The budget and the bucket list look like unlikely bedfellows. In fact, they look like poorly zipped sleeping bags, with a “million star” hotel shaped like the night sky.
But, even if you don’t like camping, you can still see the wonders of the world without spending big bucks. A little planning and research goes a long way. Choose your season carefully, be as flexible as possible on departure times and avoid high-margin accommodations and you can see and experience everything you dream of without emptying your savings account.
In this year of cost-of-living challenges and high inflation, any kind of saving is a big help. It’s also worth noting that while the pound in your pocket won’t go as far home for food, drink, travel and recreation, it doesn’t necessarily have to go anywhere else. Also, Britain is sadly expensive for most things and just going abroad can be a bit of a money saver. Stay away longer and you can potentially save more.
I’m a big believer in low-cost luxury. In my case, that might mean a beachside shack, a good city hostel, or a tent with a view. I once spent a week hitchhiking and camping in Patagonia. I’ve been there before, stayed in luxurious hotels and lodges, and enjoyed fine dining, but the no-frills trip was like a happy throwback to how I traveled – and why I started traveling in the first place.
I went to the ground, slowly, independently. The focus was on authenticity and fun – basic, wholesome, smile-inducing fun. When, as part of the trip, I found myself among groups of guided tourists ogling the Perito Moreno Glacier, I felt two things: first, my low-key approach was so much better; second, I saw a world-renowned “site” in a Unesco-listed national park for the price of an entry ticket, a matter of a few pesos.
I felt like I was cheating in a good way, living an unforgettable experience without blowing my budget.
The luxury travel market wants us to spend a lot on comforts and consumables, items like king-size beds in designer hotels, gourmet food, champagne and cocktails, and bespoke service – ideally a private guide, a private car and private experiences. But luxury comes in many forms: social and shared vacations, non-starred hotels full of personality, fresh air and tranquility.
Who wants a flat screen TV when the view is amazing? Who needs air conditioning when you can open a window? Money only buys certain things. Sometimes you get the most incredible experience by putting in the effort – climbing a hill, descending a rarely traveled road, taking your time.
So here’s a bucket list with a twist. Our pick of the world’s biggest and boldest trips – vacations you’ll love and remember forever – and how to do them with little money and, if possible, with a low carbon footprint too.
Note on prices: these are approximate “per person” figures. Transport prices vary greatly depending on the season. Rates on so-called “dynamic” booking sites such as Trivago and Booking.com change all the time. Currency conversion rates will also influence the final overall price, as will ultimately food, beverages and additional local costs.