Unless you follow my Instagram or know me personally, you are unlikely to know that I am currently taking a gap year and doing a fair amount of travelling!
So far this (academic) year I have been to:
- North Wales
- Isle of Wight
- Lake District
I am also heading to Pembrokeshire in just over a week! As you can see, I’ve managed to go a fair few places. Whenever I tell a friend that I’m planning my next trip, their first response is ‘how do you afford all of this travelling?!’ Well today, I’m going to share my secrets…
- Take every opportunity presented to you.
When I had an email from work about a training course in the French Alps, I applied immediately. The course was so interesting and useful (it was about Intercultural Conflict Management) but the location was the winner for me! I got to spend a week in the low Alps with gorgeous sunshine everyday, surrounded by mountains and frozen waterfalls and also got to see a bit of Marseille and Nice on the journey. And the best part of it all? It didn’t cost me anything. The whole course (food, accommodation, training, transport) was funded by ERASMUS which meant it was paid for by the EU as part of an exchange (participants were from all over Europe). Yes, the accommodation was incredibly basic and I know not everyone would have enjoyed it but I loved it and it gave me a chance to meet new people, see the Alps and travel!
I also visited Dublin with my dad when he was going over for work and asked if I’d like to come as well. I stayed with my aunty whilst he worked and then we tried to fit in some more fun stuff when he was free!
- Find a job where you can travel.
I worked on the NCS programme over summer and it is the best thing I have ever done. The work was incredibly fulfilling and so much fun. Also, as part of the residential phase we worked in Devon and the New Forest! As I was working I didn’t get a chance to get out and explore these places fully but I still got to be there! I also worked on the shorter Autumn programme where we stayed on the Isle of Wight for our residential phase. This was such an easy way to see more of my ‘local’ area and also got me into the idea of travelling!
- Travel off-peak
Now I know this tip is useless to people who are confined to term-time holidays, but if you are not then travelling outside of peak times really saves a lot of money! When I went to the Lake District with friends we were there for a week mid-December and it cost me less than £100 for everything (accommodation, petrol, food, climbing etc)! This is actually a relatively minor saving as we stayed within the UK; if you are flying or staying in a resort outside of peak times then you will really see the savings mount up with discounted prices and special offers, not to mention everywhere is so much quieter!
- Try volunteering
There are so many ways to see the world, and one way to get an authentic experience of a new place is to volunteer! When I was in Iceland I volunteered at a health clinic in a town 40 minutes outside of Reykjavik which was an amazing experience. We worked in the greenhouses at the clinic doing weeding ready for more veg to be planted, and also preparing plants into tea. In exchange for this we got our accommodation, food in the clinic and also use of the clinic’s thermal pools! We got to explore the local area in the evenings (if daylight allowed) and also at weekends, and used hitchhiking (incredibly safe in Iceland) if we wanted to go somewhere slightly further away. For this trip I was away for 17 days and only had to pay the volunteering agency fees, my flights and a night in a hostel in Reykjavik either end- this was a SERIOUSLY cheap way to spend such a long time in Iceland (I did some research and £250 per night is pretty standard for a chain hotel).
The one warning I will give is that there are quite a lot of scam organisations around who claim to offer international volunteering. Be wary of anyone charging large amounts of money for these trips and always double check the companies legitimacy through external reviews. There are plenty of legit people who provide residential or overseas volunteering such as EVS, ICS, VSO and even the RSPB and National Trust!
The fact is, if you want to travel on a budget you will most likely have to compromise. Yes, there are now loads of sites dedicated to cheap, ‘luxury’ holidays such as lastminute.com and wowcher but for the most part you will still have to compromise on where/when to get a good deal! By compromise, I mean that if you have dreams of visiting New York City on a budget, stop thinking of 5* hotels and start researching hostels, or look at hotels outside of the city. If you want sunshine, stop thinking of the Bahamas and start looking at the Canary Islands. There are still ways to do the travelling you want but you will have to be open minded and flexible! Remember that compromising doesn’t mean making a sacrifice- for example I originally wanted to visit New Zealand in January but we couldn’t make the sums go under £4000 for a couple of weeks. Instead I went to Iceland and was able to visit the Golden Circle, buy lots of Icelandic treats and have some meals out in Reykjavik and still be massively (thousands) under the cost of New Zealand!
- Save, save, save
This is the most obvious point so I’ve put it last: if you want to travel, you will have to save up money to do so. Saving can seem tricky but trust me, if I can do it (zero hours contract, sometimes get 3 hours work a week) then I imagine you can too! The best way to save your money is to keep your eyes on the goal- every time you’re about to do some non-essential spending, tell yourself that with that money you could be travelling. This works for literally any amount of money- instead of that meal deal you could be buying an ice cream on the beach in Spain, instead of that Gucci bag you could buy a flight to South America! I find watching my savings add up to be so satisfying and motivating!
The other part of saving money is when you are actually travelling. Look for free walking tours in cities, take subways/metros/undergrounds instead of taxis, take advantage of student discounts, stay in hostels rather than hotels, cook for yourself rather than eating out… there are SO many ways to be thrifty when you are travelling, and you can decide which ways work for you depending on your interests and budget.
I hope these tips helped you and have maybe even inspired you to go travelling! I promise it is one of the best things you can do in life. Let me know more if you’d like any more posts about travel or saving money!