In my experience, there are two types of adventurers. Those with enough money to pay for exactly what they want, and those on a budget who book cheap adventure holidays to get the most bang for their buck. With the second group in mind here are 28 tips for budget adventures.
What counts as adventurous is different for everyone. For some it is trekking across Greenland, or climbing an 8000m high mountain, for others it’s trying something new or going to a place you have never been before. The goal of this article is to be inclusive of all types of adventures, with the shared goal of saving you money.
28 tips for budget adventures
Warning! Just like most traveller advice much of the below advice is contradictory! The tips might not work together and won’t work all of the time. But if you apply the 28 money saving travel tips below, you are more likely to end up with cheap adventure holidays that excite without blowing the budget.
We have split the tips into a few helpful categories; destination, travel, food, activity, accommodation and how you book.
Cheap adventure holidays: Destination
From kitesurfing in the Canaries, to climbing in Kalymnos the world of adventure is full of options. This provides the opportunity to make huge savings:
Don’t go to the top spots
We all know that London is more expensive than Liverpool and New York more so than New Orleans. The same goes for adventure travel destinations.
Climbing Kilimanjaro is much more expensive than the nearby Mount Meru. And skiing in Val d’Isere is more expensive than Tignes – despite both being part of Espace Killy ski area. But both are much more expensive than nearby St Foy, which itself is way more pricey than Jasna in Slovakia or other cheap ski resorts.
The well known spots all come with top prices. But if you do your research you can have a similar experience without the crowds and without the exorbitant price tag.
Rather than deciding where you want to go and trying to find cheap adventure holidays to that destination, instead keep your options open. Look at what is available, where has the best deals and go there. Some of my best budget adventures have been to destinations I would not usually have considered.
If you see cheap flights to somewhere interesting then buy them. Perhaps book the first night or two accommodation but book the rest while there. You often find that great deals and the best adventures land in your lap due to chance conversations.
Rather than heading to an exotic destination stay near home as the UK has some great destinations for adventure. Among other things try surfing in Perranporth, Cornwall; mountain biking and hiking in the Brecon Beacons, Wales; or all manner of adventures on a holiday in Oban, Scotland.
Tips for budget adventures: Travel
Planes, trains and automobiles. Getting to your destination can be an expensive business, but it’s also an opportunity to save money.
Fly from, or to, a different airport
In the last 12 months I have flown from the UK to French Alps for snowboarding trips from three different airports. In one case saving £400 by flying my family from Birmingham rather than Gatwick. OK so it was further away and took us longer to get there and back, but that’s a huge saving – the airport parking was cheaper too.
Likewise, you can also make big savings by flying to a different airport. For example, when heading to Brandnertal for a summer mountain biking trip in Austria it was very expensive to fly to the closest airport Innsbruck, but much cheaper flying to Zurich. The transfer was longer, but better flight times actually meant I arrived in resort earlier.
The savings you make can be even larger on long haul flights for cheap adventure holidays to more exotic destinations. On my last trip to Thailand I saved £300 per adult by fling to Kuala Lumpur and getting an internal flight. As an added bonus we spent a couple of days exploring KL as part of out budget adventures.
The flight comparison site Skyscanner can include nearby airports in its search. Use it and not only can you save money but often find more convenient flights even with the additional travelling. When looking for cheap adventure holidays, don’t blindly book from your closest airport to the one that’s nearest to your ultimate destination.
Fly on a different day
We all know those early morning flights are often the cheapest. It’s why we get out of bed at 3 am to drive to the airport. However did you know that flights on a wednesday are often a lot cheaper than on a Saturday? Or that a week earlier or later might be half the price? Use Skyscanner again and search the whole month rather than a specific date to see how prices vary.
Budget airlines are not always cheaper
Shock horror, the budget airlines are not always the best option for cheap adventure holidays. If you are taking gear with you look at the luggage options of more premium airlines. For example, British Airways prices includes luggage and its no extra to take sports equipment, such as skis or surfboard, which other airlines charge a fortune for.
Fully explore the travel options
Don’t restrict yourself to flying. In the last couple of years I have travelled from London to the Alps by coach and by train via the Eurostar. Both offer different advantages and challenges for your journey and could save you money.
Ultimately not flying will take longer, but absolute journey times are not always important. For example, the Eurolines coach was not just significantly cheaper but most of the travelling was overnight. This meant I saved on accommodation and got full days on the slope on both my arrival and departure days.
Many people are put off by the thought of driving long distances across Europe. But if there are two of you the costs are about the same as flying, and if there are three or four people then there is a fortune to be saved. If you need to hire a car or get an expensive transfer at the other end then the savings are even bigger.
But driving is also convenient. You can time your drive to be travelling overnight, so you don’t lose a day in and around airports. This means you can usually get adventurous on arrival and departure days. Furthermore, if you have a lot of gear you can chuck it all in – perfect for family trips or adventures that require equipment.
Most of the time, the roads in Europe are quieter and a lot better than those in the UK. It takes 8-9 hours to drive from Calais or Dieppe to the Alps and if you rotate drivers it’s nowhere near as bad as you’d expect. Plus you can do something exciting on route – as tips for budget adventures go, driving yourself is a biggie.
Travel like a local
If you catch a tourist bus you will pay tourist prices. For example, if you hop on the Heathrow Express you will pay £27 one way, catch the tube and off peak that costs £3.10 if using an Oyster Card or using contactless – check out TFL for more info.
This rule applies all over the world. Get the local ‘chicken bus’ in Indonesia and you will pay a tenth of the price of the air conditioned tourist buses. It is always tempting to hop in a taxi when you arrive in a new country, but with a little research you’ll find public transport that will do the same job saving money on cheap adventure holidays.
Tips for budget adventures: Accommodation
From wild camping on beaches to five star hotels, there is a huge range of options for all budgets. Fortunately there are also ways to keep the cost down.
Use low season to your advantage
The accommodation is one of the biggest expenses of cheap adventure holidays, but nearly all destinations have a low season. For example the Maldives off-season coincides with the windiest time of year so it is a great time to visit for kitesurfing or windsurfing. And the diving is just as good year round, but you’ll pay a fraction of the usual price to stay in high end hotels.
Also accommodation in some ski resorts are very cheap during the summer, despite the fact that the mountains are beautiful and covered in biking and hiking trails. It’s all about finding somewhere that won’t be busy and getting in touch – and don’t just book online, contact them and ask for a good rate. The later you leave it the better the price.
Don’t be above hostelling
For most people the word ‘hostel’ either conjures up images of noisey shared dorms or a scary movie. Neither of which helps the popularity of hostels. But the reality if very different and hostels offer budget adventures all over the world. You can save a fortune by staying in a dorm but also get private rooms with ensuite bathrooms at very low prices.
Camp – It’s all part of the adventure
If you want to have cheap adventure holidays then one of the best options is to camp. Most summer activities involve being outdoors and enjoying the natural environment so camping enhances this experience. With a family camping is all part of the adventure, and it is often a very sociable way to holiday.
You could stay in the UK, head to France for a camping holiday, or tour around the beaches of Belgium or Netherlands. In many parts of the world it is free to wild camp. For example, there is the right to roam in most of Scandinavia, you can wild camp in much of Scotland and a lot of Spain – as long as you don’t have a fire.
Throughout Europe wild camping is mostly tolerated as long as it is discrete. Be careful that you look up local rules and always be considerate. Be aware that some countries will fine you for wild camping, in Switzerland this can be 10,000 Swiss Francs!
Use aggregators to your advantage
There are many accommodation aggregators out there who show vast amounts of accommodation at often reduced rates. Sites such as Booking.com, Last Minute, Priceline, Hostel World and Airbnb can all be very useful in finding the right accommodation for your budget adventures. But you need to use them correctly and be careful that you are actually getting a good deal.
This requires a bit of research and savy use of these sites as each requires a different strategy. Booking.com offers the flexibility of fee free cancellations – always check the small print – so is good as backup accommodation. Priceline is good for setting your budget and needs but you never know where you will end up.
Airbnb is hugely popular and you can get some fantastic deals – particularly if you want to stay in a home. However, it is not always the cheapest option or the best choice for budget adventures. So do your research and compare it to other options.
There are many aggregator sites out there, all offering slightly different prices and reasons to use their site. But remember theses sites all take commission so…
Book accommodation direct
…rather than booking through the aggregator note down the various prices and contact the accommodation directly. Sometimes you’ll be told that they cannot offer less than these websites, but others they will offer you a better price.
Tips for budget adventures: Activities
Cheap adventure holidays are so fun without activities. Fortunately, there are many ways to save:
Do things that are free
There are many activities that are completely free of charge and require no equipment. Go hiking or scramble up a peak, try wild swimming or body surfing, and spot wildlife or build your own camp.
Bring/buy your own gear
There are also many more activities that are free if you already have the gear. Everything from surfing to cycling and climbing to kayaking costs nothing if you have what you need and know how to use it. So bring your own gear and you’ll save a packet on budget adventures.
Even on trips where there are still associated costs – such as skiing or down hill mountain biking – there are savings to be made by using your own gear. For example, you can rent basic skis for a week for around €100, so even after paying £50 for ski luggage you’ll be saving and lets face it you will go for the more expensive skis anyway!
Book activities locally
If you book your activities in advance through a travel agent, tour operator or online aggregator the chances are you will pay a premium. Either that or you will pay the same, but the actual supplier of the activity will be make less money as the middleman takes a cut.
So try to wait until in resort to book your activities, or book them direct with the provider online before you go. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount or to have something extra thrown in for free, particularly if you are booking a few things or for a large group.
Look for accommodation/holidays with activities included
Much accommodation around the world has gear for it’s guests to use. Whether that is windsurfers and dinghies, bikes and kayaks or paddle boards and scuba gear there are plenty of ways to avoid having to rent equipment or bring your own. Some even have activity centres and/or instructors included either for free or at reduced rates.
You’ll also find activity inclusive package holidays and even some destinations that offer free activities. For example in the summer Tignes opens if chairlifts for free to people staying overnight and offers many activities free of charge. And Tignes is not the only ski resort to do this in the summer.
Tips for budget adventures: Food
We all have to eat. For some it is what a vacation is all about, but it’s also a big expense that can be reduced:
Don’t be a snob, eat where the locals do
If eating in plastic chair restaurants is beneath you then you don’t deserve cheap adventure holidays! All over the world you’ll see unappealing looking restaurants, probably without menus in English, that are busy with locals. If you want the best food for your money this is where you should eat. It’s also a great chance to try something new.
This is how I discovered the delicious Roti Chenai – flat bread with a selection of cold curries – a delicious and ridiculously cheap breakfast dish in Malaysia. These eateries won’t look as nice, and you won’t get the same service as posher places, but as tips for adventures on a budget go this one is the tastiest!
Undoubtedly catering for yourself during cheap adventure holidays is one of the the easiest ways to save money. If you are on a very tight budget there is plenty of quick and easy food to create that will satisfy without breaking the bank. Try mixing super noodles with tinned fish or beans and you’ve covered your carb and protein needs for less than a quid!
Self catering is particularly useful in expensive places such as ski resorts. But always try to stock up somewhere other than the mountain supermarket as they tend to be very pricey. This is another advantage to driving over as you can bring pre-made frozen meals and loads of supplies with you.
Go full board or all inclusive
At the other end of the spectrum you can book a trip with all (or most of) your food included. Obviously it is a higher up front cost but it usually works out much cheaper than eating out. Sometimes it can even be cheaper than self catering, particularly if you are likely to decide to eat out a few times.
Tips for budget adventures: How you book
The way that you book your holiday also affects the price you end up paying for cheap adventure holidays:
There are savings to be made with tour operators for booking a season, or even a whole year in advance. To encourage advance bookings they often offer huge discounts, last season’s prices for a limited period, or extras for free – for example, kids places, meals, lift passes or a room upgrade.
Although booking early is usually cheaper than booking a few months before a trip, if you can hold out to the last minute there are great deals to be had. Tour operators with chartered flights and accommodation booked for a season will offer those last few spots at drop your pants prices.
If you are flexible, waiting until the last minute is still the cheapest option if the trip includes flights. However, if you need to book flights independently those last few seats tend to be the most expensive adding a huge cost to your cheap adventure holidays.
Rather than booking with a tour operator, planning and booking all elements of a trip yourself is one of the best tips for budget adventures. It is more work cheap adventure holidays this way, but you can pick and choose exactly what you want and take advantage of other money saving options such as self driving, self catering and camping.
Use sales to your advantage
It is worth keeping an eye on short duration sales with airlines and tour operators. The best way to do this is to sign up to newsletters or follow companies on social media. For example, EasyJet offers 25% off a couple of times a year, and most tour operators have sales.
Search for discounts
Before you book anything, do a quick google search for ‘company name discount’ or ‘company name coupon code’. You will be surprised how often you find a money off voucher or percentage discount somewhere on the internet. You’ll be even more surprised when they actually help you book budget adventures!
Ask for a discount
If you don’t ask for a discount you won’t get one. This works well if you have a large group, are returning customers or have a like for like quote from someone else that is cheaper. It also tends to work better with smaller companies or when booking independently.
Join a club
There are clubs out there that arrange discounts for their members. Most of these clubs are activity specific such as the Royal Yachting Association or Ski Club of Great Britain. You pay to join and get a range of benefits including discounts with partner companies.
Alternatively, you can join AWE365 which offers discounts across all activities. We help you find cheap adventure holidays all year round through hundreds of discounts we have arranged with our travel partners.