Ballin on a budget - Eager to see the world.
Guys, girls, humans of all kinds! You all have asked how I travel so often, but don't blow my bank account. I'm about to share the in's and out's of how I plan my trips, have a blast, and save money in order to travel more than once in a year.
Below I'm going to talk about how my husband and I traveled around Paris, hitting up all the major tourist attractions for two people for $2,000.
1.) The Destination
Picking your destination will determine your initial cost. I like to be flexible on my destination for certain times of the year. I try and go to places either within the continental US or international when tourist season is at it's lowest. This is how I know I will be less likely to be pickpocketed and will see all the main sites for cheaper. Plus, smaller crowds make for a more intimate experience. A perk of going around low tourist times is that flights are usually cheaper.
The best way Jonathan and I found was using a service called Scott's Cheap Flights. We paid $40 to get a year-long subscription to receive the best deals for flights all over the world that had departures out of Atlanta. It paid for itself by our first trip.
Next, block off a few different weeks in the year where you're uncertain about your schedule but know you don't have anything on the calendar yet. This will be a week or two where you can pick up and go. You can ask off work later if it's further out or you can make necessary adjustments to your schedule after your trip is booked. Often times people say they don't have the time in their schedule to leave for a week. In reality, if they really wanted to go they will make time. Just remember, you are in control of your schedule. I blocked off two weeks (mentally) in December. In February of 2017 an email came in saying we could go to Paris for $424 per person that December. Our tickets were booked before I finished making the tacos we ate for dinner that night when the email came in. You have to set these alerts with a special ringtone if you are looking for a trip and you have to book fast. We spent roughly $850 on tickets for two people when they were originally priced for $1,200 for one ticket. We saved around $1,550.
2.) Room & Board
You will likely spend most of your time outside of your room when you travel (At least I hope you will unless it's for your honeymoon!). Just to affirm you, you don't need a tempur-pedic pillow, a feather down hotel comforter, and a rain shower. If you can't live without those things, this blog is not for you and I'd suggest not reading any further.
GREAT! Now that I still have your attention, I'd like to say: a shower is a shower! Do your business and don't mind that the countertops are not made out of granite. I promise this trip can still be fun without having a penthouse suite. With that said, download the Airbnb app and look for a place that will accommodate your basic needs. Just because it looks white and airy is not a good reason to spend an extra $300 on a room for a week. We spent $425 on an Airbnb for 9 days because we booked it a week before our trip. It was small and met all of our needs but had we booked out room three months earlier we could have had three times the size for the same price - so book in advance!!!
Key things to ask and remember when choosing your Airbnb:
- Is it near public transportation?
- Is it in an area with little to no tourists?
- This is important because everything will be cheaper: a cup of coffee, tea, dinner, and market prices because locals don't rip off locals!
- Book your Airbnb as far out as you can. 3-5 months before will be your sweet spot to book! Always try to negotiate.
- Check to make sure it has the kitchen items you need.
- Does it have a coffee maker, kettle, stove, fridge, and microwave? If you do breakfast at home this can save a lot of money. It doesn't have to be everyday but even making a cup of coffee before you leave can save you close to $100 on a 1-week vacation for two.
After booking flights and an Airbnb, we were left with about $725 for transportation & food for 9 days in Paris. We allocated $225 towards transportation and decided not to use Uber or taxis since they can be way more expensive and not as interactive. Instead, we used the metro and took a few trains while we were there.
The Paris Metro has a pricing system based on how far out from the city center you want to go. The 5 zones circle Paris like rings on a target - the further out you wish to go, the more that pass costs. Most of the sites we wanted to see were within the first 3 zones except for the Palace of Versailles, which was outside of the 5th Zone and required a train ticket. Since we knew visiting the Palace would be an all-day affair, we waited to go on the 8th day so that we didn't waste a day of our Metro pass! By taking a few moments to think ahead and make a rough plan based on our transportation, we saved a ton of money!
Unless you believe in throwing money at taxi drivers or you actually believe your debit card is a vending machine of free cash, I'd suggest taking public transportation. You can stare dreamily into your lover's eyes on the Metro or have a good hoot and holler with your friends while trying to find food! We didn't take a single taxi on our trip and saved tons of money.
We walked a lot but we also saw so much more of the city and explored different places by taking public transportation. We also stayed out longer and enjoyed the city more!
I can't say this enough: Food is where you will go over budget if you don't have self-control. Being in a new place there are always excuses to eat out because "we will only be in Paris once so we might as well enjoy it!" You can do that but if you control yourself just you may be able to afford to come back to Paris! The biggest advice to find really tasty, cheap food is to get on the transit and go where the locals go. If you can't find any places then google local places that are not the hottest hit on buzz feed or walk around until you find something that fits your cravings. Use those top city restaurant recommendations for the date nights or girls nights out if you want to have a fancier meal.
I had a crêpe for 15€ on the first day we got to Paris. 4 days later I had an even better crêpe in the cutest neighborhood for 7€. Clearly, I didn't do my research and I paid for it! We also had street food and ate dinner one night for 4€ so that we could splurge and have dinner for 40€ the next night at a nice restaurant! I've got a pretty bad sweet tooth so we picked up a fresh baguette & a jar of Nutella and I got my sweet fix! We paired it with a bottle of wine back at our Airbnb and had a cute little French picnic. Don't let the tourist stops overcharge you for food. Go looking for it and find some restaurants while you have wifi - save them to your offline Google Maps so you can find them later without wifi access.
Another thing I highly suggest is eating tapas style - you can try way more food this way. In my opinion, it's a thousand times more intimate to share two dishes with your beloved since you'll be raving about the rich flavors and tasting the same food! Jonathan and I share almost everything we order so we're able try more than one thing at a restaurant. One night, we split a margarita pizza and mushroom risotto and it was some of the best food we had in Paris! That dinner cost about 15€. Not bad for a night out in Paris!
I'm a coffee addict and a strong believer of BYOP: BRING YOUR OWN POUR OVER (or any other coffee making instrument you prefer if you can manage it in your luggage). Most Airbnb's have kettles and water. All you need to bring is a travel grinder, pour over, and pick up some fresh whole beans at your local coffee shop back at home. This way you don't NEED to buy a coffee every day, twice a day of your trip for every human. You've already got that initial pilot cup for the day so you should be able to manage until your next caffeine crash. Like I said above, we saved roughly $100 from doing this!
Coffee items we use linked below!
5.) Do your Research
Most destinations have out of season months which offer cheaper fees for tourist spots or even discounts! We wanted to see all of the art in the museums in Paris so a quick Google search that from October to March admission to the Louvre museum is free for all visitors on the first Sunday of each month. So, we went to the Louvre on Sunday for our trip. BAM saved $37.02 because we went on Sunday instead of any other day of our trip!
6.) Stick to your Budget
Know how much you are comfortable with spending before leaving for your trip. Your budget may be way different than mine but staying, eating, and seeing Paris for more than the cost of rent back home wasn't going to fly with me!
The best way to stick to your budget while traveling is to bring cash with you and convert it while you are there. You will see it leave your wallet in a physical way, as opposed to your bank account, thus making you more conscious of spending and way less likely to spend it on spontaneous purchases. Plus, you will avoid the 3% fee for every transaction on your card. Make sure when you convert your cash to local currency to do it in a local area and not at the airport to get the best exchange rate. Also remember to google the best exchange rate before you leave.
I hope all of this helps you travel smarter, better, and allows you to think about how to save money so that you can travel more while living on this beautiful earth! Go out and explore the world my loves, it deserves to be admired! Leave a comment below if you found this to be helpful - I'd love to know your thoughts!