How to Travel on a Budget? | Ways to Reduce your Travel Expenses
May 22, 2020
We all love travelling don’t we? I get asked this question many times – “How do you travel so many times a year? Where did you get the money?”. Firstly, you need to scrape the idea that travelling is an expensive hobby. Well, I would not say it is cheap either, but it is affordable with the right planning. Anyone can travel on a budget and still have a good vacation. Secondly, don’t expect to be travelling 3-4 times a year if you don’t cut down on other unnecessary expenses (unless you’re very rich, I am referring to the average salary workmen).
Before we start on how to travel on a budget, let’s start off with what you’ll need to do BEFORE you even book that flight ticket – Saving Money.
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HOW TO SAVE MONEY IN ORDER TO TRAVEL ON A BUDGET?
I’m a big believer of planning my finances. This is something you need to plan out even if you travel on a budget. I don’t want to retire at 65, nor do I want to wait till I’m 65 to start travelling. Check out my full article on the 10 Best Money Saving Tips to Travel Overseas Every Year. Here is a summary of my top tips:
1. Track your expenses
You would probably have seen this tip plastered all over the internet. There is a reason for it – it works. Simply download any free money management app on your phone and actually USE IT. The one I’m using is called MoneyBoard and it works well if you’re looking for a recommendation.
Before you start tracking your expenses, have a budget in mind for each month. Next, whenever you spend money, no matter how small of an amount it is (yes, down to that $0.01), key it into the app. Make sure you don’t go beyond your budget.
2. Cut down on unnecessary expenditure
Gym membership? Clubbing? Alcohol? That Hermes bag? New phone when yours is clearly still working??? Stop it all, you don’t need it. I personally fall prey to consumerism often, but before you press that ‘cart out’ button, just ask yourself this question, “DO YOU REALLY NEED IT?”. Yes, I understand that we all just want to relax and enjoy with our hard-earned money. It really depends on your priorities too. For me, I want to travel as much as I can before getting old, so all my savings are pumped into my holidays.
3. Stop eating out
I try my best to eat at home whenever I can. Eating out is expensive and I personally love home-cooked meals. If you have no food at home and need to get a meal out? My advise is to drop the idea of buying a drink. There’s water. It’s free. It’s also healthy.
HOW TO TRAVEL ON A BUDGET?
Now, onto the main part of this article. Once you feel like you’ve an extra $5000 – $6000 or so from your hard-earned savings, it’s time to plan 3-4 holidays every year. Yes, it is very much possible, even if you have the standard 14 days of annual leave entitlement.
For instance, I travelled to 3 destinations under the following budgets in Year 2018:
Rule of thumbfor planning your annual leave: Go across public holidays and weekends. E.g. spend 8 days in Maldives by taking just 4 days of leave. This is if you go from Saturday till the next Saturday, with 1 day of public holiday in between.
1. Reducing Flight Ticket Expenses
Your flight expenses are going to talk up a large bulk of your expenditure when travelling. It is important for you to know how to save in this area in order to travel on a budget. To me, comfort is not a priority when it comes to transportation. I just need to get from point A to point B safely.
Tip 1: Wait for promotions We managed to get round trip tickets from Singapore to Maldives for just $400 per pax because of this. One tip would be for you to join the Telegram Chat SG Travel Promos to keep up to date with the latest travel deals!
Tip 2: Flight comparison websites Of course, many of you have head of websites such as Skyscanner or CheapFlights. These websites give you a list of flight ticket options across all airlines, ranking from the best and cheapest to the most expensive. Alternatively, my current favourite is actually to use Google Flights. Its interface is a lot simpler and clear cut. There’s actually a wide range to choose from, so I usually pick 3 websites for comparison before deciding on which one’s best.
2. Reducing Accommodation Expenses
You can also travel on a budget by reducing your accommodation expenses. Most of the time spent during my holidays are hardly in the hotel when I travel. Most people like myself probably travel the same way. I usually just look for a place that’s safe, clean, conveniently located and cheap when I choose my travel accommodation. I just need a good nights’ rest after a long day of adventures. Ratings on accommodation booking websites such as Booking.com, Airbnb, Agoda and so on, are also extremely crucial to me when I make a pick. I tend to ignore any places that have a rating below a 8.0/10 on booking.com.
If you want really cheap, then opt to stay in hostels. The bigger the dorm, the cheaper it is going to be.
In addition, when checking out accommodation prices on these websites, be aware of any additional costs that may be incurred. For example, the transfer fees for private islands on Maldives or the high tax charges in places like Hawaii. You can read up on my Maldives post to find out how we found an affordable accommodation on a private island resort. Examples of additional charges from booking.com:
Transfer fee Example
Taxes & Charges Example
3. Reducing Transportation Expenses
To travel on a budget, you’d also need to find ways to get cheap yet convenient modes of transportation. Convenience is extremely important to me when I travel. This is especially when getting transport from the airport with all my suitcases. You can consider pre-booking your transportation online in order to get better deals. For example, there are transfers available from the airport in Yogyakarta to its city centre at a cheaper price than if you were to take a taxi. Booking your transportation beforehand will give you a peace of mind when you land in a foreign country. In addition, you won’t have to worry about getting scammed by taxi drivers.
Alternatively, consider using ride-sharing apps such as Grab and Uber. Note that ride-hailing apps will depend on the availability in each country. For example, in China, the only ride-hailing app they have there is called DiDi. I’ve written more about this in my China Itinerary article.
4. Reducing Expenditure During your Holiday
Yes, to travel on a budget would also mean you’d have to cut down on all the shopping and eating. Eating out in certain places I’ve been to such as western Europe, Hawaii and New Zealand, tend to be on the higher-end in prices. Hence, I will cut down on dining out and try to buy food to cook instead. This would mean that the accommodation I choose will have to come with a kitchen. So you’ll have to plan accordingly for this. Ask yourself if you’re going to decide to travel on a budget and cook your own meals during your holiday.
As for the shopping, I don’t spend much on buying unnecessary souvenirs such as necklaces / keychains (things that I don’t need). Capturing pictures of places I’ve been to is enough for me to keep for memory’s sake.
“Taking an image, freezing a moment, reveals how rich reality truly is.”
5. Shopping for Travel Pre-essentials
The world is dramatically shifting to the world of e-commerce and this has made my life honestly, a lot easier. Before I buy anything, I always ask myself if I can get it cheaper ONLINE. There are tons of reliable websites to shop for your travels essentials! Here are my top favourites:
– Amazon: For electronics and gadgets – Zalora (SG) : For clothes/hats/accessories/bags – Shopee : For almost everything (even snacks!)
There’s many more to choose from depending on which region that you stay in. Whatever it is you need for your trip, be it a new drone, swimwear or luggage bag, remember to check out the prices online first.
Other than shopping online, I find Decathlon a great place to get sports equipment! I bought all my snorkelling equipment – from the goggles to the fins – for under SGD 20. In addition, my rash guard that I wear for all my free-diving adventures is also from them. The overall quality of items from Decathlon has been durable and reliable for me. This is a great way to keep your before-travel expenses low and help you to travel on a budget.
I prefer to plan my own itinerary instead of joining tour groups. This allows one to experience the local life more as well as to enjoy the adventure of getting lost. It is also generally more expensive for you to join a tour group as you do not get to choose specific accommodations or flights. Hence, in order to travel on a budget, you’d have to go through the painful process of planning trips on your own. However, nowadays there are so many blogs out there with well written itineraries to anywhere in the world! Google is a powerful tool, use it to travel on a budget.
On the other hand, I’m not saying that tour groups should not be considered either. We were actually planning a trip to Egypt this year. As it was going to be our first time in Africa, we decided that a tour group might be a better and safer option. We also planned out an entire D.I.Y itinerary to compare the total costs. Eventually, the prices of the tour vs. going on our own were approximately similar.
In conclusion, D.I.Y itineraries TEND TO BE cheaper than joining a tour group. But always do a COMPARISON before deciding to go ahead.
7. Use Shopback / Credit Card Travel Miles
Ah, I have saved the best tip for last. We all know that travelling is considered a big expense compared to your daily necessities. If we could get a percentage of what we spent on travel back, wouldn’t that be great?
Shopback is a cashback reward program available across Asia-Pacific with over 5 million members on its platform. It allows online shoppers to receive a small percentage of their purchases on the platform, paid for through affiliate programs by the merchant. Shopback works on several travel websites including Booking.com, Expedia, Agoda, Trip.com and many more.
Alternatively, if you travel frequently, you should get a credit card that gives you miles for your travels. The Citi PremierMiles Card, UOB PRVI Miles American Express Card and KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card offers some of the best miles per dollar spent in Singapore. It really depends on the kind of lifestyle you have and which credit card will benefit you the most.
8. Your Student Discount Card
If you’re still blessed with youth and below 26 years old, bring along your student ID when you travel. Many places, especially in Europe, offer up to 50% discount on attraction tickets if you can show them your Student ID. This is regardless of whether you’re an EU student or not.
WAYS TO ENSURE YOU ENJOY YOUR HOLIDAY WHILE YOU TRAVEL ON A BUDGET
1. Checking the weather report
I stress the importance of this in many of my travel itineraries. Of course, we can’t say that the weather report is 100% accurate, but you can rely on it enough to plan out your itinerary. I’ve learnt my lesson as I’ve been disappointed with fogs and rain in places I was hyped to visit. For example, visiting Osmena Peak left me in utter disappointment as we visited on a rainy day. Travelling all the way there felt like a wasted trip.
Hence, if you’re planning a trip to see some scenic views, always check the weather report one day before to see if it is worth going. Otherwise, the next option is to shift your plans to another day.
As we learnt our lesson from our previous trips, we checked the weather report everyday while in China. Scenic places such as the Great Wall of China, Mount Hua and Tianmen Mountain were visited when forecasts predicted that the skies were going to be clear. You can check out more pictures on my China Itinerary. We had an incredible trip because of the weather.
2. Buying travel insurance
As much as you want to lower expenses to travel on a budget, this is one tip you just cannot leave out. In order to have a peace of mind while you travel, remember to get your travel insurance. I personally like to Insurance Market when picking out a plan. This is because the site allows me to compare prices across a selection of providers. I know many of you do not buy insurance, but just think of it as a safeguard to ensure everything goes well during your trip. Plus, even if something hinders it, you’ll feel assured that you can get compensated.
Even if you decide not to buy travel insurance, the least you should do is to get Car Insurance. This is of course, if you are renting a car. I need to stress the importance of this too as I had a friend who met with an unfortunate event during his Iceland trip previously. There was a problem with the car engine and it broke down during his trip. The group of them had to pay €9000 for the repair as they did not purchase an insurance plan.
I usually only get the basic plan when purchasing car insurance. This covers just YOUR OWN RENTAL CAR for damages. However, it does not cover damage caused to another vehicle in the event of a collision. You can buy this as an add-on if you feel like you’re a reckless driver.
3. Planning ahead
Last but not least, having a well thought out itinerary is key to getting the most out of your holiday. I have tons of comprehensive itineraries and travel guides you can check out on my blog. I cover all areas of travel from transportation, to attractions, prices, weather and so on.
Plan your itinerary well and you’ll be able to travel on a budget, yet have the time of your life. The effort you put in for the research beforehand will definitely allow you to travel with ease and with the best prices. One of the most enjoyable places I’ve visited to on a budget was Maldives. I did so much research in order to ensure that I’ll be able to experience staying in a Water Villa at an affordable price. It was truly one of the best vacations I ever had.