You’re about to embrace the unknown of a foreign path. Your tastebuds are prepared to be tantalised by foods you’ve never tried yet, and your best walking shoes are all packed and ready to roam.

You’re about to embark on an adventure and you haven’t been able to stop talking about it. In fact, you’re even tired of hearing about how amazing it’s going to be. Travel is the ultimate declaration of freedom for many—until they get home and check their bank balances.

I’m not trying to rain on your parade. It is going to be amazing, your shoes well-walked and your mind refreshed. However, the rain on said parade often comes after the novelty of our travels has worn off. When we realise it’s time to pay the piper who doesn’t care that we’ve spent way more than we anticipated on baguettes, over-expensive tours and fast passes at theme parks.

Don’t fret. You can keep your wanderlust and your wallet happy. Here are all the hacks my travels have taught me:

 6 Travel budget hacks to carry with you wherever you go in the world

1. Opt for a tour group where the activities are optional

It’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of romanticized solo travel. Or planning your own path for you and your travel companions. However, in theory, these options are often a lot more costly because we tend to get caught up in wanting the best-of-the-best when we make our own plans. Translations? A lot of money and underwhelming experiences.

Group tours like TopDeck and Contiki benefit on discounts from group deals for activities, accommodation and other packages in many cases.

And, the best part is that a lot of the activities on these tours are optional, so you don’t have to pay to attend them if it’s not in your budget.

2. Make a budget-friendly itinerary (and stick to it like glue)

If you are going to plan your own trip, making your own detailed itinerary is the best way to know what costs you’re in for. Being as detailed as you can might not sound very carpe diem or carefree, but it will help you avoid unnecessary impulse costs so that you don’t blow your entire budget in 24 hours.

It’ll also give you time to think about what you actually want to participate in (and spend cash on).

Keep a budgeting app handy, like Monefy, so you don’t have to go through the anxiety of putting all the costly pieces together later.

3. Don’t eat out for every meal

Especially if you’re heading to Europe!

Yes, you’ll be charmed by the pastas, baguettes, paella or authentic German pretzels (I’ve been there). But buying a few meals from a local market will help you put money towards other adventures or saving towards a top-tier dinner for the price of three mid-shelf lunches.

And, from personal experience, the markets are often a lot better than marked-up tourist-targeting restaurants.

Many hotels and hostels also provide stellar breakfast buffets daily, which, more often than not can keep you going until later in the day.

4. Selective souvenirs shopping

If gifting is your love language, you’re not going to like this one.

The truth is, you don’t need all of the souvenirs you’re eyeing. And, neither do your friends and family.

Yes, we all like to know others were thinking of us on their travels. But if you’re splurging more on souvenirs than actual experiences, you’re going to have a ton of snowglobes to places you never actually got to enjoy.

5. Plan your free activities like it’s your job

Personally, I’ve found it best (and possible) to stick to a ratio between free and cost-attached activities. 60% free, 40% cost (including restaurants). For you, that ratio might look different but either way, you’re making sure you haven’t missed out on any freebies.

Beaches, hikes, many museums, monument-spotting, street art exploring, ceremonies and street festivals. What do they all share no matter where you go? Most of them are free and give you the inside scoop on where you can truly immerse yourself in local culture.

Some of the best free activities around the world:

  • London’s Sky Garden
  • Sugar Beach, Mauritius
  • Washtington’s Smithsonian Museum
  • Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris
  • Krabi’s Tiger Cave Temple hike Thailand
  • The Staten Island Ferry (One of the best free activities in New York)
  • Barcelona’s Magic Fountain of Montjuïc

Look for roundups of the best free activities in the city or town you’re heading to, and plan the free luxuries as you would the paid ones.

6. Set adventure boundaries

Especially if you are travelling with friends, it’s easy to get swept away because everyone is simply dying to do an activity. If paying 50 euros to explore the history of winemaking for eight hours sounds awfully similar to something you could do for far cheaper back in South Africa, get comfortable with setting those adventure boundaries.

All in all, no matter where you go, the most precious moments often don’t have a pricetag. The real ‘payment’ is perspective, openness and a willingness to embrace discovery.

Written by Ashleigh Nefdt

Featured image: Pexels