People often ask me how I can afford to travel, I am a low-income employee and I manage to travel two or three times a year, and that is outside the country. First and foremost a lot of planning goes into it.
I plan & book my Europe trip a year ahead of time; I never book unless I have the cash to pay for it. First of all I pick days I want to go, I usually pick May, the weather is not too hot, as you will be walking a lot, and its low season in Europe, and you have that extra holiday, Victoria Day, more vacation time.
Pick your hotel; you will get better deals if you book far in advance, the cheaper hotels sell out quickly.
I never pay more than 80 CAD a night, all the hotels I have stayed in were within walking distance to all the main sights, the rooms were clean and I had my own bathroom. I shared a bathroom once and that was not the end of the world. After you have booked your hotel go on the airline sites and look for a flight, think of a budget you want to spend and stick to it. When you set a budget and are happy with it, do not worry if the price goes down, you stayed within your budget. Most times the prices go up.
Now it’s time to plan what you want to do, in Europe it’s easy to take day trips to other countries, trains are cheap and reliable, if you book ahead of time you get an awesome discount. I buy my attraction tickets online; I do this so I can skip the line ups to buy tickets, and it will make budgeting a little easier.
I never pay more than 10 Euros for a meal, I go on tripadvisor or yelp and I even plan my meals, I will use Italy for example, breakfast will be a coffee and a croissant 1.50 Euros, Pizza or Pasta for lunch, usually between 4-6 euros, supper will be at a bar that includes a buffet with a cocktail, or a pasta meal, usually between 6-10 euros. My boyfriend will usually get a sandwich at the supermarket for his breakfast and I will pick up a banana or another piece of fruit. (Later on I will give you all year round saving tips).
Here is a Caffe where you buy a cocktail and the buffet is free
Here is a lunch that we got in Rome, we paid approximately 3.00 Euros each
Now some places are a little more expensive for eating on the cheap, like Munich Germany, I was lucky to book a room on hotwire for 69 CAD a night, the room included a kitchenette, so I bought little packages of oatmeal with me, went to the super market in Munich and bought yogurt and fruit, so I cut the cost of breakfast down, so I was able to spend a little more on meals, not much more than 10 euros.
Amsterdam was expensive too, so I booked a B & B which included a hot breakfast, do your research before going anywhere, that free breakfast saved a lot of money for meals.
We enjoy walking a lot and looking at the sites, we do not take cabs; if we get tired we will take a bus or sub back to the hotel. We also take the cheapest transportation options from the airport and back to the airport, never cabs, and trains are the greatest they do not get stuck in traffic.
I also go down south once or twice a year, I never pay more than 700 CAD for a week for an all-inclusive, I do not take much money with me and only bring my credit card for emergencies only. I do not stay in a fancy hotel, I am not going to be at the resort much, just to eat and sleep, that’s about it. I love the outdoors and will be outdoors most of the time. I am going for the sun and the heat. If you pay too much for your trip down south that will leave you less for other trips.
Here is another great way to budget, me and my boyfriend ask the bank for money envelopes, and we break them up for each day and put so much in each envelope. I label each one accordingly, like if I am going on a day trip I will put a little extra in it. If I have any leftover I put it in my gift envelope and do my gift shopping on the last day.
Here is a healthy meal I got at Walk to Wok in Amsterdam, for under 10 Euros
Now here is a list of some of my saving tips
- I eat a lot of chicken, I buy it when it’s on sale, I stock up on it, enough to last a while, I only buy sale items, and I check all the flyers. I do not buy processed foods. I shop weekly and spend between 30-50 dollars a week, and I have a big appetite. I do not eat out often; I like to cook my own meals.
- I do not have cable, get rid of it; it’s too expensive, take up new hobbies.
- I do my own nails, I wax my own eyebrows, if you are a woman you will save tons of money by doing it yourself, I get my hair cut at Wal-Mart 20 dollars, they do a good job.
- I walk outdoors for exercise, I have my own weights and an exercise ball and a good fitness book, you can save 600+ in gym membership fees, that’s almost a cheap vacation down south, if you wait last-minute, and you might get a trip for less than 600 dollars. (you should maintain good health for travelling too) build up the immune system
- I never buy unnecessary items for my place, just the essentials, material things are not important to a traveler; it’s all about building great memories. My photos on the wall is what I treasure the most, they are more valuable to me than a new couch or a big screen television.
- I hang up most of my laundry, to save on laundry costs
- I will not buy clothing unless it’s 40 % off or more, buy end of season wear, stick with conservative clothing, maybe buy a few trendy items. I like to buy my travel clothing at MEC, those are my splurge items, they last forever so in the long run it’s a good buy.
- I take advantage of free events in the city for entertainment, scout the newspapers, online, you will be surprised at what the city can offer you, especially in the summer there are a lot of free events, me and my boyfriend went to many free BBQ’s and outdoor concerts, we love being out and about.
- The most important tip of all is do not use your credit cards, unless you can pay it off right away.
- Buy RRSPS, you get a really good tax break, maybe enough for a trip, also you are investing in your future, only ifs a little every week, it adds up
- Buy your euro’s weekly, if you are struggling one week, buy 5 euros, they add up, if you’re going to the USA, or anywhere else, buy your foreign currency weekly, you have a year to save up spending money.
- I always ask for travel stuff for Christmas, I love getting mini shampoo’s and travel wear for Christmas