Often regarded as one of the priciest destinations in Europe, a recent trip to Switzerland had Helen Hayden of A Pilot’s Daughter pondering (and practising!) the best ways to make your travel budget last.

We’ll often wait until a cushy amount of dollars (or pounds, or Euro, or whatever tickles your checking account) line our bank account to embark on our next vacation or adventure. But if you’re tired of waiting and saving and want to hit the road running now, you can go ahead and pack your bags.

Luxury travel is, of course, fabulous, but it’s not necessary. You can enjoy the best parts of any destination by living in balance and knowing just what it is you’re wanting out of your escape.

Below are some tips on how to make your money stretch further when gallivanting abroad.

1. Eat like a local.

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Fresh local produce. Helen Hayden, A Pilot’s Daughter

Despite this being the intention of many travelers, folks often end up snared in the dreaded tourist trap and missing out on authentic local fare. The average traveler will grab coffee and breakfast at an overpriced hotel cafe before heading out for the day, later getting lunch near some attraction or scenic neighborhood. To top it off, an under-whelming dinner at an over-visited restaurant is the quickest way to find you taste buds disappointed and your wallet thin. Here’s what I recommend: At the beginning of your trip, stock up on fresh fruit and pastries or rolls from a favourite local bakery (and maybe some yoghurt or cheese if you have a fridge). Make yourself a nice light brekky and then head to an independent, artisan coffee shop for your caffeinated beverage of choice. For lunch, try finding a farmer’s market in town. These places are treasure troves for real, fresh local fare that will get your mouth watering. Pick up little portions of whatever catches your eye before heading to a park or piazza to savour them. This is by far one of my favourite ways to enjoy a new city.

When dinner time comes, mix it up. If you’re a big foodie, do one or two nights at a rave restaurant, and in between pick up some cheap beer and street food. Better yet, let a new local friend take you to their favourite dive. 9 times out of 10 it’ll beat anything being served up at the places that offer English menus and Wi-Fi. Trust me.

2. Stay smart.

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Stay open-minded when it comes to accommodation. Helen Hayden, A Pilot’s Daughter

What do you really want and need from your accommodation on this trip? What’s your holiday all about? Often you really don’t need the massive resort with 11 pools and 7 bars on site, but rather just something on the beach itself. If you’re heading to a big city and plan on exploring museums and high streets all day, then maybe you don’t need the expensive hotel in the centre of town. Many hostels have private 2-4 person rooms available for a fraction of the cost. These can often be found close to transportation, in more interesting neighborhoods, and also provide great opportunities to meet people who you can share your adventure with.

Try making a list of what’s most important to you when it comes to where you’re staying – search out the top three and try to let go of the rest. You can spend all that extra cash on something fabulous you can keep!

3. Know your interests.

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What inspires you? Helen Hayden, A Pilot’s Daughter

Again, we all travel for different reasons. Stop feeling obligated to check off someone else’s bucket list items and search out whatever it is you actually enjoy. Popular tourist attractions and museums can add up to an absolute fortune. If you’re not particularly keen on modern art, then you should probably skip the the modern art museums. It might sound condescending, but you’ll be surprised what you can get sucked into through guilt and a sense of obligation.

I’m all for trying new things and truly believe variety is the spice of life, but if you’re looking to save some cash and make the most of you trip, put your pence towards the activities and places that will truly hold your interest – even if no one else agrees.

4. Ride with the people!

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Travel smart. Helen Hayden, A Pilot’s Daughter

Okay, barring an emergency or lack in physical capability, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be taking public transport. These systems were made for and are used by the local population for a reason! Subways or buses are often the quickest and/or most efficient mode of transportation anyways. Taking a cab, you run the risk of hitting traffic or a getting picked up by cabbie who’s happy to make a few extra bucks off an oblivious tourist. Another great option – look into renting a bike for the day or week. Many cities now have incredibly affordable, convenient options and plenty of safe bike lanes to navigate on. Lastly, give those two appendages below your waist a shot – some of the best sites can be seen on foot, and it allows you to experience the local atmosphere.

5. Shop with caution.

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And shop smarter. Helen Hayden, A Pilot’s Daughter

I understand that people want to take a piece of their destination home with them somehow, but there’s no great reason to spend precious pennies on unoriginal, poorly made souvenirs. If you want to show your family or friends that you were thinking of them, please, write them a postcard. When was the last time you received a handwritten note in the mail? There’s really nothing more special then opening up your mail box to find a line or two from your loved ones hand that has traversed the globe and found it’s way to your doorstep. This is far more special than any shot glass or fridge magnet, I promise you. If you’re looking for yourself, then either invest in an item you will actually cherish forever or get creative. If you’re a fashionista, then a timeless black frock from the high street is worth every pound. If the beach touched your soul, then collect some shells or sea glass and display them proudly in your home. My apologies, but no one thinks your I <3 Cancun shirt is cool anyways. No one.

 

You don’t need a massive amount of money to enjoy the getaway you’re day-dreaming of. Take control of your adventure – no agent or guidebook knows what it is you really need or are searching for. Tailor make your next trip to your own desires and leave out the costly, generic, standard-issue stuff. You’ll save a bundle and your journey will likely end up far more special then you ever imagined.

 

Helen Hayden

Author of the travel blog ‘A Pilot’s Daughter’, Helen trots the globe in search of inspiration and misadventure. A Canadian who calls New York home, she adores city life, but lives for opportunities to get off the beaten track. Her mission is to find intimate cultural encounters and really get to the underbelly of her destinations. She shares vivid, personal accounts of her present journeys on her site www.apilotsdaughter.com