As a university student who has a passion for traveling, it’s important that I properly budget my trips. I dream of luxurious vacations but for now I have to be practical with my limited expenses – while still going on the trips of my dreams (it’s possible).
Discussions: Whoever you decide to travel with, you need to take a moment and discuss your travel styles. It’s important to know each other’s travel style and budget. Questions to ask would be along the lines of: What are you willing to spend a) per day, and b) overall? Are you comfortable with staying in hostels vs. hotels vs. short-term rentals (AirBNB)? Would you rather jump around more locations or spend more time in less locations? Each of these questions have great impact on your planning and how much you will be spending. Best to be on the same page beforehand to avoid unnecessary arguments when you are supposed to be having fun.
Packing: Save yourself time, money, and the hassle by just bringing a backpack. Going through airports is such a hassle when you have to check luggage, and it can also cost you a great deal of money. Additionally, when travelling from place to place, carrying a large suitcase will be extremely rough – and don’t think about paying for a pricey taxi to make it easier on you! Not to mention hostels don’t have lockers big enough to fit checked luggage. A backpacker’s backpack is compact yet big enough to fit your things, and (if you get a specialized one) it can be customized for comfort if you have long journeys ahead where you need to lug around your things.
Planes, Trains, & Automobiles
Google Flights: This is my go-to site. It collects all airlines and shows you the cheapest routes. It is also super easy to adjust if you want to play around with different dates to see when the cheapest time to fly is. Sky Scanner & Kayak are other alternatives that I like to check but Google Flights usually works just as well, if not better.
EasyJet: is my go-to airline when travelling within Europe. They offer extremely cheap flights and a comfortable (though basic) travelling experience. You have probably heard of Ryan Air as the cheapest but you are sacrificing quite a bit for the price. I’ve heard many complaints about Ryan Air but if you are really tight on the budget it may be right for you.
1) Do not check luggage! It is so much faster, cheaper, and generally easier to haul ass when you just have a carry-on piece of luggage.
2) Take into account that discount airlines don’t always fly into the main airports so make sure to calculate the cost of getting into the city and see if it truly is the cheaper alternative.
Taking the train is my preferred choice of travel. Less hassle, stations are normally central to the city, and generally more comfortable. When deciding what train company to use, you need to first know what country you are travelling in.
Rail Europe is great if you are planning to take the train to multiple countries.
Voyage SNCF is perfect for travelling within France, though I have taken these trains to Brussels and Switzerland. As a student/young adult you can get a Carte Jeune pass for 50 euros and you will get great discounts on travel – though it’s only worth while if you will be taking multiple trains around the country.
Eurolines: Sometimes, the best way to get around is taking the bus. It may not be the most glamorous but it will normally offer a good price. I had to take an 8 hour bus ride leaving Nice at 2am and arriving in Florence at 8am, it was an awfully uncomfortable sleep, but arriving in Florence made it all the worthwhile
Bla Bla Car: if you are feeling confident, why not do a rideshare with a stranger? Bla Bla Car is a similar experience to AirBNB. Simple say where you want to go and you will be shown profiles of people who are making similar trips and have space in their car. It’s a trustworthy site, and as I said, you can see the driver’s profile and make a decision based on that if you are nervous. This isn’t hitchhiking, it’s a cheap way to get to point B and maybe you’ll make a friend along the way!
*Pro Tip: Avoid taxis! Walk as much as you can (it’s good for you) and take public transportation (subways/metros are super easy to maneuver). It can be extremely tempting to just take a taxi from the airport but check first to see if there is a shuttle service offered by your accommodation or take public transit (your accommodations will most likely help you with simple directions).
Hostel World: is my saviour when booking affordable accommodations – I’ve booked over 10 hostels through them. Though I was hesitant about staying in a hostel at first, Hostel World allows you to sort your search by rating. These ratings measure categories such as location, security, atmosphere, cleanliness, etc.
AirBNB: this option is better if you are travelling in a group of 4 or more – I find it’s too expensive with a smaller group. But if you do have a group, having your own rental through AirBNB is such a luxury. My friends and I did this for our trip to London.
Souvenirs: Don’t waste your money on them unless there’s a specific item that you’ve always wanted. Pictures do the trick! Not only do they waste money, they waste valuable space in your backpack. If you need a piece of memorabilia, save a city map from each place you visit – it’s free!
Food: For breakfast and lunch try to be as minimal as possible. Grab a few snacks from the local grocery shop or grab a sandwich. Even if you’re a foodie, save your money for dinners only.
Alcohol: If you plan on venturing to the clubs, save money by having a few drinks beforehand. You can get a full bottle of wine for 2 euros! At the bar you’ll likely be paying 6 euros for a tiny glass of the same wine.
Google Sheets: is what I use to 1) Keep track of all expenses, 2) Keep track of who owes who what, and 3) Keep track of all dates and information. If you are going on a long multi-city trip, I highly recommend using it. It’s edited live, so you can share the document with people on your trip and you can all add to it.
Directions: Make sure to keep notes of all necessary directions (i.e. from the airport to the hostel). You will especially need these when you have no wifi connection and when you don’t speak the local language. Don’t waste your data – that will be extremely pricey.
Travel SIM Card: if you have already unlocked your phone, or you are going to be away for more than one month, it is likely worthwhile to get a European SIM Card. I got mine through Free Mobile in France. It cost me 20 euros a month and allowed me free international calls, free texting, and pretty much unlimited data. It’s cheaper and better than phone plans in Canada! It also cost much less than adding travel minutes to my Canadian plan. Not to mention the benefit of having data while abroad.
Maps.me: is a free app that works without charging you any data. Before your trip, download the map of the area you’ll be visiting. Once you are abroad, you can access the app and it’ll show your orientation in the city and help guide you. Additionally, it has preloaded locations if you are looking for a nearby restaurant, gas station, etc.
Those are my tips! What do you do to budget your trips? Let me know in the comments :)