Everyone has a little wanderlust in their blood, right? But not everyone feels like they have the resources for a full-fledged international escapade. Between the flight, lodging, and food, you’re probably already over budget without even planning for museums or excursions. Spencer and I just returned from a 7-day stint in Greece that ended up costing us way less than our budget and we’re here to tell you that it’s possible.
Here’s how we did it:
Book Flights the Smart Way
This trip was a bit last minute so we didn’t have the foresight to plan months and months ahead, but it turns out that we didn’t even need to! The first thing to do is to look for flights while in incognito mode on your computer. If the airlines catch wind that you’re looking for tickets (yes, companies are watching your search habits) you’ll notice that prices will mysteriously increase the more time you spend researching.
During this research process, make sure you’re letting technology do the work for you. Apps like Hopper and Expedia are designed to find cheap flight combinations that will save you money. Beware of layover times.
I will tell you that in the future, I’d be willing to pay a little more to have a direct flight. The inconvenience and stress caused from running to a terminal to juuuuust catch your connecting flight is worth a hundred extra dollars in my opinion!
Don't Stay in a Hotel
Spencer and I were traveling with some of his family, all of whom are very experienced travelers. You won’t often catch them in a touristy hotel. Although the amenities may seem like a perk, you’re missing out on opportunities to experience culture as the locals do.
While in Greece, we stayed in a provincial villa that was about a quarter mile from the Mediterranean. Granted the beds weren’t the most comfortable, but the tradeoff of being able to all stay and eat in the same beautiful home (it had olive trees in the backyard, I mean, come on!) meant that we weren’t having to fight off other vacationers for the best table or spending money that we could have spent on excursions at a hotel restaurant. It also meant that we got to know the caretaker Cristos who brought us some of his homemade wine and his wife’s famous pastries.
Websites like Air B&B are super helpful in researching and booking cost effective and beautiful accommodations during your trip.
Consider Staying Near a Public Transit System
Most European and Asian cities have fantastic public transit systems that you should definitely take advantage of while traveling. They are also usually very pedestrian friendly. This was a huge cost saver for us as we didn’t pay for carfare at all. We walked everywhere we could and took the train everywhere else. Not only did this give me the confidence to eat some extras treats without guilt, but it gave us the opportunity of seeing Greece as locals do.
Don't Eat Out for Every Meal
One of my favorite things to do in new places is to take a trip to the grocery store. Not only do you get a glimpse into the cuisine of a place, but you also get to interact with new ingredients, interesting packaging, and the language.
The system we used while in Greece was to eat most of our dinners at our Air B&B with Spencer’s family made with ingredients sources from the local groceries. This gave us the opportunity to catch up on everyone’s day while relaxing for the evening without having to worry about a bill at the end of our meal. This also allowed breakfasts and lunches to be enjoyed quickly before the day’s adventure or leisurely at a street café or coastal bistro.
Don't Buy Souvenirs for the Sake of Having Souvenirs
I know, I’m a gift shop lover too, but do you really need (or have room in your closet for) souvenir sweatshirts, magnets, key chains, or figurines? Here’s my philosophy on purchasing souvenirs for myself: If it isn’t well made, beautiful, or useful, I can live without it.
One of my favorite souvenirs I’ve ever purchased was a handmade leather bag from a small shop in Athens. I bought it my junior year of high school and was able to bring it on this trip 6 years later. It’s still well made, beautiful, and useful. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you need things to remember your trip. Instead, consider bringing a nicer camera to take photos or pressing flowers into a journal to satisfy your souvenir cravings.