How to bucketlist travel even when you're on a budget
Traveling is often looked at as something that only the wealthy can enjoy, or as a goal for the far away future. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, when I was 19 years old, I traveled non-stop for six months. I actually sold almost everything I owned to do so. However, once the trip was over I realized I still had most of the money I had saved left over. I was so frugal with how I spent money while traveling (probably too frugal), but I still was able to see, do, and experience so many things! It left me wondering why more people didn’t travel, or why they felt it was too expensive to do so. Then I realized it was because most people want a luxurious travel experience, and would rather book a tour, than make their own path. If this is you, that is totally fine, you do you! However, if you are someone that could forgo some of those things, and are willing to do a little research, it is still possible to plan the trip of your dreams.
First and foremost the best way to afford travel is to make small everyday decisions to not live outside of your means. So maybe dropping that daily $5 latte, and instead putting $5 towards a travel fund ($5 will get you a pretty amazing meal in Asia!). Other ways to save up for a trip could be having a garage sale, or selling some of your belongings on a second hand app. Finding odd jobs to do on the weekends, or using one of your hobbies to make some extra money! It’s also helpful to consider things such as what destinations you can afford to travel to (Europe will be pricier than Asia) and also possibly planning a group trip so that you could share housing and transportation cost! Once you’re all saved up, here are a few more of our suggestions to pinch every penny when planning your trip:
Utilize sites & email subscriptions that share flight deals. If you can, be flexible about your destination to get the best deal. These sites also work best if you also have a flexible schedule to be able to book at a moment’s notice when a deal comes up.
- Scott’s Cheap Flights
- Google flight notifications (best if you have a specific destination in mind)
- Priceline Express deals
Housing can be tricky. Often staying outside of main cities can be a lot cheaper, but if you plan on being in the city daily, you must factor in the transportation cost to get you there. I personally like to pick places that are in the right location, but maybe a little less Instagramable. If you plan on spending most of your days out and about, housing can often times be just a place you need to come home to decompress and get some rest! However, if a beautiful home base is important to you, but you’re on a budget, consider looking for places a little outside of the main tourist attractions. Here are some ways to explore different options:
- Airbnb (Special note: Airbnb can be super damaging to local housing markets in some locations, so if possible do some digging to find out if your host is a local/lives on site. Support locals!)
- Sharing cost with friends when traveling in a group
- Using sites like booking.com to find an array of housing options with different price points such as bed and breakfast, hotels, and vacation homes.
When my husband and I were traveling around Morocco we decided to spend a few nights in the Sahara desert. We hired a driver to take us there. On the drive up our driver kept stopping at these huge hotels with ridiculously priced buffets. My husband and I had just started our honeymoon, and Morocco was just one of many destinations we planned on traveling to. So, needless to say we were on a budget, and could not afford these buffets. Each time we would stay in the hotel for 30 minutes, and either pretend like we ate something, or order the cheapest bowl of soup on the menu. Then we would return to our driver, and the cycle would repeat again a few hours later. Finally by day two we noticed our driver would sneak off to another restaurant while we were in the big tourist hotel. We finally got up the courage to ask him where he was eating and if we could instead join him. He was thrilled to have lunch with us and share his culture. He took us to a little eatery on the side of the road, where we sat on pink plastic chairs, and ate the best grilled chicken I’ve ever had in my life to this day. And it was for 1/4 of the price we were paying at the hotel. I tell you this story because I want you to know that sometimes the price tag of a meal does not determine the quality of a meal. Some of my best meals while traveling have been from adventuring out and trying something new. Or choosing to scour the local markets and cook something at home instead. However, do explore with caution and be sure to wash all of your produce appropriately with fresh water! Here are some ways you can save on eating while traveling:
- Street food vs. restaurants
- Choosing restaurants off of tourist heavy streets (which often have higher prices)
- Cooking your own meals (local grocery stores are usually amazing)
- Asking locals for recommendations when you want good food on a budget
- Eating out only once a day and for the rest of your meals purchasing on the go snacks or making on the go lunches/breakfast at home.
- Depending where you are in the world sometimes ordering food to-go is cheaper than choosing to dine in the restaurant.
I’m honestly a go with the flow type of person. I spend most of my time researching locations and travel routes, and then tend to just see what happens when I get there. This is not everyone’s ideal way of traveling. But I do suggest you leave room to go with the flow. Here are some suggestions on how to find your way around and possibly save some $$ in doing so:
- Public transportation
- Public parks and gardens
- Uber/rideshare (with caution)
- Create your own tour instead of joining one
- Map out locations before hand to save on back and forth travel
My advice for anyone trying to figure out how to afford to travel is to take a good long look at your lifestyle, and then compare it to the lifestyle you wish to live. If it involves traveling then it could be beneficial to see where you can cut off a few expenses, or have a few less monthly subscriptions, in order to create more freedom to save for things like travel. Ultimately, the small decisions you make end up being the avenue of your life! So weigh out your options and consider what is most important to you. Here are some suggestions:
- Do not spending beyond your means to save for travel.
- Let go of a few monthly subscriptions in order to save more or cut out habits such as going to the coffee shop daily.
- Weigh out your options.
- Consider traveling to more cost effective locations first.
- I usually like to start my trips creating a budget for three categories, airfare, housing, and daily expenses (this would include transportation, food, and activities, while also making note some days you’ll spend more than others). This seems to be easier to see what you can and can’t afford at a glance.
You are the leader of your life, so ultimately you can steer it in any direction you wish. If traveling is something you long to do, please don’t write it off as too expensive or impossible. There are so many ways to make it happen and I hope this list helped to at least inspire you towards your travel goals. If you have any other tips or ideas please let us know with a comment below!