Friday, 19 October 2012

How to: Save money while travelling without feeling depressingly deprived

I can hear my boyfriend laughing from thousands of miles away that I should give financial advice to anyone, ever, but it's precisely because I'm so incredibly bad with money that I've had to get really good at saving where I can.  Secretly I think I'm supposed to be rich and some catastrophic error of birth occurred.  These tips are most applicable in the developed (totally hate that term btw - is there a better one? 'First world is just as derogatory) world, because it's here that money bleed happens the fastest.

1. Toiletries in solid form.  Lush shampoo and conditioner bars last forever, about 80 washes.  A bar of soap is cheaper than shower gel and lasts longer.  Both have the added benefit of not causing you hassle at the airport.

2. Pack light and don't check in your bag.  If you're hopping around the world a thirty pound per bag checked luggage rate can really add up, not to mention inevitable cabs when that bag is too heavy for you to walk to your hostel.

3. Street food is your friend.  Restaurants are expensive, so too coffeeshops, especially if you're in them three times a day.  Choose one meal, tops, to have 'out'.  Dinner is customary, but most nice places have cheaper lunch menus, so consider that if you're hankering for a touch of glamour without the expense.

In extreme cases a big box of noodles from a street vendor has lasted me for a hot lunch and cold dinner.  

4. Stop drinking lattes.  In almost all cases a filter coffee with hot milk is significantly cheaper.  Decent coffee is a non-negotiable for me, so if I'm going to have it every day it can't be $4 a pop.  Also, lattes will make you fat. Just saying.

5. Don't be polite about the free breakfasts in hostels/hotels.  It's not so much free as 'included in the price you paid', so don't feel bad about eating as much as you can.  I've been eating a biiiiig breakfast and then something early evening, forgoing lunch.  Most places won't mind if you make a sandwich and wander off out with it.  PB and J sandwiches are like a main and dessert all  in one!

6.  Airbnb is a cheaper way of getting a room to yourself than a hotel.  I'm currently staying in a gorgeous house in Sydney for $23 a night with my own room, balcony, wifi and all the food I can eat.  Hostels can be fun, but if you need a bit of a rest from all the teenagers, this is the way to go.

7.  This is only applicable in the US and UK I believe, but Starbucks has free wifi, as does McD's (less reliable though), so if you need to check a bus timetable or refresh your google map you don't need to go in and buy something, you can just hover outside for a minute or two.

8.  Pick up the free local paper that's available in every town and city.  Not only do you get a great local insight into the area, but the what's on section invariably has a load of free local events you'll never find in the Rough Guide.  So far I've found everything from farmer's markets, to art trails to a free Alanis Morrissette concert.

9.Get an ISIC student card if you possibly can (psst, they don't check very hard) and ask everywhere if you can use it.  Lots of museums and galleries are free or heavily discounted with one and rail fares are often significantly cheaper.

10.  Choose your focus.  This is perhaps the best bit of advice to avoid feeling deprived.  What is most important to you?  I am happy to spend my days wandering around the cities, eating sandwiches in the park and visiting the free museums, but I would be miserable without my coffee and I draw the line at sleeping in a dorm with more than 6 beds.  Thus I put the bulk of my money into having somewhere nice to lay my head and hang out with my coffee, but I don't dinner and drink out too often.  For you the reverse might be preferable.  Whatever works so you don't feel miserable.

At the end of the day, you're better off coming home a month early than passing every day like a povertous ghost, but these are some easy, livable ways to stop the travel money hemorraging.

Do you have any tips or secrets to saving money on the road?  I'd love to hear them!
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