Traps that Novice Budget Travellers fall into – and how to avoid them!
So, you’re new to the whole budget travel thing. You’ve picked your destination, you’ve invited your best friend along but now you’re staring at your bank account balance and wondering how you’re going to make it last two weeks. Maybe you’re a student travelling with friends but you’ve never travelled without your parents running the budget. Maybe you’ve travelled by yourself plenty of times but your new job’s got you on a shoestring. Chances are, you’ll fall into a couple of the traps that tend to trip up newbie budgeters.
Not talking about your budget with co travellers
I get it, it’s super awkward sitting your best friend down and telling her you can’t swing that resort stay on a tropical island she’s been dreaming of. Generally this is a little easier for students – we’re used to discussing our mutually broke status and we assume we’re all on a tight budget. But, as awkward as it may feel, it’s important to discuss the actual numbers involved. The moment you decide to go on a trip with your friend tell her how much you can afford – I recommend two numbers: how much you want to spend, and the maximum you could afford to spend if you had to. Aim for the smaller number but know that you can stretch a little if you need to.
And most importantly, don’t offer to ‘cover’ things if your friend has a different budget – plan a holiday you can both afford. No one will feel guilty or embarrassed and I can guarantee you’ll have just as much fun.
Not thinking about how to get around
This one even tripped me up. So you’ve decided you want to go to France and agreed on a budget. You’ve looked at pictures and travel guides online and you’ve decided you want to hit up Barcelona and Granada. Then it’s a few weeks before you’re leaving and you start thinking about getting in between destinations – and you realise a train between two of your destinations costs more than your weeks’ food budget.
It sounds silly, but it’s really easy to forget about getting around within a destination. We all remember flights to and from your holiday but what about transport to the airport? How far away is the airport from the city you’re actually going to? (this one caught me out in Oslo). Is your hotel far away from tourist attractions and you forgot to budget for public transport? Are you visiting two cities that are actually an 8 hour train ride apart?
Honestly, you just have to do your research and you have to know when to compromise. Know every type of transport you need – airport transfers, flights, around the city etc. and include it in your plan. And if you two dream cities are too far away from each other, you may just have to plan a second trip at a later date.
Not budgeting enough for accommodation
So, you’ve never booked your own accommodation before. When you think about budget accommodation you’re thinking – maybe $20 a night in a half decent hostel with a single sex room and a shared bathroom. What you probably forget is how much these prices vary across countries and cities – budget accommodation in Paris has a very different price tag to its Wellington counterpart. You need to look up accommodation in the city you’re going – this should be one of the very first things you do. The holiday might be 6 months away and you’re not ready to book yet – it doesn’t matter. You need to have a clear idea of what you’ll actually be spending and what you’ll get for your bucks. Maybe you can only afford the cheapest hostel there is – but it’s far from the tourist attractions and you’ll have to up your transport budget. Maybe they don’t offer bedding and you’ll have to bring your own. It’s important you know in advance what you’re up against – or it can be a nasty wake up call.
Being afraid of the word ‘Budget’.
If you’re a first time budget traveller, but you’ve done non-budget travel before, you might be a little jumpy about it. You don’t want to miss out on your comfy hotel sheets and delicious dinners in local restaurants. You’re used to renting a car and don’t want to use public transport. My advice – get over it. If you’re travelling on a budget, don’t have pretences about it. Be honest with yourself about what you can afford. You can not afford a hotel stay and if you try and find a hotel you can afford, it will not be a nice one. You can not afford to go out for dinner every night and if you do you won’t be able to afford tourist attractions. Don’t be afraid to buy a box of cereal for breakfasts and cook your own dinners at the hostel. And don’t sign up for tourist attractions outside of your budget because you feel like you ‘have’ to do it. Look for free sights and attractions. Plan a food budget in which you cook some of your own meals. And if you really can’t handle staying in a hostel – don’t go on this trip. Keep saving until you can afford to travel the way you want.
Not prioritising your experiences
Make a list of the things you actually want to do on your holiday. It is so, so easy to spend a ton of money on experiences you don’t really care about – you hear everyone talking about the most-amazing-gallery-I’ve-ever-seen and you decide to go even though you don’t really care about art purely because you think you have to. Don’t. Say no. If you want to see the Mona Lisa, set aside money to see the Mona-Lisa but don’t climb the Eiffel Tower because you feel obliged. You’ll enjoy your holiday less and you’ll run out of money for the things you have to do.
I recommend dividing your list into three categories – things you really must do; things you would like to do; and things you don’t really care about. And if there’s differences of opinion – say no earlier rather than later. Believe me, the later you leave it to tell your best mate that you won’t be able to swing the wine tasting tour the harder it’ll be for her to let it go. If you have absolutely must do something that she would like to do – that’s probably an easy compromise. But if you refuse to spend money on her dream day out – maybe plan a day doing separate activities. You’re travelling together but you don’t have to be joined at the hip.
My recommendations for Planning:
- Go out for Coffee with your co traveller.
- Prior to this have come up with
- Your budget numbers (how much you want to spend, the absolute maximum you could afford).
- Your no-compromise list of must do/see attractions and activities.
- Discuss with your co traveller and determine what you both want to do and what both of your priorities are – e.g. see the Mona Lisa, don’t mind if accommodation isn’t great but would like to be able to afford a few nice dinners.
- Prior to this have come up with
- Go away afterwards and research your accommodation and transport options – communicate with each other about any updates to the budget as a result.
- Plan the time of your lives!
Happy travels everyone!