I think it’s safe to say that the main concern with the majority of young travelers today is how in the world to save money, go further, and stay on the road longer. In an age of student loans and debt up to your nose, it sometimes becomes hard to manage. However, that doesn’t make traveling the world unobtainable in the least. Matter of fact, you’ll be enlightened to find out that if done frugally and in the right way, long-term travel can become more affordable than everyday life in many parts of the world. And the more you travel, the more tips and tricks you will learn.
Budgeting for travel is simple. There are three basic costs that you have to account for that will cover a large majority of your expenses. Those are transportation, accommodation, and food. There are other expenses to travel, too, but many of the other expenses are very subjective relative to the mindset of the traveler. However, transportation, accommodation, and food are necessities of traveling. Here I will explain how I cut costs when necessary and what strategies and tools I use in order to do that:
Depending on where you live and where you are going, plane travel can become expensive. Often the first expense of any traveling is the initial plane ticket. Here are a few resources to look into for cheaper flights:
These two websites are “error-fare” watchers. Error-fare watchers will notify you when airline companies accidentally slip-up and advertise a flight for the wrong price. Using these sites, it is entirely possible to fly from the States to Europe for less than the cost of a domestic U.S. flight. I highly recommend signing-up for each site’s newsletter as well as following the social media accounts attached to the sites.
In addition, there is an opportunity to dip your feet into travelhacking. Believe it or not, it is possible to fly anywhere on Earth for free (this is not a typo)! It requires attention to personal financing, but it is well worth it in the end. Just recently, I was awarded over $3,000 in travel credit from using this tactic. It is without a doubt what allows me to stay on the move.
For travel on the ground, I use apps such as GoEuro (in Europe) to find the cheapest possible modes of transportation from one destination to my next. You would be surprised at the outrageously cheap prices this app can snag you.
How affordable you can make accommodation depends largely on what type of travel you are doing. However, it is possible to save loads of cash no matter how long you will be in a destination.
For short-term, city-to-city travel, I recommend hostels and Couchsurfing. Hostels are very popular virtually everywhere in the world besides America. For more, read my guide on how to pick the best hostels.
Couchsurfing is a portal that matches travelers up to hosts for short-term stints. Hosts on Couchsurfing do not charge a single cent making this option 100% free. It is out of the goodness of people’s hearts so do not take advantage of them. Be graceful guests and earn yourself a recommendation from your host that will make it easier to find more hosts in the future.
For long-term traveling, try using sites such as Workaway and WWOOFING to find accommodation for a longer stay. Read how Workaway saved me thousands of dollars in Belgium last year! These sites also match travelers with hosts; however, some sort of volunteering is normally required in order to stay for free. But most offer free food as well!
I know all kinds of travelers. Some can dine in foreign countries on less than $2 per meal, some would rather designate a large portion of their budget to local delicacies. I, for one, don’t mind spending money tasting local cuisine occasionally. However, I am not one to desire a local taste in every city I visit.
Generally, my rule of thumb is if a city has a certain food they are internationally known for, I will splurge. If not, I’ll become a $2 or less per meal type of traveler. This is fairly easy to accomplish anywhere you travel utilizing your hostel’s kitchen, cheap street food, or even being an out-of-sorts meal eater. There are times when I’ll only eat one meal per day and feel completely sated for the day. Traveling does all sorts of wacky things to your diet.
Most hostels offer fully-stocked kitchens to all of their guests. I’ve stayed at hostels that have really great, clean kitchens and some that make me feel as if I’m back at my university sharing a community kitchen with five teenage boys. Regardless, hostel kitchens are usually a great place to meet people (one of the few places in a hostel where people aren’t in a rush) and actually have decent conversations.
In addition, I believe grocery shopping for your own meals in different countries can be just as much of a cultural experience as dining out on local cuisine. Make it what you want and that’s the experience you will get!
Once you’re on the road for a while, you will start picking up money savvy habits on your own and surely will develop your own methods of saving your budget. I would love to hear them in the comments below. I’m always looking for new creative ideas to save my money. No idea is too outlandish to me!
Connect with me via email and find me on social media with the links at the top!