Travel Tips

My flatmates make fun of me and say that if there’s a deal, you can depend on me to find it. I think if I were to have my own show, it would be similar to Guy Fieri’s Triple D, except my “Triple D” would stand for DEALS, DEALS, DEALS. I know my jokes are terrible, James tells me this on the daily.

Here are a few travel tips I use regularly to make this all easier and save some money. We can all use some travel tips, right?

1. A railcard – specific to U.K.

First and foremost James and I invested in a railcard since we knew we would be doing a lot of day trips using the train system. Mainly because we could explore more of England much faster primarily using trains as opposed to buses. While it was significantly cheaper to take the bus, we valued our time more.

With just ONE trip to London we made our money back in savings. There are a couple options for railcards, but the most the popular was the aged 16-25 railcard at £30 each. We opted for another card, the Two Together Railcard at £30 for both of us. The catch  with the Two Together Railcard is that we must always travel together to use this railcard (in a way it ensured our relationship doesn’t collapse and burn since we need each other to travel…haha just kidding).

Anyway with our railcard we would save 1/3 of the price on all train tickets that we purchase, I often used Trainline since it has all the train lines right on there, rather than each company’s individual site.

PRO TIP: On Sundays trains are often delayed due to maintenance.

2. Offline Maps

Prior to our travels abroad I downloaded an offline map to use since I am certainly not paying for an International Plan. I personally use Maps.me, but a lot of people like Offline Google Maps. What I liked about my app was it gave walking directions to every point I wanted to go to, allowed me to pin spots that I wanted to see, and I could search on the map for public toilets, restaurants, sights, bus stops etc. all while offline. The only issue is that similar to other offline maps, you NEED to download the map while you have wifi or data. It’s definitely important to do this before you travel.

3. Phone plan

Speaking of international plans, I did not purchase one. I did try to get in contact with AT&T before I left and attempted to “unlock” my phone for the period of time I would be abroad so I could purchase a U.K. sim card but they denied my request since I was still under a contract.

I think Verizon phones might be able to switch sim cards quite easily, even if under contract.  All in all, James and I ended up turning our off our roaming and cellular data and put our phones on Airplane mode. The only time we were able to use our phones functionally was when connected to wifi. Fortunately in the UK a lot of cities have wifi in the streets, but honestly, it wasn’t a huge issue for me. I’d rather take pictures and enjoy walking around places I’ve never been before rather than needing to be connected 24/7 to the internet. However, if you feel the need to be accessible at all times, you can always purchase a pre-paid phone and use that with a UK sim while abroad or utilize an international phone plane from you carrier. I didn’t feel like paying for either – hence why this is a budget friendly blog.

4. Flights

When it comes to flights, I had two goals – cheap and as many places as possible. First thing first, ALWAYS search for flights in private mode. The internet is a smart cookie, and will track what you search. You’ll find increased prices on a repeatedly searched route.

Beyond that, I found two resources that helped me a lot.  One is Skyscanner, something I’m sure a lot of people are familiar with. It basically scans all the flights available and can show you the cheapest ones departing from a certain city in a certain month, or allows you keep an eye on a flight and warns you if prices are going up or down.

I personally favored Google flights more. I found that if on a select day, you entered a departing airport and left the destination airport empty Google flights will show you all the places you can fly to on that day from that airport and the prices of each flight. Using this method I was able to purchase various one-way trips over a two week span, that allowed me to see 8 countries in the cheapest route possible by connecting all these one way fights and doing a loop back to my originating spot. I managed to find 10 flights, for 8 countries, for $300. Many of them were, not surprisingly, via Ryanair. The Spirit of Europe (and actually a lot comfier than Spirit). Considering my flight from JFK to LGW cost $300 alone, I was quite pleased – I mean who doesn’t like to save money?

5. Accommodations

When traveling, there is this amazing resource I learned about called Couchsurfing. It is intended for travelers that want to see the world through the eyes of a local, make new friends around the world, and enjoy the company of locals while traveling.

Essentially you sign up on the site, send a request and ask someone if you (and friends) can crash on their couch/guest room/floor/whatever is available for a night or two while in their city. The expectation is that you return the favor in the future to either that person or someone else who is looking for a couch to crash on..Plus it’s free so there’s that. You might be fortunate to have a host that is willing to take you all over the city you’re visiting in, pick you up from an airport and make you a meal, or give you great tips on places to eat.

I recommend reading the profiles and references really well of the people you are considering hosting/being hosted by to make sure it is a good fit so both the host and hostee will actually enjoy their time together.

Air BNB is another great resource for affordable accomodations. Essentially people rent out their entire homes or apartments, or just a room, for way less than a hotel room. Interested in giving it a try? Use this link and save yourself a whopping $40 on your first trip! I’ve found this to be a great tool when I want something more than sleeping on someone’s floor, on in a cramped hostel with strangers, but don’t want to pay the price for a hotel.

If anyone has any other useful travel tips be sure to send it my way!

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