by Menka Dimitrovska, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 13th July, 2018
We often find ourselves scrolling through our social network feed, seeing where some of our friends have gone to, and daydreaming of visiting faraway lands and exotic places. However, when we check our bank balance to see if we can afford it, we suddenly wake up from that beautiful dream.
I used to believe that I would never have enough money to visit some of my favorite places in the world, before I realized that that shouldn't stop me from making my dreams come true. Money isn't the only thing you need when you're travelling; you also need to have good organizational skills and a few tricks up your sleeve to make the best of your vacations while spending the least amount of money possible.
Here are a few useful and practical ways that will help you travel around the world without breaking the bank.
If you're planning a trip in Europe, for example, the off season is generally from October to March or April. That's when you'll be able to get cheaper flights, rooms, food, drinks, entertainment and everything else. Even tickets to museums and other cultural spots are often discounted during the off-season.
Not only will you save yourself a lot of money, but you'll also get a chance to meet a lot more locals than tourists and really get to know them, their tradition and values a bit better, which is by far the most appealing part to me.
Not only is staying in a B&B cheaper, but you'll also be able to experience the cultural intimacy and warmth of the locals better than in any hotel you stay at.
Instead of going to restaurants and bars that tourists typically go to, choose more secluded and not so popular places to eat, and go out.
Here's why avoiding popular touristy places is a better option:
Ask the locals for stores that offer the best values and buy your food and drinks from there. Stock your room so that you don't have to pay more at the hotel/hostel you're staying at. Prepare at least one or two meals a day yourself, and have one at a local restaurant, so that you don't miss out on the opportunity to try freshly prepared authentic local food.
You can also buy veggies and fruits from local markets that offer the freshest produce for the most affordable price.
Always order foods that are in season. That way you'll get fresh and cheaper food, and will eat locally grown healthier foods.
I know that ATMs are the safest and easiest option when travelling, but they do have transaction and conversion fees, which you can minimize by withdrawing larger sums at once, and then storing the money somewhere safe, rather than making a few seperate withdrawals.
If you want to avoid these fees altogether you can take a bit of cash with you from home, and then pay with your debit or credit card whenever possible. That way you'll most likely be able to avoid the transaction fees, although you might still need to pay currency conversion fees every time you use your card in a country that uses a different currency than your bank.
Renting a bike might be the most eco-friendly and cheapest way to see the whole city or area you're visiting. Rent a bike in the morning and return it in the evening, after you've visited all of the attractions that are nearby your hostel. A lot of the hostels have bikes for rent of their own, and they can be as cheap as $5-$10 a day, which is way cheaper than using the public transport, a cab or a rent-a-car.
A rental car is particularly expensive in big cities with a lot of traffic and high gas prices.
Another pretty convenient and affordable solution is getting a bus or a metro day pass and try to see as much as you can in a day.
Couchsurfing is not only free, but it's also a cool and interesting way to meet new people, and make a lot of friendships.
For those of you who are not familiar with the term, couchsurfing is a service that connects people from all around the world, and gives them a chance to find a place to stay or share their home with travelers from all over the world.“You have friends all over the world, you just haven't met them yet.” That's the couchsurfers moto and it's absolutely true, if you ask me.
With couchsurfing you can surf the whole world for free, and find amazing and friendly people along the way.
If you can't find a vacant place via coucsurfing, you can always check to see if you have any friends or relatives that leave nearby and ask them to stay with them. They don't have to live in the same city that you want to visit. You'll probably have a lot of transportation options to get to the place you want to go, and might see a few more places along the way.
You might also want to consider the amount of money you'll need to spend on your daily commute from their place to the city. If transportation is costly, you might want to find a cheap room closer to your destination so that you don't have to spend money and time traveling.
If you're planning on visiting a few different countries on your vacations, it would be best to check and compare the prices of food, gas, clothes, electronics and everything else you might be planning on buying.
The only thing you'll NEED to buy in each country is food. Everything else is more or less optional. That's why you shouldn't rush to do your shopping once you see the first thing you like. You can compare some of the prices online so that you have an idea of how cheap of expensive shopping in each of those countries will be, and then plan accordingly.
Don't rush to buy your gift as well. There are some countries that have old bazars with beautiful handmade gifts that can be found for reasonable prices, and can make the perfect gift for your loved ones.
Plan your trip ahead of time, and once you find the perfect vacation spot book your flight and room right away.
Booking ahead of time guarantees that you'll get the best deal possible on your flights and accommodation.
Once I know when I'm about to travel, I make sure I buy all the tickets and book my room right away. That way I always get lower prices and make sure I'm all set for my vacation, so that I can put it out of my mind, and not have to worry about anything till it's time to go.
Souvenirs are small overrated pieces of plastic or wood that you'll just put in a drawer once you get home, and are absolutely unnecessary to buy according to me. What I prefer to do is make sure I take in each moment and enjoy it as much as I can, take a few pictures if I can, and fill up my mind and heart with positive memories.
If you absolutely want to buy something so that you can remember a place you visited, then I suggest buying something useful, or something that you won't be able to find back home and will still remind you the place you visited.
For example, I went on a trip to Amsterdam a few years back, and didn't really pack for the weather, so I needed to buy a pair of gloves and a hat to keep myself warm as I explore the city. I didn't buy any other gifts or souvenirs from my trip there, but I still have those gloves and hat, which are not only useful, but also remind me of that awesome vacation.
While other people are rushing off to get the newest piece of electronics or ton of clothes that will hang in their closet unworn, you need to rush to the flight sites and Hostelworld. Trust me; it will totally be worth it.
Avoid bringing a lot of luggage so that you don't have to pay any fees, and won't have to worry about carrying bags around with you all the time. A carry-on luggage is more than enough wherever you go. You only need the necessities and 2-3 pairs of clothes.
Don't forget to pack your cosmetics and self-care products in small bottles so that you can take them with you in your carry-on, and can also avoid spending money on shampoos, toothpaste, soap and things like that on your vacation.
Stuff your backpack with as much as packed food as you have space for, so that you can always have a snack nearby and you won't have to pay for overpriced airport food, or have to eat at restaurants all the time.
Every place you visit has some museums, galleries, parks, forts or castles that don't have an admission fee. Use the money you would have spent on tickets, on things that you absolutely want to do, instead of something you're not really that excited about.
Always make sure you visit places YOU want to visit, not just because they're popular tourist spots, and are recommended in each online magazine. These places might cost you a lot of money and might not even be worth your time. So before you decide which spots to visit it might be best to do some research or speak to a few locals and get their opinions and ideas on where you should go.