“Is it possible to get the burger bun, without anything else? I’m not that hungry and would hate to waste food.”
The above lie is often used as a decoy instead of explaining just how broke we truly are while trying to order dinner on the road. We would rather go hungry than ask our parents for any more money for our must-have holiday expenses.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone if you’ve ever felt broke on a trip. I’m going to show you how to make every penny count when you’re traveling so that you don’t end up sleeping on the streets…
Knowing that you have to miss out on things while you’re supposed to be on “the trip of a lifetime” isn’t a great feeling. I don’t want you to suffer FOMO (fear of missing out for those readers above the age of thirty) ever again.
I’m going to help you with some handy-dandy ways to save money, while still making your trip memorable.
How do you make every penny count when you’re on the trip of a lifetime?
Look for budget accommodations.
As much as we would all love to live the glamorous life of a Kardashian, for most of us this will never be a reality (for more than one night after we check out credit card balance).
Dare say we do splurge on fancy accommodations as a once off, we will most likely be bankrupt before we even leave the hotel. Generation Y thrives on travel and because of this, there are so many cheaper options.
My top two budget-friendly accommodation options that are currently available are:
Option #1: Hostels.
You can find a Hostel for as little as $20 per night. Of course, rooms are shared but who cares when you’re going to be out partying the whole time anyway, right?
Here are some insider tips for hostels:
Most hostels have free breakfast and sometimes even lunch.
Our hostel in Toronto served breakfast 7:00am – 1:00pm. No matter what we were doing that day, I always made sure that I would take enough for lunch as well.
Of course you get some judgmental looks when you’re stashing four bagels a day in your backpack, but hey. My partner was the most judgemental of all. Come day three of buying his lunch whilst I was eating for free, he got over it and succumbed to my ways.
Quite often hostels also have a lot of leftover “stuff” left behind by fellow travellers.
This “stuff” is often things such as bathroom and pantry supplies. When finally leaving our hostel in Toronto, we crammed an Uber absolutely full with bags upon bags of stuff that we had ended up with. We specifically had at least four shopping bags full of Microwave popcorn. Truthfully I knew we didn’t need it all, but it was like committing a crime to my partner if we were to leave it behind.
Option #2: Airbnb.
Have you heard of Airbnb? You can rent out someone’s home, their spare bedroom, or their RV in the front yard.
Renting an Airbnb is a great option when travelling in groups and when you want privacy that Hostels don’t provide. For as little as $80 per night you can rent an entire apartment in Downtown Toronto. Split this cost between four people and you have extreme budget accommodation.
Be sure to read the reviews first though as cheap doesn’t always equal quality. I learned this lesson the hard way ending up in something that resembled a human size ash tray when desperate for accommodation when arriving in Toronto.
Don’t stay in the middle of the city when you visit expensive cities.
You can easily find accommodations for a fraction of the cost outside the downtown core of all cities. This tip may seem obvious, but many travellers will still blow a fortune on accommodations because they didn’t feel like taking a bus into town.
Last year we did a spontaneous trip to New York City; driving the over ten-hour journey from Toronto for only one and a half days in the city. As we only booked our accommodation on the day of the trip, the only place we could find (in a reasonable price bracket) was a twenty-minute subway ride out of the main city. In the seventy-two hours that we were in The Big Apple, we probably spent maximum twenty of them at the hotel.
In reality all you really do is sleep in your hotel so we didn’t see the point in spending so much money to be right in the thick of it.
Look for free activities.
We have all fell into the trap of booking overpriced activity packages one too many times. As soon as we arrived we all realized that we could find the same activities for half the price or even free, right?
When arriving in Toronto we preyed on the activities that our hostel offered. Mainly because we wanted to make new friends so badly, as well as get to know the city.
We did city tours, pub crawls, BBQ nights and karaoke to name a few.
As we were extremely naive to the availability of housing in Toronto, we ended up staying in our hostel for much longer then we had initially intended. The one upside to this was attending these activities multiple times.
The BBQ night was such a hit with my partner (possibly the world’s biggest eater and meat lover) that they even invited him to come back to it whenever he pleased. I’m still not sure whether it was because he was so much fun to have around or because he eliminated all waste by eating everyone’s leftovers.
Book activities in groups.
Recently my friends and I went Stand up Paddle Boarding around the Toronto Harbour.
Although I could boast all day about the fact that I was one of the two out of four that didn’t fall in, I will just tell you about the discount that we got for booking in a group. As many companies do, this one offered discounts of 10% for booking of three people and above. As we were going in a group of four (did I mention yet that I was one of the two that didn’t fall in?!) we received 10% off and had more money to spend on drinks after.
Even if sites don’t mention group discounts online, it always pays to call them and check. You never know until you ask.
Price match your flights.
This is for those people who don’t like booking their flights online. I totally get it. I’m old fashioned too. When booking our one way flights to Vancouver from Australia we booked through a friend of ours that is a travel agent.
[Note from Martin: I DIDN’T REALIZE IT WAS 2004!]
The flights that his company offered were a lot more expensive than the ones that I being the savvy shopper that I am had found online. I remember sitting with him while he called the bigwigs to confirm the price match. They were totally shocked at how cheap the flights were that I had found.
Not wanting to let our business go (and to lose our friendship for not finding us a great deal) he price matched and we walked out getting our flights for almost half of the initial price. Some sites will offer price drop guarantees and price matches. Look out for these deals because you could easily save a few hundred dollars on flights.
Be flexible with your travel dates.
I truly hate having to listen to people tell me the same stories about going to the exact same holiday destination on the exact same dates, every year. Please, I beg of you, don’t be these people.
Do something crazy, mix up your dates and go somewhere new!
I mean, having rough dates is okay however if you always travel during peak periods, you’re going to pay more (and be mindlessly bored!)
Last week I booked accommodation in Montreal, this coming January. This same room that I booked for January is up to $160 per night more expensive during peak periods.
My partner gasped at me with disbelief when I told him about the travel plans. He couldn’t understand why I would book it in such a cold Canadian month. In his eyes, I did something so stupid. He told me that I’m under strict instructions that I’m not allowed to complain about the weather at all and must do all outdoor activities that he requests.
Eat like a local.
Ask any local their favourite place to eat and they’ll never list any “touristy restaurants.” If you’re willing to risk your street credit by not eating in the most popular locations, you can always find cheaper eats. Just last night my partner and I went out to a Thai chain restaurant in the East end of Toronto, where we live. Despite having the exact same menu, the East End location is way cheaper than the one in the centre of Toronto. Once you add in taxes and tips, you really can save a lot of money eating in a less popular area.
Eating like a local can also lead you on some fun adventures within your adventure.
Create a daily/weekly/month budget.
This applies to both travelling and living abroad. We always have budgets while travelling, and we especially have one now that we live abroad.
Budgeting isn’t about having a boring trip and doing nothing. Having a daily figure in mind helps to eliminate pointless splurges because you’re “on vacation”. Budgeting allows you to enjoy your trip more.
Recently when my family visited Toronto, my brother-in-law told me that he had set a daily budget. I love him to pieces, but he’s definitely known for his expensive taste and tendency to blow money on big-ticket items (he bought three $900 outfits for his own wedding because he didn’t like the shade of white of the shirt in the previous two outfits).
Because of this, he had allowed $300 per day for himself, his wife and daughter Although this may sound like a lot, he didn’t spend near this much each day. Having leftover money from the budget allowed him to justify larger purchases later in the trip. There was no stress of putting things on his credit cards, as he already had this money within his budget.
Who wants to go back home with credit card debt hanging over their heads? Not me.
Travel is affordable; you just have to be smart about it.
If I can do it, so can you!
Sure, if you rush into it it’s going to cost you more than you expected. Take your time and do your research and you’ll save hundreds, maybe even thousands.
Do you have any money-saving tips while travelling?