Thrifty Travels

When I moved to London, I was on a mission to see as much of Europe as possible, on an student’s lack of salary. In the year before my big move, I worked odd jobs and long hours to build up my travel funds. I knew student loans would cover the cost of my tuition at London Metropolitan University, as well as my basic living expenses, but I wasn’t flying across the pond solely to study. I needed to embark on some adventures, too.

It takes a lot of dedication, research and coffee (Alli runs on Dunkin!) to plan a trip on a budget. Sites like Ryanair made $8 flights a reality. Flexibility is also key. For me, it didn’t really matter where I was going or in what order, I just wanted to backpack through Europe. Being a minimalist also helped since only one bag was allowed on each flight complimentary. Four outfits for three weeks. Sure, why not?

Eventually, after crunching the numbers and considering every flight combination possible, our itinerary was laid out: Spain -> Portugal -> Spain (again!) -> Malta -> Italy -> Germany. That’s right, it was actually cheaper to leave Spain, go to Portugal and then go back to Spain so that we could visit both Barcelona and Madrid, than it was to travel within the country to both destinations. Along the way, we crashed in a variety of accommodations. From hostels to hotels, bed and breakfasts to airport benches, we called a many places home over the course of our three week journey.

I truly believe some of the best experiences I have ever had have been some of the least expensive. Access to the rooftop in our Barcelona hostel allowed for cheese, meat, bread and wine dinners with total strangers. Making friends with a bunch of guys from Bratislava led to a hiking adventure the next day to the top of Montjuic. Somehow from just one night of chatter and story telling, we felt safe and comfortable enough to go traipsing through the woods together!

In Portugal, a traditional four course meal cost just five euros and came with a half a liter of wine. I can’t even buy a four pack of toilet paper in the USA that cheap, let alone a delicious meal. Needless to say, we became regulars and I even tried tripe! And then there was Madrid, where you could get a meat and cheese sandwich for a euro and a glass of wine or a beer for just one as well. Not only was it a steal price wise, but quality wise too, far superior to the dollar menu at McDonald’s or a six inch sammy from Subway. Access to the botanical gardens came at no cost and reveled the charming, romantic rose gardens the city had to offer.

Because Malta was not exactly a tourist hub when I went about five years ago, it too was affordable. Twenty-five euros a night bought us a two bedroom apartment with a full kitchen and bathroom. Our balcony offered a view of the ocean, along with its crisp summer breeze. Fresh seafood was plentiful, keeping us well fed, and transportation from the main island to Gozo led us to the Blue Lagoon, with some of the most sparkling, clear water I have ever seen.

Similarly, Germany and Sicily offered endless cultural and foodie opportunities. From climbing to the top of the cathedral in Cologne to eating my weight in pizza, pasta and gelato, we were always on the go or in a food coma. We went by foot to many areas to save on taxi and bus fares. Such a simple, cost effective way to stumble upon unique treasures that are literally so scenic they are featured on postcards.

Traveling on a dime actually allowed us to become more culturally immersed, make friends from around the world and eat foods indigenous to the local area. For circa $1000, I took seven flights, visited five countries and embarked on a 22 day adventure. I can’t even go to Disney World for three days on that budget.

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~ by wanderlust1011 on August 30, 2016.

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