How to Save Money on Your Gap Year

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Written by: Ebenezer Scrooge

This is a selection of cheap travel tips. I’ve covered everything from free rides to free meals to free bees! Except I don’t cover free bees.

  • Get work at the hostel where you’re staying in return for board and food – or at least a discount.
  • Walk everywhere – anything that would take up to 30 minutes should be walked (also keeps you fit).
  • Carry rice around in your backpack: always forms a basis for your meal.
  • Eat loads of cereal for brekkie and skip lunch.
  • ‘All you can eat’ offers can be a life-saver.

  • Time your flights with meal-times / overnight stays.
  • Look into travel passes / discount cards, e.g. a young person’s railcard in the UK will save you a fortune.
  • Porridge / quick oats, doughnuts and bread are cheap breakfast items that fill you up.
  • Always ask for seconds on the plane if you are hungry – if you take a plastic bag with you, you can save some of it for later.
  • Make sandwiches up before you head to the airport – a full French stick with loads of filling will only cost you about £2 – a small sandwich in the airport will cost you over £3. Same with drinks – carry bottled water with you, it’s cheaper than guzzling loads of Coke etc.

  • Check out the ‘rides boards’ in hostels – this is often a cheaper and more fun way to travel (safety alert here – be careful!)
  • Get a job at places / things you want to see, e.g. steward at football matches, waiter at big events etc. Hopefully you’ll get to see it for free and also earn money. – Have short hair? Take clippers with you to save on haircuts and offer to shave other people’s heads for a quid a time (pays for the clippers).
  • Often buying a car will be cheaper than taking buses and planes to get round a country, e.g. Australia. Take others with you (safety issue!) to pay the way, sleep in the car to avoid accommodation costs and sell it on to get some or all of your money back.
  • If you’re doing a RTW trip, take only one guidebook and find someone who’s going the opposite way to swap with.
  • Use the Buy, swap and sell messageboard to sell unwanted kit or to hunt out some bargains from gappers that have finished their travels.
  • Take a tent. Most European cities have great campsites. They work out at a fraction of the price of hostels, and often offer a free bus into the city centre.
  • If you’re not staying exclusively in hostels with kitchens, take a wee camping stove for cheap, hot meals.
  • Interrailing? Sleep for free on night-trains. Spend a day in the north of Italy, kip your way down to the south, spend a day there, kip your way back up again… Note: check before you get on the train that you won’t have to pay – some sleeper trains charge supplements.

  • It’s worth getting a discount card for hostels – pay a bit for a YHA or VIP card and you’ll soon make your money back.
  • I’ll come out now: I’m a big fan of charity shops. You can find some fantastic things in them, admittedly in amongst lots of crap. Buy clothes suitable for the climate you’re in.
  • Look into courier flights – carry documents for a company, in exchange for a cheap flight.
  • Research bus-pass options, they can save you up to 50% on fares
  • If you have an ISIC (International Student Identity Card) make sure you take it, as many countries offer student discounts on tours, activities, fares and in shops. It is always worth asking if places offer a student discount.
  • Stock up on food at the supermarket in the city if you’re about to go to more remote parts: village shops will be more expensive and have limited choice.
  • Hostels often have a cupboard of food that has been left behind by other backpackers; do take a look as it could save money but make sure you check the best-before dates.
  • Visit local markets, often an interesting experience in itself and a good place to pick up reasonably priced goods.
  • Look out for special offers in supermarkets; often these involve large quantities so pair up with fellow backpackers if you’re on your own and offer to take turns cooking.
  • Save spare sachets of sugar, salt, pepper etc when in restaurants and cafes to use later.
  • Don’t stress too much about budget, forget about a daily budget and see it as a weekly budget instead – much more flexible!
  • Try and talk to a few others in hostels and see if you all fancy up cooking a group meal,it will work out cheaper than you cooking your own meal and therefore saves money.
  • Keep an eye on what you are spending. I have a cash book so I know exactly what I have to spend and what I have spent! I restrict myself to a certain amount of money a week and have certain days I cash my traveller’s cheques. This is so I won’t run out and have to come home early – also find out where you can exchange traveller’s cheques commission free as there are places!
  • Put the bulk of your money and cards etc. in a money belt and keep a small amount of cash in your wallet. This will stop you from having to be extra cautious every time you reach for your wallet which is bursting at the seams with local currency (or the remains of your overdraft!). If the worst happens, you can always hand over the wallet and not have to worry too much.

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