Smart Backpacking on a Budget
Here’s some smart ways to plan your trip. You can save money by getting clean but affordable accommodation, choosing the most economical railpass for your trip and packing just the right stuff so you don’t have to waste money on more expensive gear on the road.
If you want to be really cheap, and do things like sleeping in a park and stealing bread from the pigeon lady for breakfast, these tips will probably still help you but aren’t quite that extreme.
Here’s what to do
- Plan where you want to go and how long. Have a rough idea of how long you’re going to be traveling to know how much money to have in the bank before you go. It also helps to do this first so you have lots of time to sort out details like your passport and any visas you may need to get into certain countries (my passport was all I needed for the places I visited). Read a guidebook or look at travel blog entries to get some ideas.
- Figure out how you’re going to get around.
- Train. It is a very efficient rail system, and usually the best way to travel in Europe. Which railpass should I buy?
- Rent a car. Maybe not the cheapest way to get around, but it’s an idea if you’re in a bind.
- Get traveler’s insurance. This could potentially save you a whole wack of money if you didn’t make it on your flight back home, or needed antibiotics or … whatever…
- Pack. Make sure to use a checklist of what to pack. Check out the top 6 ultralight travel accessories you don’t want to be without. For some reason, things cost more on the road. Maybe you don’t know the best store to buy from like you do at home or things are just more expensive in certain areas. I had to spend 5€ for one small thing of dental floss in Austria and 10€ for a USB cable in Nice that I could have found lying around the house at home. Pack smart and spend less. Also, before you buy you backpack or luggage get an idea of which one would be right for your trip by reading what traveling with a backpack vs a suitcase is really like.
- Book accommodation in advance. While I was traveling, the thing I found the most helpful was to reserve my hostel a few nights to a week in advance. It was far less stressful than waiting until I arrived in a city. I included a link to my favorite hostel booking service, although you are free to use whichever you like or can get the accommodation you want at. I like that one the most because it has a huge selection of hostels and hotels and no fees. You can browse the cities you’re thinking about visiting to see what kind of accommodation is available. If nothing else, make sure you’ve booked the first few nights for after your flight. You might be tired, jet lagged and a bit disoriented. Trying to find accommodation in this state is no fun. Also, there’s nothing worse than arriving in a city and being forced to get an expensive hotel room because everything else is booked up.
Backpacking shouldn’t be a struggle, it’s supposed to be fun! Instead, save money and make it more affordable with some good planning and by learning from people who’ve done it before. Even students and people on a budget deserve a chance to visit Europe and enjoy it!