Planning a trip, for me, can vary between loads of fun and really stressful, depending on where I’m going. I always follow the same steps when planning a trip on a budget, though, and thought that whilst I’m spending time planning my next one I’ll share my methods on Inside Laura’s Head.
When you’re planning a trip on a budget, look for cheap flights first
I’m asked a lot about planning a trip on a budget and as a solo traveller with a mortgage I don’t have unlimited funds for travel, so I get it. I want to take multiple trips a year too so I really do need to be smart with my planning. I use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights, and then I book direct with the airline. I can fly from one of three airports easily so I search from all of those, for the dates I have available, and look at ‘everywhere’ instead of a specific destination. Then I look to see what’s the cheapest, or towards the cheapest, and discount anywhere I’ve already been. Once I’ve found cheap flights, before I book them I check for accommodation prices, to make sure I’m not booking a cheap flight but spending £200 a night for a hotel. I also check the price of getting from the airport to the city and if my flight arrives late or leaves early, whether it’s doable. Rome got crossed off my latest trip because my flight would have got me in after the last bus, meaning an expensive taxi or an expensive airport hotel. If the destination I’m looking at has accommodation within my budget and I can get to and from the airport, I book the flights, then I move on to accommodation.
Next step: finding cheap accommodation
I tend to stay in an Air B n B as my preference, because I like to have kitchen facilities. I don’t usually bother with washing clothes when I’m away, I just pack enough, but my next trip is 12 days and hand luggage only so I’m going to need a washing machine too. When I’m in a main city for a couple of nights, I don’t mind staying further out of the city for cheaper accommodation, knowing I’ll go out in the morning and then not return until I’m done for the day. On longer trips though I’ve started to look at private rooms in hostels so I can go for cheap accommodation with a better location and be able to pop in and out when I’m tired. Trips where you’ve only got a day or so in the city mean you really need to maximise the time you can spend exploring.
If I’m really on a budget, a room in someone’s house is usually the cheapest option and I did this in Brighton, staying with a lovely couple and a very friendly dog, just make sure you read the reviews carefully before booking anything, especially when it’s cheap. Take the reviews with a pinch of salt though; if someone is complaining about the location not being great, but you’re there for a few days and will be getting public transport anyway, or if they’ve marked the accommodation down for having no tv but you’re planning on only being in your room to sleep and shower and you would watch Netflix on your phone, then book the bargain.
Travelling to and from the airport can be difficult when you’re planning a trip on a budget
I NEVER pay for taxis, unless I have absolutely no choice. I had to do a taxi in Wroclaw as I arrived late in the evening, but generally I take a train or bus into the city. It’s always worth researching in advance and making sure there’s transport from the airport into the city when you’re planning a trip on a budget, otherwise it’s an expensive lesson when you get there, and in some cities it can eat up a big chunk of your budget.
Don’t waste money on suitcases in the hold, go hand luggage only
This might be a challenge for some people but I find it really saves me money, and it also saves time queueing to drop off bags and waiting for them at the other end. I only ever travel hand luggage only. Even when I did Hamburg–Copenhagen–Stockholm over 9 days in the winter, and even when I’m doing Riga-Vilnius-Tallinn-Helsinki-Budapest-Bratislava-Zagreb in May, I’m taking one hand luggage sized bag and that’s it. Its going to be a challenge and I’m planning a post about how I manage this later, but I know I WILL manage it.
Find free things to do if you’re planning a trip on a budget
In every city the majority of my time is spent wandering around outside taking photos of impressive buildings, street art, beautiful parks and quirky things I find. I will pay for a museum if it’s something I really really want to see but I don’t do multiple museums just because a guide book says I should, and I don’t often pay for things like the hop on-hop off bus either. I did when I was in Hamburg, because it was pouring down, I was stressed and the trip had been so cheap but generally I am my own tour guide to save the money. Before I leave home I research and write a list of free things I want to see, the cost of anything I’m desperate to do and plot them all on a map, so that if I’ve got a few things close together I can do them at the same time and don’t have to spend money on buses or trams to get between them. It’s surprising how much the quick journeys add up.
It’s always worth being picky about food
Anyone who know me will tell you I’m ultra picky about food at the best of times. On a trip, I am even more so. I will research where I want to eat in advance to make sure I’m not going to be spending loads on something I don’t really want to eat and I try to cut costs by eating in places a bit out of the tourist areas and heading to the local supermarket for snacks. I like a McDonalds in a new country as it’s both cheap and interesting to see the different things on their menu, and I’ll often have a cup of tea and some sort of local dessert mid afternoon instead of lunch. I figure I’m on holiday, so I deserve the treats anyway. I also don’t drink much at home so I avoid alcohol on solo trips, for me it feels like a waste of my budget. No shade to those who like a cocktail and a fancy meal, if it’s worth it to you then it’s something you should spend on, it’s just not to me.
Hopefully these tips are helpful if you’re looking to save a bit of money on your next trip, or if you’re struggling to keep costs low. Do you have anything you do to save that I’ve not mentioned when you’re planning a trip on a budget?