i think i read about a thousand ‘how to travel cheap’ blog posts before i went abroad and i found that i didn’t really implement any of the techniques, mainly because in the moment i totally forgot them all.
fortunately my roomie was basically my personal travel agent and i just had to send her money for hotels and flights. (god bless tori kaiser)
so, from watching tori work her magic on each trip we took, i figure i should write that obligatory ‘how to travel cheap’ post.
what i learned:
- it is easy to travel cheap when you’re already out of the US. getting to the other side of the pond is obviously going to cost you a pretty penny, but once you get there, it’s not as bad! (although my dad and I got a flight from PHX to LGW for ~$500 for a one way, so that ain’t bad. s/o to west jet)
- something that can help you get over the pond from the US is wowair. we met a guy in iceland who said ‘i just wanted to leave and coming to iceland was the cheapest’. although wowair only leaves from certain places and only flies into certain places, it may be a little more work, but could be worth it! (this isn’t an airline we used, but something i will be looking at for future travels!)
- THIS IS THE BIGGEST TIP AND OUR MOST USED SO PAY ATTENTION TO THIS ONE!! flying direct is not always going to be the cheapest option. we found out about an airline called ryan air that was based in ireland. why is this important?? because any flights into and out of ireland with ryan air is going to be WAY cheaper(like 15GBP per ticket!!). we used this twice, once when we flew london-> dublin->paris and again when we went london-> belfast->iceland. in both cases we spent a little time in the irish city, but if you’re extremely opposed to ireland you can probably find another flight out quickly.
- europe has plenty of ‘budget airlines’ and we took literally every single one. so don’t be afraid to book a ticket to a place on one airline and then book a ticket back on another (if you want a review of the budget airlines, you should comment, because i got some thoughts on that nonsense).
- we (meaning tori) mainly spent our time on google flights. google flights has a nice feature that shows you a calendar and you can see the ‘cheapest days’ deemed by google so having FLEXIBLE DAYS may save you money too (ex. you want to leave saturday, but your friday afternoon class isn’t that important so you leave friday night and save like 100 bucks).
- tori always urged me to be in an incognito window while looking at flights (on any platform), so i’m going to add that in because she’s really smart and i do what she says. so be incognito while looking at flights.
- do not sure only one website to look for flights. although we mainly used google flights (for its calendar view and its ‘everywhere’ option) we always looked at other travel sights to see if they said anything different.
- sometimes booking through the airline website is cheaper than booking through a third-party website. this isn’t always the case, but it’s something good to do.
- don’t pay to pick you seat. this is a mistake we made on our first flight we booked (which was to venice and you can heard about here). when checking out most budget airlines will tell you its ~$5 to pick a seat, but this is OPTIONAL. we almost never bought an assigned seat and still always ended up next to each other.
- print your ticket before you get to the airport. some budget airlines will charge you to print your ticket at the airport. so if you are given the option after checking in online to print your ticket, do it. there was one airline we took that didn’t give us the option to check in online or print our ticket and that airline did not charge us anything to do it at the airport.
- do NOT leave transportation research until you get to your destination. this may seem like a lot of work, but make sure you look into how you are getting from the airport to your hostel or hotel. cabs in foreign countries can get expensive (uber doesn’t exist everywhere). almost all the hostels we stayed at gave directions and options of how to get their, so look into those options and how much they cost. if they don’t give any other option than cab, use the different transportation options on google maps to see if any buses can get you close.
- book hostels. hostel world is a great resource and that was basically how we got all our hostels. make sure you actually look at reviews instead of JUST the price. we once found a super cheap hostel but the reviews said something along the lines of ‘i was showering and some random guy who wasn’t even a guest in the hostel walked into the shower’. pay the extra money for piece of mind.
- hostel side notes: this post isn’t about experiences, but hostels can help you make GREAT friends. we met a guy in paris who ended up going with us on a trip to iceland! we also met amazing ladies in dublin who made us get out to the bars and have drinks! so worth it also, hostels are not as sketchy as people make them seem! i remember my french teacher in high school making them so dirty and sketchy but most of them aren’t! we had one weird experience, but the MAJORITY are super nice.
- when booking hostels pay attention to how far they are from the city center. along with checking the reviews and the price, look at the location. it isn’t worth it to stay in a cheap hostel if it will cost you a lot of time and money to get to where you want to be. because we usually only spent 48-72 hrs in each place, time management was very important.
- and sometimes… book hotels. if you’re traveling consecutively it can get really tiring using a communal bathroom and hearing someone come in at 2am when you have to be up at 6am. sometimes (very rarely) the hotel can be the same price or cheaper than a hostel. when we were in belfast (which you can read about here) we stayed in a hotel because that was cheaper than all the hostels. use booking websites to look for hotels like expedia (as an example).
- look to see how much food and transportation will cost. this may seem like a weird thing to look into, but as we came to find out, just because the flight is cheap and the hostel is cheap.. doesn’t mean the city is cheap. when we were in iceland it cost $7 for one avocado… ya. just make sure you look into things.
I think that’s everything… if there is more I will edit this post and add extras!