If I had to boil down my budget tipps to an essence, it would be: preparation is key!
So much money can be saved, if you start planning your trip in advance. Unfortunately, this is nothing for the spontaneous city hoppers and globe trotters, but it will definitely mean more bang for the buck.
Try to find an off – season date
Traveling at popular holiday times usually means paying the highest prices. School kids and their teachers and parents depend on the set times of official summer / winter breaks. If you are not bound to official breaks, you can enjoy your holiday a bit earlier or later and profit from the off season prices. Another advantage: chances are, also the airports, train stations, hotels and sights (sqaures, museums, palaces, parks) won't be as crowded either.
The same flight might cost you differently on different pages.
Of course, pages that look for a desired flight and take into account all airlines are very handy as they show you several options. You don't like the flight with airline A with a 3h lay over? Take the other option they show you with airline B and only a 1h30 layover, etc...Sometimes the flight even seems some €/GBP/$ cheaper than the flight the airline offers you on their own page. But you also have to consider all kinds of fees some pages charge, either for choosing a specific payment method or just their regular fee. It might end up being more expensive than just booking the flight on the airline's website.
It also goes the other way round: some websites offer you a discount over a certain amount of money for your next booking. So if you have that discount mail somewhere in your spam folder, you might use it on a flight that seems more expensive on the holiday website than on the airline's website. It's all about comparing.
Check out crazy deals
The internet makes it possible. There are websites dedicated to show you crazily cheap flights or hotel deals and error fares (= prices that the provider probably did not mean to offer that low, but they ended up on their website, so they are bound to them). Most of those incredibly good offers might actually also be for the off – season period (watch above) but nevertheless, you might find an offer that you wouldn't have if you just tried to look for flights on the regular pages.
Book your hotel in advance
As a rule of thumb, the earlier you look, the more you can compare (as the majority of places will still have enough rooms / beds left) and the earlier you book the cheaper it will be. Hotels and hostels obviously try to cover as much of their capacity as possible and knowing as early as possible that their rooms are booked. They also know the struggle of travelers who try to find a place last minute and in their desperation are willing to pay more as long as all other requirements are more or less met. So the earlier you book the more you'll save as the prices only go up...
Don't overlook B&Bs
People tend to use websites like booking.com or other hotel search engines, which usually only include hotels, apartments, sometimes hostels in their search. I noticed that most of those pages ignored Bed & Breakfast offers. I really don't understand why, given that they are usually just as good as a cozy (not super luxuriously fancy) hotel room, offering more privacy and probably more comfort than a shared hostel room. If you find no hostel of your liking and no hotel room that matches your budget, look for B&Bs. I don't know of a good international search engine for B&Bs, but there are usually websites that list all B&Bs for a specific region / city.
If you really can't afford to stay somewhere you'd have to pay for, or if you are looking for the ultimate local experience: try couchsurfing! It is a great way to get to know locals and they always know where to get the best food, too ;) It is perfect, especially if you dont know anybody in that area. Couchsurfing is a whole community thing, some people just meet up for coffee or a drink and some people may not be able to offer you a place to stay but are willing to show you around the city. I usually randomly ask for tipps especially on nightlife that locals know better than some tourist website, even if i stay in a hotel. After all, most travelers want the local experience rather than seeing what every tourist sees at places that are just overrun by tourists.
However, keep in mind that especially girls that travel by themselves have to be extra careful, as there have been some cases where male hosts apparently expected sexual favors in return for letting them stay at their place...
In general though, the Couchsurfing people are very open minded, relaxed and open to other people and cultures in general. You have to consider that people who let random strangers in their apartment are usually more open minded than average and have an overall positive view on people from the start.
If you don't stay at a Couchsurfing host, still check out their events. Some have a weekly meet up in a bar or other fun activities planned and they always welcome new faces with open arms!
That's it for part 1 of my general budget tipps for travelers. I hope you enjoyed them and they help you save some money. Part 2 coming soon...