Alessandre – Exchange to Seattle University, Semester 2, 2016
After I finished high school, it was my dream to travel as much and as often as possible. In the last 3 years, I have been blessed to be able to keep up with this dream, but the realities of travelling as a part time worker/full time student have meant I am usually on a tight budget. Here are my tips to travelling on a shoestring!
Strict saving before you leave
Depending on how long it is you start saving before you intend to leave, I have found it useful to be on a stricter budget at home in the months leading up to travelling. This might mean having a night in with friends instead of a night out, or choosing to prepare my lunch at home instead of buying it at work or uni. Little changes and choices accumulate to save me a bit of extra cash for my trip – usually it is an easy change for me when I am motivated by enjoyment and security in my travels.
Explore accommodation options
Choose accommodation appropriate for your budget and environment. Whilst travelling, I mostly choose to stay in hostels. They offer a great environment for young travellers – dorm beds are cheap (many also offer private rooms), they often offer free breakfast or communal meals on a donation basis, they organise social activities and have many of the comforts of home such as a common room or TV room. I initially didn’t like the idea of sharing a space with so many other people but hostelling quickly became my favourite way to travel – I have met so many generous, intelligent and inspiring people from whom I have learnt so much. During my current travels to North America, I have become a member of Hostelling International, which has been fantastic – membership gets you cheaper rates, and is valid globally. I would highly recommend it!
For the first time while travelling internationally, I have also camped, and it has been the ideal way to experience some of the most beautiful places on earth. If you have your own gear, camping is the cheapest accommodation available for visiting National or State parks. Notable among my camping experiences were staying in Yosemite National Park, which was a deluxe camping experience as the campground had a shower, wifi in the common room and stores nearby. However, when camping in Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, we were in total wilderness – camping usually requires a lot more planning ahead to make sure you are safe and have the right gear and supplies.
Finally, don’t be afraid to call on any family or friends you have where you are travelling. I spent a week in San Diego staying with family and half a week in Santa Barbara with a friend. These were highlights of the trip – my hosts were incredibly generous and it was fantastic to reconnect with them while being surrounded by the comforts of home that I had been missing for 2 months by that stage.
Cook your own food
I have found this to be particularly useful on this trip because I am travelling for so many months at a time. Obviously you want to savour local cuisine, but if you are eating out every meal it will probably eat up your funds quite quickly. This time round I chose to cook a majority of my meals in the hostel kitchens as well as taking advantage of the free hostel breakfasts. I have still been enjoying the odd meal out, but cooking my own meals has probably been my most significant budget control. It’s up to you to what extent you choose to incorporate this tip into your plans, but even cooking a few meals a week makes a difference. Planning a picnic from the supermarket can be fun, as is sharing a home cooked meal with new friends.
Plan accommodation prior
I suggest booking as much accommodation and transport as possible prior to your trip. I like to leave some parts of my trip unscheduled so I can be flexible, stay a little longer at places I am enjoying and revisit favourite places. However, apart from flights, accommodation and transport and probably going to be the largest lump sums you are paying. It gives you a realistic view of your budget to have paid for significant expenses before you leave. In one of our flexible periods, we wanted to spend a night in Santa Monica, not realising that even accommodation of a lower standard was expensive in this area – this changed our budget calculations thereafter.
Discuss how you are splitting travel costs
In my travels the 3 months before starting uni, I travelled with my sister and my boyfriend. Because of the nature of our relationship and the way the trip was planned, it was only natural that we would sometimes pay for things on behalf of the other – but it was important to discuss what expectations we had about money on the trip. With my sister, we decided to keep a running tally of what we owed each other, then pay each other back at the end of our travels. With my boyfriend it seemed more normal to go without keeping a tally, because that’s how we operate at home. However, because we were both on tight budgets, we ended up having disagreements over who paid for what, or who should be paying for what – something that could have been resolved if we had come up with some kind of a budget plan at the start of our travels.