I love to travel. I come by my itchy feet naturally- my father is also a natural born traveler. Some of my earliest memories are of receiving postcards that he sent me from his business trips. But traveling can be expensive, especially if you are not heading to some of the cheaper destinations like various countries in South America or Asia. So what’s a frugal traveler to do?
When I first moved to France as a student, I was originally only supposed to be here for six months, until June. Even before coming however, I knew I wanted to travel around Europe during the summer. Being on a student’s limited budget however, meant that I had to do it on the cheap! Here are some of my frugal tips for traveling on a budget. (And make sure to read to the bottom of the post, for details on a great book I’m giving away!)
Think cheap accommodations.
I camped my way around Europe that summer. Most campgrounds are within a kilometer or two of the city center, with very easy public transportation to the site from the city center. And camping in Europe is by no means roughing it either- often times campgrounds have restaurants or little stores, washing machines and even microwaves. You’ll only pay a few euros per day, per person, and you’ll be staying amongst other people from the region- I met very few Americans while camping.
If you’re not up to camping then you should definitely be looking into staying in hostels, which have evolved away from student hovels into quality bargain deals. I find that hostels are better bets than cheap hotels, as for the same (or less) amount of money you are usually guaranteed better accommodations and standards of cleanliness. And I’ve stayed in some beautiful ones- villas in Florence, converted industrial buildings in Manchester or chateaus in Nancy. You might even get access to a kitchen!
Finally, My Two Dollars has a great post on swapping homes with others– which sounds to me like the ultimate bargain holiday lodging solution, as long as you live in a desirable location, and don’t want to visit a lot of different places.
Not for tourist tat, nor expensive European goods. But if you eat from a grocery store you’ll definitely be able to eat more cheaply than if you eat at restaurants for every meal. And if you camp, or are staying in a hostel, you’ll be able to prepare your own food, saving even more. I bought a lot of soup packets to have on hand for dinner and ready made salads, which were easy to have on hand for lunch.
On the other hand, you certainly shouldn’t buy a lot of souvenirs! And what you do buy should be useful, not just a souvenir. I bought a lot of postcards, which I organized into albums. I bought very few other things, mostly items of clothing, which I still have today. But what I did buy either cost very little for what it was (like a postcard) or continues to remind me of the trip when I use it today (like the sandals I bought in Florence).
Being Frugal talks about other ways of to travel on a budget.
Inform yourself ahead of time.
Fore-warned is fore-armed, in so many ways. By reading lots of good travel guides before you go, you’ll learn about what you really want to see, and what you’re prepared to skip. Not only that, when preparing a multi-country trip you’ll discover that certain countries are better bets for certain things than others. For example, museums in Paris often have quite a hefty entrance fee, but most museums in London are free. Of course you might not want to miss the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, but if you’re not particularly an art connoisseur, you could consider visiting museums in London, not in Paris. Which leads me to…
I was sent a copy of a new book to review, and I’m giving it away to one of you! Called “Tough Times, Great Travels: The Travel Detective’s Guide to Hidden Deals, Unadvertised Bargains and Great Experiences” it was written by the travel editor of the Today Show, Peter Greenberg.
I liked that this book was fairly wide ranging. It has five different sections in it, which cover a variety of subjects such as airlines and airfares, discounts you didn’t know about, off season travel, and travel logistics. It has a bunch of good tips in it too- from websites that will help you save money, to ideas for dealing with your passport.
And one lucky reader will win this a copy! Just leave a comment below, or write about the contest on Twitter or your own blog. No need to send me a notification either- as long as you link back to this post or include @AlmostFrugal in your tweet, I’ll find out about it. This contest begins at noon+1 GMT Monday, March 23, 2009 and ends at noon+1 GMT Tuesday, March 31, 2009, and is open to people worldwide. Good luck!