Ever scroll through Instagram wondering how your friends are making a 10-day tour through Europe work on a low income? If you aren’t dead-set on first class and resort digs, you too can jump on the travel train. Here’s how to travel internationally on a budget.
Travel During Off-Season
Off-season doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go at the dead of winter – unless you’re into that sort of thing. Traveling during off-season can be as simple as booking in September. Remember that off-season months vary depending on the country you want to go to. Let’s put this tip into practice: A quick scan of Google Flights for the hypothetical trip Chicago to London shows tickets as high as $704 for August. Just one month later, they drop to $396 a piece. Yes, I am definitely wishing that wasn’t a hypothetical plane ticket.
Book Your Flights First
Before you ask for the time off at work, look into those flight prices. They can vary in the hundreds of dollars in just a single week, and depending on the time of day you depart. If you’re following my first tip and traveling internationally in the spring or fall, you should see a nice dip in those flight prices overall. Make sure to clear your browser cookies so the flights don’t hike up in price, and watch them for a few weeks or even months before you book to get the most for your money.
Buy All Your Tickets in Advance
If you’re able to stick to a schedule, buy your tickets before you leave the country. Any excursion, bus, train or plane ticket will be cheaper – and they’ll sometimes even have an early-bird discount – if you grab them in advance. Make sure you stick printouts of them in your carry-on and have the itineraries also saved on your phone so you don’t miss any of them.
Stay in Hostels
Hostels are dorm-like housing options you can stay in for about $20 (more or less) a night. They’re shared rooms that can have 6 or more beds each, and if you haven’t traveled much internationally, you may not know where to start with booking them. Hostelworld is a great resource for finding hostels – you guessed it – anywhere in the world. Some places like Western Europe and Australia are incredibly hostel-friendly. Read: great hostels at great prices.
Keep the Luggage to a Carry-On
I hear you groan, ladies. I get it. It can be tough to pick all the right things to pack in a single carry-on, but it will save your wallet from baggage fees and yourself from the pain of carrying it all with you. Get yourself a great backpacker’s backpack if you don’t have one already, make sure you’re prepped for the weather, and only take what you really need.
Pack a box of protein bars in your carry-on (unless, of course, you’re heading to France). Breakfast can be expensive when it really just needs to be filling. Bringing your own is a great way to cut costs as you travel internationally on a budget and save you time that’s better spent exploring.
Eat Out for Lunch & In for Dinner
Many restaurants will have great lunch deals – so you can get high-quality food at a great price. Then, grab something from a nearby deli or cook your own meal for dinner. That’s the most expensive meal of the day, so you’ll want to stay away from restaurants past 4pm.
Explore All Transit Options
Buses? Trains? Planes? Uber? Public transport? The options are endless – and usually varying in price, especially when it comes to traveling to and from the airport. Make sure you look at all your transit options when traveling internationally on a budget. Sometimes trains can cost the most, sometimes planes can be the cheapest, and sometimes it’s close enough to walk. WikiTravel will be able to give you some transit tips.
Heading to Europe? Fly in through Ireland
Something my husband and I noticed when booking our extended honeymoon was that it would be much cheaper to fly into Europe through Ireland and then take a budget airline (like Ryanair) to our final destination. Once you’re in Europe, flights to different countries can be as low as $20 each way. Make sure you’re exploring every flight option when traveling internationally on a budget.
Know the Exchange Rate…
…and how much food should cost. Once, when my husband and I were in Prague, a food cart in a very touristy square tried charging us $50 for a piece of ham and a bowl of mashed potatoes. We walked away – but many of the people before us in line didn’t realize how much they were paying. WikiTravel will give you a great baseline for knowing how much a meal should cost, no matter where in the world you’re going.
Research the Street Food
Know whether or not it’s safe (and if it is, eat it!). Depending on where you’re going, it may or may not be cheaper. A falafel sandwich in Europe can be about $7, while the same thing in many Middle Eastern countries is 50 cents. A good rule of thumb is if it’s trendy, it’s not cheaper. Always eat like the locals do! It’ll be great food at a much cheaper price point.
Things happen. Plans change, stuff is stolen, it rains, and it’s all part of the journey. Remember how crazy it is that a giant metal bird can take you to the other side of the globe in ten hours or less and your delay won’t seem quite as bad. Don’t let something small ruin your adventure, and if it really stinks, just think about the great story it’ll make later.
Resources to Check Out:
No matter where in the world you’re hoping to get to, WikiTravel has a wealth of information – from budget spots to eat and getting in and out of the airport to the areas you should avoid. I highly recommend reading through it before you grab your passport and go. It’s an excellent resource that will help you feel a little more like a local.
For all you hardcore budget travelers, or just those of you with awkward flight times, check out Sleeping in Airports for tips on how to sleep in airports around the globe.
If you’re heading to Europe, this is a great resource that will tell you about how much any form of transportation will cost to get you where you want to go.
The best lodging resource for those traveling internationally on a budget.
There you have it: how to travel internationally on a budget. Did I miss any of your favorite budget travel tips? Leave them in the comments below!