Wanderlust: a strong impulse to explore the world. And when you have that strong impulse, when you have that need to explore the world, you’ll find a way to do it. Not everyone is made of cash, but you’re determined. You are determined to find ways to start planning a trip on a budget.
So you give up buying that Starbucks coffee for a month. Or you decide not to buy that new pair of knee-high boots. Maybe you decide to bring lunch to work instead of buying it every day.
You’re going to do what it takes to fulfill your wanderlust.
I’m right there with you. Right now, Mike and I are planning our first trip together. We plan to spend two weeks France. We’re having so much fun planning the details, but this isn’t the cheapest country to visit. (BTW – if you have any tips or articles related to France, drop them below in the comments!)
And it doesn’t help that every part of France looks amazing. So we want to see as much as we can.
Thank GOODNESS Mike is budget conscious like I am. We set a rough budget for the trip and combined both of our travel experience. By doing that we actually found a great way to plan the two-week trip at a reasonable cost. So why not share with you how we are planning a trip to France on a budget?
Don’t forget to check out my essential travel tips guide for every traveler. You don’t want to get caught by common mistakes travelers make (not gonna name any names, like my own, here).
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1. Estimate Costs in Advance
Know how much you need to save and based on that number, put a certain amount aside per week or per paycheck. It helps to put aside a little extra “just in case”. You want to be prepared for extra costs you may not have anticipated when you travel. If nothing else, you won’t spend any of that extra money and you’ll get to put towards your next vacation!
Some expenses you can anticipate:
- Getting there (airfare, gas costs, train/bus, luggage costs)
- Accommodations (hotels, hostels, airbnbs, couchsurfing)
- Daily Activities
2. Decide What You Need to Cut
If you need to save more than what you’re free to spend, it’s time to cut parts of your budget. Look at your monthly spending and see if you can make any sacrifices. Figure out what your spending vices are.
Need simple ways to cut down on your spending?
- Bring lunch instead of buying it.
- Make coffee at home instead of spending a few dollars at the coffee shop.
- Cut down on alcohol.
- Skip the shopping trips this week.
Oh, and when you do have to do any shopping, shop online and use Ebates. Ebates gives you cashback on purchases you were probably going to make anyway (like toothpaste on Amazon, or deals on flights/hotels!). It doesn’t even cost anything to sign up. In fact, they give you $10 for signing up just by clicking this link!
All in all, do what you can to reduce your daily spending so that you can really enjoy your vacation.
3. Research Cheapest Ways of Getting There
Do your research! For example, you want to know how much baggage costs will be when you travel! Although an airline (like Spirit) might boast a ridiculously low price, they might charge a carry-on bag fee.
Thankfully there are a few great websites that help you find the cheapest way to get there.
Skyscanner offers one of the most easy-to-use websites when it comes to searching for the cheapest flights.
Some amazing features include:
- One of the most amazing and easy-to-use interfaces on the market
- If you’re flexible as far as travel dates, you can search for flights by the month and see the lowest prices
- You can search for cheap flights with flexible destinations in mind
Definitely make use of Airfare Watchdog! You can sign up for fare alerts to or from a destination. So if you are flexible with your destination, you can set up fare alerts from your home airport!
And if you have a specific destination in mind, you can actually set up fare alerts to that specific place from your home airport! To set up destination alerts:
- Visit Airfare Watchdog
- Hover over “Flights” at the top
- Click on “Fares to a City”
- On the right hand side, you’ll see the option to sign up for fare alerts to your destination city!
Kayak.com compares prices from other websites to find you the cheapest deal! You can even select to search with or without flexible dates. Being flexible with your travel dates could help you find a much better deal!
What’s great about Rome2Rio is they give you the estimated cost for getting from one place to the other via train, bus, airplane, ferry. You can even use their search engine to estimate travel times!
If you are traveling from city to city, use Rome2Rio to book a night bus or train ride. That way, you save on hotel accommodations for that evening!
I find it’s better to stay in one place for as long as possible. Yes, you can save a little bit of money switching hotels around the city depending on the rate. But, why sacrifice the valuable and limited time you have to explore a given area? Don’t bother wasting your time checking in and out of hotels!
Here are the best ways to arrange accommodations when you are planning a trip on a budget.
There are so many ways to use TripAdvisor to do your vacation planning, including searching for accommodations in the area. After you open the TripAdvisor website, search for hotels or hostels in the city where you plan to visit. From there, you can read the reviews other travelers have written about their experience at each property. If you are interested in a specific property, you can also use TripAdvisor to compare the cheapest hotel rates through various websites.
When I travel, I love to take advantage of staying at AirBnBs. When you book an AirBnB, you are booking a room, apartment, or even a castle (YES!!! Epic, right?!) with a private host! For a cheaper experience you can book a room in your host’s house or apartment. Or if you prefer your privacy, you can book a private apartment or home allll to yourself. Whatever you decide, AirBnB offers a unique experience for when your vacation!
Pay attention to host reviews. When I was looking for AirBnBs to stay at in France, I found a beautifully photographed, cheap apartment in the city center. But after reading the reviews, it was clear that the host was unreliable, hard to get ahold of, and did not always offer a clean arrival! So even though the pictures were great, I decided to continue looking. I didn’t want to settle for a cheap room with the potential for a dirty or delayed arrival.
Don’t worry: for every less-than-average host, there are plenty of amazing hosts who go out of their way to make your experience incredible.
Alternatively, you can leverage a nightly rate with a new host who doesn’t have any reviews. They want to get great reviews on their profile, so send them a message offering to leave a detailed review in exchange for a lower nightly rate.
If you don’t have AirBnB, sign up here so you can claim a $40 travel credit. This credit never expires so you can sign up now and save the $40 for a future trip.
Hostels are perfect for when you are planning a trip on a budget. Truth be told, I’ve only stayed in a few hostels while traveling. However, Mike loves staying in hostels! He loves how hostel staff are so knowledgeable about the area and are ready to give you information about all the great places to see nearby. Hostels don’t offer the same amenities that a resort does, which in turn makes them a cheaper place to stay. If you’re traveling so you can explore and not sit poolside, staying in a hostel is sooo worth.
If you really want to travel on a budget, consider housesitting. You have to pay to join most housesitting websites, but after the membership cost, everything else is free. Housesitting websites connect you with houseowners around the world who need someone to look after their home, or their pets. It’s a great way to visit a place and earn a free accommodation.
Have you tried Couchsurfing? Couchsurfing gives you the opportunity to stay at the homes of others around the world. It’s a great way to visit a place, and also get to pick the brain of a local in the community by staying on their couch.
If you are new to Couchsurfing, I recommend offering your couch as a place for others to crash first. After they stay with you, ask them to kindly leave a nice, detailed review. The more (positive) reviews your profile has, the more likely someone is to offer you their couch when you travel!
5. Decide on Transportation
If you have a Costco membership and live in the United States, take advantage of Costco’s great rental car rates!
If you don’t have a Costco membership, or you want to keep shopping around, I recommend checking for rental car coupons and cashback options through Ebates! This way you can book your rental car, and get cash back from it! Since it will be an expense you will pay for anyway, the cashback is basically free money. Haven’t joined Ebates yet? Sign up now and get your first $10!
I love using Lyft whenever I travel. First of all, Lyft designed their smartphone app to be easy to use. Even better, calling a Lyft is cheaper than calling a taxi!
Whenever you’re ready for a ride, open the app on your phone. You can easily enter your current location, and the destination. From there, the app tells you the estimated cost of the trip as well as how long it may take for a driver to reach you.
Sign up for Lyft now and get $15 towards your first rides!
When you plan to visit a place, definitely research the public transportation options. Honestly, taking the time to learn about the public transportation in the area is the most cost-effective way to travel when you’re on a budget. Oftentimes you can even buy multiple day transportation passes at a cheaper cost!
In Vail, Colorado, taxis from the local airport cost at minimum $60. Taking the bus costs $4 per person. Don’t overlook learning the local public transportation system!
6. Plan Out What to Do
By planning some activities in advance, you can anticipate any extra costs and make sure you are saving enough for your trip.
Take advantage of TripAdvisor when you want to see types of activities in the area you’re visiting. The great part about using TripAdvisor to do your research is it’s a one stop shop for visitor reviews! You get the opportunity to see what other people recommend or how they felt about their experience.
If you haven’t heard it before, Pinterest is an amazing search engine. What I love about it is when you search for articles, it is a very aesthetically pleasing experience. Search for “Things to Do in (Destination)” and your wanderlust will get kicked into high gear. It’s a great place to search for inspiration of things to do in an area.
You can also follow others’ travel boards on Pinterest, like this one. Or, you can create your own travel-related board for your destination. I can’t stop pinning on my “Visit France” Pinterest board.
I looove LonelyPlanet‘s guides! They have city and region travel guides, as well as phrasebooks in case you are visiting a foreign country and are unfamiliar with the language. If you’re traveling with someone to a destination, surprise them with a LonelyPlanet guidebook! They are so detailed, and so helpful!
7. Avoid Foreign Transaction Fees
If you are traveling internationally, and don’t want to carry travelers checks or large amounts of cash around, you should definitely make sure you have a card that does not charge foreign transaction fees.
Charles Schwab International Card
Do you have this free Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account? Okay, I didn’t either. But, Mike recommended it to me as a great debit card for travelers. This free account gives you rebates on ATM withdrawals. Basically, after you are charged an ATM withdrawal fee, they give it back to you at the beginning of the month.
So if you need cash in a jiffy and you’re traveling internationally (or anywhere for that matter), you can go to an ATM and withdraw from this account! Although you are charged for the ATM fee, Charles Schwab credits your account with the ATM fees at the end of each cycle!
What?! I know, right? Now I feel silly for sporting my Hawaiian debit card around the mainland this past year, paying ATM fees or buying mints at stores that offer cash back.
The Discover It credit card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. Plus, you earn at least 1% cashback on every purchase.
Being a Discover cardholder comes with great benefits including a free FICO score every month and being able to use any cashback bonuses you have to buy gift cards or go shopping (or, you can just put the cash back into your bank account). Plus, if you sign up with this link, Discover gives you $50 upon approval!
If you want to know more about improving your credit so you can make your credit cards like the Discover It work for you, check out this article.
8. Enjoy It!
Don’t take “planning a trip on a budget” to mean “having less fun”. Make sure you save enough so that you can enjoy your trip! Find the perfect balance between cutting your spending and enjoying a memorable vacation.
And don’t forget to use Ebates to search for flights, hotel accommodations, and rental car rates. If you’re still not ready to commit to any purchases for your trip (or you’ve already paid for everything), just use Ebates while you shop and put any cash back you earn aside for your travel budget.
If this guide helped you out, don’t forget to pin or share! Or, if you need to reference these tips down the line, don’t forget to bookmark it!
All in all, folks, the wanderlust is real and it’s hitting me hard. I can’t be the only one counting down the days until my next vacation, right?
Where are you going traveling this year? I want to hear how you travel on a budget!
P.S. If you have any tips or articles on France, don’t forget to share them in the comments below!