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How to travel on a shoestring budget

Imagine this – you love to travel and have figured out a great itinerary. Suddenly, you recall your last visit to the ATM and realize that the available balance in your account will not support your travel plan. What would you do? In all probability, your first instinct would be to postpone the travel to some ‘other time’. This is how most of us keep postponing our Travel Plans indefinitely. What if we told you that there is a way to travel today instead of a more improbable ‘later’? The answer can be found in the itinerary that you’ve drawn for yourself. Let’s analyze your itinerary:

1. Are you travelling by flight?

While flight tickets have indeed become cheaper, last-minute plans do require you to pay a premium. Ask yourself – can you travel by train or bus? Maybe book an overnight train or bus journey. In case you’re travelling to multiple places as per your itinerary, travelling at night could even save you the Hotel Room charges for those days.

2. Are you willing to travel during off-season?

We’ve covered why travelling during offseason is not always a bad idea – read about it here. In-fact, if you’re convinced about the benefits of travelling during offseason, everything from flight tickets to accommodation becomes cheaper.

3. Do you sift through all the travel booking sites?

The travel booking sites such as Makemytrip, Cleartrip, Ibibo, etc., all offer discounts and offers for things to do and places to go to. I recommend that you sift through all the sites to avail the offers/discounts that are a fit with your travel plan. Else, use services like Skyscanner to automatically find the best deal across multiple sites.

4. Have you considered couch-surfing for accommodation?

This is not only a great way of saving money, but also a great way of meeting local people. It especially works for a solo traveler as staying with a family or local is always preferred over staying alone in a hotel room. Home stays are fast catching on and the likes of Airbnb, Oyo Rooms, etc., have filled the Supply Gap for affordable stay that hotels alone were not able to.

5. Are you repeating any part of your itinerary?

Do not repeat any part of your itinerary for places to visit or things to do. For example, if you’re are in Jaipur and plan to do sightseeing, you can cover Albert Hall Museum, Jantar Mantar, Hawa Mahal, and City Palace together; these places are close by and you can cover them in a day without rushing, reducing your travel time and expenses. Not sure of how to maximize on planning itineraries, try asking an Expert or Local in that area. Or, you can use GoPo to get an Expert to plan your travel efficiently and not have to fret about things you may be missing out.

6. Do you use travel agents for your bookings?

Travel agents, more often than not, would have vested interests in recommending you things to do or places to go to basis the commission that they stand to gain. I, however, personally know of travel agents who think of the long term and plan out a cost effective itinerary that will ensure great experience. The wise thing to do is to ask a lot of questions regarding the itineraries prepared by your agent. Do your research and be convinced about the itinerary before you head out.

7. Do you have a budget? If yes, are you sticking to it?

You may have drawn up a plan and or budget, but you must implement or follow the same as well. Recall all your travels to figure out the experiences that you actually remember and cherish and ensure you spend more on recreating similar experiences. For example, if your interest is in Sightseeing, maybe you can avoid eating at expensive restaurants. Many a time, I find myself sticking to South Indian food (Idli, Plain Dosa, Butter Milk, etc) as it’s light on the stomach and wallet alike.

8. Are you careful about your wallet/purse and valuables?

In case you are a man, I would advise that you keep your wallet in your front pocket – don’t make the pickpockets’ job that much easier by keeping your wallet in the back pocket of your jeans. If you’re a woman, avoid wearing expensive jewelry in public places and keep your purse in front of you. For both men and women, a travel pouch may sound like a better alternative, but there are chances that the pouch may become loose and get misplaced. Try to keep cash/valuable in multiple places such as your wallet, baggage, pocket, etc., so that even in the worst case scenario of your cash/valuables getting stolen, you still have some backup to tide you through. That said, it’s best to be careful as having cash or valuable stolen, throws your travel budget out of whack. The psychic and time cost associated with such an experience leaves a very bad taste, spoiling the entire trip.

9. Are you using local taxi or App based Taxi Aggregators for local commute or Airport/Station to destination?

Services like kali-peeli in Mumbai, Yellow Taxi in Kolkata, etc., look cheap but can get more expensive than the taxi aggregators such as Uber and Ola. What’s worse is that some of them also provide poor travel experience with no Air conditioner, constantly stop to ask for directions, take longer routes to clock more distance on the meter, etc. In effect, you pay more for poorer experience. Hence, it’s a good idea to learn about alternate modes of commute so you don’t get “taken for a ride”.

10. Are you travelling in a group?

This will automatically cut your travel expense by at-least half for Accommodation, taxi fares, etc. Also, the group discounts are usually higher than packages for an individual. Admittedly, quite often planning last-minute travel with a group is not always feasible and you may also like solo travel. In case, you’re so inclined, you can team up with other solo travelers who want to do the activities you have planned and/or are visiting the same place.

11. Are you seeking advice from top travel influencers/experts?

The common trait about the top travel influencers/experts is that they are passionate travelers, have an existing body of work that finds a lot of media mentions, and know how to travel on a shoestring budget. Also, more often than not, they slow travel through places to get a feel of the local culture and fabric of the place. They can offer local insights and share their discoveries, all things that you would not find on any of the forums or on the World Wide Web. In-fact, travelers have often invested to seek travel planning advice from such experts, resulting in significant reduction in travel expenses, memorable and offbeat experiences, and alleviated the fear of missing out. The positive ROI is not only the overall reduction in cost and planning efforts, but also the memories and drool-worthy experiences that are with you forever. To conclude, let me reiterate that there's always a way to travel NOW rather than LATER. I will leave you with this famous quote that perfectly sums up why your finances should not make you postpone your travel plans:

'Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.'

- Author Unknown

Contributed By: Avishek Sarkar, Co-Founder at GoPo
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