This terrific guide is a guest post from Jamie Campbell who helps people find ways to turn their travel dreams into a lifestyle.
Travel may seem like the perfect example of “living the dream”. And, to many of us, it remains just that; a dream.
But, why is this?
If you ask people this question, the most common reason would be that people think that they just don’t have the money to make that travel lifestyle a reality.
In actuality, a travel lifestyle is far more attainable than most realize.
Most of us are not born into extreme wealth and privilege. We don’t have trust funds awaiting us the second we leave home and step out into the world.
Even fewer people hit the lucky jackpot and win the lottery.
So, if you can’t count on this stuff happening to you, how can you suddenly come up with the money to set off on a backpacking adventure to anywhere in the world, at a moment’s notice?
That’s what this post is going to teach you; that with a little cutting back, creativity and focus, it suddenly becomes possible to travel the world on just about any budget.
Ways to Save and Fund Your Travel Lifestyle
I’ve met people – during my life on the road – from all manner of cultural, ethnic and financial backgrounds. They all share two things in common:
- They all have a passion for travel and the desire to see the world.
- They also have the means to make this lifestyle work for them and their particular budget.
These means are what we’re going to cover today; ways to save money and how to fund your dream travel lifestyle…
Before Setting Off
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the saving only starts once your foot is out the door.
This whole process starts way before all of that. You need to first, lay the foundation and save up enough money to get yourself out the door in the first place.
The Savings Mindset
Trust me, you won’t save money and be able to fund your trip if you don’t first, adjust your mindset.
This was the single most important step and realisation for me, when it came to funding my own travels.
In order to get into this savings mindset, you need to make travel your number one priority.
Once you make this all-important step, it becomes a lot easier to begin implementing the following tips.
Sell Your Car
This might seem like a massive step to take but just think about it…
Your car is just going to be sitting back home, not getting used while you’re away on the other side of the world, sipping cocktails beachside.
You can think of it as a giant pile of potential travel cash just sitting there.
Not only will you be able to add the money you make selling the thing to your travel budget, but you will also stop needing to fork out money for car payments every month.
To me, this step is a no-brainer if:
- You want to travel more than just a couple of weeks a year or you want to make it a full-blown lifestyle.
- You live in a city (or at least an area with a decent public transport system).
I get it why it would be tougher to get rid of your car if you live way out in the middle of nowhere but don’t worry, there are plenty more ways for you to fund your travels!
Sell Your Possessions
The selling doesn’t just stop with your car.
Go through your house. Check every room and every cupboard and make a note of everything you don’t need and could potentially sell.
Then, have a big garage sale or car boot sale. Or, you could use sites like eBay or Gumtree to sell your stuff.
Either way, this results in some extra travel cash in your pocket!
And – just like with the car – this stuff would just be sitting at home, unused otherwise.
I love binging a good Netflix series as much as any rational human but – like with everything else in our lives – entertainment costs. Amazon Prime, Netflix, Spotify, Apple Music, NBA League Pass. These monthly costs may be relatively small in isolation, but add them all together and your total comes to a huge chunk out of your travel budget.
What you can do is make a list of all of your monthly expenses. This includes entertainment subscriptions (like the things listed above), gym memberships and anything else along these lines and find areas where you can cut back.
Okay, you might need Netflix so you don’t miss out on your favourite show, but do you need Apple Music on top of that.
How about downgrading to the free version of Spotify?
What if you work out at home, instead of going to the gym?
Make use of free trials. Mooch off of friend’s accounts. Make all of the necessary cutbacks and you will see a significant boost in your travel fund!
Limit Bars, Clubs and Restaurants
Going out is a lot of fun. But, don’t forget that it’s an expensive habit to have, especially if you do it regularly.
It can be tough to realise how much we actually spend on eating out, getting drinks with friends and partying the night away in a nightclub every month but it’s probably a lot more than you expect.
By cutting down on this, you could easily save yourself hundreds every single month!
Now, I understand that having a social life is important and none of us want to sacrifice that. And that’s not what I’m suggesting.
While it’s unrealistic to stop going out completely, there are ways to make it cheaper:
- Cook for yourself instead of always eating out or ordering in. If you’re going out for a meal with friends, eating beforehand will mean you’re less hungry and thus, buy less at the restaurant. Shredding the expense without sacrificing the social aspect.
- Buy drinks from a supermarket or liquor store and drink before heading to a bar or club. Avoid those bar prices!
- Only bring a certain amount of cash out with you. Leave your card/wallet at home if you can’t trust yourself to adhere to your spending limits.
- Stick to water when out for meals.
Again, while these measures may seem small and insignificant, in isolation, they add up over time and make a considerable difference.
Move Into a Cheaper Place
No doubt, one of your biggest monthly expenses will be rent. So, making a change in this area of your life can have a dramatic impact on your travel fund!
You have four choices here (I’ll cover the fourth choice in a later step):
- Look for a smaller/cheaper place to live.
- Find a roommate to split living costs with.
- Move in with your parents or crash on friends’ sofas for a while. This will completely eradicate your living costs and is a great temporary option to save yourself a ton for your trip!
This is one of my favourite techniques to fund my travels.
Just get a hold of a few mason jars (or special money containers that you can’t open without smashing).
Store foreign money in one (this will come in handy if you plan on travelling regularly).
Set aside a certain percentage of your monthly income in the other. Once the money goes in the jar, it cannot be used for anything other than funding your next adventure!
If you are a frequent flyer for work, or plan to be a frequent flyer for travel, you may as well earn points while you do so.
If you fly with a particular airline on a regular basis, sign up for a rewards card with that airline. This means that every time you fly with them (or one of their partner airlines) you will accumulate points/miles which can be turned into free flights and upgrades in the future.
Another way to earn points is with a credit card. Special travel credit cards can earn you a ton of free points just from your usual spending habits.
Find Cheap Flights
Flights are usually the single greatest expense for any trip, so finding away to lower this cost, can have a drastic effect on the amount of money you save in total.
There are countless articles out there claiming they’ve discovered the day (and time of day) to book flights on to catch them at their cheapest.
Now, in my experience, there is no such magic day, but there is a rough time frame you can stick by to give yourself the best chance at finding a good deal:
- Book your flight six to eight weeks in advance if you are travelling at a non-peak time of year (not a school holiday or anything).
- Book around three months in advance if you are planning to travel during the peak season.
As well as knowing when to book your flights, there are many other ways to ensure that you find the cheapest deal possible:
- Look for flights using multiple search engines. I recommend Momondo and Skyscanner. CheapFlights is pretty good too.
- Remain flexible (if possible) with regard to your travel dates and even your destination.
- Sign up for newsletters like Airfarewatchdog and Holidaypirates to receive email alerts of the best deals available on the internet. (And the BudgetYourTrip.com newsletter, too.)
- Fly indirect. Although it adds more time on to your journey, indirect flights have proven to be consistently cheaper than direct flights.
- Fly with a budget carrier. You may need to sacrifice certain luxuries or comforts, but if you ask me, it’s worth it to just get from A to B as cheaply as possible and save money for the destination itself.
- If you fly with a budget carrier, try to avoid all of the additional charges they add on to each booking for things like checked baggage, picking your seat, failing to print out a boarding pass and various other annoying fares.
This should be enough for you to knock a good chunk off that dizzying flight fare. For a more in-depth look at these methods for reducing the cost of flying, check out this guide.
On the Road
They say that getting your foot out the door is the hardest part of the journey and now that is behind you!
So, props for that!
Now, onto the real fun…
The saving never stops, especially not when you actually end up hitting the road!
Travel to Cheap Destinations
You don’t want to put all this effort into saving for your trip and then realise that the destination you’ve chosen is so expensive, you need to cut your trip short.
Not many places are this expensive, especially when you know the secrets to backpacking on a budget.
But naturally, some areas of the world are cheaper than others and, if you ask me, some of the cheaper destinations are actually the most incredible places to visit.
The obvious place to start, when searching for cheap travel destinations is Southeast Asia.
Many of the countries here are actually cheaper for you to live in than it is for you back home (I guarantee it). Check out this infographic about the price differences.
Those are like the big three – it seems – of the backpacking world and are super-popular with travellers on their gap year.
But what if Asia isn’t for you?
You need not worry! There are plenty of other cheap places to travel, across the world.
Also, don’t forget about lesser-known gems like Cuba in the Caribbean.
Even Europe has some budget-friendly destinations like Portugal and Ukraine (both very underrated but are growing in popularity).
The truth is, if you know what you’re doing and are willing to get a little creative, you can travel almost anywhere on a reasonably tight budget, like being able to travel around Japan on as little as $30 per day! (See also: travel costs for Japan here at BudgetYourTrip.com.)
Remember how I was talking about crashing on friends’ sofas to save on living costs while you’re back home?
Well, how about doing the same thing on the road?
The sharing economy has grown massively in popularity in recent years and now sites like Couchsurfing are used by millions of travellers every single year!
This is a great way to reduce – or completely get rid of – accommodation costs, which usually ends up being the second biggest expense of any trip (after flights).
Couchsurfing is a service that sets you up to stay with a local host in your chosen destination. This results in a free place to stay and a potential new friend/personal guide (if they’re willing to show you around).
Lot’s of newbies tend to worry about staying with a serial killer and being bludgeoned in their sleep when using sites like this but, since gaining traction in recent years, they have taken great strides to improve their security and make the experience as safe as humanly possible. All hosts need to be verified and you can read through their profile and check their reviews before deciding to stay with them.
There are other sites similar to Couchsurfing like MovingWorlds, Trustroots and BeWelcome but none of them come close to the popularity of Couchsurfing and none of them offer the same wide range of options.
What if you were able to get an entire house to yourself, for the full duration of your trip and you didn’t have to pay a single penny for it?
Would you think I was messing with you?
Well, that can be a full-fledged reality thanks to the invention of house-sitting.
This basically involves you staying at someone’s house while they are away and in exchange for being provided with a pretty sweet accommodation deal, all you need to do is not trash the place and maybe look after a pet if the owners have one.
There are plenty of sites where you can sign up to become a house sitter, like “Trusted House Sitters” or “Mind My House”.
Lots of these arrangements are better suited for long-term travellers (if you plan to stay in one place for a while – maybe a month or more). Just keep that in mind when considering your own accommodation options.
Earn Money on the Road
If saving money just isn’t enough – and especially if you plan on turning travel into a lifestyle – there is always the option to earn a little cash while you travel.
There has never been a more abundant range of options when it comes to travel jobs and employment opportunities on the road.
Here are some of the more popular ones:
- English teacher – The perfect job for any native English speaker, looking to make an easy buck while travelling. A qualification (like TEFL) does help but in many countries, you’ll be able to get a job just by having English as your first language. This is because English teachers are in very high demand these days (particularly in Asian countries.
- Hostel worker – Working in a hostel is one of the most common backpacker jobs. Hostels are often looking for part-time, temporary workers and they’ll sometimes even provide you with a free place to stay in exchange for a few hours work!
- Bartender – If you like to travel, drink and earn money, could you think of a better job to do on the road if you tried!?
- Farm worker – Organisations like WWOOOFing provide travellers with work (usually on a farm) and accommodation. This is a great option if you’re travelling slow and are remaining in one place for an extended period of time.
- Work at a ski resort – Ski resort jobs are some of the most fun jobs you can have anywhere. I worked as a ski instructor when I travelled to Japan after finishing high school. One of the best experiences of my life and, I managed to save up a fair bit of money to fund future travels!
- Become an Airbnb host – If you have an empty apartment sitting back at home, why not earn some money off of it while you’re away. This has never been more feasible. With the rise of Airbnb, travellers are looking for comfortable, affordable places to stay, all over the world. This could potentially end up being a big money maker and could fund multiple trips in the future.
Become a Digital Nomad
If you’re looking to go a step (even) further and transform travel into a full-time, legitimate lifestyle, consider becoming a digital nomad.
A digital nomad is someone who makes a living online. This allows them to live and work anywhere in the world!
Oh, thank you, internet!
If you’re unsure what a digital nomad career looks like, here are some common examples:
- Blogger – This is what I do. I’m a travel blogger.
- Freelance writer – Someone who writes articles for other websites and publications.
- Freelance editor
- Web/graphic designer
- Online tutor
- Virtual assistant
- Cryptocurrency/day trader – High risk? Yes. But, can also pay off big time, in the long run.
- YouTuber/filmmaker – Just a few years ago, this would have been considered as an impossible way to make a full-time living but now, more and more people are taking to the online media platform as a way to make money.
These are just a few examples of the limitless possibilities that a digital nomad lifestyle holds.
In my mind, this is the best way to fund your travel lifestyle, as long as you’re willing to put in the necessary work to make it a reality for you!
Jamie is an avid traveller and has been backpacking since he left high school in 2016. He is the founder of Gaijin Crew, a travel blog aimed at showing others how to backpack on a budget and turn travel into more than just the occasional trip.