Tips for Travel on a Shoestring Budget
Recently a couple of people have sent me messages to ask how I do it.
How am I traveling like this, at this young age, alone? They want a lifestyle change too. How can they do this without breaking the bank? I’m flattered that people are interested in my current lifestyle and are seeking similar changes in their own lives. I can’t say I’ll be doing it forever, but this isn’t necessarily due to financial limits. I have been going for six months strong and could continue for quite a while. So how do I do it?
There is no sure-fast formula that allows one to live lavishly without working a day abroad. I have worked a fair amount since leaving home, and sometimes have had to rough it out. It’s all part of the fun and experience! Sometimes one’s true limit is their mind… this lifestyle isn’t for everyone, and you have to be prepared to not always have a concrete plan; to be adaptable as well as comfortable in the unknown.
There are 3 main costs involved with this lifestyle. I’ll address each of these separately:
Getting from A to B can be pricey. Flights are often the biggest expense for travels. I recommend booking a one way ticket well in advance of your departure (you’ll need a couple of months to get your head around that it’s actually happening anyways!). To book flights, I recommend using websites such as Skyscanner and Momondo. These are almost always more affordable than going through an agent and paying commission.
On each of these websites always use the month view. Flights are cheaper on certain days of the week and at different times of the month.
Although your initial flight should be booked well in advance, avoid booking other flights until you are on the road and have an idea of your movements. So many unexpected opportunities will pop up along the way, and you don’t want to be bound by flights you booked 4 months in advance just because there was a $20 discount on Jetstar…
Other than flights, traveling shorter distances can be pricey too. I highly recommend hitchhiking (if you are 2 people or in a safe country such as New Zealand – see my soon-to-be-published post dedicated to hitchhiking), car pooling (many cities/countries have websites for solo travelers looking to link up), hiring a scooter (in a country such as Indonesia), or even buying a flexi buss pass.
Accommodation can really break the bank, and this is where you need to be smart. Who do you know in the countries you want to visit? When last were you in touch? When I say I stayed with people I hadn’t seen since I was 3 years old, I’m not joking… Of course I don’t treat this as simply a cost-reducing activity; one thing about traveling is being genuinely interested in those you meet along the way, it’s about having time for them and learning from their own lifestyles. It’s amazing how accommodating people can be, friendly and willing to show you around their hometowns.
Related to this is Couchsurfing – see my more detailed post here.
Another tip to drastically reduce accommodation costs can reduce food costs too and is addressed below.
Both accommodation and food costs can be reduced if you volunteer at one place for a couple of weeks (or even months) at a time. These positions can easily be found on websites such as Workaway, which is free to browse, and $29 per year to create a profile and contact hosts.
This website is a global network that connects travelers and like-minded hosts in hundreds of countries and shows volunteering opportunities in exchange for accommodation (and often food too).
When I first discovered this website I lost about 3 months of my life simply browsing all of the incredible opportunities out there. It totally fueled my wanderlust. You can thank me later.
You can read about my first Workaway experience here.
Other ways to reduce food costs are:
- Choose to stay in a country that has cheap food. I am currently in Indonesia and a filling meal can easily be sourced for $1-$2
- If in a more expensive country, cook as much as you can. Perhaps you have a stable base for a couple of weeks through friends or volunteering – go to the grocery store, stock up, and prepare your own meals. It’s not that difficult 🙂
- Now’s a good time to cut out those midday snacks 😉
Here are some other general tips for minimizing costs
- Take as small a backpack as possible – the smaller your backpack, the smaller your total possible load. I’d recommend a 65l backpack maximum.
- As much as people enjoy criticizing technology, use it to your advantage! There are so many helpful groups of travelers connecting on Facebook – look for these and join them! From people looking for travel partners, advertising job opportunities, and selling travel goods second hand, I have found these groups very helpful along the way. Message me if you’d like a list of groups in any of the countries I’ve visited.
- Don’t fall victim to the main tourist traps. It has become so clear to me whilst traveling that there is an us and them understanding in most places – us being locals/those working in the tourism industry, and them being the holiday-makers who are charged very inflated prices. I’ve been lucky to find myself included in the us group often, and have enjoyed free accommodation, guided tours, and discounted food and drinks. It is all about who you know, so get out there and network! Don’t let yourself fall into them for too long because your bank account will empty faster than you can say I’m not sure if this Hobbiton tour is worth $79!
I hope you found this post helpful! Please share with anyone you think it may assist – and as always please send me any feedback/questions/suggestions!