When I decided to book a trip to the Nordics, I was fairly apprehensive about just how expensive it was going to be.
We’ve all heard those stories of how everything from a bottle of water to a beer seems to cost 3 times what it would back home. Robert and I often travel very cheaply, so these rumours stressed me out. I didn’t want this trip to break the bank.
Luckily for us, most of those rumours aren’t entirely true, and due to some smart planning on my part, we were able to see Iceland, Denmark, and Sweden for a similar price as what we would normally pay for any trip.
Travel can be expensive if you’re not careful about how you spend your money, especially if you’re travelling to countries that are a little pricier than others, but there are a number of things we can do to make sure our wallets aren’t left empty.
Here are 5 ways that I make every one of my trips as cheap as possible!
We booked our flights to Europe about 5 months in advance
Tip 1: Book ahead and be flexible
A tried and tested tip for getting a good deal is to book ahead. There’s no point planning your trip only a week in advance, as you’ll find that all the cheap seats on flights, trains, and buses will be gone.
As a general guide, the best time to book an international trip is 3-6 months in advance, and a domestic trip around 2 months in advance.
Being flexible with dates will make a huge difference to scoring a great deal on your flights! I usually use Google Flights to search for great deals, as you can compare a huge range of dates and also track prices. What could be better than receiving an email advising you that the flights you were looking at earlier have gone down in price?
Travelling to Moscow in winter 2013
Tip 2: Travel outside of peak season
If there’s one thing I noticed this summer, it’s that seemingly everyone in the US travelled somewhere between June and August. I know it’s tempting to chase the warmer weather, but if you travel outside of peak season then you’ll find the ideal combination of less crowds and cheaper prices. You can expect to save money on:
- Flights, as airlines will have better deals
- Train and bus tickets between cities
- Hotels, as they’ll have more availability and lower rates
- Sightseeing tickets, which are often discounted
Peak season is from June to August throughout most of the Northern hemisphere, and December to February throughout the Southern hemisphere, plus school breaks and holidays such as Easter and Christmas are often considered peak.
Views from our AirBnB in Reykjavik, Iceland
Tip 3: Choose your accommodation wisely
Each destination will have its own range of accommodation options. In Eastern Europe, Asia, or South America you can get a private room for as little as $25 USD a night, but in Western Europe, USA, or Australia you can expect to pay 3 or 4 times that much. Here’s what you should look for when choosing your accommodation:
Hostels: In most major cities, you’ll find some great hostels to choose from. If you’re fine with get cosy in a room with 5-10 other people, then you can get your accommodation for next to nothing.
Budget Hotels: Budget hotels are common in both cities and in the countryside. I usually use Hotels.com to find budget hotels in my price range.
Apartments: Renting an apartment through AirBnB or similar sites can be a budget-friendly option, especially if you’re doing some city-hopping as apartments are often cheaper than hotels. Just make sure you take note of the apartment’s location – if you’re not staying in the city center, choose a place that has easy access to a bus stop or metro station.
Buying street food in Prague
Tip 4: Be smart about food and drinks
There’s no question that eating out is the number one cause of overspending our travel budget, especially in more expensive countries such as the Nordics! With this in mind, here’s a few tips to avoid overspending:
Food: Restaurants and cafes aren’t usually budget-friendly. Instead, grocery stores are one of the best ways to save money on food. You don’t even have to cook your own meals if you don’t have access to a kitchen, as grocery stores often stock pre-made meals like sandwiches and salads for cheap. Street food can also be a bargain!
Drinks: I know that many of us (myself included) feel that having a few drinks is a part of the local experience in the places we visit. Unfortunately, a few drinks at the bar will probably result in your wallet becoming much lighter by the end of the night. Stick to grocery stores for beer and liquor stores for other drinks when you can – it will be much cheaper that way.
Enjoying free views in Chicago
Tip 5: Get creative with sightseeing
Sightseeing can be a killer for budget travellers. There have been so many times that I haven’t taken a sightseeing activity purely because of the ticket price. Sometimes I’ll splash out on special activities, but most of the time I’ll search for free or discount activities such as:
Free sightseeing activities: If you’re travelling to a major city, try doing a web search for ‘Free things to do in Bangkok’ or ‘Budget guide to Helsinki’ and take a look through the results – you’re bound to find some great tips in there which are often better than the paid sightseeing activities.
Free vista points: In most major cities, you can find a rooftop bar or high level restaurant that will give you city views without the ticket price of an observation deck! I’ve used this hack in New York, Paris, and Chicago – it works every time. Just be prepared to dress up in nicer clothing than the shorts and sandals that you’ve been using to sightsee.
Free walking tours: You might be surprised to discover that nearly every major city has free walking tours. To find them, just do a quick web search for ‘Free walking tour in Berlin’.
Free museums and galleries: Many museums and galleries are free to enter year round, and even many paid museums offer free entry for a few hours once a week or on one day each month. Check the website for the museums you want to visit, and check the ‘ticket prices’ or ‘admission’ page for any hints about free entry.
Free events: There are so many free community events in every major city. You can find anything from street markets to music festivals to parades. Again, do a web search for ‘San Francisco events calendar’ and see what you find.
Travel can seem expensive, but it doesn’t have to be if you’re smart about how you spend your money. Using these 5 tips will ensure you have a super cheap trip!
What are your tips for saving money on travel? Do you have any hacks for travelling cheap? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
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