Travelling on a Shoestring

Written by Sophie Jayne Whitrick 

Sometimes in life you've got to shut one door in order to open another, otherwise it lets in a draft and the door in front of you slams shut. My boyfriend and I decided to shut that door: we left our jobs and became f-unemployed. And what do you do when you're f-unemployed? Well you go on holiday.

We decided to jet off to Italy for a month, tour the main cities and see all the sights. And I mean all of them. Traveling with no income means you have to set a budget and strictly stick to it. We learned how to be the thriftiest of tourist. This is my guide on how to travel on a shoestring. 

1.     Book Ahead

Booking flights, busses, trains and other travel means, as well as hotels and other accommodation in advance often means you'll get a cheaper deal. It also gives you more time to save for adventures up until the point of your holiday because you’ve already paid for the travel and accommodation. Get the most expensive things out the way first and see what money you have left.

2.     Apartment vs. Hotel

Hotels are great if you want that breakfast-included, room service, fresh sheets everyday lifestyle on your holiday, but if you’re willing to forgo these luxuries to save a few pennies, renting an apartment is a much cheaper option.  You spend much less on food as you can make lunch and dinner at home, so you’re not spending exorbitant amounts at restaurants twice a day. Additionally, you can indulge in the culture more, pretending to be Italiano while you live in your own appartmento. While we rented an apartment in Verona, we would go to local food markets and try make food that had inspired us on our travels. It also meant we didn’t just have to eat Italian food every night, which can get tiring after a month.

3.     Go Local

If your looking for somewhere to eat or drink, always look where the locals are going. It tends to be cheaper, and table service charges (yes they charge you extra for taking your order) are much lower. Plus, the food and wine tends to be much better; it's not been made tourist-friendly so you get those 16% volume wines and traditional wild boar pasta. We always found the service much more tentative and friendly too, sometimes they'd throw free tasters in just because you spoke funny.

4.     Make a Pack-up

We would often buy a few bits and bobs from the local supermarket for lunch and eat them in beautiful areas in front of monuments or by canals. It can be a nice change to watch the world go by and get a front row seat, watching the culture zoom past you, rather than feeling cramped inside a noisy restaurant. It was thrifty too: we'd usually spend around €10 in a shop, compared to €30 in a restaurant. 

5.     Pick up some Tourist Passes

Most cities offer a tourist pass. These passes give you free entry or a large discount into museums, free or reduced transport, queue jumping and free city WiFi, and a decent map. They seem pricey at first, but you save a lot more money in the long run, especially if you're going to lots of cities and, like us, want to see everything. The pick up points are easy to locate. You just go to the pick up point indicated online, give them your name and I.D, as well as a receipt of your purchase, and just like that, you get to see all the wonders of the city for a fraction of the price.  

6.     Walk the Walk

If you have issues with walking then fair enough, it's going to spoil your holiday and I don’t advise you to do it. But if you love to walk, then get a decent pair of shoes and get to stepping. Transport is expensive - walking is free, so you will save a good proportion of your holiday budget. Yes, it does take a bit longer to get from place to place, and I’m not saying that you cannot take the bus under any circumstances, but walking has its benefits: you see so much more of the city that you would have missed had you travelled by bus, you also get to hear the conversations of the people, listen to the music blasting out from the houses, smell the foods and spices from restaurants that disperse in the streets. You can get up close to the city and find your personal favourite hidden gems. 

I hope you find my little tips useful for your holiday. Don't let money be the worry of your holiday. Don’t let it stop you from doing what you want to do. Just plan carefully and use these tips and you will be fine, I promise. After all, we have to remember, what is life but a grand adventure?