Do you long to travel and see the world? Do you wonder how you’ll ever make that happen? And if you’ll ever find the time? It might seem impossible to make your dream of traveling come true, but if anyone can tell you it’s possible, it is us.
We work in retail (i.e. lower paying jobs), we are only allotted two weeks paid vacation a year, and we have student loan debt, car debt and a mortgage. Yet somehow, we always find a way to travel. Of course, the question that we get asked the most, is and always has been, “how do you do it?”
Saving money and making a budget
Just like you save up for the newest version of iPhone, you have to do the same with travel. We are not going to tell you it will be easy, but we can promise you that it will be worth it. Start looking at your monthly expenses and see what things you can cut out. Some might notice eating out or daily Starbuck’s runs as an unnecessary added expense. Start packing a lunch, bringing a tea and inviting friends over for drinks instead. Believe me, these three things alone can do wonders. For me, it’s clothes shopping. I have a real problem and it’s the easiest thing to cut. Always remind yourself of the fun experiences you could be having around the world with that money instead.
Another thing you can do to make some extra cash is go through your belongings and see what you’ve got that you don’t use anymore. Perhaps you can sell items on Kijiji or auctions sites to bring in some money. We all have clutter we can stand to get rid of. And it’s true what they say, one person’s junk is another person’s treasure.
Lastly, we recommend putting away a little bit of your paycheque each month into your “Get me outta here” funds. The amount doesn’t have to be huge, every little bit counts, but eventually it will add up. Before you know it, you’ll be boarding the plane to that destination you’ve only dreamed about.
Picking a destination
So you know how much money you have to travel with, now comes the fun part…picking a destination! Obviously, the amount of money you have available determines the types of trips you can take. For instance, if you only have a $2,000 to work with, obviously you are not going to choose to go to Europe for 3 months. Everyone knows that’s a very expensive destination and you’d barely make it there.
The best countries to travel to when working with a smaller budget include:
- Central America
- Some European countries (i.e.. Spain, Portugal)
Countries that require a bit more dough:
Even with the more expensive countries, it really depends on a) how the dollar is doing and b) if you are backpacking and living as cheaply as you can. Having traveled Australia back in 2011, we would say it’s somewhere in the middle.
(See Nomadic Matt’s suggestions here 10 Destinations to Visit When You’re a Budget Traveler)
Finding a flight
There are numerous ways to find cheap flights, but the greatest piece of advice we can give you is to start early and do your research. Compare prices on different search engines and compare frequently until you see a price you like. Taking the time to find a cheap flight is the easiest way to make for a great travel experience! The dollars you save on the flights allow you to a) either pay for once-in-a-lifetime adventures on the road, or b) allow you to pay for some bills back home while you are away. For further details, check out Tim’s excerpt on How to find a cheap flight.
Doing your research can help you save a ton of cash on accommodations. Depending on where and how you are traveling, certain websites are better than others. For many destinations in America or Europe or Australia, you can try Couchsurfing, Hostelworld or Home Away.
Couchsurfing allows you to stay at a local’s home for free, often giving you a inside view of the culture and way of life. An added bonus is that you may make some local friends to visit another time. Another similar option to this is Airbnb, where locals rent out rooms/houses to travellers (this could be another way to save for your trips; rent out any extra room to travellers!)
Hostelworld is a good option, especially in the bigger cities, however keep in mind when traveling as a couple you might want your privacy and those rooms cost sometimes more than double the cost of a dorm room (approximately $80/night). Also, there can be some dirty hostels out there, so again do your research. One of our first nights in Australia, we stayed at a hostel near Bondi Beach where, in the middle of the night, there was actual shit on the ground in the bathroom. Total turnoff! The great thing about hostels is the chance to meet other travellers though. They often have group activities and social events planned, which makes for a fun stay. Remember to read reviews and compare with Trip Advisor reviews to make sure you are getting a good place.
We used Home Away to spend a month in Hawaii when we got married there last summer. People on this site rent out their vacation homes and it’s a great deal, especially if you are sharing a place with a group. This option also allows you to have a kitchen to cook in, so you can save cash that way. It’s great for privacy as well, which is definitely something we needed for our honeymoon 🙂 Read reviews and ask the owners a lot of questions before committing to ensure you are getting the best option.
When traveling through SE Asia, you can do it one of two ways. You can use the internet to look up reviews on places near where you’d like to stay. Or you can simply stroll around town, if you have the time, to check out some places in person. That way if you are unfamiliar with the area, you can get familiar before you commit to a place.
Recommendations from travellers on the road are always a good idea too. You are getting real-time information that way and likely a review from someone you can relate to as well.
Of course there’s always the search engines Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com, and such that you can search for accommodations as well. Do some comparisons and review checks before making a decision.
Check out Nomadic Matt’s analysis on different booking companies and their prices: How to find a cheap hotel room: Sites to use and sites to avoid
Food, drink & activities
There are numerous ways to cut down on expenses when traveling and Tim and I work very hard at this one in particular. Depending on where you go affects these costs as well.
If we are traveling through SE Asia for instance, street food is the way to go. You can get a huge serving of Pad Thai on the streets of Bangkok for just 30 Baht (roughly $1 CDN). Even going out to restaurants costs very little, with a full meal and drink setting you back just a few dollars.
Traveling to the States, i.e..Hawaii, we tend to do things a little differently because it’s more expensive. As mentioned above, find a place to stay with a kitchen. It’ll save you tons of money! Restaurants in the States can set you back $30 or more for a dinner out for two people. Now imagine the total cost after 3 meals a day for a week! No way! Heading to the grocery store allows you to have cheap breakfasts, lunches and dinners. A bag of rice, a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter: those can last you the whole week at a fraction of the cost.
When Tim and I are traveling, we like to enjoy a few drinks. I mean, we are on vacation! So we’ll find the cheapest way to do that as well. In SE Asia, drinks are as cheap as they come. Approximately $1 will get you an oversized bottle of beer. In Hawaii, we choose to buy our alcohol and drink it beforehand, as going out to the bars leads to drinks costing about $6-7 a pint. Then there’s the year we spent in Australia; booze there was not cheap. And because we were gone for so long, we ended up cutting out booze as much as possible. Maybe once a month we’d go out to a bar in Cairns or buy a six-pack to share in the outback. There’s no way we could’ve spent a year in Oz if we were drinking every weekend. And really, you’re there to travel and experience the beautiful planet, not to be hungover and tired all of the time.
When choosing which activities to be a part of, Tim and I have found that there a lot you can do on your own and some you can’t. It all comes down to doing your research about your destination. There are numerous blogs and travel reviews (ie. Trip Advisor) that can help you get informed. From there you can decide which activities are worth the cost and time to you.
For instance, if you are ever headed to Maui, the one thing I would spend money on there is the snorkel/dive trip out to Molokini Crater. The excursion cost about $140 CDN, but we experienced some of the most beautiful waters and reefs I’ve ever seen. And we saw a reef shark! Very cool! You cannot put a price on that.
Similarly, on the Big Island, it pays to buy a ticket to the top of Mauna Kea to see the sunset and visit the observatory. A number of years back, we tried driving our crappy rental up the volcano, but you can’t actually take it past the observatory. We realized once we took the tour this past year that those last 20 minutes up the volcano to see the sunset are out of this world and so worth the extra cost. Not only were the sights to die for, but the tour guide taught us so much about astronomy and the history of the volcano.
In contrast, there are millions of tours up to Haleakala to watch the sunrise, which to us would be a total waste of money. You can drive yourself up there for 1/3 of the cost and you won’t have to leave at an ungodly hour just to share an uncomfortable bus ride up with strangers.
As you can see, there are numerous ways to save money, both before and during your trip! It’s time to prioritize and get creative, so you can start traveling the world!