With the winter chill setting in, the burnout from work catching up, and the summer holidays feeling like a distant memory, it’s that time of the year when many of us dream of a getaway. But with the rising cost of living and peak travel season prices in full swing across Europe, it might feel like some time away from the daily hustle is unachievable this year. Instead of delaying your holiday, we’ve got some travel tips and destination inspiration that won’t blow your budget and will give you that much-needed opportunity to rest, recharge and reinvigorate.
How to travel on a budget (without feeling like you are)
Making the most of your travel dollar doesn’t have to mean cramming into a 10-bunk dormitory or surviving on a diet of instant noodles. There are plenty of clever ways to travel smarter that leave you to enjoy yourself without penny-pinching. Our six favourites are:
1. Avoid peak
Accommodation and tourist attraction entry costs can sometimes double or triple during peak travel seasons. While peak may be the most desirable time to visit (typically due to favourable weather), look to go a month before or after this hot spot (known as the shoulder season). That way, you’ll get the best deals and avoid the crowds.
2. Book in advance
It pays to be organised when it comes to planning an affordable holiday. There are often incentives for booking accommodation early, and locking in flights well ahead of time typically guarantees you the best possible price. The only exception here is last-minute deals that sometimes pop up – but you’re only likely to find them very late in the piece (which can make things like organising annual leave and pet sitters tricky).
3. Shop around
The days of leaving your itinerary and bookings to a local travel agent are well and truly behind us. Use the internet to shop around for deals on accommodation, experiences, and flights – sometimes you’ll find a package deal that can’t be beaten, and other times booking directly with the supplier will be your best bet. And remember, you don’t need to fly with the same airline return – check one-way prices with different carriers, and you might strike some savings.
4. Use public transport
Public transport not only saves you from hiring a car that might sit idle while you explore on foot but can also provide you with unique insight into local life. You’ll wind through backstreets that you might overlook, discover interesting areas off the beaten track and never have to worry about local road rules or finding a park!
5. Eat like a local
Give the tourist strip the flick and explore local options that are more affordable and give you a more authentic experience. The best way to get started is to chat with locals and ask for recommendations about where they like to eat. Night markets filled with street food vendors can make for a fun way to dabble in local delicacies without committing to a full restaurant experience.
6. Choose accommodation wisely
Accommodation is likely to be one of your most significant holiday expenses, and while shopping around is essential, cheapest isn’t always best. Pay careful attention to locations, as centrally located accommodation can mean you can explore on foot and have easy public transport access – saving you plenty of money along the way.
Budget-friendly international destinations
We’re lucky to have the Asia-Pacific region on our doorstep to explore – and given the proximity of so many beautiful, culture-packed countries within just a short international flight (or two), these make for the most affordable getaway options.
1. The turquoise waters of Turkey
With Roman ruins, cave cities and buzzing bazaars to explore alongside a generous measure of Mediterranean beaches, this destination has it all. Turkey travel is currently one of the best deals on the planet (for anyone exchanging Dollars or Euros for the local Lira), so get researching on Lonely Planet and get excited about this diverse destination.
2. Go your own way in Albania.
This hidden gem in the Balkans offers an abundance of breathtaking landscapes, a quirky capital, well-preserved Ottoman-era towns, and warm hospitality, all without breaking the bank. It may well be one of the cheapest destinations in Europe (and one that features on our top 10 bucket-list-worthy destinations). You can easily find hostel dorms for $10 a night or budget hotels around the $25 mark, and a local dining experience can set you back a mere $2-$4. Download the Welcome Albania app for a complete tourist guide at your fingertips!
3. Lasting love, Indonesia
An undisputed and long-time favourite Aussie traveller destination, Indonesia, and more specifically Bali, is one of our top picks for overall affordability, adventure and memory-making. Flight and accommodation deals are abundant year-round (with return flights sometimes as low as AUD 350 return), and cheap transport is easy through local apps like Gojek. And while Bali might be the most popular spot, neighbouring islands (there are around 17,000 of them) like Lombok, Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi can offer a completely different experience minus the hordes of tourists and often, at an even lower cost!
4. Vietnam’s timeless charm
Often considered one of the cheapest countries to backpack through and located snugly above the equator, Vietnam is one of our favourite, budget-friendly winter escapes! Abundant street food options, wallet-friendly accommodation and fantastic flight deals combined with a rich culture and an extensive list of adventure and sightseeing attractions mean your holiday wish list will be well taken care of.
5. The wonders of Cambodia
While you’ve probably heard of Angkor Wat – the ancient heart of the Khmer Empire, there is plenty more to explore. There are the vibrant streets of Siem Reap to get immersed in, pristine beaches of Sihanoukville destined for relaxing, or if you’re after some adventure, traverse the lush countryside of Battambang. Whatever you decide to do, Cambodia offers incredible value for money across accommodation, travel, and dining.
6. Truly Asia in Malaysia
Know anyone that’s visited Malaysia? We think it’s one of the most underrated destinations in Southeast Asia that is well worth considering. Malaysia is a real melting pot of cultures giving it a unique diversity and vibrant feel. Explore the bustling capital Kuala Lumpur and the stunning islands of Langkawi, or take in Penang’s rich cultural heritage, all without breaking the bank. Hostels will set you back $5 a night, a private hotel room starts at $15, and you can be well-fed by budgeting just $3-6 per meal.
7. Fun-filled Philippines
Does exploring a tropical paradise sound perfect to you? From the stunning beaches of Boracay to island hopping in Palawan, you’ll find plenty of natural beauty and jewel-white sand to satisfy your tropical travel tendencies in the Philippines. There’s also the vibrant capital of Manila to explore, rich heritage in Cebu, local delicacies to savour and friendly, welcoming locals to make you feel right at home. The key to stretching your travel funds in the Philippines is to travel like a local, eat like a local, and take advantage of the many budget-friendly guesthouses and affordable beachfront resorts.
8. Endless discovery in Japan
Also featured in our bucket list of top travel picks, Japan might not strike you as a place to travel on a budget, but it is affordable to visit during summer. While accommodation in major cities like Tokyo and Osaka can be pricey, hunt out affordable options like guesthouses, Japan’s famous capsule hotels and ryokan (traditional Japanese inns). July, in particular, is a great time to visit; it’s a month packed full of festivities, including the Tanabata (or star) festival and the Obon festival commemorating the deceased. Thanks to Japan’s uber-efficient public transport system, getting around is easy and cost-effective, and sticking to local eateries – like Izakaya’s – will give you the best prices and a truly local dining experience.
If globe-trotting isn’t within your budget this year, never fear! There’s a reason Australia is known as the lucky country. From the beach to the snow and whether you’re into relaxing or exploring, there are plenty of holiday options within Australia or across the ditch in New Zealand. Here are four of our faves:
1. Holiday in Hobart, Tasmania
The charming capital is Australia’s second oldest city and home to plenty of free or low-cost attractions (like the must-visit Botanical Gardens, Salamanca Market and Battery Point ) that make it a budget traveller’s dream destination. And thanks to its compact size, Hobart is easy to explore on foot, stopping at local markets to sample its renowned seafood and farm-fresh produce. Direct flights from the majority of Australian cities start from as low as AUD 77 or board the Spirit of Tasmania for a real adventure.
2. Explore Hervey Bay, Queensland
From whale watching July through to October (which you can often spot from the shore without spending a dime) to an overall laidback coastal experience, visitors to Hervey Bay over winter will revel in sunny skies and a balmy 22-degree average temperature. You can take your pick of affordable accommodation options, from parking up a caravan in a campground to budget-friendly hotels, motels or hostels, and hiring a bike is a cheap way to get around town and take in the sights.
3. Thrill and chill in Queenstown, New Zealand
Whether you’re chasing powder or thrills, Queenstown is renowned for delivering on both with a side of stunning scenery. Despite its reputation as an upscale tourist hub, travellers from all over the world seek out Queenstown. As a result, there are plenty of hostel accommodations on offer and low-cost attractions and eateries. Fergburger is a local gourmet burger institution that you’ve got to try, and don’t forget to wash it down with a bottle of L&P for an authentic Kiwi experience.
4. Relax and recharge in Rotorua, New Zealand
Located in the Pacific Rim of Fire, Rotorua is home to a fascinating blend of geothermal wonders and natural beauty, all steeped in the unique Māori culture. While some of the main attractions can be pricey, there’s still plenty to explore for free, like Whakarewarewa Forest (famous for its towering Californian Redwood trees), the beautiful lakefront, the sights (and smells) of bubbling mud at Kuirau Park or take a dip in the natural hot spring at Kerosene Creek.
A good holiday doesn’t need to cost the earth
Travelling is never a cheap activity, but fortunately, there are still so many incredible destinations to explore that don’t require you to take out a loan. And if it’s on your radar, buying a holiday home can be a smart long-term decision.
No matter where you travel, it’s essential to take all necessary precautions and thoroughly research where you are heading (using credible sites like the relevant government tourism resources and Smartraveller). That way, you’ll return with nothing but great memories!