Traveling Overseas on a Budget.
It has been about 3 months since I went to France and I seriously still think about it like, every other day. A lot of family and friends have asked how I was able to go to France for a month without it costing an arm and a leg, so I've decided to write up a quick list of ways for you to save money when traveling! They aren't always the most glamorous ways to travel, but I'd rather save a few hundred dollars and deal with a layover than fly first class and be broke.
I went to France with Jessica, one of my best friends and it was so much fun getting to explore and experience all the new things with her. She had been wanting to go for a while and one day she just said "Natalie, I booked my flight and I'm going to France." She is so adventurous and I love that about her. I had no choice, I was going with her. What was I supposed to do, let her travel to a foreign country alone?? I don't think so. (I also really wanted to go, so that helped in the decision making process.)
I had been saving my tip money from working as a barista for something cool and I decided this would be it. My France fund officially had begun. Jess found an amazing deal for flights with Ukranian International Airlines (sometimes you need to do your research) but unfortunately that meant we had a connecting flight in Kiev and a layover.... a 16 hour one. Yep. And that was the worst part of the entire trip, so I feel like we lucked out.
So let's get down to the nitty gritty. How can you save and budget for a month long trip to another country? I'll tell ya.
Flights: Don't be afraid to compare prices. Usually (from several studies online) they say that the best time to buy airline tickets is on a Tuesday late afternoon. If you can't find what you're looking for, don't be afraid to choose a flight with a layover or a connection. You might think, "why would I fly 11 hours to Kiev just to wait for 16 hours and then fly 3 more hours to France?" Because you'll save a huge chunk of change. That's why.
Packing: Pack light. Don't get tripped up at the airport check-in because your bag weighs too much. Most airlines allow you one free checked bag so try and stay in that limit so you don't have to pay more for an extra bag. It's a great time to practice minimalism and creating a capsule wardrobe too! If your flight has a long layover make sure your carry on has things to keep you occupied like a good book, playing cards, your phone charger, etc. Oh, and be sure to save a little room for souvenirs. I almost forgot that!
Snacks: One thing that really helped me was packing a couple Cliff bars + some chips in my suitcase. (I wish I would've brought goldfish because I couldn't find them anywhere in Paris and the craving was real my friends!) The reason why I suggest this is (especially with a steep currency exchange) you don't want to waste all your money on snack foods. This leads me to my next point...
Grocery Shopping: You definitely want to go grocery shopping while you're on your trip. Jessica and I ate out at a few "fancier" restaurants and a few cheap ones (aka a baguette and cheese for dinner) but we really saved some money because we went grocery shopping a few times while we were in France. We made a few really yummy meals (which proved to be a tad difficult with only a mini fridge and stovetop burner in our room). Shopping in the new country also gives you a chance to see what living there is actually like. You get to be one step further submerged in that culture! It's pretty cool! Also, make sure you're using a translation book/app if you don't want to accidentally buy liquid eggs instead of cream.
Tourism: Depending on your personality, you might want to take every tour, visit every monument and museum, and try every recommended experience. Or, like me, you may want to create your own experiences and see what interests you and that's it.
We had a few days where we stayed in our apartment the whole day doing yoga, reading, and watching netflix because of the heavy rainfall. Then there were other days where we literally just walked miles and miles to explore our area of Montmartre. One day we discovered a few amazing street artists + performers and another day we found a local flea market. Both of those sorts of days were free! On the days that we did "touristy" stuff we planned ahead. PLANNING AHEAD WILL ALWAYS SAVE YOU MONEY! I can't stress that enough. We decided that instead of touring all of Versailles we would only tour the garden (free) + Marie Antoinette's cottage. By doing this, we saved about $20 each. We also went to mass on Sunday in the Notre Dame. I'm not Catholic but the experience was beautiful. Getting to sit in on something that has been done for hundreds of years in a place that holds so much significance and history was pretty cool.
We opted out of climbing the Eiffel Tower which saved us money. We've heard that it is really beautiful at night, but earlier that week we visited Sacre Coeur and climbed to the top for 5 euros (I can't recommend this enough) and the view was breathtaking, plus you could actually see the Eiffel Tower. We also chose to walk to places that weren't too far rather than taking the metro every single time, which saved us money in travel fees.