Discovering the World Without Going into Debt

So a few people asked me how the heck I afforded to travel all around Europe for over 2 weeks after just graduating college. Let me tell ya, it cost a pretty penny, but it was well worth it.

I personally believe that in order to travel for the lowest cost, you NEED, yes I said NEED to be a planner. So if you’re willing to crack open Microsoft Excel and 20 tabs on your computer, a low budget trip might be for you.

In this post I’ll go over my budgeting/strategies for my huge Europe trip, but I’ll touch on some things I did while traveling during my study abroad experience as well.

How to best plan a trip?

In order to figure out how to get the best deals, you need to know the best way to actually plan and book a trip. Follow these easy steps, and you’ll be able to travel without breaking the bank!

Step 1: Book Airfare/Trains/Busses

Our plan changed a ton in terms of order of cities based off of which flights were cheaper which days. I recommend using skyscanner.com to see the best deals for flights. Have a list of your countries/cities, and then be prepared to switch them around based on the pricing of certain flight options you find!

Usually, the cheaper ones were in the morning, and although that sounds fine, just remember you’re going to have to wake up at least 3 hours before your flight takes off! I personally like flying RyanAir and Vueling, but other airlines such as EasyJet have cheap flights as well.

Taken on a €20 Ryanair flight from Rome to Athens

Step 2: Book Accommodations

My best advice: don’t book a hotel before you know you can get on that plane to that city. If you book accommodations first and the airfare to get there is so expensive, you’re stuck with it. By booking airfare first, you make sure you’re getting the best deals in that area before you begin to search for the best accommodation deals.

For hostels, I loved hostelworld.com. Make sure to read reviews and know what each term means. For example “dorm room” or “mixed dorm room” means that there’s going to be other people with you, potentially people of the opposite gender. “Ensuite” means that there’s a bathroom in your room, and if it doesn’t say that, you’ll be using a communal bathroom.

I personally have no problem with hostels and have never had a bad experience. I think you’ll be fine if you know what you signed up for. Read the reviews, look at the area its in, and you’ll be all set. Don’t just pick the cheapest one.

The same goes for Airbnbs: don’t pick the cheapest one. Look to see where it is, what’s around it, check in/check out policy, number of beds, etc. In a lot of cases, Airbnbs are cheaper than hotels, so they’re a great option for college students. However, in a lot of places like London, Dublin, Barcelona, etc they cost the same (if not more) than a hotel room. It doesn’t hurt to look on hotels.com to see if you can get a deal. I wish I thought to stay in more hotels.

Step 3: Activities

After you have where you’re going, where you’re staying, and when all figured out, then it’s time to plan activities. I’d say this is a big hit to your cash reserve if you want to see a lot of things. Some countries have more expensive tourist attractions than others. For example, in Dublin and London we had to pay big bucks to get into the churches, but in Rome and Germany we didn’t have to pay at all.

If you know there’s something you want to see, like the Vatican, the Colosseum, Big Ben, etc there’s a good chance about 2,000+ other people want to see it at the exact time you do! BUY YOUR TICKETS EARLY & ONLINE. Some of these attractions sell out months in advance, yes I said months. Look at all these tourists below! Some were waiting up to 2 hours in a line wrapped around the Colosseum because they didn’t purchase their tickets ahead of time!

Be careful about the sites you’re buying the tickets on. Make sure it’s from the actual attraction, not a tour company selling on behalf of the attraction (they add commission fees, so you’ll be paying more).

One big thing you can do to save money is a free walking tour of the city. Sandeman walking tours is my favorite, and they offer tours in almost every huge European city. If they’re not in that city, there’s definitely another company that is. They’re literally FREE! However, I always tipped 10 euro, because your tour guide makes no money other than tips, so be generous!

There’s also apps that you can download that allow you to do free walking tours of the city on your own. Also: if you’re a student, be sure to bring your student ID with you because you’ll definitely get some discounts.

Step 4: Everything else

Now, it’s hard to budget for everything else. Food, souvenirs, and other expenses are a little unpredictable.

Food: For me, I set my food budget high, because I know myself and I know I want a damn good meal when I’m traveling. I set it to 50 euro a day, and most days I spent under that, but some I spent beyond that so it evened itself out. A good way to do it if you don’t want to spend a ton of money is:

  • Breakfast: To-go (take away) Croissant or other pastry and a water/coffee
  • Lunch: Quick sandwich from a local cafe- can be sit down or take away. Most sandwiches are cheap, so don’t go to a fast food place like McDonalds.
  • Dinner: A sit down place found on TripAdvisor, Yelp, Local Recommendation, or in passing

Souvenirs: If you know me, you know I don’t hold back on souvenir spending. However, if you’re super concerned about staying on budget, some easy and cheap things to buy include:

  • Post Cards
  • Shot glasses
  • Magnets
  • Stickers for laptop/phone
  • Small jewelry
  • Pens
  • Pins
  • Mugs
  • Spoons
A lock I purchased in Salzburg, Austria

Excel:

Now, excel can be hard and/or annoying to some people, so I’ll tell you how I did it.

Do columns with the headings: Date, Flight Time, Price, City, Hotel, Price, Food allowance, Paid excursions, Daily Plan

This allows you to see where you’re going, when you’re going, how much it cost, and what you’re doing each day. Don’t forget to budget in some taxi or uber fares to various places!

Well, I hope this helps! Feel free to email me or connect with me on instagram @bost0nandbeyond with any questions!

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