Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Ride the Kelburn Hill cable car for good views of Wellington. (Tourism New Zealand)
Ride the Kelburn Hill cable car for good views of Wellington. (Tourism New Zealand)

How can I travel farther and spend less? Add to ...

Budget is my default approach to travel: I prefer transit to taxis and food courts over restaurants when I’m on the road. But rather than brag about my day-old bakery purchase triumphs, I’ll defer to three experts who know exactly how to tighten their belts without truncating their trips.

Kash Bhattacharya, who runs Budget Traveller (budgettraveller.org), recommends Berlin and Lisbon for good-value dining, transport and accommodation. For him, airfares are a key cost-cutting battleground.

More Related to this Story

“Booking early or waiting until the last-minute is a myth. The key is to be flexible,” he says. “Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest flight days – and early morning or red-eye flights can offer even better prices.” He suggests using Skyscanner’s fare comparison app for deal-hunting (skyscanner.com).

There’s no excuse for dropping hundreds on humdrum hotels. Bhattacharya says that, in many areas, winter travel can offer dramatically reduced hotel rates, while an emerging breed of cool budget sleepovers should also be considered. “Hostels have grown up a lot recently. You can choose private rooms and still enjoy the social aspect of hostelling.”

The slick Gallery Hostel in Porto, Portugal, and the Plus Hostels of Berlin, Prague and Florence are among those highlighted in his free Luxury Hostels of Europe e-guide, downloadable from his site.

I turned to blogger Jade Johnston (ouroyster.com) for the low-down on budget travel for families.

“Renting a car is the most stress-free way to travel as a family, and it also allows you to stay outside the city centre where hotels are cheaper,” she says. “But we found the cost of renting car seats in some places was the same as renting a car! It pays to bring your own car seat – most airlines let you bring them free anyway.”

That’s not the only potential money-grab. “We found many hotels let kids stay free in theory, but then charged through the nose for extra beds. Pack a small inflatable mattress: They pack down small and hardly weigh anything.”

If you can score a good deal on flights, some destinations, she’s discovered, offer superior family value. “Bulgaria has all the tourist infrastructure but without the souring prices. Also, Cyprus is really easy for road trips and the climate is outstanding – beachside apartments costs from €15 to €20 per night.”

And if you want to go further? “New Zealand isn’t known for budget travel, but it’s all about how you do it. The best way is to buy a camper van and road trip. It couldn’t be easier to buy a used van and sell it after your trip – there’s a weekly auction in Auckland for exactly this purpose.”

But before family travel becomes your only option, there’s always time for one last solo adventure – on a budget. Nora Dunn (theprofessionalhobo.com) has tested all the tools for travelling in what she calls a “financially sustainable” way.

“I’ve spent the last seven years travelling full-time, predominantly with free accommodation – including house-sitting, home exchanges, couch surfing and volunteering,” says Dunn, whose How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World e-book is available via her site.

She recommends travelhacking.org and canadianfreeflyers.com for those who want the biggest bang from travelling on frequent flyer miles. Dunn also suggests shoulder-season tripping in destinations where the dollar is strongest.

Her favourite places? “I tend to let destinations choose me, based on finding a house-sitting or volunteer gig. Once you have a free place to stay, your vacation becomes immeasurably cheaper,” she says. But some spots stand out in her budget back catalogue.

“Mexico and Cuba are value destinations for Canadians. And just about everything in Southeast Asia is inexpensive once you get there. As for Europe: Head to eastern countries like Croatia and the Czech Republic – you’ll save money and still get the beauty and history.”

OUR READERS WRITE

  • Book on a Wednesday if dealing with a tour operator. Best rates are often midweek if booking last-minute. @Guy_Theriault
  • Search TripAdvisor and sort by price, then cross-ref by ratings. @MikalaT
  • With the drowning Canadian loonie, now is the time to use your hotel and other loyalty points for international trips.@advcardio
  • Eat like the locals do – delis in Europe, streetside pho in Vietnam, excellent takeaway in Australia, etc. @margymaclibrary
  • Look into renting a flat when you travel. We saved money doing this in Iceland, between cheaper rates and having a kitchen to eat out less. @mckenzicle
  • Travel off-season, stay self-catering and choose less popular locations. @acraftytraveler
  • Eat breakfast in your hotel room instead of eating out. Family of four can easily save $40/day. @pfindling
  • Use Airbnb. Get a place with a kitchen and self-cater a meal or two per day. Google the destination plus “free things to do” for suggestions on free museums and tours, etc. Many tourism bureaus also provide such lists online. @karlazimmerman
  • Turn off roaming on your phone – it’s not enough to just not use it. @Nat_Carnegie
  • Don’t let the cost of flights determine your destination. Paying more to get to cheaper places ultimately saves more pesos. @reidontravel
  • Cut back on souvenirs – get one nice thing instead of lots of junk. Also, share dishes at restaurants – there’s always too much food! @kattancock
  • Turn a business trip into a mini-vacation. Add a couple days on at the start or end of your trip and use the time to explore. I’ve had recent city breaks in London, L.A. and New York. @Tours_By_Locals
  • 1. Venture out of the big cities. 2. Slow down and walk/hike/cycle between destinations (think Camino de Santiago, Cinque Terre) 3. Rent a home through something like AirBnB so that you can eat-in sometimes @casualbaker
  • Check museum and gallery websites for by-donation days and ticket bundles for attractions. @VanArtGallery
  • Search TripAdvisor and sort by price, then cross-ref by ratings. @MikalaT
  • Talk to your friends and family for their suggestions on what has also worked for them. @dwalkbels
  • Look online for last minute flight deals. Also, Airbnb is a great alternative to staying at a hotel. Often times cheaper, too. @VIVREAU_NA
  • Make sure to have a travel plan on your cell phone to save on minutes/data. And use free WiFi when you can. @VANweloveyou
  • Pay your cellphone provider to unlock your phone then buy an int’l SIM card or get a local SIM at the airport when you land. @sandyhermiston
  • Plan activities sensibly. Informative tours will give you the best advice first – useless if you find out on the last day! @thebigfoody
  • No coffee, lunch and dining out for a few months. It saves a lot [toward your next vacation]! @Chiqee
  • Diligence! It’s time consuming to shop around for savings, though kayak.com is a good site. @itsHeMom
  • Safaris don’t need to cost an arm and a leg. You can save by camping – tent and chef provided. @Amani_Afrika
  • Rent a place with a kitchen. @travelling_mom
  • Foursquare for finding cheaper and better restaurants (and #4sq specials!). @travelsofadam
  • Travelling in the off-season. @JordenHutchison
  • We love renting apartments: eating out at lunch (there are often good prices at higher-end places) and also cooking some in the apartment. @chowandchatter
  • Use Save On More points to purchase one-way travel for passenger or car/driver tickets aboard BC Ferries! @AirbnbSuperhost
  • Take the American approach: stay at home. @olivertomberry

Send your travel questions to concierge@globeandmail.com

Follow me on Twitter:

Follow us on Twitter: @tgamtravel

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories