How to get a more authentic travel experience and save money

How to get a more authentic travel experience and save money

You may think it’s not possible to have a more authentic travel experience and save money. Whatever your financial goals, the prospect of paying less for more is certainly an attractive one! If you’re wondering how you can travel whilst limiting the impact on your finances, these tips will help you do just that. Its focussed on city breaks, as this is where these tips work best, but you may find these useful on all sorts of holiday.

No. 1. Don’t choose somewhere too obvious

If you’re looking for an authentic experience that doesn’t cost the earth, it’s much more difficult to find in a city that everyone wants to visit. As well as hotels and restaurants costing more, money grabbing enterprises that exist only to profit from tourists mean you can end up paying more for lower quality.

So, how do you choose somewhere that’s not too obvious?

For inspiration, check out the ’48 hours in…’ articles by Food and Travel (not an affiliate link, by the way). There’s a huge list of cities, some of which most definitely won’t save you money, but others definitely will. It’s true that some are obvious, but lots of them aren’t.

Bologna skyline
City of Bologna

This has inspired some incredible city breaks that we otherwise wouldn’t have considered, including a week in Bologna (inspired by 48 hours in Ferrara), and 3 nights in Stuttgart.

Having travelled to Rome, Florence, Milan and Venice, my favourite is undoubtedly Bologna. It is a city that is lived in, not just frequented by visitors, so there’s something real to immerse yourself in. Surely that’s the feeling, the experience you’re looking for, when you decide to spend money on travel!

You can also find unusual cities by taking a look at the places that budget airlines fly to from your local airport. If you’ve not heard of the city, it classes as unusual and you can look into whether its worth visiting. The great thing about this method is that it helps you figure out if cities have expensive flights, and therefore if you’ll get value for money.

Obvious cities can be great inspiration, so certainly don’t ignore them! For example, if Paris springs to mind, check out other cities in France such as Toulouse or Lyon. If Barcelona floats your boat, consider the Spanish cities of Valencia or Santiago de Compostella.

Using one or more of these ways will help you find exciting new places to visit where your money will travel further.

No. 2. Opt for a hotel in the residential district

This tip is great regardless of whether you’re going to one of the great European cities or one that’s lesser known. Choosing a hotel (or even better- an apartment!) in residential areas of a city, or outside the immediate vicinity of main attractions, tends to be a great money saver. Most travellers will only stay for a couple of nights, and therefore pay a premium for a conveniently located city centre hotel.

But there’s an even better reason to pick a hotel that’s away from the hustle and bustle of the main attractions. Lots of tourists don’t stray to the outskirts of a city so there’s less incentive for the tourist traps to set up shop there. It’s where you’ll find amazing restaurants filled with local people, meaning better food, better atmosphere and better value. Why did you want to stay in the centre again?

No. 3. Challenge yourself; what do you really want?

Even if the holiday that you’re planning might be in the budget you’ve set yourself, you should always consider if it is really what you want. You might have set the money aside for a must do activity, but is it really must do?

When you’re spending money on anything you need to feel (before, during and after) that it’s the best use of your money. Think about what you enjoy, what you want to experience and whether a place really is the right choice. It is better to think “why am I spending a shed load of money on this?” before you book, and not afterwards.

The same can be said for spending decisions when you’re on holiday. Do you have an expensive bottle of wine with every meal because it enhances the experience of your holiday or because it’s a habit you’ve never questioned?

For a holiday in Venice, I budgeted for a gondola ride.

“Why are we going on a gondola?” my husband asked.

“Because we’re in Venice” was my reply.

“Well do you want to go on a gondola?”

When I thought about it (because I hadn’t before this point), I couldn’t really say why I wanted to, it was simply that it was the thing to do in Venice. We didn’t save all that much by not doing it; instead we found a restaurant tucked behind the rialto bridge, ordered a platter of cheese and glasses of wine, and had a much more romantic experience.

If you’re paying money for something, make sure it’s something that you want to experience for you and not something that others will expect you to experience!


There are many other ways to save money, or get more for your money, when it comes to travel. These are my first considerations when I start to think about where our travels will take us next, and without fail they have lead us to a more authentic travel experience that has saved money.

3 thoughts on “How to get a more authentic travel experience and save money

  1. We hav often stayed in residential districts to save $ (a few examples: Bologna, Paris, Naples, Tokyo, NYC) and always found it a great experience. Doing your washing at a laundromat – always a fun thing to in a foreign, esp non English speaking country!

    We splurged on a gondola ride in Venice and it was totally worth it. OTOH, the London Eye was kind of a bust

    1. I’ve never stayed somewhere long enough to need to wash clothes, but I can imagine the fun. Generally, eating in residential restaurants can be fun because the owners don’t always speak much English. There are a few occassions where I haven’t had a clue what I’ve ordered until it’s arrived. I must say, it’s tricky with ‘must do’ activities, for some people they’re totally worth it, for others they’re not!

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