So many people have dreams about going on trips, but they can’t seem to get past what they think a trip will cost. Yes, travelling can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be. This is going to sound weird, but the biggest piece of advice I give people who want to travel is – lower your standards. I don’t mean cut activities off your bucket list, but the people I talk to who say they can’t afford to travel are usually dreaming about staying in 5 star resorts, eating gourmet at every meal, hiring private tour guides and getting around in a rented Mercedes. So take that into account when I say ‘lower your standards’, and realise that what I mean is that you need to be realistic. The fact of the matter is – not everyone can afford to travel in that luxurious manner. I mean, if you can afford that (or your parents can afford that), hats off to you. And if you need a travel buddy that you’re willing to pay for, I’m available. But it’s not realistic to believe that your trips are going to be pure luxury and something out of a Hollywood movie.
I feel like the best way for me to explain this is by giving a real life example of my upcoming Iceland trip, just so people can see what I mean when it comes to lowering your standards. God knows I went into the planning of this trip with some pretty high-maintenance plans. A little background to this, I have been dreaming about going somewhere frozen pretty much my whole life. I’m saving for a trip in a few years’ time to go to the Antarctic continent (anyone who knows anything about those trips knows they are CRAZY expensive) but I couldn’t quite wait that long – so I figured Iceland in winter was the next best thing. However, what I had initially planned for my trip vs. what it has ended up being are basically two different trips. Price is the sole reason for that. When I started planning the trip, I quickly realised how expensive Iceland is, but rather than K.O. the whole thing – I lowered my standards. So from here onwards, you’ll hopefully see what I mean.
Let’s start with accommodation. My initial dream for this trip was that I wanted a downtown apartment in Reykjavik all to myself, floor to ceiling windows looking out over the city, rustic looking with a fire place. And boy oh boy, did I find a whole lot of that on Airbnb. The places were gorgeous, but then I saw the prices. For that type of an apartment in Reykjavik at that time of year, for the 10 nights I’m there, it would have cost me anywhere from $1500 to $2500. I actually considered paying that too, because I thought it would really give me that ‘authentic’ (i.e. hipster) Iceland experience. I came to the conclusion pretty quickly that I just cannot afford to pay that. So now, I’m staying in hostels. I’m actually staying in 2 different ones, because I couldn’t decide between the two. The first is a capsule hostel, while the second is a normal hostel (in case I get claustrophobic at the first one). These hostels all have the view, the windows and the fireplaces I wanted, I just have to share them. The location, the common rooms and most of all the price outweigh that for me though. To break it down, the capsule hostel is costing me $159 for 2 nights, and the other place is costing me $476 for 8 nights, so that’s a massive reduction from the Airbnb prices.
Next on the agenda when it comes to travel – transportation. My other part to my Iceland dream was that I wanted to hire a car and just drive around as much as possible on my own. The time of year I’ll be there though (February) would require me to hire a 4wd so as to safely navigate the icey ring road, which makes the already costly car rental price even higher. I won’t name the website I was looking at, but it was going to cost me between $800 to $1200 plus a security deposit on top of that which was around $750. Contributing to that cost was the fact that I only have an automatic licence, which is my own fault, but the manual cars did only seem to be about $100 or $200 cheaper. Again, as with the accommodation, I was going to pay this because I thought it was just what I needed to do. But I quickly worked out – basically all of the tours and things I wanted to see provided a pick up/drop off program that was either included in the ticket price, or worked out to only be like $30 Australian dollars more. With that in place – I don’t even need a car! I will admit there is one thing that I couldn’t seem to find a pick up/drop off program for which is the Sólheimasandur plane wreck, but at this stage I’m just counting on making friends with someone in the hostel or a local who has a car and also wants to see it. Ill shout them some fuel and some beers in return.
I definitely understand that choosing to not get a car will mean I am mostly restricted to Reykjavik, but from planning this trip I’ve decided I would rather explore the other side of Iceland in summer so I’m ok with this. Plus if I come back in summer, I have more chance of convincing friends to come with me, so they can chip in for the car. In short though, I’m doing everything I wanted to do (except maybe one thing) but by relying on the pick ups, walking or even public transport if I’m desperate – I’ve eliminated the need to shell out $1500 on transport as soon as I land.
The last thing I’m going to talk about is activities. I haven’t crazy micro-managed every second of every day, I’ve actually left heaps of time to explore and look at local things and be in the moment while I’m there. There were a few activities though that I’ve always wanted to do so I have booked those in. They were also a little on the expensive side, which is another reason I booked them in early, so that I know they are paid off before I get there and I just get to turn up and do them. So if you are like me and you want to lock a few activities in beforehand, I 100% encourage you to do some research. It was thanks to that research that I was able to get my activities cheaper. Basically, by purchasing tickets through an outside source rather than through the direct company, the price was lower. My example of that is snorkelling in Silfra, which is basically snorkelling between two tectonic plates, something that sounds AMAZING but was always going to be expensive. I initially looked directly at a company that offered it, they were going to charge me $350AUD and I had to find my own way there, but by going through the Viator website I paid $286AUD and that also includes the cost of the company picking me up and dropping me back to my hostel. I was pretty happy with that. I’ve had similar experiences with booking a caving expedition and my tickets for northern lights tours. So do your research! Look at sites like Viator, or other sites that are similar to Groupon, because you will find cheaper prices out there.
If you go back and look at the price differences over these 3 main topics, I’ve saved roughly $2000 by ‘lowering my standards’ and being realistic, but I’m still doing basically everything I wanted to do! There are some things with trips you will not save money on, flights definitely fall into that category and maybe insurance, but it is possible in the 3 areas I’ve talked about. At the end of the day it all comes down to you.
I hope you guys get what I mean with this. Anyone on any budget really can travel, you just need to be smart about it and realistic. Research should always be your best friend because the ‘easiest’ option is generally the most expensive. If anyone is going to Iceland soon, I hope this helps as well, I’ve noticed that with my planning that there’s not a whole lot of information available on trips to Iceland. Not ones that are fully broken down though. If you are going – just know it’s expensive haha.
Let me know what you guys think 🙂 also, if any one from Iceland is miraculously reading this and wants to drive me to Sólheimasandur in February, then send me a message! Me and you could be besties just waiting to happen!! (I’m kidding, but only a little bit)
Photos courtesy of PixaBay