7 tips for budgeting your trip – when to save and when to splurge when traveling

Hi Frugalistas!

Very few of us (myself included) have an unlimited budget when we travel.  Therefore saving money and prioritising our expenses is something we all need to do.  Having said that, we do all need to cut loose occasionally and have a little splurge – even if it is just a little treat.  Here are my top tips for when to save and when to splurge in Europe – most of them will work equally well regardless of your destination:

1.  Never scrimp on safety.  No money is worth putting yourself or your health at risk.  That means avoiding dirty or seedy hotels or unsafe areas, or eating at dirty places just because they are cheap.  Even if you scrimp on everything else, don’t scrimp on this one.

2.  Splurge on things that will create meaningful memories.  Rather than buying a pile of cheap tatty souvenirs and spending money on tawdry tourist traps, why not do or buy a small number of really special things?  Whether it’s a balloon ride in Cappadocia, a private ski lesson in Switzerland or even just a coffee overlooking St Mark’s square in Venice you will remember that part of your trip when the souvenirs are long gone.

3.  One great meal is never a waste of money.  Even if it means you eat very frugally for a couple of days a great meal of classic local cuisine as got to be part of your trip.  It doesn’t have to be Michelin starred.  A simple brasserie or cafe meal if you’ve been living on pizza slices and kebabs is definitely a splurge you deserve!

One good meal, regardless of the budget is a splurge everyone deserves

One good meal, regardless of the budget is a splurge everyone deserves

4.  A longed for destination or activity is never a waste of money.  I had always wanted to stay in a hotel in Paris called the Hotel Montalembert.  It’s not one of the really grand Paris hotels like the Ritz or Georges V, but features in my favorite book of all time and I’ve always wanted to stay there.  It is also about three times the price of my usual Paris hotel (not including breakfast!)  On a recent trip to Paris I finally did it!  How did I afford it?  I only stayed two nights rather than the five nights I stayed in Paris, I didn’t do any shopping and I ate frugally while I was in Paris.  I loved every minute of it.  Whether it is a particular hotel, a special town or a fancy activity (a sail round the Greek islands on a yacht anyone?) things like that are NEVER a waste of money.

The classic interior of my longed for Hotel Montalembert

The classic interior of my longed for Hotel Montalembert
Photo: http://www.hotelsearch.com

5.  In Western Europe second class rail is more than adequate – 1st class is a genuine splurge.  You will be more than comfortable in 2nd class, and can pocket your savings to fulfill a life long dream.  If you are covering long distances by train and want to save even more (both time and money) think about overnight trains.  You will also save a day by traveling overnight.

6.  You don’t need to eat in proper restaurants if you can’t afford it.  Save money in department store cafeterias, museum cafes and in supermarkets for picnic ideas.  For the price of a greasy takeaway you’ll eat well, with the locals, and often in terrific surroundings. Most bars (particularly in Italy and Spain) offer snacks and small dishes, often just for the cost of a drink.  Save more by standing at the bar rather than sitting at a table.

Magnificent views from the cafeteria of Il Corte Ingleses department store in Barcelona

Magnificent views from the cafeteria of Il Corte Ingleses department store in Barcelona

7.  Finally, sometimes your time is the greatest luxury of all.  Don’t rush.  Cut your itinerary down to a manageable size to really see, absorb and learn.  Don’t whizz from location to location ticking off cities.  You will spend more money and actually see less.  Don’t spend your time or money on things you think you “should” see or “should” do.  Spend money and time on what is important to you – regardless of how much time or money you spend, doing things you really love is always time and money well spent!

Related posts:  Planning your itinerary to save even more money in Europe

Photo credits:  as identified, otherwise author’s own

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14 Comments on “7 tips for budgeting your trip – when to save and when to splurge when traveling”

  1. arzainal 05/02/2013 at 10:00 pm #

    Reblogged this on ARZcreation.com.

  2. Aussie in France (@AussieFrance) 06/02/2013 at 12:24 am #

    Well, I’d agree with all those pointers! What we often do is have a picnic or very light dinner but have an apéritif is an expensive venue.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 06/02/2013 at 6:18 am #

      A save and a splurge for the one meal – I love it!

      Thanks for adding to the collective wisdom.

  3. Created ~ Create.it 06/02/2013 at 7:15 am #

    Love it! Great pointers that I must keep in mind.

  4. Great tips, as usual coming from you! 🙂 I like to eat street food a lot or go to mid-range restaurants to 1) get an idea of the whole food spectrum of the destination, and 2) save for that one fancy meal.

    With so many deals out there, it’s possible to get a nice hotel in a good location on the cheap. Also, agreed on 2nd class trains.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 23/02/2013 at 6:30 pm #

      Thanks Pola. Yes, I’m definitely with you on the food. I always make sure I plan for one great meal. On my upcoming trip to London, it’s going to be the Rolls Royce of afternoon teas at Fortnum and Mason. Not hugely expensive admittedly by London restaurant standards, but it will be memorable none the less!

  5. MMAndamon 23/04/2013 at 8:50 pm #

    Great tips, Jo. I particularly like Tips #4 and #5 – traveling via overnight train is equally an adventure!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 23/04/2013 at 11:33 pm #

      Personally I’ve never done it – I’m a poor sleeper in strange beds at the best of times, so don’t know if I’d ever be game! But it is a good option for the time and money poor traveller.

  6. Brianna Simmons (@Casualtravelist) 06/05/2014 at 10:15 pm #

    Great tips, I’ve always been one to splurge on experiences rather than stuff.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 07/05/2014 at 6:17 am #

      Yes, experiences beat stuff for me every time too! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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