Do you dream of escaping to a cabana on a deserted beach or visiting European cities and their many historical museums? Yet, when you take a look at your bank account, travel seems impossible… or even irresponsible… to dream of?
I get it. I was in the same position a few years ago when I took my first big leap to follow my heart and finally travel around the world.
Did I have a secure job? Nope.
Savings in my bank account? Nope.
All I had was a vision, a dream. So, I got up and left…
At first, I truly had no idea how I would make it work, but I had faith that opportunities would show up for me and they did, even though I was operating on a very low budget at the time.
Today, I would like to share what I have learned over the years. These tips can be helpful to anyone who wishes to travel, even if their bank account doesn’t seem to agree with that plan.
7 Ways to Travel …Even on A Small(e)r Budget
Consider Working Abroad
This was one of the early strategies I used to be able to travel and live in a foreign country.
My initial destination was Nice, in the South of France. When I visited Nice for the first time, I fell completely in love with its charm, little streets, gorgeous seaside and colorful façades. I knew I had found my new home, but I had no idea how to make it work. I speak French & have European citizenship, so I decided to move there and to figure out how to use my skills to find work.
Did I have a job offer? Nope. Did I know anyone there? Nope. But I knew I had accumulated valuable experience via my previous jobs and education; and was determined to make it work (despite the so-called job market “crisis” that many of my friends and family had warned me about). And so I did.
If citizenship doesn’t allow you easy access to a foreign country, working remotely for international branches of a company is a great way to finance your travels. While you are either are based in a foreign city (from which you can often do more visiting) or take a short-term assignment, all you need is wifi and you are good to go.
Money + access = opportunity.
Become A Savvy Saver
This might sound obvious, but I don’t think many people really know how to save money – myself included back in the day. If you truly want to travel, you will have to sacrifice a few of your favorite things and change your spending habits in order to put money aside.
I’ve become good at saving money BIG time by cutting down on the extras. How?
I prepare my meals and eat at home (instead of dining out) and skip shopping for new clothes (instead, I exchange clothes with friends or find deals at thrift stores). I watch Netflix instead of going to the movies, don’t drink alcohol and only go out when there is no cover. Finally, I’ve downsized my living expenses by living with roommates and used public transportation (instead of owning a car).
These are simple, if not always easy, ways to save enough to finance your travels. Remember, the reward is well worth the sacrifice. And the shift doesn’t have to take place forever.
Watch Out For Travel Deals & Use Your Air Miles
So many of my friends have been able to take free flights to exotic destinations by either hopping on a last minute flight or accumulated enough air miles to cover most, if not all, of the cost.
Are you signed up for daily or weekly travel alerts? Are you stacking your miles with your favorite airline through their rewards programs? A lot of airlines allow you to convert hotel, grocery and other travel points into miles.
Every bit helps when you’re saving up for that dream trip.
Another great tip is to be flexible with your travel dates and locations. Very often, if you are open to moving your dates around, even within 2-3 days, you can score a pretty sweet deal!
I personally love to use low-cost air companies to save even more on the cost of my flights. Of course, this means that I have learned how to pack light as well, to avoid extra fees for checked luggage. This works very well for short trips.
Choose Your Destination & Off-Seasons Wisely
Using this tip has allowed me to visit many countries at half the regular cost. For example, in September and October 2016, my partner and I were able to travel for 6 weeks to 3 different countries in Latin America for $350 (all flights included per person)! Traveling during off peak seasons is a great way to afford trips at a much lower cost.
Check travel recommendation sites like TripAdvisor for recommendations on the best (and cheapest) times to travel.
Visit Friends Or Couchsurf
This is by far the most underutilized tip. During our last trip to Latin America, we stayed with friends we had previously met while visiting their respective cities. Not only were they the best guides ever, this allowed us to save a lot of money for hotels.
Plan your trips according to where you have friends who can host you. In exchange, invite them to visit your hometown as well.
If you don’t know anyone in your dream destination, consider using peer-to-peer websites such as Couchsurfing, which offers free accommodations to travelers looking for a cultural exchange with locals or Airbnb, which offers local accommodations at a much more affordable price. Hostels are another great way to travel on a low budget and make new friends for life!
Volunteer to Use Your Skills
Volunteering abroad is something I discovered quite late into my traveling experience that I wish I had known about before.
While backpacking throughout Southeast Asia, I taught English, helped at a yoga wellness center and assisted a Balinese vacation retreat with their online marketing. It was so much fun. I met a ton of locals, lived and ate with them, and shared my skills with people who truly appreciated it.
And the best part? I also saved on accommodation and food. It was a win-win situation and an enriching cultural experience. Check out Workaway.info, Wwoof.org and Helpx.net for ideas and to explore similar opportunities.
No Fancy Restaurants…Eat Like the Locals
While on vacation, skip the expensive hotels and restaurants geared toward the tourists Trust me, it can make a big difference.
For example, in Vietnam you can easily eat 3 meals per day WITH drinks for $3 or $4 per day. Yes, per day. Not bad, right? Of course, use caution when choosing street food or carry with you charcoal tablets for effective prevention.
There you have it, some of my favorite tips to make travel affordable and possible, even if you only have a small budget. If you truly want it, these tips will help make your dreams of adventure become a reality.
Have fun on your next trip!
RELATED ARTICLE: Dream Trip: How I Found Myself Through Solo Travel in Bali
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