Traveling and finding the time to explore the world is one of the best ways to grow as an individual. You get to meet new people, see new places, taste new flavors and enjoy new experiences. However, global travel always seems to be advertised as something just for Hollywood A-listers.
Between flights, accommodations, food, drink, and entertainment, it seems wanderlust can come at a price, especially when you come home and find a stack of bills waiting for you.
However, there are ways to explore the world without creating too much strain on your monthly rent and bills. Even though it will take some serious planning and smart traveling skills, there is a way to see the world and still come home without stressing about your monthly budget. Here’s how:
MAP OUT PRE-TRAVEL EXPENSES
During most of my trips, I’ve discovered that the pre-travel stuff costs way more than what I actually spend once I arrived at my destination– by far. Things like flights, travel insurance, accommodations, visa/passport costs, vaccinations, and necessary gear for the trip (backpacks, seasonal clothes, etc) typically take up the largest chunk of your travel budget.
This makes it really easy to plan out your rent and other funds, because most of these expenses are calculated upfront.
HAVE A DAILY SPENDING LIMIT DURING TRAVEL– AND STICK TO IT
An average daily budget can vary dramatically depending on where you are heading. For instance, spending only $50 per day in Barcelona might be challenging, but in Southeast Asia or Central America, it’s very easy. Have at least a basic idea of what cities you are planning on visiting during your trip, how long you will be staying there and what the transfer rate is for each locale.
Sticking to the necessities with your daily spending is ideal, as is tracking your expenses.There are several excellent apps that can help you do this too, such as the iOS app Trail Wallet. Before you head out, you can also take care of pre-travel tasks and expenses through planning apps like Trello or Basecamp.
THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU REALLY ‘NEED’ DURING TRAVEL
When I’m traveling, what I am looking for when it comes to accommodations is a clean, safe place to shower, sleep and connect to Wi-Fi. In most places you visit, including Europe, you can find hostels and budget hotels that provide this and more at a fraction of the cost of posh hotels and resorts.
For instance, when I visited London (one of the most expensive cities in the world) in 2011, I decided to stay in a small rented room above a pub. It didn’t have all of those little luxuries, but I was close to the Tube, had free Wi-Fi, a hot shower and a full English breakfast every morning as part of the lodging expense, which was more than reasonable. With all of the walking and sightseeing I was doing throughout my stay in London, I wasn’t planning on spending a lot of time in a hotel room anyway.
However, when I traveled to Costa Rica last year, I had a little more room in my travel budget for a bigger space and more amenities when it came to hotel choices, which was great for afternoon naps after long days of snorkeling, hiking and sea kayaking.
It’s all about knowing what’s best for the location– take your time, plan ahead and do some research!
OPT OUT OF TYPICAL TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
The Louvre in Paris. The Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. Times Square in New York. These are all places you just gotta see when you’re in town, right? Not always. It’s been my experience in the past that those “must-see attraction” lists on travel sites simply aren’t what they’re all cracked up to be. Not only will you likely have to wait in line for hours (possibly all day, as what seemed to be the case with me in NYC at the Empire State Building), but these top attractions will also drain your travel budget– and quickly.
Souvenirs? Overpriced. Food costs near these “hot spots?” Astronomical. The lines? Never-ending.
My advice? Break free from what you think you “have to” see in a city and wander around a little bit. Or, settle on one or two touristy places you’ve been longing to visit and spend the rest of the time really getting to know the city on foot. Head out into the neighborhoods. Grab a seat at a cozy pub or cafe.
Talk to locals and ask them for advice on what to see and where to go– that alone should give you plenty of insight. Hang out in a local park. Although everyone travels differently, I’ve found that that there is a lot of joy in just soaking it all in– you’re supposed to be relaxed on vacation and enjoying yourself, not spending all day in line!
The same idea goes for your food and drink budget– steer clear of those famous restaurants (unless you really want to go) just because everyone else is heading there. Asking locals about their favorite restaurants will usually help you avoid long wait times, and who knows? You might find a hidden gem of an eatery that no one knows about!
Buy snacks or groceries at local supermarkets, refill water bottles, and opt for local street food for your meals if you are watching your wallet. Then, after a few days of saving, you can splurge on a really nice dinner out. This way, you get to see both sides of the culinary scene in the city and avoid a lot of mediocre food along the way.
WORKING WHILE TRAVELING
If you really want to spring for a long-term vacation or go backpacking through several countries to ease your wanderlust, there are several ways that you can work and travel at the same time. After all, earning money while traveling is obviously a lot smarter for your budget than spending– and in resort or tourist locales with high turnover, there are usually plenty of small, part-time jobs you can find. Keep in mind, some countries might require you to obtain a work visa– so do some research ahead of time.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to teach English abroad– especially if you want to visit Southwest Asia, as native English speakers are in high demand. Additionally, places that operate seasonally– such as camping resorts, ski lodges or beach bars– will usually be looking for extra positions during peak tourist travel times, according to Thought Catalog.
There are also excellent organizations like the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, which links winemakers and farmers throughout the world with volunteers, offering food and accommodations for those who are willing to work on an organic farm.
World travel doesn’t always have to be for the rich and famous. You can still explore the world, enjoy the sights and stay within your budget back home– all it takes is travel smarts and a bit of planning.