There are a lot of things we all can do to save money for travel . And most of us are pretty good at it. The hard part, however, is sticking to a budget once you are on the road.
Over the past 15 years, traveling independently has thought me quite a lot of lessons. Each one helped me improve both in setting a budget and planning for the unexpected things on the road.
Here are some tips which help me stick to my budget when I travel.
Set a budget
You cannot stick to a budget unless you have one. Whether you use Google Sheets, Expensify, Evernote or any other software or app, make sure you have access to it all the time to use it. Personally, I still carry a notepad and pen with me when I travel.
Make sure to create categories, such as accommodation, transport, food, entrance to sites and misc. Once you have a total, make sure to work out how much you have to spend per day, on average. And stick to it!
Each time you spend money, write it down somewhere. At the end of the day, make the total and assess the situation. You decide what to do with the leftover money.
Consider the exchange rate
I made a huge mistake back in 2011 when I didn’t consider the exchange rate vs inflation in Budapest. As a result, I ran out of cash several days before the original date to get back home. So I had to exchange the train ticket. Account for that whether you exchange the money at home or pay by card.
Lists are your friends
I always make two lists: what I must visit and what’s free to visit. The latter may, of course, contain items from the first. For example, British Museum in London is both a “must visit” for me and a free place to visit. Win-win!
When you research a destination, make sure to dig for those free walking tours – which are not really free since you do have to leave a tip -, museums that are free to visit, places which can be visited for free and so on.
Personally, I hit the must-visit free places first and then see what I can afford from what’s left.
Allow for an indulgence
Choose a must-visit place and go there even if it’s expensive. Or plan for dinner or lunch at a nice restaurant. Or go to a concert. Whatever you like and feel special doing it, make sure to incorporate it in the budget.
Choose the right souvenirs to bring home
Guilty! I love to get small souvenirs. The key word being “small”. Fridge magnets aren’t super expensive. In fact, you can find them from 1 euro a piece. Postcards cost as little as 50 euro cents. With that said, yes, I brought back home coffee mugs (but they were 1 pound each). I also brought back spices (2 euros for a pack of oregano, yum).
I usually have a 5-10 euros budget for souvenirs. And that includes what I bring for friends/family. And now you know why my family and friends have a huge collection of fridge magnets and spices.
Visit the market
I am a sucker for farmers’ markets all over Europe. So I make sure to visit them to get to know the destination better. Or to buy the spices I bring back home. Or to buy food for my stay in that place.
Not every culture is OK with bargaining
Especially in Central Europe, don’t expect to bargain for everything. You can try your luck at the market, but it’s less likely to work. In Southern and Eastern Europe, it works at the souvenir shops. The more fridge magnets you buy, the cheaper you can get them to cost.
Walk as much as you can
The easiest way to keep your budget in check when you travel is to walk. It may mean that you spent a bit more on accommodation to be close to the sights, but, overall, it usually ends up cheaper than using public transportation.
Needless to say, my FitBit is proof that I rack up a lot of steps when I travel because I try to walk (almost) everywhere.
Use public transportation
If you have to cover longer distances, for example when you go the airport, opt for public transportation instead of a taxi. This also means to check the flight times and see if you can find flights during the operation hours of the transportation.
In many cases, getting a 24 or 48 hours transport card is a very good idea when you plan a day or two of visiting sights located far apart. Group cards offer even better value for money.
What other tips & tricks do you guys use? I’m very curious!