Have you ever been stoked on a potential strike mission only to puke a little in your mouth when the ticket price shows up? Are you the type to drive the speed limit to save gas? Ever done the cost benefit analysis on bringing your board or renting one at destination? Then you might be a budget oriented surfer (Poor? Cheap? Rude synonyms only)! There are many of us out there, most out of necessity.
However, our financial status or inclinations should not exclude us from the surf travel dream sold to us on Instagram. Luckily, with globalization all the rage it is cheaper and easier than ever to get a surf trip together that will only crack the bank, not break it. All you have to do is follow a few guidelines and you’ll be living your very own Endless Summer, read on.
1. Location Location Location
This is by far and away your most important factor. Give up trying to get to Cloudbreak cheaply, it is not going to happen. In fact, most world class, resort style destinations are going to be expensive to get to as well as stay at (follow the rest of the guidelines to do this type of trip the cheapest). Therefore, start looking for areas that won’t break the bank flight or accommodation wise, but also have epic surf. Of course this is dependent on where you are located in the world. If you are in the United States of America, Central or South America will be your best bet. Coming from Europe? Morocco is the easiest, although Portugal might also offer what you are looking for. Australians need look no farther than Indonesia. Check out our regional pages for these areas here (you can also book through these pages!): Central America, South America, Morocco, Portugal, and Indonesia. These destinations are also ideal due to the cost of living (LOW!).
Another very important factor when looking at location is going to be consistency of surf. How often do the swell and wind line up during your travel window? For example, do not go to the north shore of Oahu during the summer. Bang for your buck generally necessitates highly consistent conditions during your travel window. For a high consistency example, check out our write up of the Best Surfing Spots in Bali.
2. Length of Stay
Lets be frank, if you’re reading this article you probably are not going on that many surf trips. Welcome to the club. That means that when you do have the cheddar to book plane tickets you should make them count. Prices for plane tickets don’t fluctuate much based on length of stay. To up your chances of scoring and in order to make the most of your travel I recommend staying at least 3 weekends, or two weeks. Most accommodations will give “longer stay” discounts, so contact in advance to see if that is an option. On top of having a better chance of scoring, you will also have a better chance to immerse yourself a little more than an in and out “fast food” style trip. This does involve taking two weeks off if you don’t work remote (do you even pandemic bro?), but because we are booking so far in advance (see below) I hope that won’t be a big problem.
3. When to Book?
So far in advance you will be frothing for months over the trip and your mates will start telling you to shut up when you mention your plans. My rule is usually at least 6 months. Monitor the flights beforehand and only book when they dip low. I promise they will, it just takes patience. It is almost impossible to book a ticket a few days or even weeks ahead of time in a financially responsible way. “Week of” strike missions for that special swell are never going to be cost effective. This also ties into the aspect of location and why it is so important to pick a high consistency area for your destination. You need to be able to book far out with a high chance of scoring good surf.
4. Accommodation Tips
There are a few things to consider when booking accommodation. What is included? It is usually cheaper to cook your own meals and buy your own beer than staying at an all inclusive surf camp, but unfortunately depending on your destination this might not be an option. Go for the bare minimum that you have to. If you need wifi, make sure you have it, but as a general rule get used to living without first world amenities for a little bit.
Places to stay are always cheaper when you are splitting the cost, which might be the most compelling argument to bring your mates with you. As with flights, book early, it will be cheaper. If you are staying two weeks or more contact the place you are staying directly, you might get a discount for a longer stay. Hostels are cheaper, especially those with shared rooms, but beware of potential crime. To really save money here, check out Workaway.info. Trade in work for accommodation, but be careful where you stay, how much work you are committing to, and that there is access to the surf.
5. Board Options
This section could be about all surf equipment, but the biggest and potentially most expensive item will be the board or boards. To rent while you’re there or bring with you and risk damage and fees? Know the surf scene where you are going before you decide, if there are no surf shops around of course you will need to bring. Is the option there to rent? Do they have boards that would suit your level/style of surfing?
After figuring out the options, and assuming renting is a possibility, your first question is whether you’d like one or two boards with you. If the answer is two bring them from home. If it’s just one, consider renting or buying then reselling. I have had the most success with the latter, which works great for extended trips where daily/weekly rental options can add up quickly. If you are traveling with your boards make sure to pack them well and understand the airline costs beforehand, see our surf trip packing list for more details. Make sure to also bring ding repair! The best laid plans of mice an men can be ruined by a hungover baggage handler.
Extra: The Cheapest Option?
Although this article has been based on flights and travel that involves crossing international borders by air, the cheapest option for many is to stay grounded. Road trip anyone? How well do you know the spots 3 hours away from you? Grab a car or camper, pack it with mates, boards, food, and maybe a few cheeky beers and proceed to have a great surf trip all while avoiding flight fees and international travel complications. Bring some tents and camp and you’ll also cut down on accommodation.
The dream of cheap travel is not dead! Follow these guidelines and you should be set for a trip to remember while hopefully keeping that credit score high.