Saving and budgeting for your gap year takes a lot of time and planning, so every single penny counts when you are getting your round the world adventure together. Fortunately there are a ton of tricks and hacks to help you travel further for less, and here are 10 of the best.
Budgeting for your gap year is one thing, once you have paid for your flights and pre trip expenses you have to make sure that you have enough to last for your entire trip, portion it out into average monthly budgets and daily budgets for food and drink, transport, accommodation and everything else, and then you have to make sure you have a back up emergency fund too.
It’s not easy. But knowing a few tricks and hacks to ease your travel expenses makes it a lot less difficult.
Mix up your flights.
Buying one single round the world ticket is one of the easiest options, and it is certainly the one that any gap year provider will try and push on you, but it isn’t always the cheapest option. Shop around a little and see if you can get a cheap return flight into a major hub, say Singapore or London for example, and then combine that major flight with a bunch of local, budget airlines. It may be more hassle but you can save a fortune too.
Break your flights up.
Before you book that long haul ticket just do a check and see if it is any cheaper to get a longer flight with extra stops is cheaper,or whether it is cheaper breaking up your flight completely and buying two or more cheaper flights to end up in the same destination. for Example, instead of flying from Manchester to Singapore, is it cheaper to get a budget flight from Manchester to Paris, a flight from Paris to Dubai and then a flight from Dubai to Singapore? Again this may be more hassle initially and you will have to time everything right, but there is a chance you can save a lot of money. It doesn’t always work of course, and sometimes just getting the single long haul is cheaper, but it is worth checking. And you may even get to explore a few extra cities on your major trip in the process!
Use local currency exchange booths.
Let’s face it, you will always have to have a little cash on you when you arrive in any given country, so you can grab a taxi from the airport and a bite to eat when you get there, so you are never going to completely escape having to use foreign exchange services before you leave or at the airport, but these are always far more expensive than in country options. So just give yourself enough to last a couple of days and then exchange most of your currency when you get there. You’ll save a fortune in the long run.
Work as you go.
Provided that you have the right visa there are a lot of options for you to exchange a few hours work at a hostel or behind a bar for a nights accommodation and a few meals. And regardless of what a lot of people think no, this is not in any way ‘volunteering’, so stop romanticising it and thinking you are saving a small third world nation by manning the desk at the local hostel. This is a basic service to service exchange. You won’t want to do this all the time of course but a few short stints here and there can really help you stretch out your budget and your travels too.
Use your skills.
If you get a job, even a temporary one like in the above example, then you will need a very specific visa to avoid getting yourself in hot water, and these aren’t always possible, or cheap, to get. So what do you do? You look to your innate skills and passions.
We all have something we are good at or trained at, and it doesn’t matter what it is, you can use it to help your fellow backpackers out, and in turn they can very kindly offer to buy you a meal or a bus ticket somewhere.
I’ve known many qualified hairdressers who have cut other backpackers hair or artists who have sketched caricatures of travellers for example in exchange for a meal or two. I myself have given one to one martial arts or self defence lessons from time to time.
This isn’t work, it doesn’t require a visa, it is just travellers helping other travellers out, right?
Slow down and spend longer in cheaper accommodation than you have budgeted for.
This should go without saying but the cheaper your nights stay, the longer you’ll be able to travel. So if you budget well and account for say £10 – 15 a night for accommodation, you don’t always have to spend that. Odds are at some point you will come across an amazing hostel or a perfect beach hut for a lot less than you budgeted for, grab that bed at that price and stretch out your time there, you can use the money you have saved on your daily budget to add extra nights in that destination and explore it more thoroughly. This works best if you are travelling long term without any fixed return date of course.
If you do have limited time you can still save on your daily budget, those few extra pounds a night will all add up and you can splurge on an activity or a room upgrade from time to time.
Get the perks without paying the full price.
If you need a little luxury for a day or two or need to swim and you aren’t near a beach, but can’t afford the room price for that swanky hotel with the lush pool, then stay in the cheap hostel down the road and just pay for the day rate to use the pool and facilities. There are plenty of hotels that do this, and often (depending on where you are of course) the price is just a few pounds, a bargain compared to the hundreds they charge for the room itself.
Look for the free activities.
Every destination has a ton of free activities and sites to do and see, and yes of course you will want to go and pay for the tourist sites that you travelled to that destination to go and see, but you can stretch out your budget by looking out for the freebie options too. Check out if the museums are free on any particular day, such as the Louvre on the first Sunday of every month, or head to the parks or events that won’t cost you anything at all.
Haggle, haggle, haggle!
Learning to haggle when you are travelling is absolutely essential, not only will it save you a lot of money over the course of your travels but it is expected in a lot of places too and if you do it right, can be a great cultural experience!
Slowing down and exploring a place more thoroughly will really pay off when you find that small local restaurant that gives amazing food at a fraction of the touristy places around the corner, or you climb the mountain next to the one all the tour groups hike up in the middle of the night for the sunrise tour. The touristy places are great and should be experienced, but get off the beaten track a little bit too, use the services and go to the places the locals frequent, you’ll avoid that ever present tourist tax and save a fortune!
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