Six highs and lows to travelling on a budget

When travelling on a limited income, it’s important to maximize your dollar (or pounds, euros, etc.) to get the most bang for your short-lived buck. This is especially true when swapping money that has less than half the value of the funds you’ll be receiving. After our family trip to Scotland, we definitely experienced some highs and lows to the budget once everything was tallied and sorted through.

Here are some tips when travelling so you don’t come home with a broken piggy bank.

Eating while traveling on a budget can be tricky. Who said you can't have a picnic though with grocery store snacks in the trunk of your rental car?
Eating while travelling on a budget can be tricky. Who said you can’t have a picnic with grocery store snacks in the trunk of your rental car? No one! Photo by: Katie Burt.

Where you can, find the nearest grocery store and dine there instead:

When we were travelling in the U.K., we expected gas to be the number one most expensive item we budgeted for. We were so wrong. Food ended up ranking the highest on our travel budget, so halfway through our trip, we began making stops at local grocery stores in an effort to save money on lunch. Most stores will offer some sort of pre-packaged food (sandwiches, salads, etc.) that will cost you half of what you would spend in a restaurant.

Buy multi-faceted admission passes to tourist spots:

When travelling in a place with historical sights and destinations, I recommend investigating whether or not they have a pass for multiple attractions. In Scotland, the national trust offers a pass for $80 CAD per adult, and gets you admitted to over 100 historic sites across the country. In total, we saved way more to visit 20 sites!

Bed and breakfasts are cheaper than hotels and offer submersion into the local atmosphere:

One of the least expensive places we stayed in the Scottish Highlands was a bed and breakfast, and admittedly, it had by far the best service and food! Aside from providing breakfast in the fee (one less meal to buy!), we also got to mingle with the locals that owned the inn. Some of our best conversations took place in the bar in the evenings where we learned about Scottish culture and they learned that, contrary to popular belief, Canadian’s don’t eat bear for breakfast! We were also travelling with a toddler and no one could understand the moodiness of a three-nager better then our innkeepers. They happily amused her while we ate dinner and, I suspect, would have happily adopted her if offered the chance.

Consider staying just outside of a major city:

When your destination calls for stops in major cities, try staying in small towns just outside its borders. You’ll find cheaper accommodations and likely won’t have to worry about finding a parking spot and paying for it. When travelling into the city, consider taking a train into the city centre to avoid traffic congestion. What would have been a one-hour ride and $40 CAD parking job in Edinburgh became a 15-minute train ride with a $20 CAD train ticket.

The savings don’t end when you leave the country:

Save your receipts and be prepared to enter the fray of customs at the airport to get a return on the taxes you paid when purchasing goods in another country. The EU uses the Value Added Tax (VAT), which is claimable in customs before you leave the country. It’s not eligible on items or services consumed in the country, but if you bought souvenirs, you’ll get a 20 per cent refund!

Leave wiggle room in the budget for the end, when surprise fees hit your credit card:

We rented a car while in the U.K. and a mix up with the person at the rental company cost us an additional $300 CAD!  All due to a simple communication error on whether the price was in Canadian dollars or pounds cost us infinitely more than we wanted to spend.

Pack these tips with you the next time you go away. Let us know if they help you keep in check with your budget.

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