Don’t Buy That Keychain: Budgeting Lessons for Traveling on a Shoestring



Contributed by Moven Community Manager Maureen O’Brien.

If you are reading this from a fully reclined lounge chair fretting over your tan lines on some island, screw you. If you are like me, you are under florescent lights at a computer somewhere refreshing JFK-> Costa Rica on 7 different flight aggregators. Dreaming of vacation is a full time job, but budgeting for it is where most of us fall flat.

Full discloser: travel costs a lot, and it costs even more to make it fun. Taking that direct flight to Paris sounds a lot sexier than a top deck seat on a 16 hour ferry, and prosecco quenches your thirst in a way that water never can. I get it. While there is a time and place for splurging on travel, there are a few ways to make it a lot easier on the wallet.

1. Work-stay

If you are traveling alone, or have a buddy that is interested in a serious adventure, try working in exchange for lodging in another country. You can farm in the French Alps, or run the desk at a beachside hostel on a Greek island. Check out WWOOF International for opportunities to farm all over the world. If dirt isn’t your thing, take a look at Workaway. Bonus: save money on a Lonely Planet and get travel tips from the people you are working with.

Image source: http://www.backroads.com/trips/WFII/french-italian-alps-hiking-tour

2. Opt for the scenic route and drive

Instead of flying, take advantage of the low gas prices and drive to your destination, stopping at weird highway dives along the way. Compare the cost of driving to the price of a flight at Cost2Drive. If you are going a short distance forego the cab and work off the éclairs you had for breakfast meandering through an unfamiliar neighborhood. Often the journey can render more fecund than the destination, and taking your time tottering through quaint streets can be a great way to get to know a city’s little-known quirks.

Image source: http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1843821_1843820_1843808,00.html

3. Stay out of expensive international brand stores

Just because you are in Geneva doesn’t mean that Zara jumpsuit will look good back home. If you are going to buy random sh*t while you are abroad, opt for something you can’t find anywhere else. The same goes for food. For heaven’s sake, put down the Big Mac.

Image source: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/20266708

4. Bring snacks.

Grocery stores in foreign countries are a totally underrated tourist attraction. Think entire isles of various types of spam. Picking up refreshments and fresh fruit is a healthier option, and tends to be much easier on the wallet.

Image source: http://www.chinasmack.com/2010/pictures/silly-funny-creative-chinese-supermarket-product-displays.html

5. Spend when it is worth it

Don’t be too cheap; you have come this far! Museums and sights can be expensive but they also present a once in a lifetime opportunity. Spend the money you have saved on traveling smart and see the things that brought you to this country in the first place.

Image source: http://www.rome-tours.org/visit-rome/vatican-museums


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