Below you'll find all our tips on how you can budget for travel and stick to your budget while out on the road!
The question we get asked the most, in fact the sentence we have heard the most since we took the plunge and became location independent “I’m so jealous, you’re so lucky! how do you afford to travel?”
The truth is that luck has nothing to do with it. Actually, honestly, we now spend less each month now than we did living in the UK. The fact is, we’ve become so much savvier. I can’t tell you how frustrated we get thinking back on how much we used to spend each month. Please don't make the same mistakes we did. But enough about that. Here's how you can budget for your future travel adventures.
Things we’ve discovered in the last 3 months on how to budget for travel.
When planning a holiday or booking accommodation in the past we would always look for deals. If we could find something for £40 or £50 per night that was a total bargain, but now I get cold sweats at the idea of spending so much on one night’s stay. It certainly wouldn’t fit into our travel budget - we would probably be back in the UK by now!
We’ve made the decision to spend a month in each location we visit. You have the freedom to choose longer periods of course, but, choose shorter stays and prices will start to creep up.
Our monthly budget for accommodation is around €500 – for a 28 day stay this means looking for accommodation which is under €18 per night.
Apartment rental sites usually have a discount for longer term rentals, 28 days is perfect, our first apartment was 60% off, can you believe it?! I can’t work out how backpackers in Europe afford hostels. I haven’t managed to find a hostel dorm for €18 per night anywhere we’ve looked at staying so far, if you have any insight into this we would love to hear your story. Apartment rental has definitely been cheaper for us and fits our travel budget nicely. Plus, we have quiet space for work, a private kitchen and our own washing machine! Here is where we’ve found the best deals on apartments.
- AirBnB is fantastic! If you’ve never signed up to AirBnb before, sign up through this link and you will receive £25 (or the equivalent in another currency) off your 1st With AirBnB you can travel anywhere and everywhere! You would be hard pressed to find a location that doesn’t have and AirBnB property and the hosts are all well vetted and friendly, one of our hosts has offered to take us out on a street food tour.
- Don’t just limit yourself to AirBnb though there are other sites too. Have you ever heard of Wimdu? It’s a fabulous alternative, and often has dozens of available and cheap rentals when Airbnb is full or super pricey. It’s more popular in some places than others but make sure to check it. We found that because Wimdu is less popular and therefore less crowded, the hosts bent over backwards to make our stay perfect. Our Wimdu host drove us to the station when we checked out, and wouldn't accept any money for petrol!
There are more accommodation options if you check in on a Saturday, we’re not sure why, but my guess is people who go for weekly holidays.
Unhelpfully however, Saturdays are not always the cheapest days to fly! We saved enough for a day in Barcelona, including transport and overnight accommodation by searching for flights either side of our travel dates, take a look at the link for a breakdown. There are always exceptions though, so check, research and double check before you click book.
Here are our tips for saving money on flights when budgeting for travel.
Skyscanner is awesome, not only does it have my favourite search function on the internet ‘click here to search everywhere’ but it also lets you add nearby airports, search for the cheapest date and even cheapest entire month. These search options mean we quite often use it as a research tool when we’re considering where to go next.
- Have you heard of Momondo? It’s totally worth a look! Much like Skyscanner but with a friendlier more colourful aesthetic, Momondo tends to bring up entirely different search results and with varying different prices. Use Skyscanner and Momondo at the same time and you’ve got all bases covered with a winning combination.
- If you can help it never look at flights on a Friday. That’s when everyone does it and the prices skyrocket (end of a tough working week and all that) Check out flights on a Monday or Tuesday instead, or if you really have the nerve wait until a few days before, sites often put them right down to fill the flight.
- Always clear your cache! Let me repeat that, ALWAYS CLEAR YOUR CACHE to avoid ludicrous price jumps, price comparison sites are terrible for this. They will put a cookie into your web browser that remembers the flights you’ve been looking at and then when you go back and check then BAM! The price has gone up! So, clear your internet cache, or even better check out the same flights from another computer. You will be surprised!
This applies to whether you are saving for travelling and or already travelling. I’m sure a lot of our friends think we’re on a permanent holiday when they see all the photos of the nice things we’ve eaten, and the gorgeous places we’ve been; but the truth it’s not all culinary adventures - 4 out of 7 nights, it’s usually pasta and pesto or cheese and biscuits in our apartment and an early night! We 100% spend less on nights out than we did in the UK. We don’t need to give you tips on not going out, however just remember eating out adds up fast. One night out could be several days budget blown…we’ve learned this one the hard way!
If you want to be successful you must be strict, whether you’re saving for a trip or already on your journey. We regularly add up our spending to ensure we’re on the right track. It’s actually more fun than you’d expect, and you get a little kick when you find you’ve spent less than you budgeted! There are infinite ways to keep track of spending. Niall uses an awesome little app called Trailwallet to keep track of our spending, I like to make him read all our transactions out loud while I add them all up in a notebook…each to their own. Here are our best tips for keeping track of your money when budgeting for travel.
- Debit Cards. Check with your bank or use Money Saving Expert to find out if your debit card is safe to use abroad. To be honest our advice is to avoid them like the plague! Niall’s TSB debit card is great at home but the devil anywhere outside the UK (2.99% Exchange Load, 1.5% (min £2, max £4.50) on withdrawals and £1 per purchase!).
- Credit cards. Check rates with all the major credit cards. Currently the Barclays Travel Platinum seems to be the best for the UK as it offers near perfect exchange rates in, and free cash withdrawals (but only if you pay off your balance in full each month). You’d be surprised how much a few pennies here and there adds up to.
- When using a travel credit card, or any credit card for that matter, always pay in the currency of the country you are in, don’t be tempted to click the conversion button at the cash point or card machine, it will rip you off.
- We think it’s best to withdraw cash to spend rather than pay on card. It’s a much easier way to keep track of your spending, when it’s gone it’s gone! We take all our cash out using a travel credit card and pay the balance off from our current account monthly. Check first whether you receive charges on withdrawals. If so, make sure to withdraw larger amounts to minimise the fees and then separate and store that cash in a couple of safe places and only take your daily budget out with you.
Not including accommodation, our daily budget is £13 (€15) each, per day maximum. Some days we have work all day and stay in, but what happens when you get a once in a blue moon opportunity. Should you let your budget hold you back?
Our advice – of course not. You’re not just travelling, you’re living. It’s all about creating memories and getting new experiences, life is too short, and you can always make your budget work for you again.
Take this as an example. You’re in Granada, and you have the opportunity to go snow Boarding in the Sierra Nevada mountains (Read more about that here). A quick google search gives you a rough price of how much it will cost you. It’s cheaper than most Ski Resorts in Europe – but utterly out of your daily travel budget. Do you go or not?
There's no contest really. We re-balanced our snow adventure into our budget by knocking a €5 each off our budget per day, and by the time we left Granada, we were ‘back in the black’.
Just keep reminding your self why you’re doing this. Memories of your experiences will last far longer than the heartache of saying no to that glass of wine out. (I promise!)
To re-cap, our mantra is don’t just budget for travel – keep budgeting while travelling, but don’t get so tied up in your budget that you forget to make memories!
Oh, and don’t forget - always do your research and always, always clear your cache!
We will update this post regularly with more great info and any hints and tips that we find along the way. So, make sure to check back.
If you have any advice on how to budget for travel or budgeting while travelling, we would greatly appreciate hearing from you. We are keen to absorb any advice and knowledge you might have on all things budget travel related.
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