You can only spend your money once, so the cheaper the trip, the more trips you can make in a year. That’s the philosophy I live by. I just love cheap travel destinations. I call myself the queen of low budget city trips. I always find the best plane tickets with the best flight times, the best hostels and the cheapest way to get from the airport to the accommodation.
Some years ago I was travelling to Bellagio (Italy) with some friends, and I was in charge of the transfer from Milan airport to our bungalow in Bellagio. Before I knew it I was elbow deep in the online world of Italian public transport and I visited numerous websites to find the correct travel times, bus numbers and train stations. Ultimately it came down to two local busses, a train journey and a ferry.
It worked out just fine and it was dead cheap.
So yes, I know a thing or two about cheap travel and low budget city trips. So I’d like to share some tips with you. Here we go:
1| Don’t go for the popular destinations
London, Paris, Berlin: these are the usual city trip destinations. But have you ever considered visiting Vilnius (Lithuania), Riga (Latvia) of Warsaw (Poland)? These are less obvious destinations in Eastern Europe, but much cheaper than your average city trip to, let’s say, Rome. Because destinations like these are less popular, the airport time slots for landing & taking off are much cheaper. This means the flight will cost you close to nothing and you still get to fly on decent times. Perfect!
Do you prefer Western Europe for a low budget city trip? No worries, there are options. Just go for the less expensive city. So instead of Rome, choose Pisa. It’s not a city where you want to spend three days, but you can easily take the train to Firenze (€12,- return). Two cities in one low budget city trip, what more do you want?
Me and my friend got a cheap return flight to Pisa, and we took the train to Firenze.
2 | Don’t just look at the flight prices
You can find extremely cheap flights to Scandinavian countries. Great! But when you are there, be prepared to splurge on accommodation, food, drinks… well… practically everything. Scandinavian countries are expensive. A dorm room will set you back around €35 / 43$ a night. A sandwich in the supermarket costs around 9€ / 11$ and the price of 0,5L of domestic beer in a bar or restaurant is around €9 / $11 as well. Not entirely the idea of a low budget city trip…
Do some research on the cost of living in a country / city before booking the plane tickets.
3 | Book your flight through the official website of the flight operator
There are a gazillion online tools out there where you can find cheap flight tickets. I use quite a lot of them, but I always encounter the same problem.
When I for example choose Monday (€30,-) to fly somewhere, it costs 30 euros to get back on Saturday. Then I see that the price on Tuesday is way less than Monday (f.e. €10,-). When I select Tuesday to fly, it suddenly costs €80,- to get back on that very same Saturday.
I hate this.
My tip: just play around with those online tools, but never actually click through to the website where you can make the booking. Write down the cheapest dates, open a new browser and go directly to the flight operator’s website. Then fill in the travel dates you wrote down, and finish the booking. Chances are you will be able to fly cheaper than the online tools are suggesting.
I went to Warsaw, Poland. Beautiful & cheap 🙂
4 | Low budget city trip? Cheap accommodation!
Let’s be honest: when you book a city trip, you will stroll around town all day, visit some touristy highlights, go out for some food and maybe a drink after. At night you jump-dive into your bed and the next morning it starts all over again. In other words: you will hardly even be at the accommodation. And when you’re there, you’re asleep.
Is it necessary to book a fancy hotel? In my opinion: no.
A hostel will do perfectly fine. I myself don’t mind sleeping in a dorm room, so when I’m travelling alone or with friends, I opt for one of those. Are you planning on booking a low budget city trip with your significant other? Most hostels have private rooms. On most occasions these are a lot cheaper than the average hotel room.
Don’t forget to read my hostel booking tips >>
5 | Transfer from and to the airport
Well, see if you need one in the first place. For example in Pisa, we decided to walk because it was only 45 minute walk from the airport to our hostel. We arrived quite early in Pisa, so we had lots of time to get there. We only had carry-on bags, so no heavy luggage. And two healthy people with healthy feet: why not walk?
This is of course not always the case. In Warsaw I had to take a 1h shuttle. I found out that it was way cheaper if I had booked that shuttle in advance. So just check online if it’s possible and if it actually saves you money. You can easily see this when you compare prices of a ticket for today or tomorrow and a similar ticket for next month.