We all know the type. That one friend who seems to be constantly in some country eating weird new insta worthy food; it’s a love hate relationship with these people, I know. Particularly because in my friend group, well I guess it’s me.
Now if you know me, you will know that money is not a free-flowing river into my bank account. I literally bought off brand Nutella the other day to save a few euros, NOT RECOMMENDED.
Yet if you know me, you will see I travel, and can still afford to eat some fancy German cheese every now and then. BUT HOW?
It’s a mix of using and making connections, out of the box thinking, and being willing to, well let’s just say, get a little cozy with some strangers. I have compiled a list of some of my favorite go to travel tips and sites that I use when planning any trip, hope they help.
Travel in the Off Season
Housing, flights, everything is always cheaper in the off season. I personally love traveling in February and March. Everything's quieter, lines are shorter, and you get great deals.Now sure, you don’t get show off them legs, but you also don’t sweat through your shirt climbing the stairs to the DUOMO either.
Prop tip, try buying on Tuesdays, and flying on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. You can also use google flights and track the prices of a flight. Google will email you when it gets cheaper!
Also, sometimes something as simple as changing your flight by one day, or even to a different airport can save you hundreds of dollars. When I fly to Germany I always try doing San Francisco to Frankfurt, because it is like $200 cheaper than flying to Munich. Then I take a 20 euro train to Munich later. Yes it takes “longer”, but honestly you will recover from the jet lag faster than your bank account recovers from pricey flights.
Ok kids, this one's litty. If you have a college email, sign up with Studentuniverse. You can get discount prices on flights. Woo!
Speaking of flights, don’t be afraid of budget airlines. I have a secret love affair with WOW airlines. Just pack light ( you really don’t need more than one pair good walking shoes, heels are not unpaved street friendly).
Also don't buy the entertainment. If you have Netflix, you can download episodes onto your phone and watch them on airplane mode. Or better yet go “old school” and buy a book, either in print or iBooks. If you are one of those fancy people with a Kindle, use that too.
People, you have literally a million “friends” at the tips of your fingers. If you are going to a new place, post on FB and ask “ yo, going to France, anyone got a couch I can crash on? Repayment will be in Trident Layers and California Wine”. I stayed in Copenhagen for two weeks last year, because my mother’s college roommate’s niece needed someone to watch her apartment while she traveled in Nepal. I ended up making some new friends, meeting some old Denison (my mum and my alma mater) buddies, and getting to know the culture way better than if I had stayed in a hotel for a few days. Plus it was FREE.
This one is a given, but I always check Airbnb, especially if I am with multiple people. Hostels charge per bed, so while it may be “cheaper”, it ends up costing more. Also, don’t be afraid to stay out of the city center. It is usually cheaper, and you get to see the “real” side of any city. Even learning how to use the local transport might turn out to be fun! ( or stressful, still fun, see my last article).
If you are going to use a hostel though, I like Hostelworld. I have never had a bad experience in a hostel, weird ones yes, but never bad. Hostelworld is a great website to find hostels where you stay in a room with multiple beds which allows you to meet new people, make connections that last beyond your stay, and make for funny stories. Archit and I spent a whole day in Croatia with some British kids, I am pretty sure we are still Facebook friends ( see, now I can ask them for a couch in England!).
Within Country Travel
You don't have to fly everywhere, I like other means better because, well one, I am scared of airports, and two the main train station is usually in the city center while airports are farther outside the city.
TRAIN TRAIN TRAINS.
This is mainly a Europe thing, though I did like the trains in India. But you can get pretty much anywhere in Europe with a train, though be careful, when they cross country lines they tend to get more expensive.
But overall don't be afraid to take the sbahn, the ubahn, tram, etc. Trains are your friends.
*If you happen to be in Germany for a while, get a Deutsche Bahn discount card. You pay like 20 euros, and then you get 25-50 % every train you buy a train ticket in Germany.
Flixbus is a bae. www.flixbus.com. It takes longer but soooo cheap, usually cheaper than the trains, but not as comfy.
BLA BLA CAR - Europe only
So Bla Bla Car, is essentially Uber, but from city to city. https://www.blablacar.com/ . You say where you want to go and when, and hopefully someone is offering a ride in the same direction! I have used it twice, from Salzburg to Vienna, and from Vienna to Munich. Its really fun, especially if you meet up with other travelers. It's basically like a road trip, but with people you just met.
Sarah and I were in the car to Vienna and our driver ended up picking up a bunny, so that was pretty cute too.
Last but not least,
Walk as much as possible, it is the best way to see the city, you see money, and you get your steps in. You will walk a ton while traveling, so again just bring one pair of good walking shoes and maybe some “ going out shoes” as in a pair of boots or flats. Also, if you are worried about getting lost, download the directions on google maps, and then even in airplane mode you can follow the route.
Speaking of, don't buy an expensive phone plan for your trip. If your phone is unlocked ( paid off) you can get pretty cheap data in whatever country you go to. Then just use your phone when you either have wifi or on airplane mode. This saves you money, and forces you to be present.
Avoid Tourist Trap Restaurants
My biggest recommendation is try avoiding eating in touristy areas. Like right next to the Vatican, Colosseum, etc. They usually have some cute dude ( never trust the cute ones) trying to lure you in and lots of seating.The food in these parts is not only more expensive, but not as good either. Honestly, if the people there don't speak English, the better. If you have a pointer finger and know how to smile, you can pretty much order anywhere. And pay, when I was working at the Zoo Cafe in Heidelberg, sometimes would literally just put their money on the counter and be like, “ I have no idea how much each coin is worth, just take it”, something I have done as well.
Eat Weird Food
I love trying new stuff, and luckily, STRANGE LOCAL FOOD IS CHEAP. I know I know, you are always hearing, avoid street food! Only go to places that look trustworthy! But honestly, if you are in a at least mildly developed country, and don't have any severe allergies/food restrictions, you will probably survive that handwritten sign cafe. Every city usually has some local food specialty, ask your hotel, airbnb host, hostel etc.. for tips :)
Grocery Stores are Cool
This one seems obvious, but I love going to local grocery stores in foreign countries. You get all the staple foods of the country, it super cheap, and honestly interesting. You can tell alot about a place by what they stock the market shelves with.
Plus, you can buy food and then spend more time exploring than eating every four ( ok 2 hours). I think Archit and I ate snacked on this bread and cheese pair for like 3 days while traveling through Croatia. Ratchet, but economical.
“I need to get a keychain for betty, a T-shirt for my dad, and earrings for my great aunt Lisa!”NO. You really don't. I am a firm believer that everyone in the West has TOO MUCH STUFF. You know what everyone loves though? Postcards. Especially if it has a handwritten letter talking about something you saw that reminded you of that special someone. Postcards are pretty, like lil mini posters, and easy to get home! Plus.. CHEAP. You don't need to buy a bunch of tourist junk to tell your friends you wish they were there.
Even taking a photo of yourself and then photoshopping the missing friend in works….
Well guys, this is all the wisdom I have for you today. Let me know if it helped, or if you have any other tips. I am currently planning a trip to Budapest in February and I have been playing around with flight dates for a week haha.
Morgan Phoenix is recent Denison graduate where she studied psychology. Currently she's completing her Fullbright fellowship in Germany where she's teaching English, drinking beer, and planning her next poorly planned and budgeted trip. You can follow all her adventures here