3 ways to afford travel on a Londoner budget
There seems to be a doom and gloom haze that sits above the twenty-something Londoners of today. "Once you're in London, you can't get out"; "You can't save because of living costs" (which yes, I have fallen into the trap of on previous occasions); "You have to be a banker/investor/earning at least 35k a year to be able to afford lots of travel". Well, guess what? These aren't actually true. I mean yes, if you want to drink every day after work and buy the latest trends then no, you probably don't have the money. And even with a salary of at least 30k, there is the age old trap of wanting to buy grander things simply because we are able and to keep up the status that comes with it.
Millenial box-types aside, I do get asked how I am able to do the little trips I do and the activities I get up to in the evening and on weekends - which include trips away. I get comments on my socials that "my life is so glamorous" and "I am so lucky, how did I do it?" Which, yes, while I do consider myself lucky to be to do these things, they aren't particularly unobtainable.
1. Prioritise. While I am earning the most I have done so far in my career, I am still saving as much as I can. I am being mindful. Gone are the days when I bought every single meal out and bought a coffee from Pret before work - although I still can't resist one on a train or plane journey. I barely drink alcohol nowadays - which, in London, can burn a large hole in your pocket. Clothes, I am much more selective about what I buy and wear which means that jeans get worn out and maybe I wear the same outfit twice in two weeks. Shock horror! However I was never that kid who wanted to buy the latest trends. While I love to admire a Gucci bag, I would much rather save for a trip. I have always been wired that way. Some people in my office spend their money on expensive shoes and suits, I put my money to flights and solo adventures. Take stock of where your money is going and see how you can be mindful of it. As I understand it, Monzo is supposed to be a good bank that comes with an app that tracks exactly where all of your spending is going.
2. Do your research. When are the cheapest days to book a journey for your destination? When is the best period to book a flight (for most places it is anywhere up to five weeks before the day)? Is it cheaper to get to the airport by coach, train or tube? Is flying the only option? Is it cheaper to go for a weekend or a day? I'm off to (Copenhagen for a day at the end of the month because that happened to be a cheaper flight than returning the next day). Do you have to pay for everything you go to? In a world where money appears to run it, there is still so much available free of charge if we dig a little. I swear I'm not sponsored by them, by Eventbrite and Instagram are the places to go for events. If not to find the events, but the companies to reach out to when they run said events. It really is that simple.
3. Move to the city you want to tourist in. Perhaps not the easiest solution logistically, but it's true. I moved to Brazil because I wanted to see more of South America and the beaches. I moved to London so that I could get the experience yes, but also enjoy the events, the sites and the travel. I've been living here for nearly two years and I still haven't seen it all. One postcode can take up one weekend! And yes, while you may have to hustle to get the job and the accommodation that can ground you there, it makes doing all of these things a whole lot easier. Waking up in the morning and deciding to take the river bus to Greenwich, or go on a last minute peonies hunt to Columbia Road Flower Market. Or booking an evening with your housemates at the Sky Garden late on a Sunday evening for a casual glass of bubbly.
Quite honestly, all it comes down to is a choice. And whether you are willing to make it.
Even the time is possible if you really want it. Incorporate weekends into your annual leave so you don't use as much of your holiday allowance. Or better yet, look at when Bank Holidays fall and take a mini trip then! We have a couple to choose from from April to May.
You could also be a little crazy like me and take a Saturday to go somewhere like Copenhagen. In January, I took an early flight out to Leeds at 7:30am on the Saturday and returned home by 8pm on the Sunday. I took the river bus to Greenwich and then the tube back home to save a couple of pennies. All it takes is a little digging.
In short, it is possible to see the world often and hold down a London (big city) lifestyle. At the risk of sounding like a parent, it really is all in the daily choices we make.
Where will you go first?