I've traveled a fair amount over the past 5 years, but only in the past year do I really feel like I've learned to do budget (i'm talking BUDGET) trips. It can definitely still be a great experience, but you have to figure out where you are willing to cut corners and what is a must have for each trip. I thought I'd share a few of the things that I have found helpful over the last year.
This is one of the best tips I can give you. I had seen this tip floating around many times before I actually started to use it, because I always though it would ruin the social side of travelling. But this is the part I didn't think about: you only have to buy groceries for *some* of your meals. Especially if I am travelling alone, I want to be able to go out to the restaurant with whoever is nice enough to let me tag along, it's fun! But at a minimum, I will buy groceries for breakfast. This can be a huge saver; generally getting you 4 breakfasts for the price of 1 in a restaurant.
This one came as a surprise to me, as I had always just assumed that a hostel was the cheapest deal out there. But if you are in a group and the cheapest hostel is €25 that's already €100 for 4 people. Depending on the city you are in, you can likely grab a hotel for less.
Okay, so I know I look painfully cold in this picture, but I promise it's just an awkward smile! Traveling off season is one of my favorite ways to do travel on the cheap. Hostels can cost as little as half their high-season rates, and often times attraction tickets will also be less in the winter months! You do have to keep in mind that some things may be closed, but if you are going to popular tourist cities (Rome, London, Paris etc) you shouldn't run into too much trouble. Depending on the weather, you will likely have to plan a few more indoor breaks into your day. But if you plan smart and bring appropriate clothes, it really is doable, and fun!
I would argue this is just a good travel philosophy... but it also happens to save you money. You get to see a place more thoroughly, you don't spend all that time stressing about getting everything done in two days, and you save huge on in-between travel costs. Even if you just switch your trip from 5 cities to 4, you will save at least one train/plain/boat ride which is likely at least €100. Plus I truly do believe that more time in less cities is a way better way to travel. Don't get caught up in this "can you believe I saw 15 cities in 1 month?! I am the God of travelling!!!" game, just see what you are truly interested in seeing, and really dive in to it when you are there.
Okay, so admittedly I do not always follow this one! With winter travel and multi-season travel, it is difficult to everything in a check-in backpack let alone one that is small enough for carry-on restrictions. But if you are doing a trip that is less than a month and not too diverse regionally (meaning you will only be in one climate), then I argue that you go for ultra lite packing. I have an amazing 38L back pack that is approved for Ryan Air and Easy Jet carry on standards and I just kind of make it work. It can save over €40 per flight, so even if you are only going there and back via plane, that is already €80! (Note: you can only bring 1 piece of luggage as a carry on for most discount airlines, so you really have to get everything to fit into the one bag!) (*I understand that this is definitely not always possible).
I added this as a bonus and not as a real one because there are a lot of maybes with this one. There are a lot of off the beaten path places that you can travel to for almost nothing, but if you've dreamed your whole life of going to Paris... then get your ass to Paris! I think this is a great tip for anyone just looking to try something new and get out of their comfort zone. If that's the aim, then skip Western Europe, and head to Eastern Europe, there are SO many amazing cities and countries to see, and many at half the cost of a Western European city. If you are looking for even more adventure, skip Europe altogether, and head over to India, Nepal, or SE Asia. You will see something totally different, and likely be able to travel on $20/day or less (of course, depending on how basic/luxury you want to travel).
I hope this encourages you to get out there and see something new... if there is one thing in life that I have never regretted spending money on, it is hands down travel! (And that includes when I was puking all over India, so that is saying something!)