- It’s not going to be easy.
If you’re a student and you’re going to be on this budget you can’t spend your money frivolously (going out to eat, buying unnecessary junk, making impulse buys). If travel is your passion or something you desire, you will need to put a lot of your wallet’s attention there.
- You’ll need to do lots of research to save money
First you need to find a flight, and if you book early, you can find some great deals. My favorite website to search for flights is Kayak. They have many features that set them apart from similar websites.
Just a couple examples:
They have a web tool called Explore that allows you to enter in the days you’re looking to travel, and it will show you where the cheapest destinations are from your location. We live in Oxford, Mississippi which is between the Memphis airport and the New Orleans airport. We always fly out of New Orleans because it’s been cheaper than flying out of Memphis. When we are looking for flights, we search all of the major east coast airports. JFK in New York has continued to be the cheapest airport to fly out of when heading abroad. If we wanted to travel to Australia or Asia, we would look at which major airports on the west coast are cheapest to depart from.
Another helpful tool on Kayak is that you can see what the price would be if you were to leave 3 days before and after your ideal day of travel. So, if you have flexibility, you can get flights that are sometimes hundreds of dollars cheaper.
If you are able to travel whenever you want during the year, you will definitely be able to find even better deals. However, most millennials (those born between about 1983-1996) like myself, make time for travel on holidays or breaks from school.
(Excuse the blurry selfie, it’s hard to take a selfie with a digital camera okay!)
I will give you an example of how Han and I plan a trip. We are going to Sweden, Norway, and (possibly) Denmark this winter. We were open to traveling to a number of places and researched different flights for several months (Kayak will give you price alerts on any “trips” you save). When we were ready, we first bought our flight from New Orleans to New York. After that we bought our flight from New York to Stockholm, followed by a flight from Oslo back home to New York (we’re taking a train from Stockholm to Oslo) and then from New York to New Orleans.
Now you may be saying to yourself, “Wow…that seems complicated and I don’t want to be dragging my bags all over these different airports every time I get off a plane.” Truthfully, it is a bit stressful, but we pack only what we need and very efficiently. (Look for our blog about packing for our Winter trip in December 2017!) Would you rather pay several hundred dollars more to book connected flights or save that cash for enjoying your trip?
- Living in another country: Plan ahead!
Get your transportation and housing situation arranged before you leave.
Also, if the country speaks anything other than English, you should probably learn a few words at the minimum to be polite.
We really enjoy the excellent public transportation systems that are in most European cities. It’s totally worth it to buy a week or month pass (however long you’re there) to be able to get all over the city for a cheaper rate than a taxi. We learned that mistake on our not-so-budget-friendly trip to Paris. After an asshole taxi driver ripped us off, we went to the extreme of skimping on meals and walking everywhere to make up for it. The first day we walked 17 miles and came home with blistering feet. The next day we decided to invest in some Métro passes, which saved us from more foot damage. We totally enjoy walking through these cities as they are gorgeous and it’s great exercise, but we now understand the importance and convenience of public transportation. We make sure to plan our transportation before we arrive.
Han and I prefer to use Airbnb because the prices are affordable and many times the places are nicer than a hotel for half the cost. Just check out the information about the room to make sure they have a reputable owner. We’ve never stayed in a hostel, but have stayed in residence halls at universities and that is another excellent option. It is helpful that Han and I still look like college freshmen. Additionally, it is important to find a location that is both close to the airport and the city center for convenience, although sometimes this isn’t possible.
First of all, my normal diet is 2 meals a day with some snacks. I typically have a granola bar in the morning, a very light lunch, and a heavy dinner. GIVE ME ALL THE MEATS! This is healthy for the body, fairly inexpensive, and it makes dinner taste like heaven. In Europe, Han and I usually get a few groceries (bananas, apples, granola bars, CHOCOLATE) from a local store or market and have something small in the morning. In the afternoon, we’ll eat a baguette with some meat shmacked on there, and then go all out for dinner. Additionally, we found in Paris that if we got something “to go” rather than “dining in”, it was much cheaper. We once looked at a menu where a Croque-Monsieur was 9 Euro and we went around the corner to the take-out window where it was 4.5 Euro. Another way to save money on meals is to buy your beverages anywhere except for a restaurant. They’re overpriced just like in sweet home America. It’s these little savings that add up while traveling.
- Let’s break down the budget.
Say you’re able to set aside $125 each month. That’s $1500 at the end of the year.
Flight to New York = $320 round trip
Flight to Europe or comparable flight = $400-$500
Total flight cost = $720-$820
Public Transport/Museum Pass for a week ~ $150
Total cost so far = $870-$970
Say you’re staying a week in whichever country you want to go to.
Avg. Air B&B = $50-$60/night
Total housing cost 6-7 nights = $300-$420
Total trip cost = $1020-$1240
Your remaining $260-$460 is for food for a week and any other activities you want to do. If you want more wiggle room, try saving $25 more each month, or go with a friend and your costs will go down further. Lastly, remember that your biggest cost is your flight so if you want to stay longer it will cost you a little bit more, but once you’re there your daily cost is pretty low. $1500 is plenty of money to be able to have a fantastic trip in a place you’ve never been before and you can’t put a price tag on that experience. You don’t have to make tons of money to explore the world!