Tuesday, March 10

how to: travel cheap

time to share my most precious gathered wisdom: how to travel cheap! What made it possible for me to satisfy my travel hunger with around 5 trips every year out exploring the world, while I was a student. A Danish student, that is, which means... yeah, we're paid to study. Sorry. At least, you can say that I appreciated it by both working hard and spending the money on something I deem very worth it. And now on to the sharing:

Find cheap flight prices
If you know how to search, it will always be cheaper to book your own plane tickets, instead of paying a travel agency. Use the best search engines to ensure you get the best flight prices: The best search engines can be recognised on their inclusion of the budget flight companies, such as EasyJet and the local low cost airlines like Irish AerLingus. Currently, my favorite flight search engine is Kayak.com. Finding flights this way has the extra benefit of giving you an easy overview of the different possibilities of departure times on your preferred dates.
The true tipping point for getting cheap plane tickets: Being flexible on the dates. Consider booking your plane tickets before you know, when you want to go.
Once Kayak has found the best flight prices and your prefered time, go to the airline company's own website and book directly with them. This may save you a little extra in administration fees. So far, I prefer travelling with airlines whose names I have heard before. In other words, you don't want to fly with someone you don't trust. Googling the airline and looking at their customer reviews can be a help here. This will also give you a rough idea of whether to account for delays (the not too bad downside of travelling low cost).
Note: If travelling alone, I have started to prioritise spending a bit extra on flights not too early in the morning or too late at night. Preferably with departure after 10am and before 9pm. It's just too damn lonely to be up, leaving and exhausted, when everyone else isn't.
Build an international friend network
My great friends from around the world are, by far, what helped me the most with travelling on a student budget. Looking at this list of tips for how to build an international friend network, it seems to me that I was very sneaky and conscious about the whole thing. I wasn't. I just took any chance to travel, see why in this previous post. Anyway, these are a few ways of making lots of great friends for life that you can visit and stay with around the world:
- Travel with language schools or volunteer programs in an international group of people, who previously do not know each other (shout out to the Venezuela Eventure team!)
- Study international programs at school (hello, MMC's at Aarhus University!) 
- Study abroad (this one goes out to you, Hawai'i Pacific University crew!)
An important note here: Choose to keep in touch. Facebook, Instagram, Skype and prioritization of your international friends is the trick here. For me, with the best of friends, you don't have to communicate all the time. But try to be there for your friends - and let them know you care about keeping them in your life. 
Find cheap places to stay 
If you are past the above point (can't make friends, or can't be bothered to stay on someone else's couch), use the hotel search engines. This could be booking.com (sometimes the benefit of not paying until you arrive), hostelworld.com (cheap private rooms for the win) or any experience craving globetrotter's BFF, AirBnb (sincerely thank you for existing!). A guide to using AirBnb as a traveller and as a host is coming up on the blog next month. 
Booking.com typically is the most comprehensive, standard place to look for a place to stay around the world - it is connected with TripAdvisor, which gathers reviews of each hotel or apartment hotel. Here, you can choose price level in the left navigation bar (check off the two cheapest options) and then you are shown the places with the best reviews in your price range. 

Bring snacks 
Pack your bag and coat pockets with small snacks that you already have at home, like nuts, fruit, chocolate, bisquits, a refillable water bottle... A slight hunger brought on by the extra work-out that travelling is, invariably leads to unnecessary second lunches or spontaneously bought snacks that can be expensive in the bigger cities and airports. What is up with the price of a bag of nuts, people?! 

Only bring hand luggage 
For lightness and money saved: These days, most budget flights charge you to bring more than hand luggage. But this is most often both expensive (compared to the cheap flight tickets you found), heavy and unnecessary. See the upcoming #travellinhomeguide to packing light! This will last you for two weeks. And when you can last two weeks on the contents of your backpack, you can last a lifetime. 

Adapt your travelling priorities to your budget 
When I travel, I like to eat well, and be outside a lot. That does not have to be particularly expensive. Have your international friend or Airbnb host recommend - or better yet, join you at - the best and cheapest spots. If you're lucky, your (new) friend will be a student, and so the cheap factor is most likely a given, which means you can take the high road and just ask about the best spots! One particular tip: Go for botanical gardens, which are practically always my favorite hang outs in a city.

Now, go get the world. 

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