When my husband and I married, we did so on a creatively low budget, which meant foregoing an adventurous, out-of-country honeymoon. We took a few days off before jumping immediately into our new life, as well as moving into our new apartment, and a new job (in my case). We hit the ground running – and while that may not work for everyone, it suited us well!
While some might think that an elaborate honeymoon trip is a “necessity”, we feel that starting our lives with normal life was an excellent way to get to know each together. All too often, couples start out with the fantasy of an extended and expensive honeymoon, only to have the dream come crashing down later.. however, since we started out with the reverse, every adventure since has only been twice as enjoyable (and better financially prepared for!).
The average couple spends 4,000-5,000$ on a honeymoon, which only lasts a little over a week. That’s a lot to be spending at the beginning of marriage! We do not mean to say that honeymoons are a bad thing (if you have the chance, by all means take it if it’s right for your family!), but that elaborate ones may be neither economically savvy, nor the only option out there. However, that doesn’t mean that adventuring should be out of the question! As a result of careful planning and the right timing, we have finally decided to take a bigger “bucket list” trip..
We will be traveling to 4 countries in Europe (Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England) for a month total, so we considered out of necessity how to plan a trip on a budget.. because we like to save money (especially Masashi.. he’s the discount king)!
Perhaps a lot of people desire to travel the globe, but see it as something that has to break the bank to be worthwhile.. and therefore, as impossible. But, that’s just not the case! With careful planning, we believe that an awesome trip is definitely possible. The hardest part can be taking the time off. In our case, we decided to time a trip after our move, so that we could take a longer trip than would otherwise be possible (I work online now, so flexibility is more of an issue for my husband than me). You might view planning a trip abroad as overwhelming, but that doesn’t have to be the case, either. Following are our tips for how to plan a budget trip..
How to plan a budget trip
1. Be savvy about international and domestic flights.
Book tickets in advance, and travel during shoulder season or off-season, instead of during peak travel times. We decided to travel to Ireland from Japan during off-season (early May-early June). If we had traveled during peak tourist season, such as July/August, we might expect to pay a minimum of somewhere around $1,067 for each round-trip ticket, even if we booked early. You can save more than 30% of this cost by traveling during shoulder season. Traveling off-season can bring even greater discounts, though the weather may not be quite as nice. We also check which currencies offer the best discounts.. sometimes you can get a better deal by booking flights in yen at the Japanese version of a website versus in dollars at the American site, or vise versa.
2. Book directly through an airline, versus through travel agencies or online travel booking agency sites.
Once upon a time, online travel agencies were able to snag you a better deal than the airlines.. but for the most part, this no longer seems to be the case. We used search engines such as Skyscanner and Google Flights to compare pricing and the find the best travel dates, and then selected ticket vendors that were legitimate airline companies. Google Flights is useful because you can look at the calendar and flight prices for each day, which helps with visually mapping out possible travel dates.
3. Choose the right method of local/domestic transportation.
In addition to the international flights, we also purchased smaller flights. You might not realize it, but jumping from country to country in Europe is not so pricey.. we spent $48.95 per person for one-way flights between Belfast and Edinburgh, and $52.48 per person for one-way flights between London and Dublin. There are cheaper ways to travel by ferry, etc., but we balanced convenience and the amount of time wasted by boat travel into our decision-making. Sometimes land transportation may be more convenient versus air when you figure in the amount of time wasted in security stops, the price, or even the ability to enjoy the scenery. We also booked Aircoach (a bus) from Dublin to Belfast, which was $11.35 per person, and a train from Edinburgh to London, for $56.76 per person (and it might be possible to get even better deals than these, depending on when and how you book..).
4. Reduce the cost of your stay.
Choose affordable accommodations, such as hostels, Airbnb, or budget hotels. We decided to go the route of Airbnb, which is a good balance between being affordable, as well as comfortable. There are many different types of Airbnb available, from staying at a family’s guest room, renting out a whole apartment, or staying at an actual B&B – and often Airbnb include free breakfast and beverages, and free amenities such as WiFi and shampoo. This means additional discounts! Almost all of our Airbnb selections offered free breakfast, and all included complimentary WiFi. You can save as much as 50% or more on accommodations, depending on what price range of Airbnb you choose to book. If you stay in one location, you can get an even better deal by doing a short-term 1 month rental of a local apartment.
5. Book a car rental in advance online, which makes price-matching of various car vendors much easier.
Since automatic cars are MUCH more expensive in Ireland, we also decided to book a manual, not an automatic. Fortunately, Masashi knows how to drive both vehicle types! You might also be able to get a discount on a rental car through your airline, so check what discounts are available.
There you have it! Our trip spans 4 countries over 1 month, budgeted (aside for a few smaller expenses such as souvenirs) for less than the median average cost of an 8-day honeymoon. Not bad, right? Traveling is not impossible.. and in a future post, we’ll talk about our tips for saving on other expenses, such as sightseeing.
Have more money-saving travel tips? Please share them below!