How to Backpack on 50% of Your Budget
It’s safe to say that young travelers have one main concern. That is how to save money, go further, and stay longer.
In an age of student loans and debt up to your nose, it sometimes becomes hard to manage. But, that doesn’t make traveling the world unobtainable in the least.
As a matter of fact, you’ll be elated to know this:
If done frugally, long-term travel can be more affordable than a sedentary life in many parts of the world. And the more you travel, the more tips and tricks you will learn.
Budgeting for travel is simple. There are three basic costs that you have to account for that will cover a large majority of your expenses.
Those are transportation, accommodation, and food.
There are other expenses to travel, too, but many of the other expenses are very subjective. Relative to the mindset of the traveler. Transportation, accommodation, and food are necessities of traveling.
Here I will explain how I cut costs when necessary and what strategies and tools I use to do that.
Depending on where you live and where you are going, plane travel will be expensive. Often, the first expense of any travel is the plane ticket. Here are a few resources to look for cheaper flights:
These two websites are “error-fare” watchers. Error-fare sites will notify you when airline companies accidentally advertise a flight for the wrong price.
It is possible to fly from the United States to Europe for less than the cost of a domestic U.S. flight using these sites. Sign up for each site’s newsletter as well as follow their social media updates.
When searching for flight tickets, you can also try out this travel hack.
Believe it or not, it is possible to fly anywhere on Earth for free (this is not a typo)! It takes attention to personal financing, but it is well worth it in the end.
Recently, I received over $3,000 in travel credit for using this tactic. It is without a doubt what allows me to stay on the move.
For ground travel, I use apps such as Omio (formerly GoEuro). This app allows me to find the cheapest modes of transportation across Europe.
You’ll be surprised at the outrageously cheap prices this app can snag you.
Accommodation costs depend largely on what type of travel you are doing. It is possible to save loads of cash no matter how long you will be at a destination, but you must be willing to sacrifice.
Mind you, I write for the budget-minded traveler.
For short-term, city-to-city travel, I recommend hostels and Couchsurfing. Hostels are very popular everywhere besides America. For more, read my guide on how to pick the best hostels.
Couchsurfing is a platform that matches travelers to hosts for short-term stays.
Hosts on Couchsurfing do not charge a single cent, making this option 100% free. It is out of the goodness of people’s hearts so do not take advantage of them. Be gracious guests and earn yourself a recommendation from your host. That will make it easier to find more hosts in the future.
For long-term traveling, try using sites such as Workaway and WOOFING.
These sites also match travelers with free homestays. But with these, some sort of volunteering is required. Most offer free food as well!
I wrote about my Workaway experience and see how it saved me thousands of dollars in Belgium last year!
Some travelers can feed themselves on less than $2 per meal in Western countries. If that’s you, all power to you.
Some would rather allocate a greater part of their budget to local delicacies. I, for one, don’t mind spending money tasting the local flavor. Yet, I don’t go overboard with this philosophy.
Generally, my rule of thumb is, if a city is internationally known for a certain food, I will splurge. If not, I’ll become a $2 or less per meal type of traveler.
This is easy to follow anywhere you travel. Use your hostel’s kitchen, eat cheap street food, or snack on inexpensive but filling treats.
There are times when I’ll only eat one meal per day and feel completely sated. Traveling does all sorts of wacky things to your diet.
Most hostels offer fully-equipped kitchens. I’ve stayed at hostels that have great, clean kitchens. But some make me feel as if I’m back at my university sharing a community kitchen with five teenage boys.
Regardless, hostel kitchens are usually a great place to meet people. It’s one of the few places in a hostel where people aren’t in a rush. A perfect place to have decent conversations.
So, use it!
Plus, shopping for groceries at a foreign market is all a part of the cultural experience. Make it what you want and that’s the experience you will get!
Once you’re on the road for a while, you will start picking up money-savvy habits of your own. I would love to hear them in the comments below. I’m always looking for new creative ideas to save my money. No idea is too outlandish to me!
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