Fill up on free food
The age-old saying ‘the best things in life are free’ surely came from someone after staying at a hotel with an all you can eat breakfast buffet. If you can stay somewhere with a free breakfast included, don’t let the opportunity go to waste. Filling your boots in the morning will set you up for the day and save you a lot of money on food.
It isn’t just fancy hotels that offer free breakfasts, many hostels do this too. I’ve even stayed in a hostel that offered free lunch as well! Both HostelWorld and Booking.com have search filters for free breakfast, so don’t forget to use them!
Talk to other travellers
No matter how much research you do or how many guidebooks you read, it’s impossible to get all of the information on your chosen destination. But fortunately, other backpackers have a wealth of knowledge that you should use. Not only is first-hand information often more reliable, but it’s the stuff that you won’t find anywhere else too.
So get chatting with other backpackers to discover some great budgeting tips for your destination, such as free attractions or the best cheap eateries near you. At the very least you’ll get some handy tips, at the most you’ll end up finding your travel bestie.
GET TRAVEL INSURANCE!
So many people skip purchasing travel insurance, and it’s easy to see why. If your general health is good and you’re never running late, you may think you can get away without buying it. After all, what’s the chance that you’ll need to use it? Well, last year we found out just how important it is, with travel insurance claims being at an all-time high.
There are so many things that you can claim for, including health care, lost luggage, stolen luggage, and missing flights. And most insurance prices are extremely affordable too. It’s less than £10 for the average single cover policy, and just £21 for the average annual multi-cover policy. This is an extremely small price to pay for something that can literally be lifesaving, so don’t set off without it!
What are your top travel budgeting tips? Let me know in the comments below!