In this post, I spill the beans on how I afford to travel so much. I share the tips that allow me to travel for less and visit the world without breaking the bank. Interested? Dig in!
Probably the most common question I hear from the readers of my travel blog, as well as friends is “How do you manage to travel so much?!“. Partially, it is connected to the fact that I travel more with a full-time job, but also how I afford to travel so much in general. I managed to travel to 14 countries in one year and I have already been to over 60 countries.
Like how on earth I have money for this?! In some cultures, it is considered rude to ask those types of questions, but I guess it’s normal that you might wonder how do people afford to travel. Funnily enough, it turns out that it can be not so difficult nor that expensive to make it happen.
HOW I AFFORD TO TRAVEL – My Story
I do not like talking about personal stuff and never brag about my life or how awesome (or miserable) it is. The only reason I share personal stories is to help somebody achieve their dreams or fight their fears. I want to show you that if I could do something, there is a high probability that you can do it, too. This is why a few weeks ago I shared my story in how I visited 60 countries before turning 30. Have a read of it, as I also share a few tips and insights on the privilege of traveling and the work it takes (yes, it’s not a magic spell, there is work involved).
I do not come from a wealthy family. We didn’t take any big trips abroad with my parents when I was a kid. Instead, I focused on the Polish countryside, like the Tatra mountains. Even if I badly wanted to go abroad, I simply couldn’t afford it at the time. I remember thinking “I want to travel but I have no money, what do I do?”.
When I moved to Krakow for my university at the age of 19, this is where I started traveling abroad by myself. My money situation didn’t change much. In fact, it was probably even worse as I needed to pay for my accommodation, food and all the materials needed for university.
And yet, in those years without a stable income, busy studying for countless exams and tests, I traveled all around Europe. After graduating and getting a job at the age of 24, I started to travel further and longer, exploring Asia, Africa, South America and far away places like Svalbard, Madagascar, Galapagos Islands, Indonesia, Central Asia and more. Most of the time I still focus on budget travel, so I can travel more for less.
HOW TO AFFORD TRAVEL & TIPS TO TRAVEL FOR LESS
Below you can find information on how to afford to travel and my travel tips for traveling on a budget. I split them up for my university days and for the time of the full-time job, as realistically I can spend more on the flight tickets now, since I have a stable income.
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HOW TO AFFORD TRAVEL – when you work full time
Obviously, when you have a full-time job, you can spend a bit more money on traveling. At the same time, because you have a job, you typically have less time. When you travel, you want to make sure that you use your time and money wisely. This is when it is important to set priorities. How to travel more with a full-time job? Make it happen.
Set priorities and goals
If you really want to travel, set it as your top priority. I mean it. Remember about it day and night, especially every time when you want to use your money for something else. Think about how many nights you can spend in a new place in Asia for the cost of the fancy handbag. Understand what is more important for you – physical possesions or travel experiences and choose accordingly.
Set your goals for the specific trips you want to make and calculate the needed budget.
Save, save, save
Then – save. Start small, and save a small amount of money every day. When you get a paycheck put aside a set amount of money and stick to it. Reduce the number of times you go out to eat or drink, cook inside instead. Don’t buy takeaway coffee every day, make it at home and take it with you in a reusable cup (bonus points for being a responsible traveler). Set a monthly goal for saving money for your travel fund and follow it.
It is also useful to track your general spendings, in order to identify where your money goes. Maybe you have some old subscription that you don’t use anymore. Or, you pay a lot for an expensive hairdresser, which you could swap for a cheaper place. Think out of the box and find out the ways to save for travel. There are many apps that help you to track your expenses – just search for them in the App store.
Find cheap accommodation
Budget accommodation doesn’t have to always mean dirty bunk beds in the noisy hostel room. Nowadays, if you think a little bit outside the box and choose small independent hotels or apartments, you can get great deals for little money. My favorite places to look for hotel deals are Booking.com. And if you like camping, try wild camping for the adventure of it (and awesome views). I share more of my favorite hotel booking websites here.
Find good flight deals
There is a ton of advice on how to look for cheap flights and if you follow it you can save a few hundred dollars on a single ticket. Here are some of my favorite cheap flight tips.
It’s not a surprise that travel offseason is much cheaper. It is usually also more enjoyable, especially if you don’t like crowds and queues. If you are worried about the weather, try shoulder season, this is when the temperatures are still pleasant, but there are fewer tourists. Find some of the less-traveled destinations for your next holiday here.
Travel off the beaten path
Highly popular places usually come with a steep price tag. Think Paris, New York, Sydney. When you have a limited budget, try to get off the beaten path and discover new, exciting destinations for a fraction of the price. Find some examples of the off the beaten path places here.
Do your research
Research always takes me quite a while before every trip. I make sure I know the typical prices in the place where I’m going to and common scams to avoid losing money. I also check which areas are cheaper/more expensive for accommodation, what means of transport is the best to use, where to find cheap and good local food places etc. Thorough planning can save you a lot of money! Look for the destination you are interested in, on my blog, and check the posts. I share there my ways of traveling on a budget and a lot of tips that will help you in planning a cost-effective trip.
Use a travel credit card and collect air miles
What is better than getting free air miles or travel points for the purchases you make anyway? Get one of the travel credit cards and earn points to use towards your travels. I use Amex with British Airways and collect miles with major other airlines that I fly with.
By traveling light you save on luggage costs, which can add up, especially on the low-cost airlines. Have a look for tips on how to travel light.
Eat local street food & eat-in
If you try to save money while traveling, find local places to eat, instead of the typical touristy ones. Very often you pay more for a nice view or a convenient location. Instead, follow the locals and check where they eat – you can be sure that the prices there will be lower and the food quality still very good. Street food is also a good choice for budget meals on a trip. Alternatively, if you stay in accommodation that has a kitchen, you can cook your own meals. That works in a place that has generally higher places like Helsinki and Oslo, together with the whole of Norway.
Extend a business trip
I talk about it in my post on how to travel more with a full-time job, but it is also applicable here. Are you being sent somewhere for business? Arrive a few days earlier or stay longer and explore the area. That way you don’t need to pay for transport and you can see more.
Use home exchange
If you own a house or a flat, it opens the door to the whole other world of cheap travel. You can use portals like a Home exchange and stay in someone else’s house for free, while they can stay at yours. Like in the movie The Holiday.
HOW TO AFFORD TO TRAVEL– when you are in college, university, school
Education time can be hard in terms of money, but it’s also a perfect time for traveling and exploring the world. In Poland, students have 3 months of holidays, and this gives you a lot of time for longer trips. This is when you are young, curious and healthy, so you can sacrifice a little bit of comfort for the ability to travel the world. You can use some of the best ways to travel cheap from above, and also find a few more ideas below to afford travel when you are at school. Remember to study hard as it will help you to have more time to travel after!
Find a cheap way of transport
When you are young, adventurous and have more time (but less money), you can use alternative ways of transport. When I was at university I hitch-hiked through the whole of Europe and this allowed me to see a lot of places on a budget. Another option is to use car-pooling, like Blablacar, which lets you share the ride in the car with others and save some money. Instead of buying expensive flight tickets, opt-in for the bus or train rides instead.
Find cheap accommodation
If you want to travel cheap and still have a roof over your head, try Couchsurfing. I’ve used this portal for 10 years now and I met some amazing people through it. Couchsurfing gives you an opportunity to get to know the place better with a local. You can also stay with them, which significantly reduces the cost of travel. Don’t treat it as a free hotel though – it is all about human connection and if you follow that rule, you will find great friends in different corners of the globe.
Find cheap food
Traveling for cheap is not always (or mostly isn’t) glamorous. To save on the cost of food, I would often bring with me packed food from home, so I can save on spending on meals when abroad. Or I would buy the cheapest food possible in the supermarkets – I especially remember cold baby sausages from the Italian supermarkets that we ate with some biscuits. Even in a country like Norway or Iceland, you can find cheaper food and cook it yourself to save some money.
Work/ volunteer on the road
When you have more time during your trip, you can find some seasonal work and get more money for the next travels. You can also volunteer and for a few hours of work per day get free board and accommodation. Through WWOOF you can find places that offer food and accommodation in exchange for the work on organic farms.
House sit/pet sit
You can take care of someone’s house and pets while they are away and stay there for free. It sounds like a dream to me, an animal lover. I am still yet to try it, but let me know if you did! You can find places for house or pet sitting on the websites HouseSit Match, and Trusted housesitters.
Join an international student organization
If your university or school has any international student organizations – join them! When I was at university, I joined BEST – Board of European Students of Technology, which allowed me to constantly travel to different places in Europe. It was amazing organization for fun and networking, where I could learn and develop new skills while exploring new cities and cultures.
Go on a student exchange program
Another way to travel when you study is to go on a student exchange program. One of the most famous ones in Europe is Erasmus. You can go and study abroad for one or more semesters. It gives you time to be exposed to different cultures, places, and people, to travel and explore and then come back home and graduate from your chosen university.
What tips do you have to afford to travel? Do you use any of the ones above? Let me know in the comments!
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