Many have talked and written about it, many have dreaded it: traveling on a budget. Or traveling cheap, to be more blunt.
I know that there are thousands of blog posts and articles and videos on this topic, all reiterating the same things. I’m not telling you this to promise that this won’t be such an article, but rather to say that this article focuses more on a mindset change, instead of tips and tricks (which you will also find, don’t worry).
I believe that this is the secret to cheap, sometimes even free, travel. We live in crazy times, we live in wonderful times. You can book a one-way ticket to another part of Europe for 5 euros. But it is you who will decide whether this trip will cost you this much. Today I am sharing some of the mindset shifts that helped me travel more. Keep an open mind and enjoy the ride.
1. Embrace the backpacker lifestyle
Some of you may be cringing at this one if the thought of a 20-something walking around town with a backpack twice their size is unappealing to you. However, even though you may not be a backpacker, there are some good things that you can adopt from this lifestyle. After all, this whole article is about changing your mindset.
So what does a backpacker mindset mean? I say it is about being flexible, getting creative and having creative solutions to any occurring problems. You forgo luxury and paying more just because it’s easier or more convenient, and you embrace adventure. I think it’s a good mindset to have and/or try.
2. Learn to be okay with less
Less can mean many things. However, as a rule applied to traveling, less applies to every area that you can save on.
- First thing, bags. Whenever possible only travel with your carry-on, and with low-cost flights minimize this to a backpack.
- Don’t pay for seating. It adds up and chances are some seats will be free after the plane is in the air so you can move to another seat if you wish.
- Don’t pay for food. Or don’t pay too much for food. Everything is double the price in the airport or in-flight, so make sure you eat before, bring your own food or buy it in a shop before you go.
- Pack less. I have a whole post on packing everything you need for a trip in a backpack and leaving some space for souvenirs, too.
This is always a good mindset to have, but it comes really handy for traveling on a budget. Memories will always be worth more than things, right?
3. Be open to trying something you haven’t before
We miss out on so many things because we are too scared to try them. I think travel is one of the opportunities that makes us try out new things so why not take advantage of this to the fullest?
One of the first things that comes to mind is Couchsurfing. It is a network of like-minded people who enjoy traveling and meeting new people so much, that they let you stay with them. That’s right, free accommodation!
Mind you, this is not a hotel where you just stay overnight and leave in the morning. You are welcomed into someone’s home and you spend quality time with them. The system is based on users’ profiles which are filled out with information they wrote about themselves, but also and more importantly, user reviews written by hosts and/or guests that have interacted with them.
I met so many wonderful people with the help of this website that I am really sad when I hear people say they would never even try something like this because of their preconceived notions. Another great thing about it is their app which has a hangouts section. When you’re alone somewhere, you can use the app to find someone to meet up for a drink, to go to a museum, or as I did in Zagreb, go to a drag show.
Talking about free accommodation, it might be a good idea to reach out to old friends, relatives or friends of friends who have offered to let you stay at their place at one point in time. It might be a bit awkward, but the worst thing they can say is no. And if not, you will have free accommodation and a personal guide in the city you’re staying at.
This could really apply to anything that would make your travel dreams a reality, whether is staying at a hostel, flying with a budget airline, or traveling via a ridesharing app. If it’s safe, try it. You might be pleasantly surprised.
4. Be prepared
Being prepared is half the work. This is true for travel as it is for every other part of life. So here are some things to keep in mind when planning your next trip:
- Research ticket prices for the sights you wish to see. Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy a ticket online, and sometimes it’s cheaper onsite.
- Compare flight prices with different providers. Skyscanner is the most popular, but I find Kiwi to be very easy to use and useful. Also, always be in incognito mode! Your cookies tell the website how many times you’ve looked at a certain flight and when they know you are interested, they will show you a higher price.
- Find out what there is to do at your destination for completely free. There are many guides for lots of activities that are completely free. For example, did you know that entrance to all museums and galleries in London is free?
- Find out about rules, laws and customs in your destination. After all, traveling is about learning about new cultures, you don’t want to end up in a sticky situation now, would you?
5. Use common sense
Safety always comes first. So always use your common sense to guide you in making your budget-friendly decisions. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Check reviews, ask around, do your research and never do anything you don’t want to do. If a situation feels unsafe or uncomfortable, leave. You don’t owe anything to anyone.
Another thing to keep in mind when talking about common sense and budget travel is that a cheaper price doesn’t necessarily mean you will save. If something is of bad quality, or leads you to more problems, you will end up paying more and that is not budget-friendly at all. Sometimes it is better to pay more in order to save in the long run.
And that concludes this article. Do you have any tips for traveling without spending too much? Let me know in the comments.
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