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Clever money saving ideas to make Travel Affordable

When a lot of people think of travel, they think cost.

And it can be expensive. And then there is the myriad of other questions.

How are you going to get there?

Where will you stay? 5 star, hostels, budget?

At this stage, most people give up. It’s all too hard and starting to look too expensive. And the thought of having to stay in a hostel has little appeal.

But you can travel well for a lot less than you probably realise.

Yes, you do need some money to travel, it’s just a fact of life.

But there are plenty of options out there that will allow travel on a small budget.

In this article, I will share some of the cost-saving tips I have used over the years.

A lot of these were used when travelling with kids and not once did I ever feel like I was missing out.


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Great ways to make travel affordable with these money saving ideas. Helpful suggestions on how to stretch your travel budget further.


Think outside the box

There are alternatives to everything, and if you think outside the box, perhaps you can be travelling sooner, rather than later.

Imagine how that would feel?

If I had stuck to mainstream avenues for booking my travel, it would never have happened.

The most significant money saver of all is to understand you have choices. Heaps of them!

If you are a five-star traveller who only stays in top class motels and eats at the best restaurants, then you should probably not continue reading.

But if you are open-minded, have a huge desire to travel and are willing to compromise then this is for you.


Take control of your travel plans

Traditionally, you would get a quote from a Travel Agent, and that was the price you assumed your trip would cost.

There are many, many options for travel including accommodation, tours, sightseeing and getting around where you can save serious dollars.

The quote for my original trip for 2 1/2 months to the USA and Europe, with three separate itinerary variations, including my daughter going to Japan and my side trip to Greece, was over $40,000.

And that was without spending money, half the accommodation costs and a stack of other things I wanted to be included. That was the bare basics!

The trip didn’t cost that. It was way under that and included spending money for four people and everything else I wanted to see and do.


Accommodation and living like a local

You can save a stack of money depending on what style of accommodation you choose.

Finding the Right Hotel needn’t be too hard. It may not even be a hotel!

Suffice it to say that if you are open-minded enough, and willing to steer away from hotels, you will find some great bargains.

And I think it is essential for you to weigh up certain things.

Are you willing to forgo a hotel room for a hostel room if it is the difference between travelling or not travelling?

I mean, how much do you want it? I know what my answer would be.


Apartments, Villas, Cottages, Studios & Houses

Airbnb has opened the world even more for those that have a small travel budget.

Being able to choose from a room with shared facilities to an entire house, apartment, villa, cottage or studio, you have an abundance of choices.

Research your areas thoroughly so you don’t end up staying a long way from the destination you want to visit and message several places you are interested in to see if they have availability.

As with all travel, have a backup plan in mind. And give yourself enough time to find something suitable, it’s always harder to find something last minute and more stressful.

Although you could snag a great bargain, you will more likely end up paying more because you become desperate.

The bonus to using a service like Airbnb or similar is that, often, you will meet the owner. A lovely way to connect with a local and they usually are a wealth of knowledge and love to tell you about the places only locals know about. They can help you orient with your new surroundings. Our experience so far with Airbnb has been fantastic.

There are also a lot of companies out there that you can book villas and apartments through.

I had used a few in the past before the existence of Airbnb and had great experiences. With everything do your research and read every review you can.

Sometimes you just want the experts to sort it all out for you. I can recommend Getaway Guru.

Their properties are Australian, and New Zealand owned and located in France, Italy, Monaco and Bali.

They also have options for medium and long-term rentals.

Can you imagine a group of friends relaxing at your very own villa in Italy?

You have the villa for a month being able to explore the surrounding area with a comfortable “home” to return to at the end of each day. Stocking the pantry with cheese and wine and every other local goodie you can imagine. Now that’s something to add to your bucket list.


Great ways to make travel affordable with these money saving ideas. Helpful suggestions on how to stretch your travel budget further.View from our Melbourne Airbnb Apartment



I have stayed in some beautiful hotels (and not so wonderful ones too!)

My favourites are usually boutique hotels that offer that more personalised experience.

With hotels, you can choose from 5 stars to budget. If you are on a budget a cheaper hotel can be a good option, however, do your research well and again read the reviews.

I don’t mind basic, but I do draw the line at holes in bathtubs hidden under rubber mats (true story). We didn’t do our research and trusted the travel agent. Bad move on my part.

If you are a loyalty member or have rewards points to use then, it could be cost-effective accommodation.

I usually decide on the location I want to stay in and then look at all the accommodation in that area and keep to the budget that I have allocated.


I love most places I visit, but these are my top 5 recommendation on European destinations to see.View from our hotel in Venice


Gourmet Delights

You stumble out of bed and head to the kitchen. You flick the switch on the coffee machine, start pulling food out of the fridge and pantry and start preparations for breakfast. You open the doors that lead to the back patio and pick some herbs to throw in with your eggs.

Doesn’t sound much like a hotel breakfast, but it certainly seems like a “living local” breakfast where you get to stay in an apartment in the middle of a village or a villa in the countryside or maybe even in the centre of a busy city.

OK perhaps I romanticised it a little, but it could happen.

You have more of a chance of it happening staying in a studio apartment attached to someone’s home, who might allow you access to their garden and your very own private courtyard to enjoy, than if you were staying in a hotel.

I would if I was a host (I have a vivid imagination).

But this next part is feasible and has been done.

Imagine you have a loaf of freshly baked bread, some cheese and chutney that will be perfect for a simple dinner accompanied by a bottle of local organic wine. Perfect if you ask me.

Sorry, I did get a little sidetracked there, but how much do you think you would save instead of eating dinner out.

And I get that eating dinner out is an essential holiday experience, but if you eat every meal in a restaurant, you are going to whittle your travel budget away very quickly.

I know this may sound a little like hard work when you are travelling, cooking your meals.

And possibly too much for someone that doesn’t like to cook as I do. But there are more than enough options for people who want to do less cooking and more relaxing.

And that takes me on to the next point.


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Shop Locally

Venturing into a local supermarket will usually yield something easy and tasty to eat. And don’t forget the markets, but I will get to that one soon.

Here are just a few examples of meals I have thrown together over the years of travelling on a limited budget.

Antipasto platters laden with dips, olives, local cold meats, fresh, crusty bread and local condiments too varied to mention. Sometimes an antipasto platter doesn’t sound like much of a meal, but it fills you up quicker than you imagined and paired with some delicious wine it is the perfect meal to throw together after a long, tiring day sightseeing.

Salad. I know, I know sounds a bit boring. But if you start with lettuce, throw in chunks of crusty bread, some nice cheese and crispy pancetta or prosciutto (or similar) mixed with a tasty dressing from the supermarket and anything else that takes your fancy – pine nuts, anchovies, avocado, tomato or boiled eggs – you have your version of a Caesar Salad. Yum!

Buy some fresh seafood. Prawns, oysters, lobster – ready to go.  Add them to toasted bread with a delicious mayo, some lettuce and avocado. Or cook some pasta, add some herbs, garlic and onion, a healthy dollop of cream and then the seafood to warm through. Or throw it in the salad you created before instead of the pancetta.

Bruschetta. No, you don’t have to be in Italy to enjoy a tasty bruschetta. Just chop some tomatoes, add some chopped onion, torn basil leaves (or any other herb that takes your fancy) and a good slug of olive oil and let it sit for the flavours to infuse. Spread some sliced bread (doesn’t matter if it’s not fresh) with butter, pan fry till golden and add your tomato topping. Delicious! You can add some tapenade if you like, or see what other delights the supermarket has, maybe pan-fried eggplant, zucchini or topped with mozzarella. Get creative!

Or the good old go to, Roast Chicken and vegetables, or chips if you must, or a salad. Leftover chicken is great to make sandwiches the next day.

Or one of my favourites – bread smeared with mayonnaise topped with shredded chicken and layered with a generous serving of cheese – any cheese will do – and then pan fry it until that cheese is oozing and delicious.

Eating out can create a massive hole in your travel budget. If you are planning on eating out three times a day plus any snacks or coffee, then you have spent a substantial amount of money. I have found that by cutting down on eating out to be one of the biggest ways to save money when I travel. Don’t get me wrong; I love to dine at a lovely restaurant, and I do but just not for every meal.

And if you are plagued by dietary restrictions this is also a better way to ensure you stay healthy when you travel.s

Maybe lay off all the cheese though!


Great ways to make travel affordable with these money saving ideas. Helpful suggestions on how to stretch your travel budget further.Fresh produce in Cortona, Italy



Farmer’s Markets, Markets & Supermarkets

These are not only good for food, but for authentic souvenirs and presents.

Supermarkets are great for cheaper wine, fruit and vegetables, snacks, groceries and so much more and can be worth its weight in gold.

I know not all supermarkets are the same or as abundant, but if you do a little bit of research, you will be able to find one that can provide you with everything you need.

We recently travelled to Italy, and my travelling companion has Coeliac Disease. The supermarket had a good selection of gluten-free products that she could choose from to supplement her breakfast at the hotel and some snacks for the room.

Supermarkets can yield cheaper souvenirs. On a trip to Holland, we wanted to bring back traditional butter lollies, and we found them in lovely traditional tins while picking up some groceries and wine.

Also, be on the lookout for chocolates and biscuits which can make a great gift.

Another find in New York was the Fairways Supermarket. Not only did it have all my regular groceries, a large fruit and vegetable section but a large deli serving hot and cold food.

AND it had an excellent café upstairs serving fantastic food at reasonable prices. You know it’s good when it’s full of locals.

Markets have great food stalls which are an excellent way to sample the local cuisine for a fraction of the cost of sitting down for lunch.

Quirky antiques which can be unique gifts to take home can be found at antique and flea markets. I once picked up a bottle with the label intact from the 1930’s located in an old tenement building on the Lower East Side, Manhattan. (I know I’m weird, but I love old bottles). I also found an antique silver tea strainer for my daughter.

And of course, Farmer’s Markets are just an enjoyable experience for both food and interaction with the stall holders. In one visit to the Farmer’s Market on the Upper West Side in New York yielded delicious pastries, fresh bread and goat’s cheese.

All these places are not only opportunities to buy food but also to interact with the locals. Be interested, ask a question and start a conversation.


Great ways to make travel affordable with these money saving ideas. Helpful suggestions on how to stretch your travel budget further.Shopping at the Farmer’s Market


Tours & Sightseeing

Choose quality over quantity.

Instead of cramming every sight you can see or have ever heard about, choose only those that are important.

Be choosy and diverse, and your budget will love you for it. Make it uniquely your trip, don’t blindly follow other tourists hell bent on ticking every sight off on their imaginary list.


Free Walking Tours

I like to do a walking tour of a new destination, usually as soon as I arrive so I can get my bearings.

I also find it useful to talk to the guide and get some local information on where to eat and recommendations on where to go.

You should always tip what you think is fair for the tour. It is the only way these guides get paid.

If I can’t find a free tour that suits me, I will pay for one. I do consider the price and what I am getting for it before signing on. These can range in price significantly, obviously costing a lot more for the smaller more private groups. Which unfortunately I prefer.

But when I am organising a group they can be cost-effective if I book privately and the cost shared amongst the group.


If you don't plan your trips you could miss out on some amazing things. Here is a guide to why and what you should plan before you travel.Walking tour in Venice


Getting Around

In cities, you can buy passes for the metro/subway systems that are value for money if you are staying longer than a few days.

I HATE public transport, but I am happy and confident to travel this way.

My daughter and I used the MetroCard for the subway in New York. We were there for a week, so it was a cost-effective way to get around.


Free Stuff

Each city seems to have free “stuff” (or heavily discounted) things to do.

For example, the Central Park Conservancy in New York has free volunteer-run walking tours of all areas of the park (no tips accepted).

And did you know they sell discounted Broadway Show tickets in Times Square? Awesome isn’t it! Just buy your ticket in the morning for a Matinee or in the afternoon for the evening. We loved it and had great seats every time.

Do your research before you go and you may be surprised at what you find.


Less is More

There are museums and art galleries that have either discounted days or free days. Check these out and save.

Each city seems to have free “stuff” (or heavily discounted) things to see and do.

For example, the Central Park Conservancy in New York has free volunteer-run walking tours of all areas of the park (no tips accepted).

And did you know you can get heavily discounted Broadway Show tickets at the booth in Times Square? Just buy in the morning for a Matinee show that day or buy in the afternoon for an evening show. We got awesome seats both times.

Do your research before you go and you may be surprised at what you find.


Slow Travel

I am a HUGE fan of Slow Travel. Fewer places, more time.

If you think that you need to jam as many places into your itinerary, you should take a look at why you should experience Slow Travel.

Instead of cramming a two-week itinerary with 5-6 destinations, you would cut it down to 2-3 and spend more time in each location.

More destinations mean more travel costs to each one. Each time you move on, there are additional costs.

With slow travel, you will get to know one area well, meet locals, gain local knowledge on what to see.

Base yourself in one location and explore from there without having to pack up again every few nights.

A lot of us fall into the trap of thinking we have to see everything because this will be the only chance, but if you love a place, why wouldn’t you go back?

Instead of ticking places of a bucket list, add meaningful, more profound travel experiences to your life.

Be honest, does spending a day and a night or two in a place mean you have really experienced it?


Get off the well-worn tourist track

When we were in Venice, my friend and I posted a photo online of her drinking an espresso.

A lady commented how she hoped it was worth the €12 she had paid.

We were puzzled. It only cost €2 (which was a double our morning espresso).

The story is that the lady had been visiting Venice while on a cruise and had sat in St Mark’s Square for lunch and coffee.

We understood. To be honest we were within walking distance of St Mark’s Square but not in a crowded tourist area. This is the perfect example of getting out of the tourist areas and seeing what places are really like.

St Mark’s Square is NOT Venice, but so many think it is and therefore has a very skewed opinion of it.

If I based travel, experiences and cost, on the tourist areas, I would never go. I would imagine that everything would cost too much.

We were laughing because we had been annoyed that we paid double the price for our coffee than we did at the local cafe in the morning!

Venture away from the famous sights. Everything will cost a lot less and be better quality. And you will probably get better service.

If you must visit those sites, go as early as you can to avoid the crowds. After that explore and get happily lost.


I love most places I visit, but these are my top 5 recommendation on European destinations to see.Venice without the crowds


Travel in the Off Season

Prices drop in Europe around mid-September and are even lower in the winter months.

Throw in a few extra clothes (layering works a treat) and explore a new destination without the crowds.

Win-win really, fewer people and less cost!


People often wonder if they should travel with their kids. If they will appreciate it, and then there is the money. Here is my experience.All rugged up in the cold



While you are away

Get a house sitter. If you have a pet, you know how much it costs to board them at a kennel or to pay a dog sitter.

And even if you don’t have a pet a house sitter will look after the house, ideal for security, take care of your garden, collect your mail and make you feel comfortable about being away.

And if you are worried about someone being in your house don’t be.

I thought I would hate it, but I didn’t. I loved it. I didn’t stress about the house, or the dog, once while we were away.

Vivienne, our housesitter, looked after our dog Toby so well, that he was missed her when she left.

He also had major medical issues at the time, and she wasn’t fazed in the slightest. He was fighting fit by the time we got home.

She maintained the pool, the yard and became friends with our neighbours.

Because we were away for 2 ½ months, she even let us know when mail arrived that she thought might be urgent or important.

We kept in touch regularly via email.

I moved half the contents of the wardrobe to the spare room so she would have space to put her things, left some things in the pantry and I took the time to create a folder with all the information I thought she would need and places she may like to visit.

We never actually met! But our neighbours loved her.

There are several reputable House Sitting websites. My only advice is to go with your gut feeling. We had a few people interested, and I went with the one that felt right. I don’t know what it was about the others, but I just went with my intuition.

As it was, it turned out great.

Although this isn’t the typical budget saving tip if you don’t have pets, it has the potential to be one.

Our pool filter tended to clog if not cleaned regularly, so we would have had to turn it off while away, meaning a green pool to contend with when we got back.

We had vegetables and herbs growing in the garden so they would have perished while we were gone.

Not only did she get to eat what was ripe while we were away they were they ripe to harvest upon our return.

And we knew in the event of an emergency she was there. What price do you put on peace of mind?


Experiences over Material Possessions

Travelling is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have.

I understand that many people believe that putting off travel until they can “afford” it is the best option.

But from my experience, life can change in an instant. I have watched family members miss out on their dreams to travel. It is possible to turn your dream into a reality if you want it badly enough.

For me, I would much rather have amazing experiences, moments in time that you just cannot buy, than the material possessions.

Travel is possible on a tight budget. You just have to get a little creative.


Cindy x




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Hi there! I'm Cindy the founder of Travel Charm. About 6 years ago I learnt to overcome anxiety to follow my travel dreams. And I haven't looked back! I would love to help you plan your travel so you can start living your dreams instead of just thinking about them.

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Cindy Reid

Cindy is the founder of Travel Charm and combines her passions of planning and travel with hosting small group tours and travel planning. She loves nothing more than helping people fulfil their travel dreams.

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