A Few Tips for Traveling Paris (or anywhere) on a Budget

Paris is my favorite place in the world (thus far). I get butterflies in my stomach, and a strange feeling of familiarity simultaneously in Paris. Among some of the fondest memories in my life are my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, and the first time I saw it SPARKLE at night!!! Ohmygod when it sparkles. I have had an unhealthy and inexplainable obsession with Paris since a very young age, and visiting Paris only worked to magnify my love for it. In light of my upcoming trip to Paris, and because we are traveling Paris on a budget, I thought it would be fun to share some of my tips and ideas with everyone to make travel more budget friendly. I am so very excited to visit Paris again, and even more excited to share my experiences with you all when I return! And even if you don’t love Paris, or even care to ever visit Paris, you will absolutely find that these tips can be used world wide.

 

So why budget tips? Because we are all on a budget! Travel can get expensive. Quickly. And we all know that this is essentially what prevents many of us from jumping on a plane and traveling the world. But let’s take a moment to step back and look at what we can do to work with the budget we have, and not think in terms of all or nothing.

 

Instead of thinking in black and white, let’s first visit my favorite area: the gray area. Many of us feel that if we can’t completely splurge on our vacation, it won’t be any fun. If we can’t do every activity, buy every souvenir, and eat every meal we ever wanted, it just isn’t worth it, so why even bother. We decide to delay traveling until we get a certain amount of money saved up.

This, in theory, is a great idea! Of course we want to be able to pay for our dream vacation before you go! The problem with this, is that life gets in the way. And we will just never get enough money saved to take the lavish vacation we think we need. Instead, how about having faith that you can always come back to visit a place? That if you have to forgo one activity this trip, you will be able to do it the next time. There can be a next time you know. And travel does not have to be luxurious. That is not what travel is about. It is about seeing the world; however you choose to do that. 

My opinion? You don’t need to stay in a 5 star hotel and ride around in a limo being fed bon bons to have a marvelous time whilst traveling. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Travel is about the experience. The AUTHENTIC experience. About being immersed in another culture; not about bringing your culture and everything you are comfortable with to a different location. That is not traveling. So there’s no Starbucks there? Good! Try a cappuccino at a local cafe! No Egyptian cotton sheets at your Airbnb? That’s ok… use it as an opportunity to build appreciation for your sheets at home!  Your hotel doesn’t have a granite shower with a rainforest head? Well thank goodness. Try an actual rainforest shower. It consists of a very small, very dark stall with cold Amazon water pumped from the river. To me, that is what traveling is about.

Not for you? That’s cool too! There are many ways to travel, and no one way is the right way. But don’t limit yourself by falling into the mindset that says travel must be a certain way. This will ultimately deter you from traveling at all, and what fun is that?!

I think travel is more entertaining, more riveting, more authentic, and much more fun when you challenge yourself to stick to a budget. And like it or not, we all have one. So I have put together some of my personal fave tips to help make that happen. Take some notes if you like, add some ideas if you like, and happy traveling!

 

Paris 2007

Start a Travel Fund (And leave it alone)

Wherever you are planning to go, first take some steps to get your budget squared away. This will allow you to have fun and enjoy your travel (while staying within your budget.) Set up a certain amount of money from each paycheck to automatically go into a different account. It can be small… as small as you want! Again, this isn’t about saving up $10,000 to splurge on the vacation of your dreams. This is about exploration and adventure. It is about taking the leap to actually go somewhere; and casting your excuses aside. So sign up for an additional account, (besides your checking/savings account), and schedule an automatic debit from your paycheck to go into it. Choose an account that will pay you interest on your money. Then forget about it! Since it is automatic, you don’t have to touch it at all. When you are ready to take a trip, there is your spending money and much of your budget is already set for you! Viola!

Don’t Spend and Arm and a Leg on Lodging

There are so many economically friendly options out there for lodging! Here are a few great options for Paris and other areas worldwide.

  • Hostels are a great option, and a great way to meet fellow travelers. Don’t be afraid of them! The vast majority of the people there are fun-loving adventurers just like you! Read reviews, do your research, and be smart about it. Some are definitely better than others, but some of my very best travel memories are from hostels!
  • Check out what Airbnb has to offer in the area! For example, there are lot’s of beautiful quaint apartments available in Paris! I love Airbnb because it provides you with an even more authentic experience while saving you loads of cash. Many owners also leave tips and suggestions of activities, restaurants, and shopping around the area as well. Our host in Rio left us an amazing booklet and brochures of fun things to do and suggestions on food and shopping. It really made the experience authentic and I can’t imagine if we had stayed in a hotel that it would be anywhere as personable. Airbnb is a go-to of mine, and I highly suggest it to all travelers Domestic and International.
  • Plan ahead with points. There are endless opportunities to build up points with credit cards these days. And those points translate into things like free nights at hotels! Most large hotel chains have credit cards that will offer you bonus points to sign up and spend a certain amount of money in the first few months. Use the card to pay bills and pay it off when you get your statement. This way, you accumulate points without spending extra money. So when the time comes to travel, you have free nights in your favorite hotels! We paid for our entire stay in Paris this way. It ends up saving you thousands of dollars, AND you get to experience the more luxurious side of travel for free! Sounds fabulous to me!

 

Airb&b

 

 Eat Economically (without depriving yourself)

Food is a major budget buster on any trip. Especially in Paris! Paris is home to many of the most iconic chefs in the world, arguably the best cheese, wine, and chocolate on Earth, and the largest concentration of Michelin Star restaurants on the planet. So we might as well go all out since we are there, right?

The truth is, you can have an incredible food experience without breaking the bank. Sure, splurging on a delectable meal once in a while is a well deserved and very special experience if you can afford it. But If you are really serious about traveling more, it is imperative to find a balance, and to do things the smart (and budget friendly) way. Here are a few ideas to help you keep your food budget in check and still have an amazing foodie experience in Paris, or your location of choice!

  • Make a stop at a local market and/or grocery store. This is not only a great money saver, but an excellent way to experience the local culture and life. Local markets and grocery stores are seriously one of my favorite parts about most cities I visit. I thoroughly enjoy experiencing their ‘normal.’ Grocery stores and markets are not tourist destinations. They aren’t jazzed up to impress people. And that is what makes them all the more interesting, and special! The difference between what we consider staples and what other cultures consider staples is truly fascinating. Trying the unique and different foods that are part of their every day lives  is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the culture! This is also a great way to save money of course! When you make your own meals, and pack picnics and snacks instead of dining out, you will be amazed at how much money you save. And the experience is thoroughly enjoyable!
  • Have a picnic in the Park. What is better than a picnic in a French garden? Or in front of the Eiffel tower? Pretty much nothing I think.  Embrace the Parisian culture with some bread, cheese, and a bottle of wine shared in the park. (Even a cheap bottle of French wine is a great bottle of wine!) This can be a romantic sunset picnic, or a solo picnic in the afternoon with a good book. I would do this every day of my life if I could. Picnic anywhere and everywhere! On the beach, in the mountains, at a museum. This is such an easy and inexpensive way to enjoy a leisurely meal.
  • Save your lavish meals for lunch. To be on a budget doesn’t mean you have to skip all of the marvelous dining experiences in a foodie paradise like Paris. During lunch, most Michelin Star restaurants offer the same delectable cuisine at a fraction of the price of dinner. What a wonderful way to experience the best of a place like Paris and still have money to eat the rest of the time you’re there! 😉
  • BYOB. This may sound ridiculous. But I have saved a lot of money in my time by carrying my own bottle of wine around town while traveling. I don’t mean pop a squat in the corner of the Lourve and pour yourself a glass of merlot. Stop at a market or grocery store and grab some wine for your dinner or cocktail hour. Many cafes will allow you to bring your own wine, or you can have a picnic in the park or relax in a garden. This is also a great idea for a beach destination, a resort, Vegas, or pretty much anywhere. Cocktails rack up a bill pretty quickly, so plan ahead to save yourself some cash!

 

Paris picnic

 

Take advantage of free entertainment

You don’t have to do exhilarating and expensive activities each and every day of a trip. First of all, that is exhausting. But even more so, it gets very expensive very quickly. Having fun in a creative and inexpensive way is easier than you think! Generally, the activities and entertainment that draw tourists are the most expensive. And of course many of those activities are vital for your trip… like zip lining in the jungle or a river cruise on the River Siene. But why not alternate those more expensive activities with some more frugal ones? Think like a local. Or even better, talk to a local! What is something off-the-beaten-path that you could do today? What adventure will wandering around the city bring? Wander until you have no idea where you are. Get lost! This is one of my very favorite ways to experience a city. And it doesn’t cost a dime! (with the exception of critical emergency stops for nutella and banana crepes from a street cart.) Here are a few fun ideas for Paris that won’t break the bank.

  • Find free walking tours. Many locals do these just because they love their city. And who better to show you around?!
  • Explore. Check out the different neighborhoods and wander.
  • Have a picnic in the park. The Jardin du Luxembourg and Parc de la Villette are beautiful and free!
  • Visit the Arc di Triomphe, Notre Dame, and Eiffel Tower. These are all iconic monuments that are free of charge to visit!
  • Visit the Sacre-Coeur Basilica in Montmarte and take in the stunning views of Paris.
  • People watch! This is one of the most entertaining parts of traveling. Take a seat on a bench and just watch. You will be amazed at what you discover just taking in the culture.
  • Enjoy the spectacular architecture… it is everywhere. And oh so stunning!
  • Take creative and fun pics… find a spot you like and practice your photography skills. Or take a video! Get creative and have some fun with it.
  • Research museums for their free days. Most museums in Paris are free the first Sunday of the month.

 

tokyo picnic

 

Remember it’s all about the experience. Not the things you bring home. (Don’t get too Souvenir happy)

You know you have gone overboard with the souvenirs when you have purchased so many ‘things’ on your trip that you have to invest in a new piece of luggage to get them home. I can’t say I’ve never done that… but I have certainly worked to overcome my compulsive tendencies to over-do it with the trinkets. The important thing to remember when purchasing souvenirs, is to make good choices! I notoriously feel the need to bring home a souvenir for everyone I know, and 10 for myself. This is not necessary. Do I get great use out of that canvas bag with ‘Rome’ written 60 times on it? Shockingly, no. If you’re going to invest in souvenirs, do it right. Brainstorm before hand what you may want when you’re there, and where you will shop. Decide on how much you can spend, and when you see the right piece, you can feel good about purchasing it. My advice is to invest in memorable pieces that you will use, or artistic pieces and collectibles. These will be a reminder of your once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and a tangible symbol of your trip for many years to come. Here are some souvenir Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Do invest in a souvenir that you will bring back fond memories of your trip for years to come. 
  • Do invest in beautiful art that you love. It will light up your home and bring your family joyous memories.
  • Do invest in jewelry… if that is your thing. This is just my opinion; but I’m a sucker for jewelry. But sometimes it is just not in the budget and that’s ok!
  • Do have some idea of what you may want in that place, ad choose something special to that specific place… i.e. pearls in Japan, or handmade leather shoes in Italy.
  • Do think quality over quantity. There is so many cheap trinkets that you could wander around town and collect. But what are they going to do when you get home? Get dusty? Sit in a box? Do yourself a favor and choose something special.
  • Don’t pay full price for souvenirs. Most vendors are willing and able to negotiate at least a little.
  • Don’t buy anything you could get at home. It’s great that you bought that Lancome lipstick in France, but is it something you could have gotten at home? Make sure you will look at your souvenir in the future and be thankful that is what you chose.
  • Don’t buy a souvenir for everyone you know back home. It will never be as special to them as it is to you. It’s not about being selfish; just about recognizing the value of investing in yourself. Buy yourself a souvenir. Or 5.
  • Don’t stress. Remember, it is ultimately about the experience. You don’t actually need any souvenirs! You have photos and memories to last a lifetime.

 

I hope I have helped to demonstrate that you don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a magical travel experience! And I hope I have provided some helpful tips to do this! It is all about just getting out there and having fun, and that does not have to break the bank. Practice these budget friendly travel tips to make travel a reality for yourself once and for all. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing; that is not how life works. But do it now! Stop procrastinating and take the first steps to getting your travel on! Life is short; you have to get as much living in as possible.

The trouble is, you think you have time.

(a fake Buddha quote.)

hongkong sunset

 

Cheers and Happy Traveling! xoxo

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