15 Tips On Traveling When You're Broke
People often think that because I'm traveling to these sweet places and seeing the world that I am always given the money and these opportunities seem to just "come to me." While I am blessed with an incredible father who supports my wandering soul, I am also saving a lot of money constantly to be able to do what I do. I work very hard and research day and night because traveling will always be something I care about. For me, it's more about meeting others and living within the culture rather than focusing on the best hotels to stay in or flying over first class. Those things aren't even on my radar, in fact they tend to separate from your experience with the culture and being able to level with the locals.
Everything I do is to be able to travel and help others. When you want something enough, it will happen, that's not me being optimistic that's me being honest here. You might say you've always wanted to travel or you want to do the things you see everyone else doing but ultimately, when you really want something, you make it happen. Maybe you've been wanting to go to a certain concert for a while now but just haven't put in the effort to really save up and go. It's not that you don't want to go, but you just don't believe that it could happen. You're thinking well I don't have the money so I must not be able to go. Because of ____ I can't do _____. Now you see others go and feel regret for not just buying the ticket. This isn't me trying to tear you down, I'm saying that you can truly make things happen for yourself, you just need to step up and say "what do I want?" Now, "how can I make it happen?"
Below are 15 of my own tips and tricks to finding ways to travel, see the world and make the most of the time you have living your life to the fullest. Look for more on my upcoming Youtube channel, but this is a good start for all of you aspiring adventurers.
1) Step 1: Save Save Save
Starting off with the most obvious one here, but I wanted to give you more insight into what exactly I've learned when it comes to saving. Sometimes it means giving up your "normal" way of life, all those online subscriptions, buying clothes, or going to the cheaper grocery store that's a little out of your way. Whatever it is that you know you should be doing but haven't made it happen yet, this is your sign to do it. It's only going to help you reach where you want to go.
Come up with a budget plan. I know. I hate it too, I'm not great with finance in general if I'm being completely honest here but, I've learned that even writing things out ahead of time really does help. Especially if you're at all like me and spend without looking at prices sometimes (don't judge). Write out everything you buy for a week, maybe a month and see what needs to change. Work from there to figure out what you can cut out, what is essential for you?
Next, write it out on a calendar. Put the date down that you would like to travel by and come up with how much you'll need for the trip (I'll go over that later). Having it on a calendar can truly help you realize there is an end goal and it is going to feel incredible when you reach that point.
2) Cheap Flights. They're a Thing.
First and foremost, when planning a trip comes the dreaded flight prices and figuring out what airport to go to, etc. Well I have some news for you, theres an app for literally everything now and they're made to help you out with these things. A few of my favorites (also included in my Travel app blog post) are below:
These apps can actually help so so much, they even maneuver some flights that probably are frowned upon at times but when you're desperate, you're desperate ya know? (Getting off at a stop and missing the connecting flights is apparently what airlines don't want us to do...)
Sometimes a flight with a few stops, is cheaper then getting a flight non stop, these apps do the research for you, which is great. And for those that don't have a lot of time to spend researching at all, I recommend Hopper in particular because it'll notify you when a flight will get cheaper, what day to buy the ticket, etc. So you don't have to worry too much on that.
3) Think About How You're Going to Travel & Where
I get a lot of questions about the way I travel and how I balance safety with finding the cheaper options, and also why I choose the countries I do. Mainly, when I'm planning out my budget and everything else for the trip, I am also analyzing the countries on my list (there's always more than one I want to go to) and looking at their economies, how they're doing, are most things reasonably priced or am I going to want to cry when I bring out my wallet there... These are the questions to ask before even setting the destination and buying the ticket.
Now the exception to this, is when you really want to go to one place, maybe a place that's been on your list forever and you just think you absolutely need to see it. The hiccup? That its pricey. If you're in this boat, you are not alone. I've been there (ah Iceland) and it is possible to make it work. Again, budgeting is your best friend but also consider getting a group together to go. While in Iceland, my friends and I didn't even want to pay for a place to stay there, instead we chipped in on a car and camping gear and wore every article of clothing possible to bed (I looked like a giant marshmallow) and camped the whole Ring of Fire. Was is the coldest I've ever been in my life? Was it completely worth it to be able to climb mountains I can never pronounce? And would I do it again? The answer to all of this is absolutely.
When it comes to how you travel, if you are really looking to budget, camping is always a cheaper option to consider. Hostels are the way to go for the most part however, especially in the winter and most of them are actually done up like a hotel. I suggest doing the research ahead of time and comparing prices with air bnb, depending on where you're heading however, as sometimes I've found airbnb to be way more reasonably priced.
4) Look At Money
People who don't look into what your money is worth before going, this is for you.
Fact: your money is going to be in a completely different value wherever you go, and this value changes all the time. Once you realize the game of it, you can save so much more money going to a place when the value is better for you.
When researching the places I want to go, I tend to narrow the list down to what is going to be easier for me when it comes to the money side of things. For example, traveling to Southeast Asia most likely will be a better option then heading to a country like Switzerland, where everything is incredibly expensive and my money isn't worth crap. This means I can stay in one country longer if I don't have to worry too much about the everyday expenses like food and shelter.
In Bali, Indonesia my hostels were roughly $8 USD per night and the food was around the same (never spent more then $10 on a meal I would say). Whereas sometimes traveling through countries in Europe, it would be surprising when I didn't spend $30 USD on a meal. Safe to say, generally my money is worth more in Southeast Asia.
5) Consider Your Credit
When it came to getting a credit card, I didn't want any of them. I don't like having to owe something or someone back, probably all those scary talks from school about getting into debt just working their magic on me but long story short this isn't me telling you to get a credit card. Especially if you're not financially ready for the commitment, don't do it. But if you are looking into upping your credit score and wondering what kind of card you should get then I would look into one with an airlines. Added bonus? Miles.
Credit cards with a partnership on an airlines are the best to get if you love to travel or want to travel more. Many have a certain deal for extra miles when you initially sign up, and its incredible. I decided on one with Delta Airlines (since they partner with a lot of international airlines) and the deal was an added 1,000 miles in my account after signing up. To this day, I have no regrets.
The deals may vary depending on your location and where you want to travel, so definitely look into the options you would want but I've included a few of my favorites below.
6) Pack Light.
Personally, I've learned to fit everything into my rather large backpacking backpack but I know not everyone can do this. My advice to you is to downsize as much as possible. Put everything on a list that you absolutely can't live without and wouldn't be able to borrow from someone else traveling. Now, have your close friends or family take a look at the list and have them cross out anything they think isn't a necessity. I guarantee you will save space and money, it feels weird at first realizing those things don't matter but you get used to it and will adjust. Soon enough, you'll be the pro gliding through the airport looking like you know what you're doing.
Something to consider, depending on the airlines you're on and where you're heading: it might be cheaper to check a bag. There are some airlines I've been on that actually charge less to check a back then to have a carry on. Once again, compare airlines and look into how you want to be carrying your stuff where you're heading.
If I'm traveling to Southeast Asia or Africa, I only want my backpacking backpack. The airports can be hectic and I just feel safer knowing everything I own is strapped to me, not sure why I feel better about that but I just do. If I'm planning a more relaxing trip or something with family I might bring a suitcase instead. Read the situation ahead of time and see what makes the most sense.
Sidenote: don't bring large bottles of anything, it just doesn't make sense to me, travel sized things are better in every way. You can also pretty much get anything in any country at this point so if you're really desperate for something I don't have any doubt that you could find it.
7) Watch What You Eat
This isn't a diet tip, just a friendly reminder. It is cheaper pretty much anywhere you go to grocery shop and cook. If you have it in your budget to eat out more, kudos to you though, move on to the next step then. However, when I travel I like to keep a balance and try to grocery shop when I can. If I'm staying in a country or city for around a week and my hostel or air bnb has a fridge, I am most likely going to be cooking. It's also a great way to meet other people if you're in a hostel, or if you make friends while out and about, invite everyone over to your place to cook together.
This also applies to going out and drinking, grabbing a cup of coffee, etc. I'm all for experiencing it and trying everything at least once but in order to save I've limited it a bit more. For example, if you're in a country that is really expensive consider making friends in your hostel and pregaming together, making a large dinner and buying a bottle of wine or something rather then going out to spend $30 on a meal and an extra $10 per drink. Not really worth it, if you're doing that every day you'll be broke and have to go home in no time. So where's the fun in that?
8) Local transportation
Travel as the locals do, they're the ones who know what they're doing so don't be afraid to ask or do the look ahead of time and find out whats the cheapest way to get around. In Europe its most likely going to be the trains and buses, but if you're going from country to country flight deals might be a life saver. Also getting a moped in most countries is becoming the new fad, it takes time to adjust but thats another mode of travel that might help you save a bit in the long run.
Keep in mind that some places may not have Uber, so don't rely on that and look ahead to find out what is a reasonable amount to pay a cab for where you're heading to. Don't let yourself fall into the common scam of overpaying a cab driver. When traveling, every dollar counts and overpaying at any point for transportation just isn't in the budget.
9) Nature First.
Consider heading to nature spots first, they are completely free and you get to experience beautiful aspects of the country you're in.
It's a great way to see the landscape of where you are and reveling in the beauty without paying anything to be a part of it. Doesn't get better then that if you ask me. It doesn't necessarily mean you have to hike a mountain or anything (for those that don't like nature...I'm sorry) but their is almost always something to see and experience that is free. Consider that when you travel at all times. Many get caught up in the idea that you have to spend so much once you're in another country, that is a fallacy and I'm here to tell you there are always options for you.
10) Think About Getting Paid...To Travel?
Believe it or not there are options to get paid in other countries. Truth.
I'm here to make your dreams come true with this tip. There are programs that give you free stay/food if you help out with various odd jobs, and some actually pay you good money to help out. Depending on what you're interested in, there are options to look into. I'm giving you a few basic ones I've done my research on but if you're interests differ, look into more! Research them and make sure they are safe and have the reviews to back it up, but always always consider it as an option for you. (If you find any that aren't listed that you recommend, feel free to message them to me!)
Au Pair Jobs Abroad
What it is: Get paid to nanny... in other countries. Save up enough for a flight or use your miles and sign up for a work visa and you're good to go. Some provide a homestay experience and even pay for your travel to the location, others help you set that up, either way it is a great way to travel and make money. A big pro about programs like this is that it is all very safe, with background checks and initial interviews. Plus, the pay differs in other areas and might be better then what you could get back home plus you'll learn so much from really getting to know a family from the country and living in one area for a good chunk of time.
Time: Programs usually vary from about a month to several months, or a year. You decide which you want to take on.
What it is: It's pretty self explanatory but you're able to teach abroad with a quick certification in a lot of programs. The Peace Corps can be pretty competitive though so the more experience you have working with kids for that one, the better.
Time: Keep in mind that in order to really make a difference with these programs, a longer stay would be necessary (especially with the Peace Corps).
What it is: Mainly you get "paid" with these programs through getting free room and board but many have said it is a great financial opportunity to work on an organic farm and live with others that are also free spirits looking to see the world and live on less. They have programs ranging from India to Greece and each country has different jobs they need help with, so the opportunities are never-ending!
Time: Differs based on the site and program of choice, many will say at least a month, but there are some that say one to a few weeks are also okay.
Not certain what kind of job you'd want? Explore these.
11) Drink From the Tap.
If you're really struggling with money I recommend getting a filtered bottle and traveling with it everywhere. Consider getting the iodine tablets, water pump, whatever it is you choose to go with (they all have benefits and factors to consider) it'll be cheaper in the long run to not have to buy water every day. I would say I've spent more on water bottles in other countries than what I paid for my hostels or food altogether. It adds up, and you don't even think about it because it's water. You need it no matter what, so of course you'll pay the $3 per bottle to get it.
Also, I don't know what it is but I swear I go into this survival mode when I travel where I get thirsty AF and need a water bottle in my hand at all times. Not sure what it is but I'm terrified suddenly of being dehydrated even though I'm most likely dehydrated all the time back home.
Anyways, my point here is: be proactive with your water solution and make it something you don't have to add to the budget.
12) Avoid Being Scammed.
Research ahead of time and put this into Google for your own good: Common scams that occur in [enter country/city of choice]. Don't let yourself become the stereotypical traveller who falls into every trap. Be smart and understand that there is a balance between being careful but also understanding not everyone is out to get you.
13) Consider Remote Work
Due to the travel bug bite I got years ago, I am now always thinking about ways to make money but also doing it through things I'm passionate about. I don't want to live my everyday life doing something I hate, that would be stupid. The world has so much out there and many different opportunities for literally anything you can put your mind to. You don't have to do something you hate, theres a thousand other possibilities out there that might be something you love.
For me, that ended up being blogging and helping others build websites. Today there are many remote options to choose from: teaching, sales, customer service, writing, graphic design, art, etc. The list goes on and on.
What is your passion? Think entrepreneurially and see what you could be doing for yourself. Even if it is a side thing you want to just try out, its a great way to be spending your time. Putting effort into your own personal growth and seeing what comes out of it is never going to be something you regret.
14) Travel Insurance.
I've only had one instance where I've been incredible grateful to fallback on my insurance but knowing me, it is definitely not the last. I am completely accident prone and always end up with a story to tell after traveling somewhere so I say this with complete honesty and certainty. get travel insurance. You would rather pay the small fee now and have your butt covered then have something happen later where you end up paying way to much. Insurance is always a good idea.
You don't ever hear someone saying wow I really regret getting that insurance that might save me in the end. It's always a good idea. Can't argue with the truth.
15) Remind Yourself of the End Goal
I could talk about what you should and shouldn't do for several more pages but ultimately you're the one that's going to decide whether or not it happens. So the key is to figure out how your going to do it.
Its pretty key to keep yourself in the right mindset: don't think about all the reasons why it can't work and instead keep the optimism alive and think about why it can work. Believe that the world is open to you, and the possibilities are endless.