Travel on a budget: transportation
The number one expense of travel is transportation - not only getting to your destination, but traveling around once there. While there’s no way to avoid this expense entirely, there are definitely some ways to save some money.
How to get cheap Flights
Scott’s Cheap Flights. I’m gonna be honest here, and confess I’ve never used this. My main reason is because most of the deals I’ve seen in the past are from larger cities like New York or L.A. However, as the site has grown in popularity and age, the deals seem to have expanded to smaller areas as well. This is a subscription based service, but you get to set preferences for certain places you’d like to travel, and then get notifications when the prices drop. I have several friends who have used this and love it.
Google flights. This is the one that I use the most often. I used to use Priceline, until this little baby came onto the scene. It was first brought to my attention after someone posted on Facebook that there were flights to Europe for $450 - FROM WICHITA! This NEVER happens, and I thought it was a hoax at first. After doing a few searches I realized it wasn’t, and immediately booked myself a ticket to Athens. There are so many features to love about Google flights, but my favorite is that you are booking straight through the airline instead of a third party, which makes any changes or communication with the airline much more straightforward. You can also adjust searches to include airports in other cities nearby, make dates flexible, etc. You can also set alerts with Google flights, which a friend of mine just did, and ended up snagging herself a great deal to a small city in Spain, from Wichita, for $575 roundtrip!
Friends. Full disclosure here, I ended up with the sweetest deal of all this year - being added to a commercial pilot’s flight list. This means I get to fly anywhere in the world for next to nothing, which is why my travel has increased this year already. It was pure luck that this happened to me because I don’t know the pilot myself, but a girl I work out with does and knew how much I love to travel, and made it happen. (#blessed) Before this though, I usually got at least one trip to Europe a year at a super cheap price by using a buddy pass from a family friend who is a flight attendant. If you know someone who works for an airline see if there’s some way you can get added to someone’s list or use some buddy passes. Or just go to the gym and make friends with the right people.
know your types of in-City Transportation
Public transportation. Each city has its own transportation system which can vary greatly from one place to the next. I suggest researching before you go, so you can be prepared, especially options from the airport to where you’re staying as this is usually the second largest transportation expense, after airline tickets. For example, in Barcelona you can take the Aerobus for around $6, you can now take the metro (so easy and amazing!) for around $4, the train, or a taxi that will cost you minimum 20 euros, but probably more depending on where you’re staying. In Wichita, Uber is the only transportation from the airport, unless you rent a car or have a hotel with a shuttle service. As far as transportation within the city, we have a free trolley system downtown, and now have bikes that can be rented with an app. Barcelona also has a bike system, but you have to have a Spanish ID number to use them, so again, you just have to do your research. When I went to Rome several years ago, my then-boyfriend and I didn’t really understand the bus system, but kept using it. We were pumped because it was free - or so we thought… No one ever asked us for a ticket, so we just kept getting on and off wherever we wanted. It wasn’t until the last day we realized that you have to get a ticket in advance, and then punch it on the bus…oops. We would have gotten a huge fine if we were caught, but luckily we weren’t.
Uber. On my recent trip to Buenos Aires, Mitchell wanted to use Uber from the airport to our Airbnb. I looked up taxi prices and saw it would be about $40 to our airbnb, so we expected to pay about that much for our Uber. The trip was about 45 minutes, at 11pm. When he got his receipt after we were dropped off, it was only $16!! We used Uber a few other times that week, and it seemed no matter how long it took, or where we were going, it was always just between $2-3! I don’t understand how or why, but I definitely suggest using Uber there! I know other places this isn’t the case though, so just gotta do some trial and error.
Rent a bike. This is one of my favorite options. I did this with my friend, Montse, in Paris, and it was so fun! It took me a couple hours to feel comfortable riding on the streets, and we got a nasty note from our neighbors of the airbnb we were staying in for leaving our bikes in the building courtyard, but it was definitely worth the $20 or so we paid to rent the bikes for 24 hours. Bikes are great because you are getting exercise, and - unlike in a metro - you actually get to see the city as you go. They also allow you to get exactly wherever you want to go, instead of a few blocks away, as is usually the case with public transportation. Many cities also have public bike rides, like in Paris, that you can be a part of and they are super fun!
Walk. This is my number one way of getting around when traveling. This is the best way to see a city, in my opinion, because you are immersed in it the whole time, and really learn your way around. In Buenos Aires Mitchell and I always opted to walk if google maps showed our destination to be an hour or less, and even walked one time when it took a few hours to get where we were going, just because we wanted to see more of the city by foot. Just make sure you have good footwear because my sandals were literally falling apart, and it was super annoying.
Best options for Longer distance travel
Rent a car. I have done this in several countries, and have never had a problem. I always use Priceline , even when renting a car here in Wichita because I have found it to be MUCH cheaper than going direct through the rental companies. Usually you can find something for as cheap as $20/day, and I say it is well worth it for the freedom you get. For example, a couple years ago I found myself in the UK for Christmas, last minute, and decided to visit Scotland. I rented a car from Manchester - where I was staying with friends for Christmas day - and drove it up to the Isle of Skye, and all around that area the next few days. I’ve also rented cars in Spain, Greece, and Chile, as well as all over the US. This week I’ll be heading to the UK again, and rented a car for less than $200 for 5 days. Considering how much I would have spent on public transportation to all the places I’m going, and the fact that they wouldn’t have dropped me off exactly where I need at each place, and that I would be at the mercy of their schedule, I’d say this is well worth it. I should also note that these prices are for an automatic rental - if you are able to drive a stick, the prices are MUCH lower! When looking at cars to rent this week in England, I saw that had we been able to drive a stick, we could have paid as low as $97 - half of what we’re paying! (I’ve been wanting to learn for years for this very reason, but can’t find anyone to teach me!) I do recommend always getting the insurance! This has saved me a few times, and I’ve never paid more than $11 a day for it - well worth the thousands I would have paid out on the small problems I’ve had!!
Train. Trains usually aren’t the cheapest form of transportation, but if you take an overnight train somewhere, then you can save money on a night of accommodations, plus the time it would have taken you travel during the day. I’ve taken a night train from Barcelona to Ourense, in Spain a few times now, and I get my own room, bathroom, and the ride for less than $100, which I think is a bargain! It’s an 11 hour ride, so it’s nice to be able to get up and walk around, and have my own space. You also get to see more of the country when traveling by train, and can show up to the station 5 minutes before your departure, as opposed to the two hours before a flight. Train stations are also generally centrally located, so much cheaper and easier to get to than airports. Each country has its own system, so you just need to do a google search to figure out what to use where you’re going. For example, in Spain I use Renfe, in the UK I use The Train Line, and in the US there’s Amtrak. Did you know that Amtrak has rail passes, similar to the Eurail pass? Well, they do! The cheapest one is $459, and you could easily do a route around the US for that price! This information blew my mind. Check out their website (linked above) to see all the different passes they have - they even have one just to travel around California for 7 days for $159.
Hitchhiking. Ok, I’m only semi-joking about this. When I went to the Faroe Islands this past summer, I kept hearing everyone talk about hitchhiking there. I had done my research ahead of time and bought myself a bus pass, so I ignored talk of hitchhiking. However, I soon realized that the bus pass was a joke, as the bus ran so infrequently (like once every couple hours), and didn’t go to most of the places I was hoping to see. Standing in the freezing rain after a boat tour, knowing I’d have to wait 2 hours until the next bus, I decided to stick out my thumb to see what would happen, and within 5 minutes I had a ride. I ended up doing this several more times throughout the week, and never waited more than 5 minutes. Should I return to the Faroes again - and I highly recommend you go! - I will not waste my money on transportation and will only hitchhike. Read more about the incredible people of the Faroes here. As a single girl, I would not do this just anywhere, but felt 100% safe in the Faroes. I also know people who have done it in Spain, with no problems, so if you’re super adventurous, try your luck.
Blablacar. This is not available everywhere, but go to the site, and it immediately gives you a list of countries it is available. I first heard about this in Spain, and know several people who have used it. There have been multiple times I’ve signed up for a ride, but then ended up knowing someone who was going and let me ride for free, so cancelled, so I’ve never actually used it before, but know several people who have. Basically this is a ride sharing service, where people post where they’re driving and when, and how many seats they have available. You can even filter your ride based on how talkative you want your driver to be, and whether you are ok with dogs or smokers in the car. Such a cool idea, and it’s a super cheap alternative to other options.
In the end, it all depends on where you’re going, and how adventurous you want to be - obviously hitchhiking is not for everyone, or for everywhere. Your best bet is to ask people you know who have lived or visited where you’re going, as they will know best all your options.
If you know any other great travel resources that I’ve missed, drop them in a message below! Happy traveling!