As a backpacker, I’m a great advocate of cheap travel.
I’ve gone to Europe and back without touching my primary savings account, but I didn’t deprive myself either. I ate mussels and waffles in Brussels, flew from Prague to Athens to save time, and even splurged (based on my standards) by going to Santorini.
I’ve been to Israel, the United States, and Japan, three of the most expensive countries I’ve ever visited so far. And yet, I was still able to keep within budget.
Indeed, even if you’re on PG mode, you can still travel. The secret is knowing how to spend as little as possible while still enjoying yourself to the max. Here are my tried-and-tested tips to travel cheaply, but well.
Keep on the lookout for airline seat sales.
Most of my friends and colleagues wonder how I can travel so much in and outside the country.
The secret? Cheap airfare!
Since the budget airline industry exploded in the market a few years ago, I have flown to various destinations paying only a fraction of what the ticket usually costs.
So check out the websites of your favorite airlines, and if there’s an option available, sign up to be sent alerts when there are scheduled seat sales. The reason is simple: cheap seats are usually limited in number.
By the time you read it in the newspaper in the morning, all the allotted seats will already be taken. Be one of the first to book and you’ll be guaranteed a slot! (My Coron, Palawan return ticket next month cost me P500, and it was only booked last month.)
Join free walking tours.
Yes, you will be surprised to know that there are walking tours that are free (tips-based). I was in Budapest when I learned this, and despite being free, it was very well done.
In the Philippines, there’s also a monthly tour of the heritage buildings in Manila which will include the beautiful Metropolitan Theater and Manila Post Office. You can also check out the local groups in Couchsurfing. There are always members there arranging tours and meet-ups.
Check out great deals online.
I’m all for saving money when I travel, but I also make sure not to miss out on some experiences just because they’re paid. Don’t be too cheap!
Yes, there’s such a thing as being too cheap. It’s nice to think primarily of your wallet, but not at the expense of experiencing something memorable. I was in Athens, for example, when I thought of going to Santorini. I initially rejected the idea, thinking it would be very expensive, but then, I asked myself: I am so close already, do I really want to go home without ever seeing it, just because I didn’t want to spend a hundred dollars?
New York City is also an expensive place, but I had always wanted to watch a Broadway show. I found ways to get cheap Broadway tickets and loved watching The Book of Mormon, The Lion King, Les Miserables, and Finding Neverland. Las Vegas, another expensive city that’s full of casinos theater shows can also be done on a budget. Check out the Best of Vegas for deals on shows, sights, and tours.
Travel cheap by staying in hostels rather than hotels.
If you’re not comfortable staying for free on someone else’s couch (because of course, the purpose is more on interaction rather than just a free bed), you can stay in hostels rather than hotels. Dorm beds are so much cheaper; you don’t need your own room, anyway, as you’ll be out most of the day. Read my tips for staying in hostels.
When I was in Kota Kinabalu, I stayed at a backpacker hostel which cost only US$6 per night. The dorm room was small, and there were a lot of beds, but it was comfortable enough. I met people there whom I later went out with to drink the night away while watching the championship game of the World Cup.
The best hostel I’ve stayed in though, was Caveland Hostel in Santorini. There was only me and a young guy in a huge room, and when he left, I had the whole room to myself! At only US$22 per night, it was a great deal, given that there was also free breakfast and airport transfer.
Another surefire way to save on accommodation is to house or pet-sit. The concept is simple: when house owners go on vacation, they look for someone to stay in their house to take care of the property and any pets they have. I stayed 2 weeks in New York by looking after two cats!
They don’t expect to pay house sitters, and house sitters don’t expect to pay for their stay. It’s an arrangement that’s mutually beneficial and it’s something that I have done as well in my travels. There are a number of housesitting websites you can join, just make sure to compare which one fits you best. Here’s a guide to the best housesitting websites nowadays.
So, yes, it’s possible to travel cheap. You can forgo some pleasures while traveling to help stretch your budget a bit more. But remember, money can be earned. There are some experiences that are worth paying for, and you shouldn’t miss out on those just because you can’t break your budget.
How about you? What are your tips for travel cheap?