Last Updated April, 2020
Travel is no longer an activity only for the filthy rich people. Nowadays there are multiple ways for everyone to travel affordably without breaking a bank. Even on a tight budget you can still wander around and discover the world.
It amazes us how much information can be found online about budget travel and how to turn into a budget traveler. From how to save a few bucks for your next vacation to how to visit all four continents for free. Or almost free.
Definitely, coming across some deals, travel hacks or recommendations on how to see the world for less is helpful. But looking deep into detail raises a question we want to ask.
WHAT BUDGET TRAVEL IS REALLY ABOUT?
DO ALL CONCEPTS OF BUDGET TRAVELER LIFE SUIT EVERYONE?
Through our own experiences, we learned that they do not. And not everyone relishes moments of budget travel with the same level of excitement.
On our blog, we also share some tips on how to travel frugally. But the main reason we choose this lifestyle is not connected to money. We choose to follow our own tips, and promote them, because of the pure joy they bring, and the people we meet and the new things we learn. The money itself is of secondary importance.
Before Mark and I left the United States to move to another part of the world we’ve done a lot of research on how to save money, work as we go and travel on a limited budget. Our goal was not only to find a place we can call home. We were looking to visit our families, friends, and check out some new cool places. We knew it would take us some time to start making money again and have a steady income. That’s why for our savings to last we had to agree on tightening the belt and finding ways how to spend as little as possible.
It was exciting, but challenging at the same time. Allow me to explain why.
Both of us spent years in the hospitality business working for big name hotel chains. As a benefit, we had access to huge discounts on any type of room in almost any hotel within our brand.
This is how we managed to stay with Marriott across the U.S. and Canada for only $35 per night, including breakfast. During the winter holidays, we were paying even less, $19 per night. In some cases, through our employer, we had access to car rentals and attractions discounts.
At the time when I was working for Fairmont brand, we paid between $50-$70 per night for a luxury stay within Fairmont, Swissotel and Raffles hotels. Discounts were available also for food and spa.
Renting a car and eating out every time we went on a journey out of state did not seem to be a problem. We would pay without hesitation for amusement and national parks, for new experiences, adventures and everything else that presented value during our journeys.
Our fancy travel lifestyle was taking place not because we made lots of money. Thanks to our employee discounts and the ability to prioritize we managed to travel a lot and travel in style. And in the end, it was not easy to let this lifestyle go.
We still did. We mastered how to travel economically saving our cash for something else. Each of us learned how to become a budget traveler. But to be honest, while trying to be rational with money we missed many superb experiences. And for the most part budget travel technics did not work for us.
Budget Travel Often Implies Traveling Cheap
Many people will say that budget travel shouldn’t be about living on bread and jam or being a penny pincher.
Unfortunately, in our experience, most of the time it is not the case. Being on a budget means that you don’t get what you want every time you want it. And many times resorting to cheapskate tactics is the only option you may have.
Besides that, budget travel is a broad concept. For one person it may be about paying one hundred dollars per night for a luxury hotel room instead of a regular six hundred. For another one, it means sharing a single bed with a friend in a hostel or motel. Or sleeping on a pile of blankets in couchsurfer’s home.
No matter what the definition is, from our experience we know that traveling on a budget very often goes together with traveling cheap. And traveling cheap, in turn, consists of good and bad experiences.
There are many ways how to travel qualitatively but still spend little money.
Other options include overnight buses or stays in hostels to be able to save on accommodation. Or going for a glass of water instead of juice or a cup of coffee.
Another time it will be about cooking your own meals instead of eating out. Or choosing to stay outside of the city center, travel with others or do free activities instead of paid ones.
And then you skip a Broadway show, two scoops of ice-cream, a spa treatment, private beach or winter skiing, trying to convince yourself that’s a total waste of money. Or you hitchhike instead of taking a scenic train, telling everyone around how much you are enjoying it.
Does quantity automatically assume quality?
Those budget traveler tips are endless.
Their task is to help you reduce your travel expenses and visit more places. But does quantity imply quality?
What’s the point of spending a night in a hostel room or in a tent if you are not able to get a good night’s rest? Why would you request to stay with couchsurfers if you need some privacy and want to be alone? What is the reason to fly all the way to the Alps if not able to pay an entrance fee to get into the park?
Some people call it budget travel. We call it sacrificing.
I personally love eating my smoothie bowl and Mark loves drinking his daily coffee. Having it in a pretty family-owned cafe in a new country is part of an experience. It makes our day and creates unforgettable moments.
We don’t get any sleep on planes, overnight buses or trains. Sharing a bathroom with someone else in a hostel, camping, sleeping on uncomfortable mattresses in cheap guesthouses gives us a reason to stress and be cranky.
When we couchsurf, we stay only with those hosts who offer clean and nice accommodation. Whenever it’s time to eat, we choose organic, rich in nutrients foods. If we feel tired, we take a cab.
We are not whimsy spoiled couple who doesn’t know how to say “no” to own desires. We actually have been compromising with ourselves too many times and had too many experiences that affected our wellbeing and left us empty inside. That’s why we made a decision to love ourselves and take only those steps that make us happy. Not only those where we save some extra cash. What’s the purpose to save if the entire process makes us miserable? No, thanks, we want to enjoy our travel as well as enjoy our life.
Different Aspects of Budget Traveler Life
Applying for cashback credit cards and collecting miles to get a free flight is one thing. But sacrificing the level of comfort that keeps you healthy is another.
Budget travel does not only include money-saving techniques, accommodation alternatives, and smart planning.
Budget travel is about the ability to adjust, embrace new ideas and sometimes give up the lifestyle you are accustomed to.
Is it good or bad? You decide. But don’t forget to familiarize yourself with all the nuances of budget travel before leaving on your trip, especially a long-term one. Get to know what backpacking is, evaluate how you personally look to travel and what simply makes you happy. Some moments can turn into enriching experiences and fill your heart with glee, while others can exhaust and disappoint you.
There are so many people in this world who are proudly traveling or living on a low budget without putting much effort into changing their lifestyle. They are not thinking big but living in this current moment.
Growing, improving and moving forward is part of our development. Getting stuck on the level when you have to save all the time sets obstacles and hinders the opportunities that lay ahead. Instead of saving more why not to try to learn some ways to earn more.