Affording Travel: Tips for Traveling with Little Income
If you have always dreamed of traveling the world but think it’s too expensive, think again. With a bit of planning and some budget-friendly tips, anyone can travel short or long term without breaking the bank. After traveling to over 40 countries and learning valuable ways to travel hack, I have discovered one important rule: you do not need a lot of money or a high-paying job to travel. Here are some guidelines to help you afford the adventure of a lifetime.
Set a Travel Goal and Plan for It
First and foremost, create a travel goal and stick to it. By mapping out what your expectations are for your trip, you are more likely to work towards it on a daily basis. Think about how long you want to travel and the type of experiences you hope to gain. For instance, a goal can be to backpack through South America for three months on a $1,000 per month budget or to live in an eco-village in India for several months. With your travel baseline goals outlined, it’s easier to plan for what needs to be done to get there.
Start a Travel Fund
Unless you plan to use prior savings, you’re going to have to save some cash to pay for your travels. Even if you only put $200 into a travel fund every month, that’s $2,400 you will have saved up in one year. On top of that, anytime you come across extra cash, put it into your travel fund. The more you’re able to contribute to the fund, the more you will be able to stretch out your budget and ultimately make your trip more flexible and enjoyable. This takes financial responsibility, and by making a commitment to yourself to not tap into those savings, you will reach your goal sooner.
Get Your Finances in Order
A couple of months before you are due to travel, make sure to get every single one of your finances in order so that you are not accumulating late fees or paying for things you simply don’t need while you’re abroad. Call your car insurance company to let them know you won’t be driving your car, and have them freeze your account until you return. If you don’t plan to use your cell phone on your trip, you can ask your service provider to also freeze your account until you return, so you’re not paying for a monthly plan that you will not be using. This goes for wireless internet as well. For student loans or other bills you can’t get around paying, make sure to have enough money in your bank account to continue to pay them. Make sure you can log in and pay all of your bills online using a credit card or set up auto-pay if you think you might not have access to the internet for extended periods of time.
Take Advantage of Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses
The single most expensive portion of your travels is likely to be your plane ticket. One of the most valuable travel hacking tricks I have picked up over the last couple of years is signing up for a co-branded credit card to earn free airline miles. By getting a new card or two each year, I have been able to cover almost all of my flights using airline miles earned from the sign-up bonuses offered with the cards.
Many travel rewards credit cards have a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points, which is enough for a free, round-trip flight to almost anywhere in the world. When you sign up for a credit card that does have a bonus, you usually have up 90 days to meet a minimum spend requirement, which can be $1,000 to $3,000. The minimum spend is easier to meet than you’d think, and there are a lot of creative suggestions on how to do it. By earning rewards points, you can easily save $1,200 on a trip by not paying for airfare.
Cut Back on Conveniences
It’s true, we all love our conveniences and luxuries, but if you cut out many of those, you will save more money than you would think. Sure, watching shows on demand is great, but in the age of the internet, there is really no reason to pay for expensive television programming, especially if you’re looking for ways to afford to travel the world. Instead of buying a $3 cup of coffee, make it at home. Live close to work? Then save money on gas and ride your bike or take the bus. Think about all the small, daily expenses you could live without, then do it.
Research Alternative Accommodations
The bottom line is that in today’s well-traveled world, anywhere you travel to, you’re likely to find an affordable hostel that’s usually clean and well kept. By staying at a hostel, you can easily find fun and safe accommodation for $10–$15 a night. My favorite sites are Hostelbookers and Hostelworld. It pays to compare prices for the same hostel, and you can often save a few bucks by booking through the cheaper website. Couchsurfing is another option available and provides free accommodation for travelers who create an online profile and request a couch. The benefit of Couchsurfing is that it offers users the chance to have a local experience with their host. My other favorite site for finding cheap accommodation is Airbnb, and on a recent trip to Puerto Rico, I was able to save $40 per night by staying in a studio listed on Airbnb instead of a hotel.
Affording travel is possible, even if you don’t have a lot of money or a high-paying job. By setting a travel goal, starting a travel fund, getting your finances in order, taking advantage of credit card sign-up bonuses, cutting back on conveniences, and researching alternative accommodations, you can travel the world on a budget. With a bit of preparation, you can enjoy the adventure of a lifetime without breaking the bank.