So You Want to Travel but Don’t Have Enough Money to Go?
16 October, 2017: Do you want to travel but feel that you can’t, because you don’t have enough money saved up or just can’t afford it on a frugal budget? Well, my friends, I’m sorry to tell you that your excuse is unacceptable. Why? Because—Do you have any idea how many people are poor and yet still manage to travel? The answer is A LOT. Akin to the invisible “working poor” who earn an income and seem to be well dressed and well educated, yet struggle to pay their bills each month, the travelling poor are determined to travel although they evidently don’t have enough money in their bank accounts and can scarcely afford it. The travelling poor do not let work schedules, unnecessary weekly expenditures, and in-the-box thinking prevent them from travelling. Rather, they work hard, save diligently, and spend smartly in order to CREATE the opportunity to travel the world on a frugal budget and enrich their minds and souls.
The take-home message is: you SHOULD travel, even if you don’t think you have enough money. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And I’m here to provide you with some help––in the form of personal advice as well as well-known and beloved travel hacks used by the travel community–to get you started in accomplishing this goal.
How to Save Money and Spend Smartly If You Want to Travel
Saving money is a practice that many people struggle with. In some cultures, people spend their entire disposable income as soon as they earn it––on things like restaurants and bars and concerts and clothes––without setting anything aside for the future. In other cultures, people immediately set aside a third of their monthly salary in their savings account and divide the remainder among bills and essential living expenses. And yet others would like earnestly to save a portion of their income on a regular basis but are bogged down by staggering debt, medical costs, tuition, or other difficult and very demanding realities. Only you know the reality of your situation and how much money you can feasibly squirrel away into your savings account if you want to travel far beyond your work commute.
To get started on achieving your travel dream, first make a travel budget. How much money do you think you need to go all the places you want to travel to? Break down your budget into as many details as possible: estimated airfare/bus fare/train fare, estimated food expenses, estimated accommodation costs, estimated entertainment costs, etc. Click here for advice on how to put together a budget when planning a trip.
Once you have some numbers on paper, scrutinize your financial possibilities––can you get an additional job on the side? Can you give up your daily latté? Can you regulate your grocery expenses more strictly? Can you take the bus to work for a month and leave your car at home? Really take a hard look at what is essential and what isn’t, in your life, and see where you can tighten your belt a little bit more. Then identify a target amount you would need to put aside into a savings account each month to reach your initial travel budget, and stick to that savings plan!
I am now going to show you how you can slash that initial travel budget by half or more to achieve cheap travel on a frugal budget. But wait! Hold on to all that extra money you are planning to cut back on––it is important to have a budget buffer in case any unexpected expenses come up while you are travelling. Ready to learn how to save money and spend smartly during travel? Let’s go!
How to Fly for Less
If you want to travel but don’t have enough money to go, there are many tips and tricks for saving on airfare, and since this will be one of your BIGGEST travel expenses, you need to pay close attention to how you can cut this down as much as possible. Here are some guidelines:
Do your research and check multiple websites for the cheapest fare. Some websites like Skyscanner allow you to sign up for price alerts, so that when the price drops or rises, you can receive a text-message or e-mail alert. This takes the work out of constantly monitoring plane fares and saves you a lot of time.
If you want to travel, my top recommendations for websites (or their mobile app versions) to check, in decreasing order of preference, are:
- Skyscanner – download the app to manage your flight details on the go
Also, keep in mind that certain days of the week and red-eye (overnight) flights tend to have cheaper fares. So if you aren’t picky about your dates, or you don’t mind sacrificing some sleep to travel overnight, then you might be able to find better deals with these flight options.
Very important tip: clear your computer cache each time you search for flights because websites use your cookies to track your online activity. If the airline companies detect that you are interested in a particular flight, the prices for that flight will steadily increase each time you look.
How to Stay for Less
Secondary to transportation, lodging will usually be your next biggest expense if you want to travel. Anything you can do to lower your cost of lodging at your destination will save you major bucks on your travel budget. Here are some recommendations on how to stay for free or for cheap:
- Stay with people you know: do you have friends or acquaintances living there? Get in touch, ask if you can stay with them for a few days, and offer them something in return (cleaning services, babysitting, whatever you can think of). If you sweeten the deal enough, it could be a win-win for all!
- Housesit: there a few websites out there that help people find reliable travellers to look after their empty homes and make sure nothing bad happens while they are away. What’s in it for you? Free housing! To get started, sign up on Trusted Housesitters or on Housecarers.
- Pet sit: if you love animals, pet sitting can be a great way to stay for free in someone’s apartment or house, at your destination, in exchange for taking care of their pets. Trusted Housesitters can help you find pets to look after in exchange for free housing.
- Couchsurf: Couchsurfing is made for the budget traveller. The whole concept of the site is to find people who can host you for free (on a couch, or if you’re lucky, in a spare room), in exchange for friendship or culturally educative conversation. It’s a good idea to post your upcoming trip on the Public Page of your destination city in addition to writing to specific hosts to ask for lodging. In making your trip public, you cut down on some of the work of reaching out by encouraging locals at your destination to make the first move and offer you free housing or, at the very least, their time in showing you around their city.
- Search for the cheapest place to stay: the following websites (or their mobile app versions) can help you find the cheapest hotel, hostel, bed and breakfast, inn, or another accommodation type, wherever you want to go:
- Airbnb – this link will get you a $50 discount (as of the date of this article) on your first Airbnb stay of $95 or more, provided you don’t already have an Airbnb account
- Hostelling International
- Hostel World
- Hotels Combined – includes results from Booking.com, Hotels.com and Expedia.com
- Hotel Tonight – will find you last-minute hotel deals, useful if you’re planning your trip at the last minute
- Hostel Bookers
- Google – search Google for hotels in your area and compare prices and locations in the Google Maps view
Very important tip: similarly to flight searches, hotel companies or websites can track your online activity through your cookies. Clear your computer cache each time you search for accommodation to avoid seeing prices increase each time you perform a search.
How to Get Around on the Ground for Less
Once you are at your destination and would like to move around – either to another city or to a neighbouring country, there are a few options you can look at to scout out the best deals on ground transportation. Keep in mind that buses will generally be cheaper than trains and that trains may or may not be cheaper than planes, depending on your distance. But if you want to travel off the beaten path, then maybe it’s worth investing a few extra dollars in a car rental to have the flexibility to stop whenever you want, wherever you want. Here are my recommendations for finding the best deals on ground transportation:
- GoEuro – finds you the best deals on travel within Europe only
- Carpooling – cheaper than taking the bus; search Google for car sharing options in your location (eg, Blabla car in Europe or Amigo Express in Quebec)
- Car rentals – EasyTerra helps you find and book the best car-rental deals in 180 countries
How to Eat for Less
The trick to eating for less while you travel is to shop exclusively at grocery stores. This will ensure that you buy the cheapest and most nutritious meals possible. (It also has the added perk of letting you explore the fascinating world of foreign grocery stores and strange, new products.) So if you want to travel cheaply, steer clear of restaurants!
- You just need to search on Google Maps for nearby grocery stores at your location, and then head over and shop for snacks and meal ingredients you can put together quickly or cook, depending on whether you have access to a fridge and/or stove where you are staying.
- Remember that grocery stores often have a pre-prepared meal section (still drastically cheaper than eating out), in case you don’t have the facilities or equipment to cook food or to even cut up and assemble meal ingredients
How to Sightsee for Less
Sightseeing requires a lot of research and compromise if you want to travel on a frugal budget. The research requirement will become apparent once you finish reading through this section. The compromise requirement lies in not going to all the sites or events that you would normally be interested in or getting to choose which days to do certain activities on, due to prohibitive prices. Rather, you will have to opt for cheaper or free alternatives that could also be interesting but that you normally would not have chosen. Be open-minded, you could be pleasantly surprised! Here are my top recommendations for sightseeing for less:
- Start by identifying all the events and attractions that are completely free of charge at your destination, and then filter them into a list of free events and attractions you would be interested in going to.
- Also, target free walking tours, which are a great way to experience and learn about a city (not to mention, make new friends) for absolutely no cost at all (donations welcome). Not all cities have tuned into the concept of free walking tours, so to find out if your destination city has them available, just do a quick Google search, or call the local Hostelling International branch to find out if they offer them.
- That brings me to an important related point, which is that hostels, particularly Hostelling International branches, often offer a variety of free activities and low-cost entertainment options that tend to be open not only to paying guests but also to the general (travelling) public. A good strategy for taking advantage of free or low-cost activities when you travel is to always contact international hostels at your destination to find out what activities they offer, and on what days they offer them.
- Next, investigate coupon websites such as Groupon.com and Ebates.com, and Tourist Office websites, for special, limited-time discounts on popular attractions. This strategy will help you purchase entrance tickets and bundle packages for much less than it would cost you to purchase each one individually on site.
- If you are interested in visiting some museums at your destination, keep in mind that most museums have a day when visits are free of charge or discounted. Target these only these free museum days to visit.
How to Make Money While Travelling
Last but not least, many “travelling poor” make their travel dreams happen by picking up some remote work while they are travelling on the cheap. So if you want to travel and earn some income while doing so, take a page out of their book.
There are many possibilities for doing odd jobs such as waitressing, bartending, and so on––but you need to have a working visa to do these legally, they take some time to find, and you will have to repeat all of that job hunting in every destination you go to.
So if you want to travel and also have enough money to keep going, then focus on freelance, remote work that you can do to earn some money and maintain a frugal budget while you are travelling, no matter your destination or visa status. My top recommendations for remote work popular in the travelling community include:
- Fiverr – an online marketplace for freelance jobs
- VIPKID or Qkids – companies specializing in connecting English native speakers to Chinese students in online learning forums
- Flexjobs – highly vouched for in the travel community
- UpWork – an online marketplace for freelance jobs
- Freelancer.com – an online marketplace for freelance jobs
- A resource page – listing over 25 companies that hire remote workers
You Want to Travel but Are Still Thirsty For More?
Tons of travel bloggers have shared their tips and tricks on budget travel. Find out more from a few of my favourite travel bloggers:
- Aileen Adalid of I am Aileen
- Alexis of FITnancials
- Alyssa Ramos of My Life’s a Travel Movie
- Tessa Torrente of Travel Where to Next
- Megan Jerrard of Mapping Megan
- Matthew Kepnes of Nomadic Matt
- Serena of Serena on the Go
- Mike and Oshin of Hobo with a Laptop
And here’s a bonus reference for smart tips for business travel: from Kana of Life in Wanderlust
I hope that you now feel empowered to take your future into your own hands and to travel if you want to – not if you can afford to! Remember that cheap travel is not comfort travel—beggars can’t be choosers—but it is travel nonetheless. And to snag cheap travel deals, you must have a radar out for the less attractive options (e.g., flight times, hotel locations, visiting times of local attractions, etc.) in order to ensure enough money in your pocket to maintain travel on your frugal budget (#droppingknowledge). Sometimes, the only obstacle for budget travel is in our minds, but the most important thing we can do to get closer to our goals is to TAKE THE FIRST STEP. So take your first step – any step. And after that, take another one. And another one. And another one. All the way until you feet land on your dream destination. Happy travels! And please share in the comments section if my travel advice helped you achieve your goal.
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