This weekend I returned from a 4 day trip in Barcelona where I had an amazing time. I have done a fair bit of travelling this year, all without breaking the bank, and will do a bit more of travelling next year – all while paying off our debts and saving for a deposit.
I know some people just cut out all travelling and other non-essential spending while doing a major financial overhaul, but travelling is my favourite thing in the world and a great goal of mine. It’s one of my biggest motivators for work so I was never willing to give that up. I am willing to compromise though.
The first compromise we did was to keep our travelling within Europe. Cheaper and shorter flights and typically shorter holidays, so obviously less spending.
I’m going to take the example of Barcelona, where we spent 3 days:
- Flights: £107
- Accommodation: £93
- Sightseeing/museum entries/transportation: £120
- Food: ~ £150
Our average spending ended up being around £78 a day, which for a very touristy city like Barcelona is really good. Here is how we managed it:
- Flight prices are always fluctuating but a guaranteed way to get a cheaper flight is to avoid weekend and “prime times”. We flew out to Barcelona at 7 am, meaning we had to get to the airport at 5. We also left on a Wednesday and came back on a Saturday, so we avoided all of the weekend getaway craziness. This saved us over £240 on flights!
- For accommodation Booking.com will always be my best friend. I have hotels booked for places we haven’t even decided if we are going yet, but with the free cancellation feature I have the freedom of booking accommodation well in advance and get cheaper deals, but I am also able to change my mind. Also: don’t be scared of shared bathrooms (we don’t do the hostel and shared bedrooms anymore though), as you can save a lot of money and if you are careful enough to read plenty of reviews before going you will be absolutely fine. My priorities when booking an hotel are always: location, cost and cleanliness – everything else I’m willing to compromise on. Hotels are also like flights, the price of a room varies every single day of the week, so keep that in mind when booking. Booking in advance, avoiding weekends and picking a room with shared bathroom saved us over £100.
- For transportation: AVOID TRANSFER COMPANIES LIKE THE PLAGUE. You know what I mean, those companies that are in every airport just waiting for the naive and gullible tourist to fall for their scam because “public transportation is really bad”. Remember: people live in the places you are visiting and they get by, do your research and don’t be fooled. A return bus from the airport to a 5 minute walk from our hotel was £11pp, whilst one of those companies wanted to charge us £30 for just one way. Do you research and see what is cheaper for you. European cities usually have really good transportation links and they are usually very walking friendly. There is nothing like exploring a new city by foot!
- For sightseeing and museums my golden rule is to never buy anything on the door. On one of the days of our trip we went to Montserrat, a beautiful monastery built right in the mountains. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! A month before our trip I booked the day trip, which included the train from Barcelona to the mountains, cable car rides, entry in their museum (an amazing one!), entry in their audiovisual experience and a traditional buffet lunch. It cost a grand total of £36. During the day I had a look at how much individual things cost and I came to the conclusion that by booking a deal in advance we had a combined saving of over £100! We also spontaneously decided to go to the Sagrada Familia. Tickets on the door were £29 and we had to wait in a massive queue. I just went online there and then, bought tickets for the next hour and only paid £44 for the two of us, that also included skiping the queues.
- Now comes food. This is something people sometimes neglect to accurately budget for and it can take a massive toll on your budget. I usually try to book hotels with breakfast included as that is one meal already taken care of, for lunches just grabbing a sandwich and snack on fruits and nuts during the day and for dinner usually get a Groupon. It was my partner’s birthday the day we arrived to Barcelona and we wanted to have a nice traditional meal. I went on Groupon and got us a 3 course meal and a bottle of wine for £27! If we had bought everything without the voucher it would have cost us over £70. Also avoid main touristy places. Little local restaurants and cafes are usually a lot nicer and for a lot cheaper!
Now it’s time to start preparing for the next few trips!
Do you have some good budget travelling tips?