What? are you saying spend less money AND have a better time? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
“It isn’t a lack of resources that is stopping you but a lack of resourcefulness”. (Tony Robbins)
When people ask me how I afford to travel as much as I do, my first response is usually something like,
“well I haven’t been to the hairdressers in about 3 years, I might be a hairy beast but I save a fortune on hair cuts”
I’ll be honest, there are a ton of bloggers out there who’ve written articles around this topic, some great, but a lot suggest things like hitchhiking everywhere, eating self-cooked beans and rice 3 times a day, even suggest dumpster diving as a way to save money on food.
For the record and all my hipster friends in Melbourne who are about to bombard me with messages about how much “perfectly good food” is wasted by large commercial businesses, I hate how wasteful our society is, so much so that I run a facebook page about it so I have nothing against dumpster diving, it’s just not my idea of a fun time.
Sure, if you can get over the fact that essentially you’re rummaging through a bin for food then go for it, just do a quick search on google and you’ll find plenty of tips but, I’ll leave that up to you.
As for hitchhiking, I have done it quite a bit in my life and you often meet amazingly beautiful, caring people which can lead to great things but it can also lead to waiting hours in the middle of nowhere or worse!
If you want to consider hitchhiking as a means of travel I suggest checking out https://hitchwiki.org/en/Main_Page a site 100% dedicated to hitchhiking advice around the world, you can even make posts in advance in the hope that someone might be going in your direction and are happy to give you a lift.
As the title suggests, the idea of this article is to make the pennies last without ruining the trip but rather enhancing it, if you can get one bit of advice from this article that will help make your travel experience better and last longer, then I’ve done my job. Below you have my top 10 tips to make your travel savings last whilst still having a blast.
10 tips to make your travel savings last whilst still having a blast.
Leverage the web – We live in an incredible time where there’s a site or app for just about everything you can imagine, yes even dumpster diving! not only can we communicate and get around easier with things like google maps and social media but if used correctly, technology can save you a ton or even make you money whilst you travel, here are a few sites I often use to save money whilst traveling.
google flights – You may have heard of sites like “I know the pilot” or “Skyscanner” and various other flight scanning platforms that compare airline prices but, I almost always end up going through “google flights” the granddaddy of search engines, it’s what most travel agents use to book flights for you anyway. Using the “Date grid” and “Price Graph” makes it super easy to see what days have the best deals around when you want to fly.
lastminute.com Hotels/hostels would rather fill empty beds last-minute cheaply, than not fill them at all, I’ve scored up to 80% off normal prices on this site.
transitapp.com Quickly compare all of your options for transport including rideshare options in 206 cities, 10 countries and 4 continents all on one screen.
couchsurfing.com create a profile and connect with kind-hearted people all over the world who are willing to share their couch or spare bed for free, plus connecting with locals is always better than getting caught in the tourist traps.
gasbuddy.com Driving on your travels? Compare gas prices along your route to ensure you don’t buy gas only to realize there’s a cheaper option just a few minutes down the road, this is also useful even if you’re not traveling.
Flixbus.com – throughout Europe flixbus provide extremely cheap bus and even train tickets.
megabus.com – Operate in Europe but also the UK, USA, and Canada. If you get your tickets early sometimes you can get stupidly cheap tickets as low as £1
- Stay awhile – As a less experienced traveler, I spent around 7 months traveling the Americas with my little sister, starting in the USA and finishing in Peru, excited to see as much as we could we visited 11 countries and multiple places in each, if we liked a place we would be lucky to spend 3 days there before packing our bags and moving on. Sure we covered plenty of ground and saw a lot but, we also spent a lot, plus it was kind of exhausting, ironically I felt like I needed a holiday afterward.
The problem with moving so quickly is you never get a chance to find the hidden gems and are often subject to “the gringo trail” and the prices that come with that which adds up quickly, I spent about $20,000 au within that short period, so find somewhere you love or that’s been recommended to you and stay awhile, find a business, foundation or hostel that you can work or volunteer for a month or three, not only will you feel like you have some purpose, you’ll save a fortune on travel, accommodation, food and get to know the local prices (not gringo prices), hidden gems, people and culture a lot better. It’s a lot cheaper, less stressful and in my experience a much more enjoyable way to travel.
- Buy a vehicle – I’ve traveled and know others who’ve traveled in everything from a bus to a took took and everything inbetween. Sure it might be a decent upfront cost but if you look after it, you can often sell it toward the end of your trip for the same price you got it for, and if it doubles as a place to sleep, you’ll save a fortune on accommodation, plus the freedom to move around as you please is the best! Just do your due diligence, the last thing you want is to have to deal with mechanical problems in the middle of your trip. Don’t buy something you or someone you trust hasn’t looked at and tested.
– Organize an international license before you leave your country, they are quite easy to get but can take a few weeks to receive so don’t leave it until the last minute.
– Ensure the vehicle and try to keep it in a safe place, I had a motorbike stolen on one of my trips and I didn’t have it insured, money down the drain.
– If you are only going for a short time, it may be better to consider hiring rather than buying.
– Avoid unnecessary fines by checking common road rules that catch people off guard in the countries you will be driving.
– Google the best site for purchasing vehicles in the country you will visit and start looking in advance to get the best deal. For the USA – Cargurus.com and cars.com even https://www.ebay.com for Europe – https://www.autoscout24.com Australia – https://www.carsales.com.au/
Travel Insurance – that covers you and your valuables is something I would always suggest NOT cutting corners on. I traveled a whole year without needing insurance so I decided it was a waste of money and didn’t renew it, two weeks later I got seriously ill and the hospital bill cost me about 40 times more than if I’d just renewed it for another year. If anything should go wrong, not being covered can put a costly end to your trip.
I won’t recommend any particular travel insurance because the cover that is good for a 20-year-old male who loves extreme sports and going to South America, isn’t likely to be right for a 50-year-old woman going to Europe so, “get your google on” and do your due diligence.
- Travel cards – Avoid paying double atm withdrawal fees and currency conversion fees by organizing a travel card through your bank or other financial institutions. On my last trip to Italy, Colombia, and Mexico I didn’t bother to organize a travel card and it cost me hundreds of dollars in excess fees that could have been avoided. Before coming on the European trip that I am currently on I organized a Qantas Frequent Flyer travel card which has not only saved me hundreds in fees but I’m also getting frequent flyer points every time I use it which will help save on future flights, I’ve also heard good things about the Virgin Frequent Flyer Travelcard.
- Buy a local sim card – It often cost next to nothing, you’ll able to take advantage of the local providers best rates, your new local friends, hosts or employees can call you if they need to and these days as long as you can get wifi, so can everyone else around the world for free!
The last thing you want to do is travel with your phone plan on roaming as it will cost you a small fortune, if you are locked into a contract with your phone then it does make that harder, hence why I never have a phone plan anymore.
- Plan for spontaneity – “The best-laid plans of mice and men, often go astray”, Generally the more you can plan the better but, I have a twist to add. Although booking flights or accommodation ahead of time generally gets you a better price, the most amazing opportunities I’ve ever had more often than not came from meeting people I clicked with along the way. Although this does require an element of spontaneity, THAT’S FUN! and when you get good at it, you can in fact plan to be spontaneous.
Don’t over commit, early on in my travel days I bought a non refundable multi-trip tour through Mexico thinking it would save me money and save me thinking about where I would go next, I quickly learnt that the price wasn’t that good anyway and a week into my trip I was offered to join two guys who’d done up an old school bus and where doing a surf trip right down the west coast and said I could join them as long as I chipped in for beer, I was devastated that I’d just spend almost $500 (that’s a lot of beer in Mexico) on this non-refundable multi-trip, needless to say, I’ve never done that again.
To enter a new country you’re normally required to show travel insurance and an exiting ticket or they may not even let you on the plane but unless I’m 100% sure of any trips I’ll need in between, I generally book a flight for the start and finish of my trip, and that’s it.
Another fun spontaneous thing you can plan for is to register to receive promotions or notifications from low-cost airlines like AirAsia, Jetstar, RyanAir, EasyJet, FlyMonarch or Virgin Australia as you can score super cheap flights. Jetstar, for example, was recently giving away $0 flights to promote a new route they’d opened, all you had to pay was the airport taxes and be one of the first few hundred people to claim a spot.
Low-cost airlines can cost you more. Now I know I just said to sign up to receive deals from low-cost airlines but a general word of advice with low-cost airlines, make sure you read the fine print and conditions of your flight carefully or you may end up paying just as much if not more than just going with a more reliable airline.
I didn’t read the fine print on a confirmation email from VivaAir saying that if you don’t bring a printed boarding pass with you to the airport they charge you almost $20(US) to print it at the airport check-in, so the flight ended up costing the same as one of the better airlines but with half the service.
When looking for cheap flights through sites that compare and work out the cheapest routes, they will often provide combinations of airlines that aren’t always affiliated with each other, if this is the case, it may mean you will need to collect and recheck your luggage at one of your connecting flights, I have lost luggage this way because funny enough poorly trained VivaAir staff wrongly advised me that I didn’t need to recheck my luggage in Peru when I initially checked in at the first flight. #neverflywithVivaAir
Another thing to be conscious of when you don’t have a direct flight is weather or not you need to be aware of any extra taxes or visas that you might need in the country that you have your flight change in, for example;
If you are Australian and you pass through Chile, if the agency who organized the flights has included a connecting flight through Chile with two airlines that don’t work directly with each other, you will need to pay an airport tax of $150 US just to re-check your luggage.
Even if you are just on a layover in the USA you need to organize and pay for an ESTA visa, they aren’t expensive and depending where you are from fairly easy to organize online but if you don’t do it before you check into your first flight you are not going to be allowed on the plane even if you’re just changing planes in a USA airport and you could lose your flight if it’s a non refundable low-cost airline.
- Who’s in your network? – One of the biggest expenses with travel is accommodation but quite frankly I’d rather stay with people I know, be it directly or indirectly and not just for the obvious financial benefits but the overall experience of having a local friend to hang out with who really knows the area and it’s secrets, things that those staying in hotels or hostels will often miss or have to pay for.
Look and post on social media for people that live in the areas you are thinking about traveling to, do you have friends who have friends in those areas? Make a list, get in touch and have a chat, maybe you can even organize work through them in advance.
In the past few months here in Europe I’ve spent an amazing 5 weeks sailing through the Greek islands as crew on one of the most gorgeous yachts I’ve ever seen, 2 weeks in Germany just outside Munich, 1 week just outside Zurich in Switzerland, 4 days in Lucern Switzerland, 1 week in Paris, a week in Amsterdam and Breda in the Netherlands, a number of weeks in a camper van with my brother on his #looptheworld tour staying in all sorts of places across Europe and the UK, and only paying for the odd campsite a hand full of times because the rest of the time I’ve been with good friends or friends of friends.
I’m currently writing this in a gorgeous little village in Wales called Beddgelert, where for the last 2 weeks I’ve been helping some new friends in their hotel, in exchange for a room and 3 meals a day, they are also paying me for the hours that I’m doing so I’m actually saving money whilst I take a step back from the constant travel and enjoy the Welsh highlands, which is absolutely stunning by the way! The situation is so nice that I’ve decided to stay for another 4 weeks at which point I’ll be going to stay with a friend in Madrid for a few days before road tripping across Spain in her car for a few weeks.
I’m not saying this to brag but simply highlight the answer the question, HOW DO YOU AFFORD TO TRAVEL SO MUCH? all of the above and sometimes paired with my final tip which is…
- Paid work along the way – If you’re interested in what kind of work options you might be able to find that allow you to continue traveling, check out my last blog;
10 FULFILING LIFESTYLE JOBS THAT ALLOW YOU TO TRAVEL THE WORLD
Have faith in the kindness of strangers, of course, that is a two way street, the world is a mirror. Show love and kindness with the world and trust me it will show it right back. To all those who’ve hosted me around the world, they know they have a place to stay when they come to Australia. Like anything, everything becomes easier with time as your experience and network grow, so get out there and let the adventure begin!