6 budget traveling tips: How I went to Europe twice in one year

People have commented on social media wondering how I can travel as often as I do. It’s not because I make a lot of money. There’s a reason I call myself a #cheapasian, it’s all about the budget traveling. I love amazing experiences but it’s about what’s most important at the time, money or the experience? Sometimes it’s definitely worth the splurge but not on this post.

1. Budget traveling is about priorities.

For me, food is a priority, I would rather spend $100 on an amazing meal than $100 on a hotel room (which for that much nowadays, isn’t that amazing, unless you’re in Southeast Asia where that $100 will go far). I usually travel with groups of friends and we will share a room, in a hotel that means 4 of us in a room, that $100 room becomes $25, heck yeah!

When it comes to lodging, I’m looking for the best deal but I want something that has great reviews also. No deal is worth a dirty hotel. I will compare between AirBnb and hotels, using tripadvisor and expedia. I like tripadvisor for the reviews and expedia because I can earn free nights (of course, my rooms are so cheap, it’s going to take awhile). You can also use hotels.com and booking.com. They all offer bonuses for using them. I prefer to stick to one so that I can earn all of my points on one but go with the best deal first, sometimes one will be having a sale that the other one isn’t.

Keep in mind details, like location. In Cinque Terre we got an AirBnb that had a great price but was quite a walk from the train station and taxis weren’t very accesible. I would have rather paid a little more and walked a lot less. I also need a place with wifi. Su need A/C. Make sure you know what your musts are when booking.

Also if you have ebates, you will get an additional discount when you book thru them. If you buy anything online, check ebates first to see if you can get a discount. It takes you directly to the website (or in my case I have the ebates plug in on my browser so will let me know anytime I look at a website if I can get an additional discount).

Athens, Greece
Athens, Greece

2. The secret is in the miles.

If you aren’t maximizing your frequent flyer miles, you’re making a big mistake. It’s not just budget traveling, it’s smart traveling. Both of my tickets to Europe were purchased with miles. In the past every ticket I bought for work was purchased on Delta so that I could maximize my points. I also use my card for all of my purchases so that everything I buy, goes towards earning points. There are some people who take earning miles to an extreme (spreadsheets, manufactured spending, etc) but that’s too much work for me. I do have a couple of cards I opened for miles, the Chase Sapphire cards. They both have fees, but for me, the benefits outweigh the cost. The Points Guy is a great website to learn more about accruing and using miles. Travel Hacking 101 is my favorite FB group for points utilization.

Know when it’s worthwhile to redeem your miles versus buying a ticket. 2 years ago when I went to Vietnam my plane ticket was $900. The ticket is $550 for next month. I have enough miles to pay for the ticket with miles but decided to keep my miles for a more expensive trip. If you are buying a ticket, skyscanner is a wonderful website to see when you can get the cheapest ticket. You can search by month, instead of specific days.

Siena, Italy
Siena, Italy

3. Keep an eye out for killer deals.

I get Travelzoo’s Top 20 deal in my email weekly. I unsubscribe to a lot of things but there are some great deals there. Once there was a deal for a 7 night cruise with the 3rd and 4th person in the room free. We split the cost 4 ways for the room and with Airfare to Los Angeles our 7 day Mexican cruise was $350. I also researched and booked our own excursions and saved even more money. FYI, 4 people to a room was a bit too much, even for this budget traveler.

My friend Lin found us a killer deal to take the Eurostar train from London to Paris, 3 night hotel stay and it included a river cruise a trip to the top of Montparnasse for a fantastic view of Paris on wowcher for about $250.

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Paris, France

I follow Secret Flying’s facebook page and make sure you mark it so that you see their posts first, since FB limits what you see, otherwise you might miss a great deal. I also follow Frequent Miler, The Flight Deal, Fare Deal Alert and Airfare Watchdog on Twitter. You can also subscribe to their newsletters or get mobile alerts when they tweet but I don’t like getting a lot of emails and even worse, a lot of texts. Twitter is the perfect way to keep track of things without it being invasive in my inbox or phone. A lot of times they tweet the same info but sometimes they don’t. Can’t hurt to follow them all.

4. Travel during shoulder season.

If you go to Europe during the summer, you will pay more because that’s when others are also traveling there. When we went to Greece, we went in September. It was ideal. The weather was still good but prices for hotels were a fraction of what they were a couple of weeks earlier. We were able to rent our ATVs for half of what they normally cost. Plus, way less people! A definite win! When we were in Maui for my sister’s wedding, the prices doubled in the week we were there. Painful to watch and on our wallets.

5. Don’t eat every meal out.

Food is probably my biggest passion and where I spend most of my money. The best thing about traveling for me is all of the food but eating out every meal adds up quickly. In Vietnam, a lot of the hotels include breakfast and some of them are amazing. These are at hotels that are $20 a night. If we’re staying at an AirBnb we will stop at a deli or market and load up on food we can eat easily. We bought some olives in Greece, along with cured meats and cheeses. Add in some bottles of wine and it’s a fantastic meal, with local food but at a fraction of the price. Another great money saving tip is get your food to go. In Europe, they charge you extra to eat in the restaurant. In Vietnam, go ahead and eat every meal out, it’s that cheap.

6. Flexibility is key.

In Vietnam, it’s cheaper to book hotels and tours when you get there than to book online ahead of time. This stresses me out, I like knowing where I’m going and that I have a place to stay so I’m willing to pay a little more to know I have a bed at night. The downside to that is, I can’t stay longer if I love a place because the next leg in my trip is already planned. I’m trying to do a somewhat loose schedule for my next trip to Vietnam, only have half of my trip planned. We will see how long I can leave it like that.

***Bonus Tip***

Have lots of friends all over the world. There is no way I could have stayed in the UK for 3 months if it wasn’t for Lin. Having that homebase near Birmingham, England was awesome.  I took trips to Scotland, London, Bath, Wales and Paris while I was there. I spent a month with my friends Nes and Jan Kees in The Netherlands when I was between jobs 0ver 10 years ago and we went to Spain. Even if you can’t spend extended time with people in their homes, having local friends to show you the best places to go and the cheapest places to eat is amazing but even more importantly, local friends give you a real flavor for the city.

I hope these tips help you and would love for you to share some of your favorite travel tips or travel related websites. I’m always open to learning new ways to be a budget traveler.

Note: Some of the links contain affiliate links, it will not cost you more for clicking on it but will help the page if you use one of our links. Thank you!

6 budget traveling tips the lu lu lifestyle

Leiha

I like to eat, sleep and experience the world, one meal at a time.

28 thoughts on “6 budget traveling tips: How I went to Europe twice in one year

  • February 18, 2017 at 5:27 pm
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    Paris was a great deal and we packed a lot including getting our hair done! Wowcher has some great deals and we could probably have found a deal for every weekend.

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    • February 18, 2017 at 5:39 pm
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      I love how cheap it is to travel around Europe while in Europe.

      Reply
  • February 18, 2017 at 6:32 pm
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    Excellent tips! Pinned for future reference. Thanks!

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    • February 18, 2017 at 7:02 pm
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      Thanks Julie! Hope this helps the next time you plan a trip, unless you just make me plan it for you, LOL.

      Reply
  • February 19, 2017 at 12:48 pm
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    Impressive how many places you already have seen in Europe with budget traveling! Miles are actually a very good tip, I did not really consider this, since we also travel quite many times… Traveling not during main season is also a good idea to save a lot of money, that’s true. Good tips in total, thank you for sharing!

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    • February 19, 2017 at 12:56 pm
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      If it wasn’t for frequent flyer miles, there’s no way I could have afforded my trips to Europe. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to sign up for their free programs if you’re going to fly on them already. 🙂

      Thank you for stopping by Hendrik!

      Reply
  • February 19, 2017 at 1:07 pm
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    These are 6 great tips and we agree with most of them. For us it’s difficult to don’t eat every meal out also because we think that it’s a good way to know well the place.
    One of the most important is the last tip you gave!!

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    • February 19, 2017 at 1:09 pm
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      LOL I love eating out so it’s a dilemma. I think for shorter trips it’s not as big of a deal but when I go internationally, I want to be go for at least 3 weeks, 2 weeks is too short for me, which means I need to save money where I can.

      Yes, friends are always important. 🙂

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  • February 19, 2017 at 6:23 pm
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    I love your tips and follow most of these myself. I often get asked how we afford to travel so much and the key really is to make saving everywhere you can. It takes a bit of time and research but there are great savings to be had everywhere.

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    • February 19, 2017 at 8:23 pm
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      Great tip Melissa! I do think making traveling a priority is a big factor when it comes to affording to travel.

      Reply
  • February 20, 2017 at 10:04 am
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    So many fantastic tips and websites! Thank you for sharing. I also find google flights really helpful for crawling the web for the best deal.

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    • February 20, 2017 at 11:05 am
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      They mentioned google flights on Travel Hacking 101 also, thank you for the reminder. I need to look into it and start using it. I need all the deals I can get.

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  • February 20, 2017 at 4:24 pm
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    You’re right its about priorities, deals, and miles. Great post and photos!

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    • February 20, 2017 at 4:26 pm
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      Thank you so much Nicole! You said everything much more concisely than I did, I get a bit wordy, LOL.

      Reply
  • February 21, 2017 at 2:37 am
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    I feel so lucky to be in easy distance of Europe living in London, but still these tips are handy – especially working out your priorities. For me food and drink is a big priority, and so we do things like free walking tours and download guided podcasts to help us avoid expensive tours!

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    • February 21, 2017 at 11:27 am
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      I very rarely ever pay for a tour Samantha. I’m doing one on my next trip but it’s an exotic food tour, decided if I’m going to try weird things, I want the best weird things, LOL.

      I’m so jealous that you live in London! So many places for you to get to cheaply and hey, you live in London!

      Reply
    • February 21, 2017 at 8:03 pm
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      I hope that you are able to find something that helps Jeff.

      Reply
  • February 21, 2017 at 4:15 pm
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    Another great tip is to have a friend who is great at budget traveling. I was trying to convince my boyfriend and his parents to go 4 in a room on a cruise… but no luck. Don’t worry though, I will keep trying 🙂

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    • February 21, 2017 at 4:21 pm
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      I have a question. Can you purchase Wowchers if you are in the US? There are some banging deals there!

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      • February 21, 2017 at 7:58 pm
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        There’s only one way to find out. Go ahead and try, lol.

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    • February 21, 2017 at 7:57 pm
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      LMAO Josh is a big boy, 4 to a room might be pushing it but hey, would make the rooms cheaper!

      Reply
  • February 24, 2017 at 4:23 am
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    Great tips ! I havent heard about travelzoo or secret flying. I will definitely check them out for some great deals. Thanks for sharing

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    • February 24, 2017 at 10:40 am
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      Thank you for stopping by Agnes. I hope you like those websites. There are so many out there, it can become overwhelming.

      Reply
  • February 24, 2017 at 11:52 am
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    Great tips Leiha. I need to start using Air miles. I spend so much on flights it almost seems silly that I am not getting points for it. Thanks for the FB and website recommendation. I am going to check them out.

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    • February 25, 2017 at 12:16 am
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      Yes, if you travel a lot, you definitely need to start making those miles and flights work for you. Even if you don’t travel a lot, why wouldn’t you want to save money where you can? Flights are such a huge expense and miles can also be used for lodging. I hope that these tips help Mike. 🙂

      Reply
  • February 26, 2017 at 12:30 pm
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    It seems that you have seen a lot of places in Europe. Your trips are great. I especially liked travel during shoulder season and also Have lots of friends all over the world. Thanks for sharing!

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    • February 26, 2017 at 9:38 pm
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      Take advantage of those friendships, I do, LOL. And I return the favor also. 🙂

      Reply

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