When it comes to saving the pennies and going away, unfortunately, we usually have to make a choice between the two. The fact is that the words budgeting and holiday just don’t normally fit into the same sentence, as much as we wish that they did.
Since coming on my year abroad, I have been desperate to make the most of my time living in another country, before I am consumed by the terrible wrath of final year, so I have been travelling around as much as I can. I have been lucky enough to visit loads of different places around France since moving here, and I still have more places to go before I leave! This however, puts me in conflict with my inner-cheapskate. I find myself in a constant paradox of wanting to go to as many places as I am able to, but to spend as little as possible. Through battling this inner conflict, and spending time as an Erasmus student, I have discovered that travelling on a budget actually is possible, despite what you may think. So I wanted to make a little post with some tips that I use to make my adventures a little bit cheaper.
Make the most of Erasmus perks
Thanks to the catastrophic car-crash that we currently refer to as Brexit, we cannot guarantee the future of the Erasmus programme (which undoubtedly, fills me with immense frustration, but that’s a thought for another day). So, for anybody who is part of what is potentially the last Erasmus cohort, I urge you to make the most of its benefits!
When I first moved to France, a friend told me about a little something called an ESN card. In my first week I went into university to purchase one for €10. This little piece of plastic, decorated with an ugly passport photo of myself, has since then entitled me to 8 flights with Ryanair with 15% discount AND a FREE 20kg suitcase. I mean, it doesn’t get much better than that. If you are an Erasmus student then you can use this perk to travel or even just to help transport your ever-growing wardrobe home after you finish your year abroad!
Not only this, but being part of the ESN network, has allowed me to go on trips at a ridiculously subsidised price. If you saw my post about Skiing in Saint-Lary then you will know that that trip only cos me €130: for travel, food, accommodation, ski hire, helmet hire, lift pass AND a party with free alcohol all night. These sorts of prices are only available to Erasmus students so my biggest tip for those on their year abroad is to make the most of these perks, after all, we don’t know how much longer they will be around.
Travel off peak
So this one obviously isn’t feasible for everyone as I know that there are actually real people out there who have responsibilities. I’m pretty sure I’ve all but forgotten the meaning of that word this year. However, if you are a student like myself or someone who has a flexible timetable, then one of the best ways to save money on travel is to go at an off-peak time. This applies to both the month and the days of the week. I have seen short haul flights range from £5 to £150 simply because of the day, and the time of the year!!
This term, I have strategically created my university timetable so that I only have a three-day week. This allows me to set off on my travels on a Wednesday night or a Thursday rather than having to wait until a weekend. This little tip has saved me a lot of money on flights and travel over the time that I have been here and means that I can keep my budget to a minimum.
Search on a private window
This tip is just a little hack that was told to me by my flatmate. It seems that computers are actually evolving at such an alarming rate these days that they can actually read our minds. I mean how often have you spoken about something only for it to appear on a pop-up advert a few hours later? Well, these smart little machines know exactly what we’re doing from the moment we type in our travel destination on a search site and instantly react. This often means that every time you look at flights, the price goes up. To avoid this, try browsing in a private window when looking for flights, it could save you some precious pennies…
Try different types of travel
So I know I have talked a lot about flights in this post, but to be honest, I am yet to actually fly somewhere on my year abroad. The only place I have flown to is England for my uni holidays, all of the other destinations have been by coach or train.
When it comes to travelling on a budget, it’s really important to search around and find the best option. Because flights may be quick and fairly easy, but coaches, trains or even blabla cars can be much more economical. Sometimes this involves a bit of a compromise, usually exchanging a longer journey time for less money. But it can be really worth it when flights are genuinely 10x the price of a coach (I have actually seen this price difference before).
Stay in an Air Bnb / hostel
A lot of the time, especially when travelling with multiple people, staying in an Air Bnb or a hostel is much cheaper than going to a hotel. Obviously, it varies from place to place but I have found this to be true almost every time. I once stayed in an air bnb in the mountains and ended up only paying £6 for the night! Granted, it was a small place, but if your accommodation is more of a base than anything else, then it’s definitely worth saving money on that aspect of your travels!
Find some hidden gems
Of course, it’s great to go to places that are on everybody’s travel bucket list. But if you want to travel on a budget, then sometimes it’s better to check out the lesser known destinations. There are so many hidden gems out there that are just as cool as the bigger places, and you can visit them for much cheaper! When I went to Cauterets in the Pyrenees, I’m pretty sure I paid about €35 for travel and accommodation. We stayed in the tiny, quiet little village, and yet, that weekend we discovered the most beautiful national park I have ever seen! Avoiding the mainstream destinations can not only save you lots of money, but can give you an interesting story to tell, so why not try and go a little off-piste with your travel plans?
Those are my main tips for travelling on a budget. I value my position as an Erasmus student so much and being on a year abroad has given me so much opportunity to discover and explore, I only hope I can continue this after my year is over! I also hope that these tips can help all my fellow holiday lovers out there, happy travelling!
Where’s your favourite holiday destination? I’d love to know in the comments below!