Save or Splurge: How to travel in style on a budget


The Travel Hack is all about affordable luxury so that means saving on one aspect of travel in order to splurge on another. I would love to travel in first-class luxury and dine in nothing but famous Michelin-Stared restaurants but, unfortunately, my budget doesn’t quite stretch to doing this ALL the time so I combine a mixture of budget travel and luxurious travel to make my budget stretch.

I could take just one luxurious ‘blow-the-budget-trip’ per year but we all know I’d be going crazy within one month and would want another adventure soon.

Exciting news warning: My travel budget has got a little tighter recently because Sam and I have just bought a house! I’m sure I’ll be telling you more about that soon. We’re also having a baby in 14 weeks (how did that come around so quickly?) and despite them being so tiny, babies are expensive little things.

With a new baby, a new house and  a mortgage, the travel budget is going to be rather tight in 2015. Eeek.

But I’m determined to still have adventures, still travel and still explore the world despite my smaller budget and new responsibilities.

It all comes down to planning ahead and prioritising what’s worth splurging on and what’s worth saving on.

Save or Splurge: Flights

This is a no-brainer for me.

You could spend thousands on first-class flights or you could book a cheap flight with a budget airline and save all that cash for something exciting in your destination. I’m going with the budget airline every time.

Book well in advance to maximise the saving and travel with hand-luggage only to save even further. You might need to be flexible with your times, dates and transfers but it’s worth it for the savings.

Skyscanner is great for searching for cheap flights. You don’t need to select specific dates so you could select an entire month or an entire year and discover which dates are cheapest. I regularly play around with it and select ‘flights to anywhere’ and ‘anytime in 2015’ just to see what’s cheapest.

Check out my Ryanair survival guide if you’re new to budget airlines.


Save or Splurge: Hotel

This is a more difficult decision because it depends what type of holiday you’re on.

If you’re planning to spend a lot of time relaxing in your hotel then it’s worth splurging on. Maybe opt for an apartment rather than a hotel so you can cook your own meals and save money there.

If you don’t plan to spend much time in your hotel then go for a budget option. Check out airbnb for cheap rentals and don’t rule out hostels. Hostels can be expensive these days but there are some bargains to be had.

If you’re away for a few nights, why not spend your last night in an uber-lux hotel? Three nights in a budget hotel is worth it if you know your final night will be as luxurious as a palace. Make sure your luxurious night is mid-week or on a Sunday and you’ll get a better rate.

Sunrise Baron Palace Resort

^A luxury hotel in Egypt is definitely worth it!

Save or Splurge: Dining

This is where a combination of saving and splurging makes a big difference. Set yourself a budget for your meals for the entire trip and then be creative.

You may want to blow 70% of your budget on one amazing meal and cook for yourself for the rest of your trip. Eat like the locals do and you’re sure to save money.

I use an app called Spotted by Locals which is full of local recommendations for places to eat and drink and things to see and do. You’ll find some great suggestions a million miles away from any Lonely Planet tourist guide. TripAdvisor is also a great place to go for restaurant recommendations.

Sushi Making Masterclass at Uni London | The Travel Hack^Why not take a cookery course to combine a fun day out with a great meal?

Save or Splurge: Activities

If you’re in a city then I’d always recommend looking out for a free city tour. Most cities have them and they’re fantastic. After your tour you should tip your guide well and then spend 10 minutes quizzing them about interesting places they recommend you see. Most guides are so enthusiastic about their city they’ll love the chance to share some cool ideas with you. Plus, if you tip them well, they’ll be keen to help! Don’t forget to ask them about places to eat and drink too to find out where the locals are dining.

There will be some activities you’ll want to splurge on. You can’t go to Iceland without visiting the Blue Lagoon, you can’t go to Egypt and not see the pyramids or at least some tombs, you can’t go to Paris and not go up the Eiffel Tower. The list could go on but you get the idea…

Top tip to pay for expensive activities: Most activities are expensive and if your budget doesn’t cover them I recommend asking for them as gifts. As you get older your parents and partner will undoubtedly find it more and more difficult to buy presents for you. Even if you’re not travelling with them, ask them to provide a voucher for whatever activity it is you want to try. They’ll love knowing you got exactly what you wanted and it makes the shopping experience much easier for them!

Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Save or Splurge: New clothes

We all love buying new clothes for a holiday but a pre-holiday shopping spree will quickly eat into your budget.

My advice is to not buy anything before your holiday. Yes, nothing! (Well, except a good bikini and a comfortable pair of shoes.)

Save your money for the trip and if you’re a real shopaholic, do your shopping while you’re there. Night markets and interesting boutiques will enable you to buy some unusual pieces that you’d never find in TopShop.


Save or Splurge: Transport and transfers

This is another place travel expense that can eat up your budget. For me, the decision to take a private transfer or public transport comes down to time and convenience. If I have time I’ll save money and take the public transport option. In many cities this is actually the best option. In London for example, it’s usually quicker to take the tube then it is to take a taxi.

But if I’ve arrived late or I want to be somewhere quickly I’ll just pay for a taxi and it’s usually worth every penny to avoid an overcrowded bus.

This post was sponsored by TSB who have a ‘borrow well’ philosophy, Life is about being sensible with money to balance to cost of living with all the fun stuff like travelling and adventures!

What do you spend on and what do you splurge on while you travel? I feel like this list could go on all day so let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

  1. Sarah Saint-Maxent 7 years ago

    No brainer: I splurge on sports and save on everything else 😉
    I am happy to spend 80+ euros to see a great match (football, NFL, NHL, etc etc), but I ALWAYS go for the cheap flight, the cheap (but no dorms!) hotel, the cheap food… and I enjoy my trips as much as I can. Never been regretful with that choice 😉

    • TheTravelHack 7 years ago

      Sounds like you’ve found the perfect way to travel. I bet the matches are loads of fun but a fancy hotel room is just a waste of money if you’re never going to be in it.

  2. Annika 7 years ago

    Love the idea of giving experiences as gifts. Also an awesome idea for wedding gifts. We gave my cousin and her husband a bunch of experiences for their honeymoon i.e. Bungee Jumping (they asked for it though, I wouldn’t give that without being asked 😉 ).

    • TheTravelHack 7 years ago

      That’s such a good idea (and very brave of your sister!)
      Wedding gifts are tough. I had just giving cash but when everyone lives together before getting married there aren’t any house-hold items you can buy. I really like the idea of giving a wedding experience gift.

  3. Josie 7 years ago

    Perfect tips – I agree with everything!!! Definitely always go for the cheapest flights available – always a bonus if you get some air miles and manage a free upgrade!!

    Josie XOXO
    Fashion Mumblr

  4. Jessica 7 years ago

    Congratulations on the home and the new addition to your family!! Very exciting!
    I totally agree – budgeting for a trip is all about trade-offs and priorities. I love nice resorts and will gladly trade that for expensive activities when I travel. I also try to maximize my frequent flyer points so that at least part of the trip (hotel or flight) is free, so that I can put more of the budget elsewhere! I also just try to save bits throughout the year – for example, instead of getting each other birthday gifts, my husband and I will just add to our travel fund, knowing a trip together will give us so many fun memories, rather than just a new gadget.

  5. V 7 years ago

    Splurge :
    – Activities : because that’s where the best memories are made!
    – Hotel : ONLY if we plan to be in our room a lot, otherwise middle of the road.
    – Flights : I don’t fly first class, but sometimes I splurge on the extra leg room.

    Save :
    – Food : I agree with you!
    – Hotel : depending on the city.


  6. I’ve never understood people buying a lot of clothes before a trip – unless you’re doing something that needs really specific gear, you should be fine with what you already own. Go use that money toward traveling instead!

  7. Naomi 7 years ago

    I always save on accommodation – it’s usually just me anywhere so fancy rooms are wasted on me – and flights. That means I have more money for eating out, activities and a cheeky bit of shopping too. Although I do have to rein in the shopping a little bit so then I have a bit more to splurge on the other luxuries!

  8. Good tips! Instead of flight as a category though, I would expand it to journey. Sometimes you can have an awesome save AND splurge combo by taking an overnight bus but one that’s decked out with flat beds, a meal and a toilet. I did this a few times in South America, and with plane tickets being priced as they are over there, definitely saved a lot even though I was ‘splurging’ by getting a more expensive bus ticket

  9. Monika 7 years ago

    O, How I agree with all those tips! To be honest i try to budget our trips too, as the more we can see the better. The cheapest flight is no brainier for me either – I always think what exciting things I could do with the money saved that way! And accommodation – it depends. I do not car for a sea view, but now the difference in price is like 20 or 30 euros, so why not splurge on this? An opportunity to see new sites and taste local food, not in a fancy restaurant though, is so hard to put aside! And congrats on your baby and the house – hope you will be able to travel as much as you can!

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