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How to Save Money While Traveling

How to Save Money While Traveling

Money is the single biggest hinderance to travel for most people.  You may find it’s the perfect time for you to take off—you’ve got the opportunity and nothing holding you down at home, but how can you pay for it all?  If you don’t plan to work while you travel, it’ll probably take a lot of saving and budgeting.  We were never particularly good at either until we realized it was the only way to keep this lifestyle up and avoid having to go back home and find “real” jobs.  So over the last year or so we’ve found a few ways to save money along the way.  More more = more trips and less time working.  Here are some of our favorite ways to save money while traveling, without getting any less out of our trips.

1.  Choose your destination carefully

For the budget traveler, not all countries are created equal.  When you’re choosing where to travel, consider how much you’ve got to spend.  Generally, places like Western Europe, North America, and Australia cost a lot more than other parts of the world.  With that in mind, your money won’t go nearly as far.  Australia, for example, is really expensive and there’s no way we’d be able to spend as much time here if we weren’t working.  If you’re living off limited savings, try a region like South America, Southeast Asia, or Eastern Europe.  You’ll be able to live a lot better and see a lot more. 

2.  Shop around for cheap flights

When booking your flights, check discount sites for the best deals.  International flights are usually one of the biggest expenses when planning a trip, so take your time and make sure you get the best deal you can.  We’re big fans of the app Hopper and sites like Student Universe and Skyscanner.  Regional and domestic flights are often a lot more affordable, but saving on the big ones can really help.

3.  Book inexpensive accommodation

You probably won’t be staying at five star resorts if you’re worried about money, so an affordable place to sleep is high on the list.  We generally stay at hostels when we travel and use Hostelworld to find and book them, but there’s definitely room to get creative.  Couchsurfing is a great way to find a totally free place to stay, but you have to be the type of person who is comfortable meeting new people and living with them in any space they may have—a couch, a spare room, or shared room.  The benefit is that you’ll stay for free and it’ll probably be with a pretty cool person.  Many hostels will allow you to work for accommodation by cleaning or something similar.  That way you’ll save money or get to live there for nothing.  House and pet sitting is something we’ve never tried, but it’s an awesome way to stay somewhere nice for free in exchange for little to no work.  Lastly, Airbnb is always a super comfortable option for living like a local.  Sometimes its a bit pricier, but if you’re traveling with someone and can share the cost it might work out to be cheaper than even a hostel.  Use our referral link to save some cash if it’s your first booking.

Read our full guide to finding housing.

4.  Use local transportation

If you’ve got plenty of time but can't say the same for money, always remember that it’s cheaper to travel more slowly.  Getting from place to place and booking temporary accommodation really adds up.  We’re big fans of moving places and taking our time getting to know the culture.  That way, you can also find short to medium-term housing that will probably save you money.  We spent much more in a month traveling down the east coast of Australia, for example, than we have living in Port Douglas this past month.  If you’ll be visiting several countries the costs can add up even quicker with flights, visas, and other miscellaneous expenses. 

When you do book transportation, always go the local route.  Buses and other forms of public transportation are typically much more affordable than flying, and the journey is part of the adventure anyway.  We usually opt for renting a car and splitting it amongst a few of us over booking tours when possible. 

5.  Live like a local

Live like a local, not a tourist.  When you’re living on the road, you have to get into a routine.  Be a traveler who adapts to your surroundings, not a tourists who splurges on daily luxuries and conveniences.  You’ll have to find your own balance here and we certainly love treating ourselves, but cooking for yourself and eating local food is much cheaper than going out to Western-style restaurants in Southeast Asia, for example.  If you’re traveling with a friend, share food to save money.  It’s much cheaper and you’ll have a lot more variety.  Otherwise you’ll end up eating pasta for every meal because it’s the only thing that will keep well on the road.

Check out our food section for some backpacker-friendly recipes.

6.  Cut back on drinking

I hate to say it, but alcohol is a huge expense while traveling.  It certainly varies by location, but if you go out frequently you should expect to spend a lot more.  Even though we work and live in Australia, we’ve had to adjust our drinking habits since moving here.  Beer is incredibly expensive and liquor is basically off the table, which is why so many backpackers in Australia drink their weight in cheap wine.  It’s ultimately up to you, but something to consider.

7.  Experiences over possessions

Most extended travelers carry their lives on their backs.  Ultimately, possessions become a burden you’ll have to drag around the world.  Adopt the mindset that experiences are more valuable than what you own early-on and reserve your money for things that matter most to you.  This isn’t to say you should never buy the things you want, but once you get over having a massive wardrobe of clothes you never wear, you’ll become much more agile and you’ll be able to spend what you do have to get you to the places all your friends wish they could go.

Consider what experiences matter most to you.  Of course you won’t be able to do everything, particularly when it comes to big-ticket things like skydiving and bungee jumping.  A single adventure like this can run you hundreds, so pick what you absolutely want to do and be content with it.  Splurging infrequently will allow your money to stretch further.  Explore cheap or free things to do in each city, like museums and walking tours.  The latter provide a great way to explore a city by foot, usually for free.  Do remember that guides often work for tips though and spread the love. 

8.  Create a budget

You don’t need to plan everything down to the last penny, but when you successfully create a rough budget and stick to it, you can hold yourself accountable and keep yourself on track.  If you’re traveling off savings for an extended period of time, how much can you spend each day?  Some days will be more expensive, like travel days, and others will be cheaper, like sightseeing days.  All in all, it’ll even out if you’re conscious of your daily spending.

9.  Enjoy the little things 

One of the most important keys to saving money while traveling and being content while doing so is to enjoy the little things.  Be happy that you’re seeing something new and appreciate the effort it took to get there.  Realize there’s a chance you won’t get this particular experience again and be present.  You’ve already spent the money to get yourself to your destination, so take an afternoon to walk around the city and visit a museum.  Each day on the road doesn’t need to be an extreme adventure. 

These are just a few of the tips we find work for us when it comes to minimizing our spending so we can go further.  What works for you?  We'd be happy to hear it--drop us a comment below! 

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