How do you think what the number one reason people say that holds them back from traveling? The absence of visa? Fear? Not enough time? Disapproval from relatives? No, it’s even simpler than that. The #1 reason people don’t travel is a lack of money. and not knowing how to travel for cheap.
I hear this kind of stuff from just about everyone I talk to: “Joe, I just don’t have enough money, I can’t afford traveling.”
So the most valuable answer to this would be a guide to overcoming this problem. Which I just did for you.
Because this question repeatedly comes up, I prefer to continually remind people of this key fact:
To travel, you do not need to be rich.
Let’s say it again.
No need to be rich, you can travel for cheap
I certainly was not rich – the first year I managed to travel, after taxes, I actually had under $13k to live on for the year.
Make traveling your #1 priority
Then how did I manage to travel the world? I just chose to make it a priority. If traveling isn’t your priority, you are going to find other places to spend money on and simply put, you are never going to have “enough” cash for you to travel.
For me, because travel was important and I made it a priority, I always found money to travel but never had money for the latest electronic gadgets or for shopping for a new wardrobe, etc. I spent my money traveling, and I had very little left for expenses that were non-priority. Everything I do focuses on increasing my travel money.
What’s your priority for saving? Is it travel? If you answered yes, what is still stopping you from saving money? Where are you spending your money? Think about answers to these questions – they will help you find more opportunities to squeeze out your travel money.
Here’s a traveling hack to help you do this effectively. You need to write out all of your expenses and then after you have done that you need to cut them to save money for traveling or for a specific trip. The first time I did this, I was still paying off my debt from university, and I was able to save $25,000 for the first trip I took around the world.
At this point, you probably want to say something like this: “But man, I work a minimum wage job [insert your own excuse here] and no matter what I do, I won’t ever be able to save for travel! I cannot even get my debt paid. What can I do?”
Some of the common excuses I hear include:
- I barely make enough to live,
- I’m underemployed,
- I’m a student,
- I live at home with my parents,
- I have kids,
- I have spent too much,
- I live on Social Security,
- and more and more.
Do you recognize yourself in these excuses? Then it’s time to make a change.
You too can travel for cheap or even free
What do you do when you find yourself in that boat? What can you do even when you prioritize your budget but it seems it does not work? How can you find cheap places to travel?
Actually, there are many things you can do!
So we want to focus on all of the ways you can travel for cheap or for almost free. To begin, you do not need a lot of money. Even when your earnings are minimal or you are carrying debt, there are ways that you can still find budget travel destinations and travel overseas. If you feel it won’t matter what you do, that you won’t be able to get ahead saving, then you need to follow this ultimate guide to dirt cheap traveling.
Let’s start with the opportunities to take advantage of:
If you do not make enough money at work, why not think about working overseas? There are all kinds of opportunities around the world, and even more so if you are not too picky – always keep in mind that you are not starting a career, but rather funding a way for you to travel and see the world.
Here are some jobs overseas that will pay your bills and let you travel:
- Au pair
- Tour guide
- Hostel worker
- Farm worker
- Yacht worker
- Dive instructor (certification needed)
- Casino worker
- Cruise ship worker
- Seasonal worker i.e. ski resorts
Often working overseas gets ignored because it can seem too difficult. It’s not, at least as long as you have reasonable expectations and you are open to trying new roles. These types of jobs don’t require you to boast of tons of work experience or advanced degrees.
After all, you are not applying for some high-paying professional job. What you are going to get is a very low-wage job that is going to pay your travel bills – and that’s what you exactly are looking for here, right?
Over the years, I have met all kinds of individuals from a variety of backgrounds that are from so many different parts of the world who use this mindset and method to fund their travels. You can do the same too.
Teach English overseas
One of the best ways you can earn travel money is teaching English overseas. That way, you can fund your travels and even more – teaching English overseas, you can earn pretty good cash.
I was able to replenish my travel funds while I worked in Korea and friends of mine left Thailand after banking tens of thousands of dollars. You just need to fluently speak English and depending on the country, a TEFL degree can be helpful or needed.
The world needs English teachers, and throughout Asia, this is a job that is in high demand. Some companies actually pay for your flights! So do check this opportunity out.
Get free flights
There are numerous ways that you can find cheap airline flights or even earn free flights, so do not make the mistake of saying that you cannot afford an airplane trip.
You can collect air miles and take advantage of these to get a discount or fly for free. Many credit cards offer travel bonuses. In fact, some cards offer a sign-up bonus as high as 50,000 points, and if you sign up for a general rewards card like AMEX card in combination with an airline card like United Airlines, then you can combine the two point balances and get a cheaper flight much faster.
For a really long time I have been a travel hacker, which permitted me to travel around the world for free and stay in many places. I collect hotel points and miles through online bonuses, credit card rewards, surveys, category bonuses, in addition to other special offers.
If you aren’t able to sign up for credit cards, there are numerous ways to grow your mileage balance without using a credit card at all. Let’s look at three ways you can do that:
Shop at the stores that are associated with the airlines
All airlines have special offers with big stores like Target, Amazon, Best Buy, Apple, etc. When you shop at those preferred stores, you will earn 2–4 miles for every dollar you spend, and sometimes it is even much more.
Therefore, for example, if you spend $1,000 a month, you can earn up to 3,000 miles just by using their websites. You are not paying more for these items but you are earning extra miles just by shopping through the airline malls, which is really easy.
Put all of your purchases on the card
I don’t pay cash for anything. I put it all on my card, from my utilities to my Starbucks. My total monthly spending is about $2000 and doing this means extra miles for me every month. If you don’t have a credit card then pre-pay monthly and then pay for everything.
Watch out for deals
I like to make a point of signing up for every airline mailing list that’s out there. Then I keep an eye out for them offering specials such as the 2-for-1 miles deal, or sometimes they will have special card offer so you can earn extra miles.
For example, United Airlines recently gave me 1,000 miles just for watching a demo about their newest shopping toolbar. Another time I earned triple miles by purchasing some clothing from Gap when I saw it on their mailing list.
There are all kinds of special bonuses offered by the airlines on hotels, restaurants, etc.
Stay for free with locals
There are websites designed to connect travelers and locals who are willing to allow them to stay for free at their place. The most popular is CouchSurfing. Use it and you will never pay for your accommodation again.
There are people who have been couchsurfer for as many as 10 years. Personally, I have taken advantage of CouchSurfing about a dozen times and it has allowed me to meet some amazing people. Sometimes you get a couch, other times you get an air mattress, and still other times you will get your own room, but it never costs you anything.
There are even couchsurfing group meet-ups at the local level that are designed to help you make connections/friends in new cities you visit. There are even websites popping up to share meals, rides, gear, tickets, etc. You can save a lot of money and they help you to get off the beaten track as a tourist, and fit into local life, which changes your experience significantly. And that’s exactly what we travelers want to do!
Use sharing economy websites
Using such sites, you can find original tour guides, cheaper accommodation, options for rideshare, home-cooked meals, and a whole lot more. These sites allow you to bypass the traditional travel industry and access the locals who are putting their own skills/assets to work to create small tourism companies that have cheaper price options.
One example is using Airbnb where you can save as much as 75 percent of what it would cost for even a cheap hotel.
The locals also know where you can find the best deals. They will know which stores have the best sales, where that quaint and affordable restaurant/bar is, where you can find the tastiest food cheap, which supermarket has the best prices, etc.
These websites have really changed the game of travel and these sites have made travel far more accessible to all. This isn’t new, the sharing economy has actually been around since as early as 2003 when CouchSurfing was founded and then in 2008 Airbnb came on board, but it was just last year that the mainstream industry came on board and this will keep growing.
Here are some of the sites that I like the best:
This is free way that you can get around many parts of the world like Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Central America, etc, and it’s fairly safe.
Personally, I have hitchhiked around many countries all over the world. It’s fun, it’s useful, and it’s really cheap.
By the way, you’re in luck because here on Traveller’s Mag, we have a great guide to traveling Europe on the cheap by hitchhiking.
Free walking tours
If you would like to get your bearings and learn about a city, then take a free walking tour and get to see some of the major sights. They are available in almost all major cities in Europe, and there are also some in the larger cities in South America, Asia, and New Zealand.
If you want to find these tours, ask the local hostel staff, the local tourist office, or take advantage of Google.
If you cannot afford a vacation, consider housesitting for someone when they go on their vacation. It’s really not that demanding of a job and provides you a ton of benefits:
- you can stay in your favorite city for a while,
- you don’t have to pay for accommodation,
- you can cook there,
- you save yourself lots of cash.
So how do you do housesitting? Easy, really! Just sign up on one of the sites that provide such an opportunity and then watch the homes of others for free.
Here are the most popular sites:
Check them out before deciding that you can’t afford to travel – I think you might just as well reconsider.
Cook your meals rather than eat out
If you really want to save a bundle when traveling then make sure you cook your own meals. For example, just recently in Gothenburg I spent $50 USD to buy a week’s worth of groceries instead of spending an average of $20 USD per meal to eat out.
If you couchsurf, your host will likely have a kitchen you can use. If you are staying in campsite or elsewhere that doesn’t have a kitchen then pack silverware and containers so you can make salads or sandwiches to bring along.
You do not always have to be eating a hot meal. You also do not have to eat all three meals out. Maybe pack something light for breakfast and lunch, and then eat out for dinner. Be creative and you can save a lot of money.
If you work on a farm, you will have free room and board, while getting to enjoy the great outdoors. You just have to pay to get to the farm, but after you arrive, it is all covered except for spending money that you might want to bring along.
4 ways you can save money that will cost a little but that is still really cheap
So we have just looked through your opportunities for traveling almost for free while at the same time sometimes making money on the go. But as always, there’s more.
Here I just want to share a few travel hacks that will help you save more on the road, which means even more travel for you!
Get a city tourist card
If you are going to be seeing a lot of sights in a city, make sure that you get a city tourism card, which provides discounted/free access to the museums and major attractions, and free public transportation.
I bought the London pass and saved over $100 and I purchased Helsinki card, which saved me about $75. I have purchased tons of other city tourism cards because they are a great way to save money and get to see the attractions.
Get a rail pass
If you book ahead of time, you can save about 50 percent of the cost of a train ticket. If you do not want to be tied into a fixed schedule, just use a rail pass and save tons of money. In Australia, I have enjoyed 70 percent savings.
Sleep in a large dorm
The cheapest paid accommodation available is the large hostel dorm room. If you don’t like couchsurfing, this is really the next best way for you to save money sleeping.
Use a discount card(s)
If you are a teacher or a student under 26, you can enjoy 50 percent off on attractions and other things. Save big!
Summing up: how to travel the world for cheap with little or no money
With all of these tips, you can save a ton of money while at the same time spending relatively little money. If I can do it so can you.
Whether you are planning to get away for 3 months, 3 weeks, or 3 years, travel doesn’t need to be overly expensive. You do not need thousands of dollars to travel. If I can do London for $700, you can do it cheap too.
This ultimate guide to traveling has mentioned many ways that you can lower your costs. The key is to get out of the traditional travel mindset that you need to travel for cheap using a flight–hotel combo. Instead, opt for out of the box thinking and discover just how much you can save, which means your dream to travel can be a reality.
Take the above advice from our guide to really cheap traveling and turn it into actionable steps to see the world.
Do you have questions? Tips? Advice? Tell us in the comments below! Also, make sure to read how to avoid enormous cell phone bills while traveling to feel confident and safe abroad.