Does the start of winter make you want to plan that dream vacation, pack your bags and explore the far corners of the globe?
But those big trips can come with a high price tag. Whether you're a student, a young professional or on a fixed income, if you’re on a tight budget, can you still get to your dream destination and experience all it has to offer?
Although "Canada’s Adventure Couple," Dave Bouskill and Deb Corbeil have been travelling the world for more than a decade and sharing their experiences at The Planet D, the pair still seek out the best bang for their buck wherever they go. "We’re budget travellers, just because that’s what we can afford, so we’re always looking for the best ways to stretch our money. We find that anyone can really do adventure travel," says Corbeil.
Experiencing the trip of a lifetime on a budget is achievable, say experts. But to do it successfully, there are a few key tips to keep in mind:
1. Explore your flight options
Flights can be one of the largest expenses for backpackers and younger travellers. Bouskill and Corbeil recommend using rewards credit cards as a great way to help pay for your plane tickets. Bouskill also says travel agents can sometimes offer a better deal than you’d get booking your flight online.
Allison Wallace, media and communications manager at Flight Centre Canada says if your trip involves a long-haul flight to Europe or Asia and many stops once you’re there, consider using a bigger airline for the overseas flight and low-cost local carriers for the shorter flights. Students may also be eligible for cheaper airfares.
2. Invest in travel insurance
It may be a small expense, but travel insurance could save you thousands of dollars," says Corbeil. "Many people think they don't need it if they are travelling to popular destinations. Don't make that mistake. My husband Dave took a spill in the Peruvian Amazon while on a relaxing river cruise. He slipped on stairs and fractured two vertebrae in his back. Had he not had travel insurance, it would have cost us more than $50,000 for the flight out of the Amazon to a hospital in Iquitos, the seven-day hospital stay in Peru and finally the air ambulance back to Canada. We have been hospitalized on three different continents (not including North America), and are living proof that accidents and illnesses happen anywhere you are, no matter how careful you may be." When planning your budget for travel, make room for travel medical insurance, too.
3. Opt for budget accommodation
Hostels are a good choice for saving on accommodation and meeting other travellers, but Bouskill notes that short-term apartment rentals can also be a cheap option, especially if you can share them with other people. For longer-term visits, he suggests house-sitting or house-exchanges as another economical possibility.
While it can be easier to find economically priced guest houses or beach huts in cheaper travel destinations like Southeast Asia, Bouskill and Corbeil say reasonably priced accommodation is also available in traditionally more expensive locales.
"We’ve travelled Europe quite a bit recently and we’ve been able to do it on a tight budget. We camped through Europe," says Corbeil. Many campsites are located on beaches or close to major centres and often include free shuttle rides into the city – all for a fraction of the price of a hotel.
4. Avoid the high season
Some of the best times to travel to any destination are the shoulder seasons, says Bouskill – just before or after the high season, when most attractions are still open, but you can possibly get discounted accommodation and flights.
Wallace agrees, adding that if you have to travel during peak periods, even being flexible about your departure date within a couple of days can make a big difference, as can choosing to travel on certain days of the week, depending on your destination.
5. Book locally
Rather than reserving your guide, tour or transportation in advance online or by phone, Bouskill and Corbeil suggest waiting until you arrive at your destination. This lets you barter or even find like-minded travellers with whom you can split the cost.
6. Skip expensive restaurants
Spending tens or hundreds of dollars a day on food will quickly blow your travel budget. Instead, Bouskill and Corbeil recommend more creative options, such as buying food at a market and picnicking, eating where the locals eat, or even bringing a camp stove and cooking your own meals if your accommodation allows.
7. Seek out free activities
In many destinations, hiking, trekking in the jungle and visiting national parks are free, says Corbeil.
"When we first started travelling, we did adventure travel on a budget, big time. Doing things like climbing Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka is completely free and that’s a really exciting climb," says Corbeil.
In the city, be sure to do your research to find out when attractions may have free or cheap admission. In many European cities, says Corbeil, museums offer discounted evenings or free admission on a certain day of the week or month.
Ultimately, the more money you save on the day-to-day expenses of travelling, the bigger your budget can be for those once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
"If you can find ways to cut accommodation and food costs, you can then put the money you save into your adventure," says Corbeil.