ven though overseas travel is cheaper than it’s ever been, it can still be hard to budget for it but it doesn’t stop you wanting to travel when you have no money. I’m a giant tight-ass when it comes to travel. I’m economy all the way and as long as my bed has clean sheets, I really don’t need anything else. I’d rather save my money for awesome theatre or museum tickets.
I’m the daughter of pretty hardcore baby boomers and as such I’d rather die than spend $15 on a cafe sandwich when I can bring one from home for about $5. I’d also never buy a $15 dessert when I can grab a $3 ice cream at the service station on the way home. All these little things add up when you’re travelling and can make a cheap holiday way less cheap. I’m pretty lucky because Mr Smaggle is just as frugal as I am so we have marvellous adventures together trying to save money. We recently hiked for 20 minutes all the way around Melbourne airport trying to find the magic zone where you can order Ubers outside of the zone they’ve blocked. We found it and saved ourselves $30. Boom.
Here are our top tips for travelling cheap when you have no money.
1. Watch the airlines like a hawk
Sign up for sales alerts to countries that you’re interested in and subscribe to cheap airline syndicates like Skyscanner, Webjet, and Cheapoair. It also helps to get buddy buddy with people who work for airlines. Friends and family discounts are ridiculously cheap and often limitless so next time you have the opportunity to add an air-hostie to your friendship circle, make it happen. There’s also some pretty sweet deals that happen regularly like Jetstar tickets to Japan go on sale at least twice a year.
2. Pack your own lunch… and breakfast and dinner
Restaurants and cafes can be really expensive, especially if you’re travelling in a country where you need to tip. It’s so much cheaper to grab a box of cereal and a carton of milk at the local shops and have breakfast in your hotel room, rather than dropping serious coin on a fancy hotel breakfast. Whenever you’re at a supermarket stock up on snacks like fruit, boiled eggs and long life cheese so you never have to buy a $5 protein bar at a gourmet snack bar. There’s also no reason why you can’t pack your lunch when you’re sightseeing. Making your own sandwiches is always cheaper than paying for cafe sandwiches and they’re often yummier too. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re missing out either – unless there’s a michelin rated sandwich shop where you’re going, you won’t be missing out on anything by bringing a bagged lunch.
3. Book a terrible flight
If money is more important to you than time, you can book tickets with long or undesirable layovers. It might take you two days to get home but you could save up to $1000 on flights, simply by spending a day or two in Singapore or Dubai. Most people would prefer to go to Paris than Dubai but it’s actually a very cool corner of the world. There’s always awesome things to do wherever you travel so don’t stress too much about a few days in a place you don’t know much about. Just embrace it.
4. Be a bit sneaky
I recently heard about the concept of a ‘throw away’ ticket and I cannot believe I didn’t think of this sooner. A ‘throw away’ ticket is purchased with the intention of only using half the ticket. For example a flight to Los Angeles from New York may cost $700 one way but a round trip at a specified time might be $450. If it works out cheaper you can book the round trip for $400 and simply not use the return flight. This trick takes quite a bit of planning and research but if you’re prepared to look outside the box you can save hundreds of dollars by cutting your booked flights short to get the cheapest fares possible.
5. Book the actual cheapest accomodation you can find
Hostels, motels and AirBnB are amongst the cheapest ways to get accomodation overseas but they will vary from country to country. Sometimes motels will be the cheapest and sometimes an AirBnB will be your most cost effective accommodation option. Always check Hotwire and Priceline too. They’re mystery hotel apps where under-booked hotels put their empty rooms hoping to fill them cheaply at the last minute. We got some absolute steals when we travelled in the US in cities that are notoriously expensive.
6. Road trip with a relocation car
If you want to save on car hire give Vroom Vroom Vroom a go. If there’s someone who wants their car driven from Los Angeles to New York, you can drive it for them and save yourself from having to rent a car. It’s a win win situation and will save you heaps in domestic flights and/or car hire fees.
7. Couch surf or couch swap
Visit sites like Couch Surf or Nolo for free, cheap or swappable accomodation. If your bed is empty at your house, you might has well try to swap accommodation, particularly if you live in a cool location. Note: house swap site generally want you to house swap so you need to make sure you’re happy having people stay in your place as well.
Also it’s podcast day! I usually write a blurb about what the podcast is about but I’ve got it wrong nearly every week this month (because I write and schedule this post the day before the podcast is released). So there’s a box below this text that will tell you what the episode is about. I’m going to say it’s the recommendations podcast but I’m sure I’m wrong. Whatever. Blogging is hard.
Have you ever travelled when you’re broke? Any tips to share?
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