I tried to write a post about planning a trip before but I kept delving too deeply into my own experiences so I’m going to try and keep this as brief as possible. Before I started travelling with my friends I used to wonder how everyone could afford to travel with their friends. However I’ve been on a few budget trips now so I want to help anyone who was in the same position as me a couple of years ago. I’m going to break this down into categories so enjoy and I hope you find it helpful!
Arguably the most important thing when booking a trip is transport. Unfortunately transport can be quite expensive especially if you’re going outside of your continent – most of my travelling experience is through Europe so I’ll talk more about that.
On my first trip abroad with my friends we went by coach. We were going to Paris and because we’d never travelled before we weren’t really sure what websites to go on to find decent flights so everywhere we looked everything was super expensive. However the coach was only about £30 – £40 each for a return so we went for it. My advice is that yes the coach is cheap but for a reason – you will be on there a long time and it’s not the most comfortable thing to travel by. I wrote a more detailed post about this in my travel fails [x] but if you’re going somewhere on a budget then the coach can be a lifesaver.
We went for the coach because we had to go to Paris on a specific day for a concert but if you just want to travel and you don’t care when there is a good way to do this which a friend at work showed me. If you go on skyscanner they have an option where you can look at the cheapest flights for the cheapest months and sometimes there are some right bargains! Obviously these flights aren’t always perfect and can sometimes be at inconvenient times but sometimes you can find great flights for great prices! I wanna make it clear I’m not getting paid or anything to write this (I wish haha) I just genuinely love skyscanner. I booked my trip to Poland and managed to get return flights for £30.
Unfortunately some countries are going to be more expensive than others but they shouldn’t be impossible. Keep looking to get a general idea of price range and save! I’ve wanted to go to Japan for years now so when I got my tax return last year I used that to book flights with my friends. For flights from England to Japan to South Korea to England we spent about £700 each and had to book almost a year in advance. However if we’d chosen to go in January we could’ve got flights for about £300 each, we just wanted to go during a better time of the year. Do your research and you can get some pretty good deals!
Another important factor is accommodation especially when you’re travelling alone. I have had some disasters in accommodation including someone trying to get into my room in the middle of the night, staying in a hotel where everyone’s keys opens everyone’s hotel room and an apartment with the filthiest kitchen I’ve ever seen in my life. I like to think I’ve learnt from these mistakes so I’m going to pass my wisdom onto you.
Read the reviews. I cannot stress that enough. I find that with tripadvisor some people can be extremely picky and will point out every flaw so I read a variety of good and bad reviews. However if a place has mostly negative reviews that’s normally a clear sign something’s up. Just recently I panic booked a hostel in Poland and when I went back to check the reviews I saw that about 85% of them were negative! I couldn’t get money back on my hostel but I decided not to take the chance and booked somewhere else with much better reviews and just lost the money. It’s not worth the risk.
There are tons of different places to get accommodation, I normally go through booking.com because I trust them but you can often get a better rate when booking direct with the hotel. There’s also Airbnb which I’m not a huge fan of after my experience but I’m sure there are tons of decent places on there for a good price.
Remember that you get what you pay for! The hostel I recently booked in Poland cost £18 for three nights and it’s a four bed female dorm. I literally paid for a bed, nothing fancy. When travelling on a budget hostels can be a lifesaver but I will probably write a more detailed post specifically about hostels one day.
I do generally feel safer in hotels especially chain hotels like Premier Inn or ibis because there’s always someone on reception and you sort of know what you’re paying for but unfortunately despite claiming they’re ‘budget hotels’ I’ve found these hotels can actually often be quite expensive unless you get a good deal. Budget hotels work great too, the one we stayed in in Luxembourg was probably the nicest one we’ve been in and that didn’t cost much.
Accommodation is another case of doing a lot of research and finding the best deal for the best price. Remember to check the location, how far it is from the airport, the city centre, how great public transport is in that country etc. But your ultimate priority should always be how safe you feel.
Generally you have a good idea of which country you want to go to but in some instances you end up going somewhere you’ve never heard of or never considered going before. Make sure you do as much research as possible beforehand. Do you need a visa to go to this country? Is it generally safe for tourists? What currency do they use? Is there a pass you can buy to make sightseeing a little bit cheaper?
In Lithuania there was a pass we bought that got us onto public transport for free for 72 hours and also a book full of discounts for museums, restaurants and many other places – this was super helpful as it also included a map so if you can find something similar I really recommend it.
The more you know the easier it’ll be wherever you go to. My friend likes to study google maps so she has a good idea of where everything is but to be honest that’s always confused me a little bit so I let her get on with it but I won’t be able to do that when I go alone! Luckily my phone tariff has changed so I can use my internet in Europe the same way I can in the UK and let me tell you, Google Maps can be a lifesaver when you’re in a foreign country with no idea where you are. Me and Becca got hopelessly lost trying to find our bus stop after the 24K concert in Amsterdam and if it weren’t for Google Maps I imagine we’d still be walking around Amsterdam with no clue where we were.
Always check the country is safe but my only advice is that something bad could happen to you anywhere. No one bats an eyelid when I go to London anymore but if I say I’m going abroad it’s always “oh I heard someone got murdered there” or “oh I heard someone got mugged there”. People get mugged and murdered in my home town, there’s a risk of it happening anywhere. Just always make sure you took extra precautions when travelling abroad and you should be fine.
I’m gonna advise you to do something that I’ve never done before in my life – if you’re travelling around Europe look into getting one of those debit cards that you can use abroad at no extra cost. It can be dangerous to carry around a large amount of money and locals must know that tourists have wads of cash on them. If I go away for a weekend I end up taking around £150 – £200 worth of whatever currency is used in that country and if I were to lose it I’d be a bit screwed.
In this instance I would advise that even if you don’t get a card, make sure you keep some emergency money separate to your main cash. Even if you don’t lose your money you never know when you might need the emergency cash so I’d suggest always having a little bit as a back-up.
I’m gonna bullet point some other general advice that I think would be helpful for your first trip abroad without your parents or any family there to look out for you.
– Keep your passport on you at all times. I would never leave my passport in my accommodation, it would be on me at all times. Just in case make sure there’s a copy of your passport saved onto your phone as well or even take a printed out copy. Luckily I’ve never lost my passport (touch wood) but I always make sure to take a copy just in case anything happened.
– If you get to your accommodation and you don’t feel safe then look for somewhere else. Always trust your instincts because it’s better to be safe than sorry.
– When planning your itinerary of what you want to do cram in as much stuff as possible – you may get there and find something is closed or it’s not as interesting as you thought and you don’t want to be stuck with nothing to do. It’s better to have too much on the list and miss some stuff than it is to not have enough and start to feel bored.
– If you have friends or colleagues who have been to a country you’d love to visit then ask as many questions as possible. People love an opportunity to talk about themselves and you’ll get inside information on the country – for example public transport, the best area to stay in, nice places to eat etc.
– If you’re going on a sight-seeing holiday with your friends then be prepared for the fact that there will be times where you’re all grumpy and tired. There will be times where you have disagreements on where to visit next or where you should all get something to eat. Luckily I’ve never fallen out with my friends really badly on a trip but we’ve definitely all gotten annoyed with each other at some point. And that’s okay! It’s tiring and it’s a long amount of time to spend with each other without a break. Just acknowledge it before you go and learn to not take it personally if your friends do end up snapping at you.
I hope that helps anyone who’s hoping to book a trip anytime soon – I hope you have a great time!