After spending my freshman year abroad in Florence, Italy, I think it is safe to say I am a travelholic. At 20 years old, I have seen just about 35% of Europe with most of my own financing. In addition, I will be traveling back to study abroad in the United Kingdom, for an additional 4 months soon!
The most common question I received after coming back from my year long adventure is: How are you able to support yourself, while having fun for a whole year in another country? Well, the answer is budgeting. The word we all hate, but have to do it. I have worked a multitude of jobs prior to leaving on my year long adventure, and lately I find that I am constantly working hard and saving all my money for my next adventure. Although it does get a bit expensive, here are my top 5 tips when traveling on a budget.
The most important part when it comes to traveling is planning ahead, especially when it comes to flights. I would recommend planning at least 3-4 months in advance if traveling to Europe. But, before you even book a flight, do your research on the desired destination ahead of time. Some questions that should be asked when planning are?
- Is the country safe?
- What is going on in the news?
- What is the currency and the conversion rate to USD?
- Are their enough attractions/sights to see in the desired time frame?
- What is their transportation like? Is it a walkable city?
After asking yourself those questions, next begin looking at flights. One of the most successful resources I found when booking flights is, Google Flights. One of the things I love about Google Flights, is the ability to choose your desired dates of travel and the website will show you all available flights for different airlines, as well as the next cheapest day of travel. It is extremely user friendly, and makes it easy to search.
Tip: Remember to clear your history when searching for flights. If you don’t, your computer will remember your recent searches and prices may jump!
Unlike the common misperception of hostels in the United States. Hostels in Europe are safe and fun! Out of the 16+ hostels I have stayed in across Europe, I have had one bad experience which was not even close to life threatening. My favorite resource to use, especially if you are a student is word of mouth. Chances are someone you know has visited that country and stayed in a hostel that they can recommend.
These are my top three:
- Palmers Lodge Hillspring in London (Willesden Green area, Approx 30 min tube ride into central London)
- BVJ Champs-Elysées Monceau in Paris (approx. 1 mile walk to the Arc de Triomphe)
- Downtown Copenhagen Hostel in Copenhagen (5 min walk to City Hall Square)
If you do not know anyone who has been abroad or has stayed at any hostels, use Hostelworld as a reference. Some important things to look at when searching are location, safety, security, reception hours (most are NOT 24 hours), and room type (including people per room and gender). Although price is a factor, it comes second to safety in my opinion.
Anyone who knows me knows my favorite thing to do is eat. One of the perks of traveling is having the ability to try new food. There is nothing more upsetting than when someone tells me they ate at a McDonald’s abroad because they needed a “cheaper option”. You do not have to go out to eat to get the full abroad experience, in fact most locals do not eat out every night.
My favorite thing to do prior to a trip is research top things to eat in that particular country. Then, I go to a supermarket and find them. That is where you will save money, and have a greater quantity of delicious snacks. What I like to do when traveling is to go out to eat one day in each country at a nice, but not to pricey restaurant. It is important to experience a different atmosphere when abroad and try a chef special, if you are not picky!
Yes, if you are like me you never fall for the word FREE. There is always something you have to do in order for it to be free. Whether it be to sign up for an email list or agree to some survey. But, the one thing I love about the free walking tours is it is an individual tipping service, meaning it is your decision what amount you would like to tip the guide. Personally, I found the majority of people tip about 5-10 euros each, which is about 3 times cheaper than a regular tour. After the tour is over, most guides will invite the group out to lunch where they have deals with local restaurants at a fantastic discounted price.
These free walking tours have been my best friend when studying abroad. The walking tours usually last approximately two and a half hours, and have different categories of diverse topics.
One of the things I like to do to manage shopping expenses, is to not buy anything the first day of arrival. After a few days walking around in a city, you often find vendors have similar items that you may be able to negotiate a fair price. When negotiating, keep it friendly but stand your ground. Always say the lowest possible price first, and then settle on a reasonable amount.
The next thing I like to do when shopping is look for items I can’t find anywhere else. I like getting gifts that are unique to that particular area or region, that is what makes something even more special.
Finally, if I don’t see myself wearing it or I am not ABSOLUTELY in love with it, I save my money and keep looking.