Other Techniques for Frugal Travel

Besides finding cheap flights, using mass transit, and staying in hostels, there are plenty of other techniques you can use to keep your trip affordable.

AirBnB

AirBnB is a website where you can search for accommodation through people offering up their homes. Unlike Couchsurfing, it is a paid service, but still often much more affordable than booking a hotel room. The amount of interaction with your host varies depending on the type of accommodation you book. If you prefer privacy and do not want much interaction with the property owner, booking an entire home or apartment is probably best. Sometimes even the key hand off process is automated so you will not meet your host at all, whereas other times the he or she will meet you to let you in. On the other hand, if you are hoping to get to know your host or have a meal together, booking a private or shared room might be best.

Similar to Couchsurfing, AirBnB has a reference system where you can view reviews left by other guests. The property owner may also review their experience with you as a guest too. Be sure to follow the “house rules” and cancellation policy of any listing before booking. The major difference between Couchsurfing and AirBnB is that Couchsurfing is more focused on intercultural exchange and meeting locals, and AirBnB is more about finding a place to stay. If you are traveling as a group or family, and have a tight itinerary planned out for your whole stay, AirBnB might be the better choice for accommodation. To get started with AirBnB, you can use my referral link to save a small amount on your first stay.

Ridesharing

Ridesharing is a great way to cut down expenses while going from one city to another. If you are driving, having an extra passenger who can help pay for gas is a plus, not to mention the added benefit of companionship on a long route. If do not have a car and need to get from one place to another, it can be an effective and quick way to do so. Expect to pay part of the gas it takes to get from Point A to Point B, but costs can vary depending on the forum or website you use to set up the rideshare and the person/people you are riding with.

One of my favorite platforms for ridesharing is BlaBlaCar, which mainly operates in Europe. It requires ID verification to add security, and everyone has a profile which includes their level of chattiness as well as references. In addition, BlaBlaCar has “ladies only” cars for women who may not feel comfortable sharing a ride with men they do not know. BlaBlaCar has a large user base so your chances of finding a ride are fairly high.

I have used Craigslist for ridesharing in the U.S. and Gumtree for ridesharing in Australia, but many other platforms exist as well. Both Craigslist and Gumtree are just websites for posting classified ads, and they include a section for rideshare offers. They are not as user-friendly as BlaBlaCar and you might need to be flexible to find a ride since the user bases are smaller. The upside is that rideshares may cost less on these websites since neither Craigslist nor Gumtree receive any commissions. Be aware- posting an ad on the Australian version of Gumtree requires you to actually be in Australia, otherwise your ad will not appear. I learned this the hard way when I was trying to set up a rideshare before I arrived in Australia.

Planning Your Meals

The costs of eating out while traveling can build up quickly. Instead, you can shop at the local supermarket while you are traveling and cook some of your own meals, just like you might at home. Almost every hostel has a communal kitchen that you can use to cook or prepare food, and some hostels even plan in-house communal dinners every evening for travelers who contribute. If you are staying with Couchsurfing or AirBnB, you will likely also have access to a kitchen, and cooking and sharing a meal provides a good opportunity to spend time with your host if you wish.

In addition, supermarkets, local food shops, and street vendors are great sources for healthy on-the-go snacks which you can keep in your pack and eat any time. Grocery shopping and eating the same food as the locals is one of my favorite parts of traveling. And if I find some new cuisine that I really enjoy, I’ll research and see if I can acquire it back home as well. I have found that I mostly eat international foods as a part of my diet now, even when I am not traveling. And the best part is they are usually healthier than the foods you find in the United States!

Lastly, avoid buying food at airports, on planes, or in trains, since it is overpriced. Bring your own instead.

Istanbul Fruit Vendor

A fruit vendor in Istanbul, Turkey

Vehicle Relocations

In Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., Canada, and sometimes Europe there are opportunities for relocating rental cars or campervans from one place to another for free. This occurs because people rent vehicles from one location and then drop them off in another. Usually there is a “more popular” direction to drive a given route (like from North to South in New Zealand), so the rental companies need their vehicles returned back to the original location.

Besides being free, the companies will usually give you a small credit which covers some of the gas expenses for relocations as well. The downside to relocations is that you have a limited time to make the trip, usually anywhere from 2 to 7 days. You also have a maximum amount of miles you can drive, or you will be charged extra, although the amount is fairly generous.

Most credit cards have secondary rental car insurance, but only if you decline the expensive Collision Damage Waiver offered by the car rental company. Be sure to decline this waiver if you are paying by credit card! Secondary rental car insurance becomes primary insurance whenever you rent a car outside of the U.S., since your car insurance is likely not valid abroad.

Here are some resources for finding rental car or campervan relocations:

Click here to read about my rental car relocation experience in Australia.

Closing Thoughts

Frugal travel is more of a mindset than anything. Every day in our lives in the United States, we are bombarded with advertisements, many of which portray travel in terms of luxury hotels, martinis on the beach, and separating ourselves from the local culture. Travel in these advertisements is seen as inaccessible unless you are willing to spend troves of cash. The reality is that if you break away from this way of thinking, travel becomes accessible again, and coincidentally more interesting at the same time.

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