Budget travel, its what I do.  I enjoy it for the most part, the challenge of finding deals, collecting points/air miles and getting the best value for my cash monies that I can.  In some senses its a game, but then on a more serious note I do need to watch just how much I can afford to spend on luxuries these days, and whilst I hate to admit it and a large part of my brain tells me that it is essential to my sanity and general happiness, travel is in reality very much a luxury.

As the title of this post suggests, age has played a pretty significant role in my travel spending habits, a change I’m only just really starting to notice if I’m completely honest.  As I’ve got older and matured into a fully grown man-child, my travel tastes have certainly changed (as I imagine most peoples do), and with a change in taste has come a change in my spending habits.  I’m still looking to travel on a budget, but with cutbacks and splurges now made in different areas to previous.

Here’s a little look at my changing habits.



Then (early 20’s) – cheap cheap cheap.  I didn’t care where from (as dad would usually give me a lift), what airline, and I didn’t care what time.  Huge layovers were not a problem, so long as I could get to where I wanted to be and still have money leftover I was good.

Now (30) – Ideally from Heathrow, even if it costs that little bit more flight wise – ultimately paying to get to Gatwick, Stansted or Luton will negate the extra cost of the flight.  Huge layovers are a no no as I don’t have unlimited annual leave and so cannot afford to ‘waste’ time by spending hours and hours in airports.  Depending upon flight duration I kinda care about the airline because I want some half decent entertainment, and to be able to feel my legs at the end of the flight.  I will still travel at stupid o’clock in the morning though, that much hasn’t changed.


Internal Travel

Then – I’d tend to go with whichever method my friends were using, or if on my own I would probably use the method which I thought would give me the best opportunity to connect with new people.  I’d usually look for something on the cheaper side, but not at the expense of legroom or safety.  Bartering for a ride where possible was a given and actually quite enjoyable.

Now – My tolerance for buses is shot, London has seen to that.  Unless there is no other way, or if the other way is silly amounts of money, I will always steer away from buses and mini buses.  I can’t deal with the lack of leg room for 8 hours at a time, or the backbreaking rides that usually ensue at the hands of maniac drivers.  Add to the fact that I am usually travelling in a hurry nowadays (owing to annual leave), I’ll usually always pay the extra and get a train or plane for their comfort and speed.  I’m tragic with bartering now too.




Then – Hostel, huge dorm room, basically whatever was cheapest.  I didn’t ever plan on spending too much time in my room, just so long as I had a bed and my gear was all safe I was set.  Snorers and whatever else I could deal with … just about.

Now – Dorm rooms are still a yes, I still love them and the hostel atmosphere when travelling on my own.  However, now that I travel with company more often than not, it’s more likely I’ll be on the lookout for what you might call boutique hostels, budgets hotels and apartments to rent.  Somewhere that bit more comfortable and that bit more private for the mrs and I. I must say that I’m more than satisfied, mesmerized even, with the Serviced apartments in vienna because of how well-maintained and refined it is.


Food and Drink

Then – cheap noodles ‘made’ myself in a hostel kitchen and beer, lots of beers!

Now – Maybe a posh burger, in a quirky and up and coming part of town.  Nothing too fancy, but somewhere the gf and I can sit down together and enjoy a bite to eat.  Beer is still on the menu, but in much smaller quantities.  Street-food likewise is still an option during the day, but come nighttime we like a nice sit down meal.

Chish and Fips for dinner :D #ireland #dingle   A photo posted by Neil Barnes (@packsandbunks) on




Then – Whenever and wherever possible.  As per above, lots of beer and then equal amounts of regret the next morning.

Now – Esther and I wouldn’t go to a club on our own, we’re not that type of couple.  We do like the odd beer on a beach, or in a nice pub though, but prefer an afternoon tipple to a late night one.  This usually means less outgoings on parties, as we’re not paying entry fees for clubs, or the silly drinks prices once inside a club.  We also not on the razz every night like we once might have been.  Apres ski is till a winner though, and obviously stag do’s abroad involve their fair share of parties.

… Said beer #pblaos #pbseasia #pbseasiamap

A photo posted by Neil Barnes (@packsandbunks) on



Then – Anything that involved an adrenaline rush, cost was not a consideration, nor safety.   Skydiving and Bungee jumping are the two activities that spring to mind.  Backpacking and Gap Year staples.

Now – I still like the odd adrenaline rush, but instead of skydiving and bungee jumping, I’ve moved on to snowboarding and segway riding.  This owes a lot to the types of trips I am now taking, and to an extent my chosen destinations of late.  Even at 30 I wouldn’t say that ‘activities’ is an area where my spending habits have changed much.

This almost makes me look cool #pbbansko #bansko #snowboarding #bulgaria A photo posted by Neil Barnes (@packsandbunks) on




Then – Been there, done that, got the t-shirt … and the DVD, maybe a sticker or two, the flyer/brochure, a beer mat, basically anything I could get my hands on.  Back then I think my rucksack had more souvenirs than clothes.  Admittedly I was able to make an awesome scrap book from a lot of the bits and pieces I had collected, but the t-shirts have now all been donated to charity as I just didn’t end up wearing them.

Now – Fridge magnets and the odd postcard, that’s about it.  Material goods aren’t really for me so much anymore.  A small fridge magnet is enough to remind me of amazing times had whilst travelling.  Memories over material.


Changes in Spending

So travel wise it would appear that the number of items increasing in cost is higher than those heading south, but in all honesty it kinda balances out.  Through gritted teeth I’ll admit that a large part of my gap year budget went on booze and partying, but whilst I would do things slightly different now as a 30 year old, I doubt my 24 year old self would be able to resist the parties of Thailand and east coast Australia given a second chance to do it all again.

Increased spending About the same Decreased spending
⇑ Flights ⇒ Activities ⇓ Partying
⇑ Ground Travel ⇓ Souvenirs
⇑ Accommodation
⇑ Rent    
⇑ Mortgage saving    
⇑ Bills    
⇑ Car


Travel habits and spending also dictated by home life?

Looking at the table above you’ll probably have noticed a couple of horrible looking red items also appearing in the increased spending column.  Ghastly looking!

Owing to the lifestyle I have chosen to lead since my gap year(s), I now have a job which limits my annual leave, and a flat which requires high monthly outgoings.  Oh, and I’m also TRYING to save enough to secure a mortgage.  It’s a world away from my early 20’s, living rent free at my parents and working a job which, although only part time and not particularly well paid, did allow me to go away for months/weeks at a time. I also had my parents as a bit of a safety net back then too, like when I went to New Zealand and they lent me £1000 to cover the cost.  I paid it back obviously, but they’re still legends for helping my out.


If anything, I would say that I have to be far more money conscious now than when I was just starting out as a traveller and taking off around the world for months a time, staying in dive accommodation for like £2 a night.  That makes sense in that when you’re younger you’re generally more fearless and care less for consequences, but at the same time it was at that point in my life and travels that I was always searching for the very cheapest.  It was a different kind of consciousness back then I guess. Whereas now despite my earning more, its about being able to afford to travel in the first place and then not overspending, save leaving myself short when it comes to rent and bills.  A few short years ago I earned a lot less admittedly,  but my budgeting was simply about being able to travel longer and further.

Want to know how I afford to travel and save for a mortgage, try giving this a read –> How I personally afford to travel