How often do you hear people say “I wish I could travel more”? When you ask them why they don’t, the answer is almost always “I don’t have enough money”. One of the greatest myths about travel is that you need to be rich (or work in the travel industry) to do it on a regular basis.
In fact, travelling on the cheap is far easier today than it’s ever been. We have all sorts of online resources to investigate cheap airline fares, find special tour deals and compare accommodation options. We have myriad ways to save money while travelling long-term: digital nomad work, house-sitting, volunteer programs and home-swaps. The main reason people ‘can’t afford to travel’ is because they don’t prioritise travel in their budget and don’t know enough about the many ways it can be done more cheaply.
Here are some no-nonsense tips that can save you loads of money on travel – wherever in the world you want to end up:
Don’t leave booking flights until the last minute
Any flight to a popular destination should be booked at least two months ahead of time. The later you leave it, the more likely you’ll miss out on cheaper fares. Use sites like Skyscanner to compare airlines. Join frequent flyer programs and use travel credit cards to start building up your ‘free kilometres’ for future trips. Sign up for airline mailing lists so you’ll get email notifications about special deals as they come up.
Look beyond hotels for a place to stay
There are some parts of the world where the cheapest hotel room available (especially in high season) is going to cost you over $100 a night. Check out AirBnB instead - you may be able to find a perfectly nice apartment or room in the same area for a fraction of the price. If you want to go super-cheap, do some research on hostels, dorms and even couch-surfing.
Latch onto free tours
Many of the most interesting cities in the world have free walking tours, usually starting in a central plaza and spending a couple of hours wandering around the most impressive sights within a radius of a kilometre or two. On these tours, tips are encouraged but not obligatory. This is a great way to spend a sunny morning in a foreign place, learning about the area and meeting both locals and other travellers while enjoying a slow-paced stroll. Some cities also offer free ‘hop-on, hop-off’ buses that make loops around the main tourist district.
Embrace the ‘sharing economy’
These days we have AirBnB, Uber and a whole other range of services that have disrupted traditional travel. It’s easier than ever to ‘live like a local’ by using tour companies such as Vayable, international ride-sharing platforms such as BlaBlaCar or communal dining services such as EatWith. The travel industry is becoming more immersive and authentic every year, and seeking out these new types of services can save you money and make for a much more interesting trip.
Cook it yourself
Eating out is one of the joys of travel, but it can get expensive if you’re doing it for every meal. Try to book accommodation with cooking facilities, so you can buy groceries at local markets and cook most of your meals yourself. Over the course of a single journey, this can save you hundreds of dollars.
Check out house-sitting, caretaking and volunteering
House-sitting is a wonderful way to stretch your travel dollar further. In exchange for looking after someone’s house (and/or pets) while they’re away, you get to live rent-free. It’s just a matter of joining one of the many online house-sitting websites, creating a profile and applying. Global caretaking jobs are another possibility, allowing you to travel long-term while helping around a property in an exotic land. Last but not least, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities available around the world such as WWOOFing, which can be a great way to stay in a place you like a bit longer by performing whatever duties the property owner requires. Transitions Abroad is a brilliant resource to learn more about overseas work, study and volunteer opportunities.
Get serious about saving for travel
Travel doesn’t happen by accident – you have to make it a budget priority and put in the effort to save the money you need. This Savings Goal Planner can help!
Kevin Casey is a Brisbane-based freelance writer who specialises in personal finance and travel topics.
He is the best-selling author of several books, including The Jet-setting Copywriter and The Over-40 Digital Nomad.