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How to travel on a budget as an Au Pair

by Alena on Jan 21, 2020
How to travel on a budget as an Au Pair
You started your Au Pair experience and occasionally have a free weekend? Of course, the first thought is to travel around and explore the country you live in or maybe to visit your friends and family back home. But is it possible to travel on a budget as an Au Pair? It definitely is! 

Depending on the country Au Pairs get on average of around 300-400 euros pocket money. Sure, they don’t have to pay rent or buy food but it’s still not a lot of money. Hence you are probably curious about how to travel somewher
e without spending your monthly salary? We prepared great tips and share our own discoveries with you! 

1. Use local transportation

Just google “(name of the city/country) local/public transportation” and enter the magical world of the genuinely nice, sometimes odd but usually affordable transportation system. Yes, sometimes their websites have peculiar English versions or not very clear rules but once you immerse yourself into it you won’t regret it. Let’s take a look at Deutsche Bahn, for instance. They have an amazing app that will tell almost everything about local public transportation in any German region. So imagine you need to get from Stuttgart to Triberg (Baden-Württemberg) to see their nice waterfalls. You check the tickets and see the crazy price like 48 euros one way. It’s too expensive for an Au Pair, isn’t it? But there is a solution. If you check “Regional offers” you’ll find out that the ticket to any place in Baden-Württemberg land for the whole day costs only 24 euros! How is it possible? Well, there are some restrictions like you can only use it from 9 am on weekdays and just with regional transport (means not ICE or transport that is provided by the transport associations of other areas than Baden-Württemberg) but isn’t it nice to spend 24 euros both ways instead of almost 100?

Hint #1: don’t hesitate to ask a service desk for advice. For instance, it doesn’t really say anywhere that if you have a 24-hours ticket in Vienna (8 euros, covers all public transport in Vienna) and you need to go to the airport which this ticket doesn’t cover, you can just buy an ADDITIONAL ticket and pay less than 2 euros instead of buying a single ticket to the airport for at least 5 euros (by public train) or up to 13 (private train company or a bus). But nice consultants would share this information with you so take a chance and talk to them!

Hint #2: Check also Omio and Blablacar - although they offer international search, they also collect offers from many companies and sometimes you can find really cheap options there. 

Hint #3: If you want to travel within Germany you may also want to check Flixtrain, even though they don’t have many routes yet sometimes they have nice and cheap offers. 

2. Travel with friends

Another trick is to travel with friends. Usually, group tickets are way cheaper than a single one especially if you are a big group. Remember Baden-Württemberg regional ticket? If you travel alone it will cost you 24 euros. But if you take one friend with you the ticket will cost 30 euros for both of you! Meaning that each only spend 15 euros. And it’s not the end - if you bring 3 people with you each will pay 10,50 as the ticket costs 42 for 4 people. The regional ticket allows up to 5 people to travel with one ticket for as less as 48 euros (all-day ticket!) In Italy if you travel with 10 or more people you can get a 10-30% discount. In the UK some companies offer group bus tickets so be aware of this option. Idea: sometimes you can even bring random people with you if they only need to get one way for the small price.

3. Buy cheap tickets

If you want to go to another country, there are many ways to do it. If you travel from Germany to France or Belgium it may be convenient to take a train or a bus. Flixbus or Blablabus, saver fare offers from DB or any country train companies. Don’t forget about Omio to see what other options you may have. 

If you travel somewhere far or simply don't have time for a bus or train you may want to find a cheap flight. There are many websites that allow you to search and compare flight tickets, and one of them is Skyscanner. It offers you help with finding the lowest prices and convenient times for your travels. 

Hint #1: to see the most inexpensive prices always look for tickets, especially flights, in private or incognito mode. 

Hint #2: you probably already know it but if you buy tickets a few months in advance you can save a lot of money.

Hint #3: subscribe to cheap companies newsletters or download their app and enable the notifications. They have sales quite often and you can know about them as soon as they announce it.  

4. Discover free activities

Free walking tours, free museum days, free entry churches or castles with a breathtaking view. All these alternatives to standard touristic “must-see” places may give you a different experience and help to save some money. If you have a student card - use it: many places offer reduced prices for students or people under a specific age. Check Couchsurfing events or simply google “free activities (name of the place)”. 

5. Don’t buy souvenirs from the souvenirs shops

We all have been there: walking in a city center, browsing around and occasionally buying some crazy overpriced cups or magnets with the city’s logo. If you really really need these things, then go to the supermarket or any place that is NOT a souvenir shop and buy it there. But we recommend to bring something nice like local food or wine, usually you can find very affordable options in supermarkets and your friends or family would definitely like to try something from the country you’ve been to while listening to your stories about your amazing travel experience. 

6. Find out about local money

It seems easy to pay for anything in the EU as its member states usually use the euro. But you would be surprised to discover that some countries use either both currencies - euros and their own money - or just their money. For example, in Poland you can pay both in euros and Polish złoty (some places accept only złoty) but in Denmark or Croatia you can only use their local currency. Of course, if you pay by card you will just be charged some exchange rate but for some things you need cash - for instance, you can’t pay with card in a bus or public toilets so you’ll need at least some coins. Read about it in advance and check if the bank takes a high commission for the money exchange.

7. Save on accommodation

Depends on your budget and preferences, you may want to find affordable, cheap or free accommodation. For the first option check Airbnb or Booking, for the second - Hostelworld or Hostelbookers. You may also want to see what Hotelscombined or Expedia can offer - they compare different hotels, hostel rooms and flats and you can use filters to find the one that fits your plans. If you don’t want to pay for a bed - try to find a host on Couchsurfing - in big cities it usually works great. 

Hint: make sure that the place offer towels or lockers for free. If that’s not a case better bring it with you - you’ll save on renting it and can use it for other trips. 

8. Set up the maximum amount you want to spend

It seems like a non-working strategy but it does work if you don’t want to spend a lot of money. Think of the amount you can or want to spend on your trip including food, accommodation, souvenirs, public transportation, museums, etc. Check the prices for all your possible expenses (God, save the internet!). First rule for budget travelers: take all in cash (note: that only works for small amounts, up to 300 euros). Why? Simple: it’s easier to see where you spend money and how much do you still have. You can also write down all your daily expenses using one of the apps made specifically for this purpose or simply using notes on your smartphone. 

9. Don’t eat at fancy places

Of course, if we’re going to a new country we usually want to try mythical “local food”. But believe us - with globalization and some companies being very invasive (hi, Ronald McDonald) you can hardly find something local (especially if you have a specific dietary preference). So our advice is not to be too obsessed about eating expensive “Danish sandwich” or “British fish & chips” but instead trying street food (look for non-touristic places). Buying ready-to-eat food in supermarkets, looking for places outside of the city center or even buying the food and cooking it can help your wallet stay half full instead of half empty. If you’re going to Scandinavian countries or Switzerland maybe it makes sense to bring some snacks or even some pasta and canned veggies with you - this way you can cook it and save money from buying these things for more expensive prices. 

Note: if you really want to try something from a specific cuisine or “this nice fancy restaurant” - do it but have a certain day and time (some places offer main courses from the menu on a reduced cost during lunchtime).

10. Ask locals 

It’s perfect if you have a friend in a place you’re heading to because this way you can save a lot on almost all expenditures. But even if you don’t, you still can find a way to spend less by asking locals where to eat or what to see. You can attend a free walking tour and ask your guide or just go to any cafe, grab a coffee and talk to the barista. Another thing - “ask” doesn’t always mean to ask directly. You can visit Like a Local, Spotted by Locals, or even good old TripAdvisor. But remember - don’t trust every online review blindly because we all have different tastes and experiences. 

11. Be prepared 

Of course, we all like to be spontaneous and romantic sometimes and think that we will find out everything when we arrive in the city or country. But experience shows that if you’re going to a new country it’s better to read some guides and official tourism websites to save yourself from spending money in extra-expensive restaurants or buying 10 single tickets instead of a day-ticket.

Do you have your tips and secrets on how to travel on a budget? Want to share them with the world? Then write a comment to this blog post or send us a message on Instagram
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