We Need to Talk: How to Travel on a (Serious) Budget

This week on We Need to Talk, our Social Media Manager, Caitlin Timson, and our Assistant Editor, Kelly Etz, chat about their upcoming trip to Paris + London — and tackle everything from budgeting out your plane ticket to creating the ultimate travel bucket lists. Watch till the end for our “musts” in each city (…and some pretty hilarious bloopers).

We need your recommendations! Where are your favorite places to go in Paris or London? How do you keep to a budget while traveling? Tell us in the comments below! 

  • Mary Clark

    I commented before I watched your video because I love London so much! So some of this just doesn’t apply to you, but may be of interest to another reader:)

    London offers so much for free! Most of the museums are free and open late at least one evening a week. Check out churches for cafes–some of them are incredibly atmospheric in the church crypts and the food is reasonable, even if it’s not gourmet. Also, skip the Pret a Manger sandwiches and seek out the neighborhood bakeries/sandwich shops. You can get a sandwich big enough to share for sometimes less than one Pret sammie. My friend and I packed enough protein bars for breakfast every day, which let us indulge guilt-free in some nicer meals.

    Unless you’re in a rush, London buses are cheaper than the Tube, and some of them (the 11 springs to mind) are almost as good as a sightseeing bus. Buy The London Map Guide, 8th edition. It shows all the bus routes. You can also use the Transport for London site: https://tfl.gov.uk/plan-a-journey/ to plan out a few routes.

    Airbnb can be great, but check the location on Google maps, too! London is a big city, and it’s no fun staying 45 minutes away from all the things you want to do! Also, do the Street View to check out the neighborhood. There’s no excuse for staying next to a strip club (unless, of course, that’s where you want to stay. No judgment!)

    Of all the trips I’ve taken, some of my fondest memories are not of the sightseeing stops or fancy restaurants, but more of the experiences just soaking London in on a park bench or having a half pint in a pub filled with locals and their dogs. Don’t go with an extensive checklist; leave time to just relax.

    • Janean Comfort

      So helpful! Thanks

  • Janean Comfort

    Omg so helpful. Going on my first international trip to London in September.

  • Rachael F

    My now husband and I got engaged on our trip to Paris, so budgeting was key for us with upcoming wedding expenses (plus who could forgo an engagement shoot at the Eiffel Tower?). We stayed out near the Arc De Triomphe in a quieter residential area which gave us the true feel of life in Paris, at a lesser cost. Away from the major tourists sites (but still only a few Metro stops away) meant that cafe and restaurant prices were much less, plus more personal feeling. There was no better feeling than walking out of our hotel early in the morning and leisurely walking to a quiet cafe for coffee without dealing with the crowds.
    The countless gardens and overall architecture and scenery of Paris is stunning, not to mention free to look at and explore. I really think it’s one of the best ways to go about seeing a new city, especially at a budget. Another way to save is with day pass tickets for the metro, but keep in mind that if you fly into the main airport, you’re quite a ways from the city center and will have to buy the regional train ticket.
    We currently live overseas due to work and have been to 12 countries in Europe in the past 9 months, so budgeting for travel is important to us without compromising what we want to see, just be realistic. Make a list of “must-see” places in the city you’re going to and don’t compromise. You never know if/when you’ll be able to go back!

  • Jenae

    You have, have, have do to afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason!! Take it from an (abroad) Londoner, (who always has to get a tea fix when I’m back at home!) the tea experience at F&M is brilliant! Plus, the Queen gets her tea (and other goodies) from there, so you’re in good company 🙂

    As for Paris, L’Entrecote is a must do for a classic steak and frites meal. Seriously, one of the best meals I’ve had! Be prepared to queue, and you can’t make a reservation in advance, but the line moves quick and the whole experience est très Parisien! Bon Voyage!

  • Kristyn

    Highly recommend this adorable and affordable hotel in Paris on the left bank: http://www.hotelresidencedesartsparis.com

  • mollie blackwood

    I’m going to both London and Paris (leaving on July 5th!)! I also want to have real ass tea and I also have Dishoom on my list! Have fun!

    • mollie blackwood

      Oh, and here’s my google map I have so far… I have organized it yet but it has everything I’ve looked up so far for London… https://drive.google.com/open?id=1NDJsj-jOFfsaskDUimsub5fFwIk&usp=sharing

  • That sounds exciting! Here are some of my recommendations for Paris (I’ve lived in the Parisian suburbs for 2 years):

    My favourite museums are musée de la vie romantique – it’s small and in a really pretty courtyard, plus it’s free (suggested donations), and the musée de l’orangerie, which has the water lilies of monet, and the structure of the rooms with the long paintings creates a really magical effect. I like the view from the top of Notre Dame, if I’m not wrong it’s free for under 26s.

    Théâtre des Champs Élysées is a small opera theater and comfortable, sometimes has ballet too (I saw Swan Lake there, performed by the St Petersburg Ballet Theater!). The cheapest tickets are sometimes 5 to 10 euros but that leaves you far from the stage. Sometimes if there aren’t a lot of people you can try to go to the plushy armchairs in the front which are unoccupied, the people working there are pretty chill.

    I also think it’d be better to eat at restaurants at noon, and eat sandwiches or other cheaper food at night. In Paris, you often have fixed lunch menus that are waaaay cheaper than dinner menus (I really like Chez Juno for Southern French food and a huge huge huge bowl of chocolat mousse for 9euros that you can share; Breizh cafe for crepes and L’as du fallafel for fallafels when you’re in the Marais). Cafe or thé gourmand is definitely a good idea for dessert (they bring you coffee/tea and you get also 2-3 mini desserts to go with, it’s all really cute)

    I have photos about some of what I’ve talked about on my blog 🙂 (yujia21.wordpress.com)

    Have a good trip!

  • That sounds exciting! Here are some of my recommendations for Paris (I’ve lived in the Parisian suburbs for 2 years):

    My favourite museums are musée de la vie romantique – it’s small and in a really pretty courtyard, plus it’s free (suggested donations), and the musée de l’orangerie, which has the water lilies of monet, and the structure of the rooms with the long paintings creates a really magical effect. I like the view from the top of Notre Dame, if I’m not wrong it’s free for under 26s.

    Théâtre des Champs Élysées is a small opera theater and comfortable, sometimes has ballet too (I saw Swan Lake there, performed by the St Petersburg Ballet Theater!). The cheapest tickets are sometimes 5 to 10 euros but that leaves you far from the stage. Sometimes if there aren’t a lot of people you can try to go to the plushy armchairs in the front which are unoccupied, the people working there are pretty chill.

    I also think it’d be better to eat at restaurants at noon, and eat sandwiches or other cheaper food at night. In Paris, you often have fixed lunch menus that are waaaay cheaper than dinner menus (I really like Chez Juno for Southern French food and a huge huge huge bowl of chocolat mousse for 9euros that you can share; Breizh cafe for crepes and L’as du fallafel for fallafels when you’re in the Marais). Cafe or thé gourmand is definitely a good idea for dessert (they bring you coffee/tea and you get also 2-3 mini desserts to go with, it’s all really cute)

    I have photos about some of what I’ve talked about on my blog 🙂 (yujia21.wordpress.com)

    Have a good trip!

  • Aubrey Hubbell

    Ah! So happy and excited for you two! For a magnificent Lemon Meringue pie in La Marais, visit La Loir dans la Théière. I stop by every time I visit Paris. It’s absolutely delightful!

  • Caitlin Rider

    Honestly, get cultured in London. There are SO many free museums to go to – and they are all amazing. Also, take a walk along the south bank (on a weekend preferably) as there’s so much going on at all times, and you’re right in the main hub of everything.

    When you’re in Paris, you have to go see two things. One – the Opera Garnier (um hello Phantom of the Opera! You get to see the box that was talked about). And two – right across the street is Galeries Lafayette. Which is just a major shopping center. When you’re there, go ALL the way to the top, there’s a lovely little open terrace viewing deck. That is my all time favorite view of Paris – which is also free – unless you’re spending some serious $$ on designer wear.