While living on a Mediterranean island has its own perks, it can also get a little stifling. Believe it or not, even an excess of sun-drenched days and sparkling blue seas can get tiring. Whenever my husband and I need a change of scenery and announce our next holiday, there are always a few raised eyebrows because traveling abroad is not cheap, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be done. We are living proof of it.
So, how do we travel without breaking the bank? These are some of the ways we cut costs and manage to explore different countries with our two children:
We have no choice but to fly to our destinations, so the first and most obvious way to save money is by flying with low-cost airlines. They might not offer any luxuries but the money saved on flights is usually what determines whether we take the holiday or not. It is also wise to subscribe to the newsletters of any airlines that fly from one’s hometown, which is where special offers are usually announced first. That is also how unusual destinations might come to your attention, like when a seat sale on a flight to Norway landed us in a cabin overlooking the Norwegian lakes.
With that said, low-cost airlines lay certain traps one should steer clear of. Unless you want to pay unnecessary fees, respect the weight limit imposed on luggage and bring your own snacks. Packing light also leaves some space in your luggage to bring back any special items bought on holiday.
There are various websites one can use to rent accommodation. Once you get over the fact that nobody will be making your bed while you’re out sightseeing, there are so many other advantages that a rented apartment can give you over a hotel. We always make sure the places we stay at have a washing machine and a fully equipped kitchen. That way, there’s no need to pack two outfits per day and you can wake up to coffee and a warm breakfast before heading out the door.
Renting a place with a kitchen also means more home-cooked meals and less money spent at restaurants. The first thing we do upon landing at our destination is stocking up the fridge with food which will allow us to put together a few quick and healthy meals. In many European countries, tap water is even better than the bottled version, so refilling bottles every morning before going out saves even more cash which can be spent on other, more interesting things. I have yet to taste water as good as that running out of the taps in the Italian Alps.
Another thing to love about a rented accommodation is the fact that most hosts will go out of their way to recommend local attractions which are not as touristy as the ones listed on travel guides. This will usually save you time researching and will help you avoid places that are overcrowded, less authentic and more expensive.
We’ve loved every apartment we’ve ever rented on airbnb.
If traveling to a city, use public transport as much as possible. It’s usually a lot cheaper than catching a taxi. We usually save the taxi trips for traveling from and to the airport but otherwise rely on buses, trains and our own feet to get around the places we visit. This is especially true of cities like Paris, where there is a very reliable and relatively cheap underground system which can be used to travel all over the city and its surrounding areas. One of the first things to do before leaving the airport upon arrival is to buy prepaid tickets that will save you time looking for a station selling them.
If, on the other hand, you are traveling to a rural area, rent a car. This makes sense especially when traveling with children. Car naps, extra snacks and toys can make a significant difference for a day out. Whenever possible, walk. There is so much to notice and explore if you are on your own two feet.
If visiting museums and public monuments is your thing, it’s worth buying a pass for a few days and saving yourself a lot of money in admission tickets. Most city parks offer free or relatively inexpensive entertainment for children, like puppet shows and pony rides.
Not to sound like a broken record, but walking around the streets of a foreign city remains the best way to see a new place. Markets are excellent places to buy fresh produce for snacks, exchange a few words with the locals and really get a taste of their daily life. One memory I treasure is that of a morning spent walking around the silent streets of the medieval town of Monteriggioni in Tuscany. We sat down and chatted to some of the local housewives and the information they gave us was worth 100 guide books combined.
As Saint Augustine said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” We intend to read as many chapters as we can, even if it means coming back to a sparsely furnished home.
What are your tips for keeping costs low while you travel?
Images via Lauren Danner