Top 10 tips for making your travel fund stretch farther

For the majority of people who go backpacking at some point in our lives, we have a budget with which to last on our trip abroad. Once that dries up we are usually forced to do one of three things – find a job, borrow some cash, or go home. The latter of those 3 is usually the one which we would least like to take, and comes about sometimes because we have exhausted the first two options! This makes it important to make the money we do have last, regardless of how little or much that is. As both an experienced budget backpacker, and a stingy scotswoman, I have accumulated many ways to help make my travel budget last as long as possible. By sharing these budget travel tips, hopefully you will be able to take something from it that will save you some money too!

1. Pre-Departure Saving Tips

First things first, you want to know that all the money you take with you on your travels, was all the money you could possibly have taken with you! Trust me, you don’t want to be on your flight home months later thinking if only you’d budgeted better pior to departure, and you could still be spending time on that beach somewhere. Saving a lot of money pre-departure usually comes to down to a bit of common sense. You have to tackle the most expensive outgoings you have first. These usually include rent, transport expenses to work/college, shopping, and nights out.

If at all possible, I would personally recommend moving in with your parents pre-departure if the option is there for you, as this could save you hundreds of dollars a month to put into your travel fund that would usually be spent on rent. Alternatively, you may want to look at downgrading your accommodation to something cheaper. This could be something as simple as moving from a flat on your own to a flat share, or moving to a cheaper area of town outside the city centre.

Transport can be a hard one to avoid if you live somewhere like London and need to commute you will usually need at least a tube or bus ticket for the days you work, however if it’s possible to walk or cycle to wherever you’re going instead of getting the bus or car etc then this could save you some money to put away.

Shopping is something that can easily be curbed. If it’s clothes you are after or other possessions, then just weigh everything up with how much you could do on your travels with that money instead. Usually you’ll walk away without buying it in my experience. With food, it’s obvious that shopping in big Walmart or Asda type supermarkets will save you cash, as well as going for own-brand type foods.

Nights out can easily be scrapped all together unless you have something you really should go to like a close friend or family members birthday or wedding reception etc. However, if you don’t want to eradicate your social life entirely you can always just have drinks at home instead, or go to parties instead of pubs and clubs where you’ll pay more for drink, and possibly have to pay entry too.

2.  Media Discounts

If you own a travel blog ask for media discounts or freebies everywhere. If you don’t ask then you don’t get, and there’s many times in the past where I’ve asked for stuff that I thought I had no chance of getting, but they came back with a yes. It usually works best with things like hostels if you are looking for free or discounted accommodation, however it can also work with getting discounted transport, meals out etc too. Ask everywhere, and don’t be shy. The worst they can say is no.

3. Sleep in your mode of transport

Save the cost of a night’s accommodation and go on an overnight bus, train, or plane to get to your next destination. If you were going to be travelling to that place anyway on your trip, and there’s no real difference on the cost of taking the overnight journey, then you save yourself the cost of that night’s accommodation by sleeping on the transport you would have paid for anyway.

Alternatively, if you already have a car, and don’t mind the discomfort, then it’s quite possible to sleep in your car if you want to go hardcore and save some cash. However, hiring something like a camper van and sharing it with other travellers who can share the costs of running it may be much more comfortable and practical.

Airports are also a good place to sleep for the night if you want to save a night’s accommodation as they are geneally open 24 hours, and have amenities inside.

4. Couch Surf and/or make international friends

If you have friends who stay near or in some of the places you are travelling to then call in favours and ask for a bit of free accommodation. There’s also the popular Couch Surf service for those places where you may not know anyone. Staying with local people is also just a great way to see a place in a way you may not have otherwise.

Alternatively, if you are looking for another type of free or cheap accommodation then you may just want to camp. Of course, this will involve buying a tent, sleeping bag, camp stove, and any other supplies that you need if you do not already have them, but in the long run it could save you a lot of money.

5. Haggle

In some countries it’s expected that you should haggle a price down. Other places not so much, but it’s always worth a try. The key thing is to be speaking to the right person. For instance, if you are in a chain store and want a discount, then the sales assistant at the till probably doesn’t have any authority to give you a discount, even if he/she wanted to. It’s usually the manager that could do this, so make sure to ask for them if you think you have a good reason for getting a discount. Usually however, haggling works best in independent stores or marketplaces where the person who works in the shop/market stall also owns it. Also, with chain outlets sometimes there is a set price for something across all the stores, and these prices are usually set by someone much higher up who works at the head office or elsewhere, so it’s pretty much take it or leave it. Regardless, like the media discounts, you may as well ask.

You should also always ask for a free upgrade to first class every time you are at the airport. Lot’s of airlines will do this, but it is not usually advertised. It won’t save any of the money you have already spent on your economy ticket, however in first class there is usually more freebies and you’ll get to travel in comfort.

6. Know the cost of living before you go

Taking $2000 with you to somewhere like India or Australia can give drastically differentiating results in how long you can make that money last. The reason for this is the cost of living is very different in both countries. In the Australian city of Perth for instance, the average price per night for a hostel dorm bed is around 15 – 18 GBP per night. However, in somewhere like Agra in India, you would be looking at around 8 – 10 GBP per night for a double private room total (that’ the total price for 2 people, so 4 – 5 GBP per night per person if you are travelling as a couple. They don’t have as many dorm type rooms there, but I’ve seen prices around the 6 or 7 GBP per night mark for a dorm bed. Also, food is much cheaper in India, as is transport and pretty much everything else that would factor into your main daily expenses. Knowing the cost of living before you go can help you make wise decisions in regards to choosing where you travel, or at least budgeting accordingly before you go.

7. Look for discounts and coupons

I often find that in those free newspapers and magazines you get in places like train stations, on the bus, or in shops, they sometimes have vouchers at the back to either get a discount somewhere or something for free. A lot of the time it won’t be applicable to you or something you necessarily need, but occasionally it is something you can use. For instance, in the UK we have the free Metro newspaper which is available to pick up from most train stations and on most buses. Almost always they’ll have a voucher for McDonald’s in there which gives you a free burger or at least a discount. I’m not a huge fan of McDonald’s, but if it’s free then I’m not going to turn it down! It’s usually just a case of cutting the voucher out, and back when I was a student, my flatmates and I used to collect all the Metros if they had a particularly good voucher in them. For instance, if it was for a discount in a supermarket for something we would definitely buy then we would grab 3 or 4 and take them home.

Other good places to try are university freshers week fares. You don’t need to actually be a student. You just need to say you are if anyone asks. University and college students in their first week may or may not have their student card yet so it’s perfectly acceptable for you not to have one on you to prove you’re a student. My flatmates and I used to go to all the freshers days at every university in Edinburgh, grabbing all the freebies we found useful, and picking up a lot of the discount vouchers that people handed out for stuff we would buy. It’s something I do now in every English speaking country I visit!

8. Get friends with the hostel staff

A lot of the time I usually make friends with the hostel staff at any hostel I’m staying with. This is not really for any benefit as such, it’s mainly just because they are usually backpackers themselves, or young people interested in travel. However, I would be lying if I said it didn’t have it’s benefits sometimes. For instance, if you need to extend your stay, if they know you they more often than not will give you the cheapest price they can. It’s saved me a lot of money sometimes when I would have been charged the “on the door” price had I not been friends with them.

9. Don’t drink

Similar to the pre-departure tips, not drinking alcohol will save you a lot of money on your travels. The main problem I find with this is that it’s the easiest way to meet other people. I keep telling myself I’m going to stop drinking in order to save money, and I’ve done it for 2 or 3 months before to save some much needed cash, but to be honest, I really enjoy going out and partying! I don’t like to do it all the time, as I like to have a bit of balance while I’m travelling, but if you can go altogether without drinking alcohol then you’ll definitely save yourself money while travelling. What I do however is just time my nights out for when there’s drinks deals, or drink in before going out.

10. Don’t buy anything in the tourist zones

Most people already know that prices for food, and drink are usually much more in the tourist zones than they are elsewhere. Yet still, a lot of travellers I see are going for drinks in areas or pubs known for charging more, or paying to go on or into over priced tourist attractions. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t pay to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower for instance if it’s something you really want to do, but think about the options first before you decide. For instance, you can get some great views of the Eiffel Tower itself and lots of pictures of it without actually going up it, and it won’t cost you anything. Equally, something like the Sydney Opera House is much more magnificent outside than it is inside, so why pay to go in it when it’s really the outside which is remarkable and that you can pay nothing to view. In somewhere like Edinburgh, which is quite a small city geographically, taking a 10 minute walk outside of the compact city centre will allow you to go to pubs that are cheaper, such as in nearby Leith.

– Making your money stretch far is one of the most important aspects of the budget backpacker style of travel, as it allows us to travel for longer than we would have otherwise. If you are looking for budget tips, hopefully these will help, and if you are unsure where to start, look at your biggest expenses first, and how you can reduce or eliminate them. It’s a reduction of the largest expenses such as transport and accommodation which will undoubtedly make the biggest difference to your travel funds.

One Response to “Top 10 tips for making your travel fund stretch farther”

  1. tikitravel says:

    Great advice. Don’t think I could do the not drinking thing though. Maybe before leaving it would be a cake walk, but you’re so right about it helping you meet people. Drinking just seems to bring people together while travelling.


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