Traveling Hacking Europe on a Budget

Programs for this blog post

Teach In Spain Program

Authored By:

Deirdre C.

In just four months I have traveled to five new countries in Europe, and I have a few more trips to other countries booked over the next few months. As someone whose first time ever in Europe was when I moved to Spain at the end of August, this has been an absolutely incredible experience for me. I skydived in Faro, Portugal, I hiked and swam in Marseille, France, I experienced sauna culture in Oslo, Norway, I drank Whiskey in Dublin, Ireland, I partied in Barcelona, Spain, and I explored Christmas markets in London, UK. Coming to Spain with a decent savings might be necessary for this kind of travel, but it is more than doable to travel on a budget if you are flexible.


At this point, I would humbly consider myself an intermediate travel-hacker. I have a pretty regular routine when it comes to looking for deals and I would love to share what I have learned so far.


Step 1: Apps like Kayak, Skyscanner, Google Flights, etc. I always check deal finding apps for the rough dates I am looking for. If I am able to find a cheap flight that works for my schedule, sometimes I book it immediately, otherwise I might keep looking. This is where staying flexible comes into play. As a travel-lover, I am happy to go anywhere. A lot of these apps allow you to search for flights to “anywhere” or “anywhere in Europe”. Sometimes it is best to look for the cheapest flights across Europe and have an open mind to fly wherever. 


Step 2: After I search for flights and find something that looks decent, I like to do a secondary search. Can I find a cheaper, more convenient flight if I change the dates around a little? Is there a bus or a train ride I could try? Is there another country I could visit for a better price? What if I take one airline one way and another airline back? Having this flexibility and the patience to search around a little is essential. 


Step 3: Booking. I typically prefer to book my flights with the airlines themselves. Despite finding most of my flights on apps/websites like Kayak, I usually will search for the same flight on the airlines website and book it directly. I feel that it can be a lot more straightforward that way and prevent any potential scams or booking issues. 

Step 4: Accommodations. Usually while I am searching flights I also search around for accommodations. Shared dorm hostels are typically the cheapest route to take, but if you are going with a bigger group of people or you are okay with being a little bit outside of the city, airbnb can be a great option too. My first experience with a hostel was a few months ago now, and honestly they are a lot better than I had initially expected. I am particular about my sleep, so I typically look for female only dorms with a curtain or more privacy, and so far my experiences have been great. 


Auxiliares have plenty of breaks and long weekends to explore Europe on a budget. Taking advantage of cheap and accessible travel is one of the benefits of living abroad in Madrid, and I could not reccommend taking advantage of this more. 


Extra Tips: 

  • Before coming to Madrid, purchasing a backpack that fits a decent amount of clothes and can fit under the seat on a plane is a great idea. Most airlines offer cheaper flights if you just bring a backpack. I have the 28L Cotopaxi backpack and although it is pricey it has been a lifesaver and completely worth it. 
  • Travel credit cards can be a great way to gain points for flights as well. I have the Capital One Venture card and it is great. I use that card for all my major purchases and have already gained a ton of points since being here. It is also great because there are no foreign transaction fees so I can use the card in other countries no issue.
  • Apps like Skyscanner, Kayak, RailEurope, HostelWorld, and Airbnb have been some of my favorite downloads in the last few months.