How to Travel on a Small Salary
Hey Au Pairs,
It's Friday, the weekend is almost here and chances are, you're exploring a new city this weekend? Let us know in the comments if this is the case! We decided to write an article this week about the ways we save money while travelling...
If you're an au pair, chances are you love to travel. Let's face it, you're clearly very independent if you've left home and everyone you know to explore a new country, its culture and to live with locals. But, as much as you may love to travel, the small salary your new host family pays you can be a hinderance when you have dreams of going further than the first city you landed in as an au pair.
However, there are ways to travel on a small au pair salary, even if it feels impossible. Edwina and I spent our year in Paris visiting new places and our time as au pairs certainly taught us how to save for travel and how to do it on the cheap so that now, we go further with less money.
We have a few tips for you in this video (they're also all summed up in point 1. below). But, read on for a random list of ways we save money to travel now.
1. Check Out These Resources:
As we mentioned in our video, there are many apps, websites and Facebook groups which can help you save money and travel economically. Our favourites include:
Student Universe: there are many deals to make use of on this website. Becoming a member is free and easy.
Rome2Rio: we don't go anywhere without first checking on this website whether our intended route is the most logical and economical. You'll find every option from buses to BlaBlaCar.
On that note, BlaBlaCar is a great last minute option if you're struggling to find cheap flights or trains. Although it's not usually as cheap as getting a bus, hitching a ride with someone going your way has saved us a lot of money in the past (we'll definitely write about this story on our Patreon page soon!)
Hostel World: if you want to save money, always opt for a hostel over a hotel. We often stay in female only dorms if we're travelling alone, just to give ourselves a little peace of mind, but they do often cost a little more. When using this website, never EVER ever choose a hostel which has a rating of below an 8. We've seriously regretted staying in a hostel with a rating of a 6.5...
Couchsurfing: this website is a great way to bring travellers and locals together. Shout out to our host Tùng in Vietnam who showed us the local restaurants, how to order vegetarian food and exactly which boat to get in order to reach our next destination. We were so so grateful for his help and we certainly couldn't have navigated the city nearly as well without him! BUT, if you join this community, make sure to give back by hosting when you can.
(Also, make sure you stay safe and always give your location to your loved ones & check people's reviews!)
2. Don't be too SET on One Destination
It's easy to get sucked into the idea of one place. Whether it's Rome, Santorini or Ko Phi Phi, social media can lead us to have very high hopes and feel we need to visit certain places as they'll obviously be the best places.
But, choosing your destination based on your wallet rather than your heart's desire is one of the best ways to keep costs low. It may sound like this will make for a disappointing trip but often going in with low expectations can mean you have a better time than if you arrive in, say, an expensive island such as Santorini with your hopes high only to find out that it's packed full of tourists and you never get to see the blue domes.
Spending a little bit of time to find similar places which are away from tourist traps can mean cheaper flights, accommodation and food.
3. Track Flight Prices on Skyscanner
If you know that you have to be very specific with your dates due to needing to be back looking after your host kids, then we recommend setting up multiple price trackers with Skyscanner.
Using this website, you can very easily type in "Paris" to "Everywhere". You'll then be shown the cheapest places to fly to on your chosen dates. Of course, one great way of saving money is having unfixed dates, but this isn't often possible as an au pair.
(But, when you're no longer bound to your host kids, try using this website and simply searching by MONTH, rather than day to see which date will be very cheap. Edwina and I found flights to the Philippines from London for just €350 return using this method!)
Once you've found a few cheap destinations, we recommend setting up a price tracker so you are alerted when the flights drop even further. (If the flight is cheaper than €40 to begin with, don't set up a price tracker as it may go up in price!)
4. Avoid Expensive Landmarks - or Only Visit Your Favourites
Edwina and I should know by now that we're pretty uninterested in historic landmarks (Edwina's least favourite lesson in school was history - she's a little math nerd!)
For many, tourist sites are interesting, but we found out too quickly that they can result in a huge dent in your budget for a trip if you're not paying close attention.
We're not saying don't go if there's something you'd like to do. BUT, we are certainly saying that you need to research what you're doing ahead of time find out:
a) whether you'll actually enjoy going and whether it's worth the money (check reviews online!)
b) how much you should expect to spend and how much to budget
c) whether to take your own food (or alcohol) with you
d) if you need to hire transport to help you get around
You may also get lucky, there are many free collections or cheap deals. Look out for museum nights, free gallery events randomly throughout the month and student deals.
5. Only Pack the Essentials
We're huge cheap skates when it comes to packing. We'd both rather wear one outfit every day of the week than have to pay for our luggage - gross we know. But, our top advice is to pack more underwear and a lot less clothing!
Edwina recently created a video about how to pack for a year in Paris which you can access by signing up to our Au Pair Starter Kit (you'll also receive other tips and tricks about au pairing!) We may also soon create a packing list for summer au pairs or backpacking trips. Let us know in the comments on on Instagram if this is something you'd be interested in!
We also recommend that you forgo taking any liquids which aren't absolutely necessary. We're pretty sure that once you arrive, you'll be able to get your hands on the same hair care product you have at home need. (Better yet, invest in a Lush Shampoo Bar to save space in your bag and plastic waste!)
6. Pack Lunch & Never Forget a Water Bottle
As the war on plastic is still underway, why not join the cause and buy yourself a sustainable water bottle? By doing this, you'll also save yourself money in the long run. Buying water in airports is always expensive, but you can take an empty bottle through security and ask someone on the other side (we usually head to Starbucks) to fill it up for you. Many places also have water fountains unless you're in airports in the UK!
We also recommend carrying a pot of nuts or some snacks which don't expire quickly. And, once you arrive in a new city or town, scope out the cheapest supermarkets or local restaurants and buy your food from there. Edwina and I will often splurge on the things we really love but, especially in Europe, only eat main meals out of supermarkets.
This isn't for everyone, but it's a case of putting your priorities in order - would you rather more supermarket food and more money to explore more towns, or a budget to visit one city and eat at fancier restaurants? Whichever works for you is great, but being aware of the expense of food can help you get your priorities in order!
7. Walk Everywhere and Avoid Public Transport
Sure, public transport can be a cheap way to explore a city compared to hiring a car. But, if you're on an au pair salary, paying a little more for a central hostel may be an economical choice if it means you can walk everywhere you'd like to visit and cut out the cost of public transport. We recommend looking into the most economical option before you arrive. For example, does a 24 hour ticket make more sense than buying two tickets? Again, doing your research can save you money in the long run!
Was this whole post just an excuse for Edwina and I to drag out some of our favourite pictures from our travels together? Almost certainly! If you're heading somewhere this weekend on an au pair trip, please tag us on social media (@aupairohparis!) We'd love to see where you're jetting off to. Also, if you have any tips for how to save money while travelling, let us know in the comments!