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How to travel on a budget

Traveling on a budget doesn't mean sacrificing quality—it just means getting more creative! Here are the best ways to make your money stretch further on your next vacation.

7 min read

Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean sacrificing comfort or quality—but it does mean getting more creative with your money. If you want to travel but you don’t have a lot of spare cash, here are some of the best ways to make your vacation money travel further!

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Choose your destination carefully

Your choice of vacation destination is an often overlooked step when traveling on a budget. While it can be tempting to visit a popular, "Instagramable" tourist destination, doing so can drain your wallet quickly. There are many incredible destinations out there that aren’t so well-known. Choosing to go slightly off the beaten track can save you lots of money and you may find an undiscovered gem! 

So, before booking your next trip, try using these steps to choose your next vacation destination:

  1. Instead of starting with a destination in mind, start by comparing different flight or travel prices for a variety of locations. Narrow down the list according to the best deals available.
  2. Next, consider seasonality. If a destination is currently “off-peak,” that usually means accommodation will be cheaper as fewer tourists are likely to visit. But, bear in mind that different countries have different peak tourist seasons. Be sure to do your research!
  3. Check out the cost of living for each country. This can often vary wildly between different destinations and greatly impact what you’ll be able to do, i.e. how often you can eat out and how far you can travel once you’re there.
  4. Then, you may need to balance the cost of a more expensive, long-haul travel ticket next to a reduced cost of living. Sometimes, it can work out cheaper to pay more for up-front travel costs if it means spending less overall on living expenses. 

Save money before your trip

The more money you have saved before your trip, the more options you’ll have. Finding a budget that works for you is a fantastic way to achieve financial independence and feel more in control of your money. Whichever method you choose, you’ll need to start with where you’re at. This means going through at least three months of recent bank statements and separating your incoming and outgoing cash streams. From here, you’ll get a rough idea of if you’re spending more than you have coming each month.

Get to grips with your expenditures

The next step is to hone in on your expenditures. This means separating your monthly outgoing revenue streams into two categories: fixed and variable costs. Your fixed costs include any regular expenditures that are essential and difficult to reduce, i.e. your rent, utility bills, and health care costs. Variable costs include less essential expenditures such as subscription services, clothing costs, and eating out. The simplest way to start saving more money for your vacation is to cut back on your variable costs and to automate your savings each month.

Choose a budget that works for you

If the idea of becoming more financially empowered appeals to you, the 50/30/20 budget is a great place to start. However, if you want to start saving but you’re currently in debt, you might benefit from using either the debt Avalanche or Snowball methods. Being able to set some money aside each month, no matter how small, boosts a sense of financial security which can reduce financial stress overall.  

Create a vacation budget—and stick to it!

Before touching down in your vacation destination, work out exactly how much cash you have to spend while you’re there. Do some research ahead of time to get an idea of how much transportation, accommodation, food, and entertainment are likely to cost you, and budget accordingly. Having an idea of how much you spend on eating out and groceries while at home can give you a good baseline for how much you should spend while you’re away. Then all that’s left for you to do is to enjoy yourself and stick to your budget!

Secure your accommodation ahead of time

When it comes to booking accommodation, it usually pays off to plan ahead. Leaving it to the last minute can risk being stranded with only a limited selection of expensive hotel rooms to choose from. Here are a few tips to consider when choosing what type of accommodation to choose on a budget:

  • Hotels: While often more expensive than other types of accommodation, hotels can come with some cost-saving advantages. If you find a hotel that offers breakfast, access to utilities, and discounts on local tourist attractions, you may end up saving money in the long run.
  • Airbnbs: When booking an Airbnb, keep an eye on the service and cleaning fees. These are usually one-off expenditures so it often works out cheaper if you’re planning a longer rather than a short stay. Additionally, you can often make sizable savings if you split accommodation costs between more people. This can also allow you to stay in some larger, fancier places!
  • Hostels: No longer the mainstay of students, you can find fantastic deals on private rooms, some with ensuite bathrooms, in many hostels around the world. Additionally, while you’re there, you may also meet other guests willing to share transportation and day trip costs with you! 

Pay with a card that has no travel fees 

There are several ways to spend money when abroad. These include using a credit or debit card, a prepaid travel card, or paying in cash. While having some local currency in cash is useful for emergencies, it’s not wise to carry large sums on you. With regards to getting the best deal on the exchange rate, prepaid travel cards lock you into a set rate which is usually slightly more than the exchange rate between different banks. Alternatively, if you’re an avid international traveler, choosing a travel credit or debit card such as N26’s metal card offers some of the best exchange rates going.

The best way to withdraw money abroad

But what’s the best way to withdraw your money when abroad? In general, whether at home or abroad, it’s a good idea to draw money from a bank ATM rather than an independent ATM. Independent ATMs usually charge a fee to withdraw money and they’re usually less secure as they’re often in more obscure locations without video surveillance. Additionally, if you take money out of a bank ATM and the machine accidentally eats your card, you can follow up directly with a bank employee. This isn’t the case at an independent ATM. However, if you want the flexibility to get money out of any ATM while you’re abroad, N26 cuts out fees for foreign currency ATM withdrawals for Black, Metal, and Business Black card holders.

Be smart with what you spend on

Traveling on a budget is all about knowing where to spend and where to cut back. For example, if eating out is an important part of your vacation experience, you can adjust for that. Simply buy produce from your local grocery store, make your breakfast and lunch yourself, then splurge on dinner instead! Alternatively, upscale restaurants often offer lunch at a cheaper price than dinner so you may want to splurge at lunchtime rather than in the evening.

Another great tip is to research all the free activities and tourist attractions in your vicinity. Many cities offer great walking tours that you pay by donation as well as free or cheap museums, galleries, and places of cultural interest. Plus, get used to using your legs—walking around is one of the best ways to get to know your area and it’ll save you a fortune in Uber and taxi fees!

Your money at N26

Sometimes, the unexpected happens while you’re on the road. Let N26 take care of these little surprises so you can enjoy your vacation stress-free. As an N26 You or Metal customer, you’re covered by an extensive travel insurance package that includes everything from luggage loss, flight delays, pandemic-related cancellations, and more. Find the right plan for you today.

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