For a lot of travellers the only constraints you have when travelling are visa constrictions and financial constraints. When I travelled across Europe those were the only two things I took into account when making decisions about where and when I wanted to go. The only two things that dictated when I would return home were my financial situation and myself (although the 90-day visa should loom much larger than it did).
Since the financial constraints are the most salient concerns for most travelers, here’s how you can save on your budget and extend your break away from reality.
1. Make your own food
Cooking your own food is such a great way to save money. Generally I cook my own breakfasts and then pack a lunch. For breakfast I’ll usually have fried eggs and toast (the same as I would at home) and a piece of fruit. When picking fruit, think something like an apple, nectarine, pear, etc. Something dense that’ll keep you full for longer than, say, grapes will. It’s also so important to have heaps of protein in the morning to get you through the day. I for one like to pack my days with touristy activities like sight-seeing or hiking and definitely need a big breakfast to help fuel all the activities. If you’re a vegetarian yogurt with fruit and oats is a great, cheap option too. For lunch I’d usually pack a sandwich (usually just an easy ham and cheese), something sweet like a chocolate croissant, and some fruit. And always a 1.5 litre water bottle! Pasta and tomato sauce with a couple vegetables can also last you three meals and cost you under 5 euros! The tomato sauce jar is also a great little thing for storing your food on-the-go!
2. Check ahead for when museums or art galleries are free
About half the time, museums or art galleries will have times when they’re free. For example, in Lisbon the Colecao Berardo Museum of Contemporary Art is free on Saturdays, and the Prado National Museum and the National Palace in Madrid are free during the last two hours of the day. Although you’ll face longer lines and might have a shorter time period to explore around, it’s a trade-off.
3. Opt for pre-drinking at the hostel or outside in a park instead of at a bar
This one’s a given in Europe. You can purchase wine by the bottle for as little as 2.50 euro in Lisbon, 1.80 euro in Spain, and 4 euro in Lyon. In Madrid you could buy massive tootles of beer for under a euro and in Portugal you could buy a six pack of beer (tallies or tall boys too!) for three euros. Drinks at a bar are 6 euro at the least. There’s also something really nice about sitting in a park, on the beach, or by the river that’s just so much more preferable to drinking at a bar.
4. Use local transportation over taxis and Uber
I generally walk everywhere – I experience much more of the city by walking to places rather than taking the metro, but when walking isn’t feasible taking local transportation is so much cheaper than taxis or Uber. Of course there are times when you’re tired as hell and just need the luxury of a chauffeur, or taxi driver. For example, my trip from Madrid to Lyon was over eighteen hours by bus and included a two hour layover in Bordeaux where I realized my shower gel exploded in my bag. At the end of all that there was no way I was going to take the metro for 45 minutes or walk to my hostel – that seemed like a wonderful time to take the taxi. But don’t take a taxi or Uber for everything if you’re trying to stick to a budget! Consider it a luxury if you’re trying to stretch your dollar.
5. Pay for experiences, not things
Some people might disagree on this one. I think most of us would agree that fashion in Europe is much better than fashion in North America, but it really depends on what you’d rather leave you trip with: a great new purse or pair of shoes, a cool experience somewhere, or being able to visit an extra five art galleries with your savings. It’s all individual preference but for me, I’d rather spend my money on a really great meal at an expensive restaurant or visit a museum or pay for a day-trip somewhere rather than add to my wardrobe (although I’m a sucker for flea market jewelry!)
Staying at a hostel is also another one, but I’m taking for granted that if you’re on a budget you’ll be choosing a hostel over a hotel. Although in every trip there’s going to come a time when you splurge in order to have a proper sleep undisturbed by the five to fifteen other roommates you generally have.