Backpacking is the ultimate travel saving tip right? When you hear the word what do you imagine? For me, it’s young white people with greasy hair traipsing around Europe and Asia. I don’t think my 5 week trip counts exactly as backpacking, but it’s somewhere in between that and a more conventional budget vacation. I definitely had a backpack. I didn’t touch my hair (I had braids). And I travelled solo! Black women you can do it too 😉 just sayin.
I’ve already explained how I saved up for my continent-crossing holiday. In this post I’m going to discuss the 6 travel saving tips I used to keep my costs low.
1. Stay in hostels
Europe and Africa have tons of options for low cost accommodations. There’s nothing like that here in The Bahamas and it was a happy surprise. Hostelworld was the site I used most often both for general searches and to narrow my choices.
If you’re balking at staying at a hostel because you don’t want to share a dorm room with 3, 5 or 11 other people, don’t worry! Many hostels offer solo rooms, and even pods in some cases. I booked solo rooms because I’m a super light sleeper and didn’t want to risk being disturbed.
Just like the cost of any vacation will vary based on the location, so does the cost of hostels. I wanted to go to Paris, and one reason I decided against it was that even a large shared dorm was more than I was willing to spend. Weighing my options, I preferred being comfortable in fewer countries over stretching myself to be less comfortable and visit one more.
2. Stay with family and friends
This travel saving tip probably goes without saying, but a list like this wouldn’t be complete without its inclusion. Reach out to the people you’re already connected to and see if you can stay with them. If you’re reading this and we’re facebook friends, you might remember me asking whether anyone was living in the places on my itinerary. Depending on who answered I asked for a place to stay or recommendations for places to stay. Those posts were a great way to catch up with people and to make sure I’d exhausted the options in my network.
3. Workaway (or some other volunteer exchange)
This trip finally gave me the chance to do something I’d been wanting to since undergrad: WWOOF! Although technically I didn’t go WWOOFing.
Once I learned about WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms I instantly wanted to give it a try. The premise is an exchange of work on an organic farm for room and board – a great way to see the world and learn about food! It never worked out for me in undergrad, but I never let go of the idea. When I considered ways to extend my trip but keep it affordable, WWOOFing came immediately to mind. I believe WWOOF is the first of its kind on the internet, but after research I opted to go with Workaway instead.
I’ll say more about Workaway in a separate post, but what’s relevant here is that I organised an exchange in Italy. I stayed there for a week and apart from my plane ticket only spent €50!
4. Buy groceries
Following the first and/or second travel saving tips, you’ll have access to a kitchen – so buy groceries!
You might just be in a hostel overnight, but if you’re staying longer think about preparing at least one meal a day. I saw people with bread, oatmeal, eggs, peanut butter – all the basics. That said, I didn’t do any cooking in Joburg. The convenience store near where I stayed didn’t have small containers of anything I considered buying, and I didn’t want to lug food to Cape Town. I also quickly discovered that the restaurants nearby served so much food for dinner I had enough to eat for breakfast the next day. Between leftovers and the bag of almonds I packed for snacks I was pretty well sorted; the only thing I bought was fruit.
I stayed a little longer at my hostel in Cape Town. I also went on long outings – hiking and sky diving! – far away from any convenience stores or cheap food places. It made sense there to buy groceries to make sandwiches and pack snacks for those trips. I also had enough food for breakfasts and snacks on other days.
One of my sisters lives in Wales and I stayed in her flat the longest of anywhere on my journey. I bought groceries there too – after weeks of eating out I was happy to be back in the kitchen and to be a little more frugal. Knowing I had her place on my itinerary also meant I didn’t have to worry about my laundry. This leads me to another tip…
5. Do your own laundry
If you’re gone for any extended period you’re going to need to wash your clothes. I noticed that hostels, like hotels, offer laundry services. If you can though, wash things yourself.
I spent a semester of undergrad in Ghana, and I did all of my laundry by hand while I was there. All of it. By hand. (That’s not to say they don’t have machines, it was just the situation with my host family.) Needless to say, I learned a lot about hand washing many different types of clothes. For this trip, I packed a bar of laundry soap and used it for a small load in South Africa, and on multiple occasions to wash my socks. Since I was prepared ahead of time to do these things myself, and knew I’d be in Anna’s flat, I didn’t even think about paying anyone to do it for me.
6. Look for free or inexpensive activities
When you’re on holiday it’s natural to want to check off all the must-see and do things at your location. Sometimes they can be expensive, or if you put them all together they’ll add up. A little bit of research can uncover lots of free and inexpensive options that interest you as well. In Cape Town, for instance, I went on a guided hike up the famed Table Mountain. It was fantastic! I would totally do it again. But there were people in my hostel who went up one of the free, better known routes on their own. The sightseeing I did in Italy involved wandering around towns, browsing outdoor markets and poking my head in bakeries. Apart from the delicious sweets and savouries I bought to try, and in one instance, a bus ticket for a day trip, the rest of my amusements were free.
I’ve said this before, but once you know your priorities and what you’re willing and able to spend, you can tailor your experience to suit yourself. I chose to be more frugal in some places so that I could have what I knew would be unforgettable experiences in others.
*Believe it’s possible!*
I’ll leave you guys with a bit of an encouragement – you don’t need to have a million dollars in the bank in order to have an amazing, comfortable, country-hopping holiday. There are so many ways to explore the world. You just need to think about what you want, what’s important to you, and plan accordingly. By following these 6 travel saving tips, and doing obvious things like taking economy flights and buses, I was able to keep the cost of my trip within budget. If there are any tools you’ve used that I’ve missed, let me know in the comments!