When it comes to travel, many people are left asking themselves, “how can I even afford to travel?” The desire is there, but the means to achieve it may not be.
And I can relate! I grew up in a small town in a sparsely populated state where not many people get out and see the world. And I so desperately wanted to experience more of it. The problem was, I didn’t have the money to make it happen.
However, the internal desire to was so strong that I had to figure out how to afford travel for myself. By any means necessary. Which meant I had to start getting creative with new ways to increase my income, decrease my expenses and save the difference.
Flash forward to today, and I’m currently about three months in to a world-wide, year-long dream trip!
And no, I didn’t win the lottery. Nor did I inherit a chunk of old family money. I took some simple concepts and put them to work for myself (over time) to make my dreams happen.
And guess what? You can 100% replicate the same for yourself. So, read on for my 23 tips on how to afford travel.
For most people, the two biggest roadblocks to travel are money and time. This article addresses the money aspect, but you may also need some help to travel more with little vacation time. Both can be managed simultaneously, and planning in advance will be a major key.
How to afford travel step one – increase your earnings
Earn travel rewards points
This is one of my most favorite ways to afford to travel. And if you’re a person who uses credit cards responsibly, you can do it as well!
While it can get more complicated, the basics are to get yourself a travel rewards credit card and start earning points on all the expenses you would incur anyway. I’m talking your phone bill, electric bill, grocery bill, pack of gum at the convenience store…all of it. You’ll earn rewards points that can be used for free flights, nights at hotels or even free meals while you travel.
Many rewards cards also offer sign-on bonuses for new card members. So, when you factor that in, plus your regular spending…you can really rack up the points quite quickly. Then you utilize these points to help afford travel without having to pay for it. Win win!
Sell what you don’t need
We all have it: that stuff we keep moving from place to place or allow to collect dust in our house/garages even though we haven’t used it in ages. Why not sell it and bank the money towards our dream trip??
With platforms like Ebay, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist (and more) it has never been easier to sell stuff on the second-hand market. All you need to do is take some pictures, post a listing and communicate with potential buyers. Then relish in the feeling of a) getting some extra money and b) freeing up some space in your place!
Rent your place on Airbnb
Surely you’ve heard of Airbnb by now, it’s become quite popular over the years. It’s a platform that allows people to bypass expensive hotels and rent homes or apartments directly. I personally have used Airbnb during many of my own travels, both domestically and internationally, to save money.
But you can also use Airbnb to make extra money on the side! When I was saving for my world trip, I would rent out my downtown Denver apartment on weekends while I crashed nearby at my boyfriend’s place. This allowed me to add to my savings while doing something I would likely be doing anyway.
All I had to do was invest in some additional bedding, and make sure my apartment was clean and tidy more often. Then I sat back and watched the extra income roll in!
I made $1,200 renting my apartment on Airbnb for only 13 nights in 2018 – an average of $92/night!
Take on a side hustle
We now live in a world where it is SO easy to earn extra income with a side hustle. And the best part is that almost all of them allow you to set your own hours, and work as much or as little as your schedule allows.
You can become an Uber driver. Or you can become a Wag walker (my personal favorite). Maybe even give making deliveries through a variety of platforms like Postmates or Amazon a try. The options really are endless.
Any of these are excellent options to rake in some extra money and throw it all in the savings.
Get a second job (even temporarily)
Any time I’ve had a big financial goal, getting an additional part-time job is on my radar. This can be something temporary and the options are plenty.
Some depend on the season, like working seasonal retail or grading state standardized tests (both of which I have done). But there are plenty of options that you can make work any time of the year as well, like picking up a part-time gig serving or bar tending. If there’s a will, there’s a way!
How to afford travel step two – Trim your expenses
Don’t have, or delay, having children
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I think we can all agree that kids are expensive AF. They’re a blessing, but they come at a high premium. They need food, clothing, medical care, daycare…the list goes on and on.
If travel is what you want, it may be best to do as much as you can before having children. You’ll be able to afford far more travel and won’t feel like you’ve missed out if you decide to have children later.
Already have kids but want to travel? That’s ok, it’s still possible! There are many people who make it work. It will just be a bit more difficult.
I may get some heat for this one, but I think it goes without saying that kids ARE expensive. And traveling before you have them IS much easier.
Cook more than you eat out
If you’re a person who rarely cooks for yourself, this is an area that can really help you afford to travel. Did you know the average American household spends nearly $3,000 annually on eating out? Yes, $3,000!
However, the average home-cooked meal costs around $4 in groceries. Think of how much you can save vs. restaurant prices of $10, $15, $20 or more.
Now, it’s not realistic to NEVER eat out. Eating out is fun and often combined social time with friends. But if you can start cooking at home more often than you eat out, your travel budget will thank you.
Cut out unnecessary expenses
This is an area where you need to be willing to make some sacrifice for your dream of affording travel. I’m not talking about cutting essentials like eating less food or cutting heat in your apartment or anything. But most people have some “fringe” expenses that they can sacrifice for the greater good.
For myself, that meant giving up my monthly massage membership. Or cutting my grass-fed meat subscription service. It could also mean giving up your morning Starbucks in favor of making your coffee at home. Or “cutting the cord” with the cable company for a much less expensive streaming service like Netflix.
Depending on how much you cut, these monthly savings can add up big time. Especially when compounded over time.
Combine expenses where possible
This option will vary in success depending on your situation, but it’s worth considering to save a significant amount of money.
When I began planning for my world trip, my boyfriend and I decided to combine our car insurance, cell phone, gym memberships, rent…you name it, we did it! This saved a HUGE amount of money each month.
And speaking of rent, if you live in a more expensive city (*cough Denver cough*) this is an expense you simply can’t overlook. Getting a roommate, or roommates, will drastically cut down your monthly rent expenses. Saving you thousands.
I saved over $1,200 a month kissing my one-bedroom apartment goodbye and moving in with my boyfriend + our roommates. Was it an ideal living situation? Absolutely not. But was the savings worth it? 100%.
How to afford travel step three – Save up
Save the difference
Now it’s time to mind the gap between your income and expenses. Above we talked about ways to increase your income and decrease your expenses. Now you’ve got a bigger gap to work with!
You could take that gap and have nice meals more frequently, go out with friends, buy tickets to sporting events, or whatever. But none of that gets you to a new country for a life enriching experience.
Of course you need to still enjoy your life in the process. So I suggest focusing on saving as much of your gap as you can each month. And each month you will get that much closer to being able to afford that next trip.
In 2018 alone, I grew my savings by more 117% with these exact methods. It CAN be done! Obviously personal results will vary, depending on a variety of factors. But the point is: if you focus on making some sacrifices and saving more, your own numbers increase as a result.
Utilize a high-yield savings account
By now you’ve done (or are doing) the hard part. You’ve increased your income, cut back expenses, and you’re focused on saving the difference. Don’t just drop that in any old savings account that pays like .000005% interest (exaggeration). But seriously, make that money count and earn even more in interest!
I personally LOVE my Synchrony Bank online savings account. There are no fees, no minimum balances…none of that. They also have one of the highest interest rates out there. In fact, when a competitor raises their rate, Synchrony will adjust to be slightly better again.
And they do this automatically! You don’t have to do a thing. You just receive an interest rate adjustment and start receiving the higher rate on your money. It’s great!
How to afford travel step four – Continue saving during travel
Prepare in advance
Planning in advance is to your benefit in a variety of ways. First, you have more time to save up. Secondly, you often receive better pricing or points redemptions.
It was about 18 months of planning and preparing from the day I decided to travel the world, until the day I left. My initial departure was pushed back a couple of times…and I’m so glad it was! It gave me more time to prepare financially, pad my savings and lock-in better rates. The more time you have to prepare, the better.
Use your travel rewards points
Remember above when I discussed putting your spending to good use and earning travel rewards points? If you’ve been heeding that advice, you’ve got a points bank at your disposal.
Now is the time to enjoy the spoils of your labor! Turn those points in for free flights and hotels. Then sit back and smile at not having to pay for it.
By the end of our 9-month trip, we saved over $23,000 in flight and accommodation costs by utilizing our points bank. That is HUGE!
Travel during the off season
Off season can mean a variety of things. It could mean traveling in the winter, which is naturally less popular since kids are in school and it can be cold. But it also means avoiding certain cities during peak travel times.
For example, a hotel room in Munich during Oktoberfest can run you 300 euros ($338) or more PER NIGHT. That same hotel room many other times of the year is far, far less. Outside of accommodations, airlines and other transportation are more expensive as well.
So, do a little advanced planning, and adjust your timeline where possible, to ensure you don’t get caught paying outrageous prices for your travels.
Travel where your money goes farther
I love Europe. You probably love Europe. We all love Europe. But a lot of Europe (mainly Western Europe) is quite expensive!
And that can be tough when it comes to affording travel. So, consider instead going to locations where your money goes farther! Many countries in South and Central America are very budget friendly. As well as countries in Southeast Asia or Eastern Europe.
Work some of these countries into your plan, and you’ll not only be able to afford more travel, but you may discover a country you wouldn’t have otherwise.
The idea behind traveling slowly comes down to simple math. If you’re constantly moving from one place to another every couple days, you will increase your overall transportation costs. You will have to take more flights, buses or trains to get from one point to the next.
However, if you’re willing to slow it down, you can save big on the transportation costs. Additionally, if you’re utilizing Airbnb like we discussed above, you can often receive discounts by staying longer at one property. I once received a 28% discount doing this.
And while not monetary, traveling slowly allows you to REALLY appreciate the place you are visiting. You can get in there, see more than the obvious tourist spots, and really get a feel for the place.
Utilize Airbnb over hotels
As I discussed above, Airbnb is a fantastic way to be able to afford more travel. You can find fantastic places at a fraction of the cost of a hotel. And you’re getting way more for the money! You can get a whole apartment to yourself including a kitchen and living room vs. only a small hotel room.
I’ve even got super lucky with renting Airbnb’s that are in apartment complexes. Complexes often have additional amenities like a gym or a pool that you can also utilize during your stay. It’s a fantastic way to save money during travel!
Use hostels for shorter stays
Or hostels all the time, it totally depends on your traveling style. I’m at an age where I’m too old to stay in them all the time anymore, as I appreciate having my own space. However, if I’m staying only a night or two in a location, I can handle a hostel to save some bucks.
They’re also a great opportunity to meet fellow travelers. Especially if you’re traveling alone, that’s a benefit you can’t really put a price tag on.
Give housesitting a try
What is housesitting you may ask, and how can it help me afford travel? Well think about it. If you go on a vacation, and have pets or plants that will need tending to…what do you do? If you’re lucky, you have an awesome friend or family member who can step in and assist. But for a lot of people that isn’t the case. Enter: housesitting.
Housesitting is really a mutually beneficial arrangement. You are a traveler looking to save on accommodations. They are someone taking a trip and needing something looked after at home (typically a pet) while they’re gone. The definition of a win-win situation.
There are a couple websites that help facilitate these deals, but the one I use is called Trusted Housesitters. There’s an annual fee to join, but I believe it helps ensure you don’t get some random riff raff on the site.
The process is you join, fill out a profile, complete some background checks and you’re in. You can then start looking through postings that fit your travel desires. When you find one, reach out to the poster and see if it’s a good fit. And if you both agree it is, you scored a free place to stay (with utilities, WiFi, etc.) and potentially a new furry friend to love on.
While we’ve completed multiple house sits, our favorite was the 10 days we spent in London! We watched the best older dog, and saved $1,850 in the process (by not having to book a hotel).
Trim “on the ground” transportation costs
What do I mean by “on the ground” transportation costs? I’m talking about the costs associated with transportation once you’ve already made it to your destination. Depending on your travel style, they can add up. But the good news is, with a few adjustments, you can save here as well.
Skip the cabs and Ubers in favor of walking to your destinations! You’ll save some dough, get some exercise, and see more of the city while you’re at it.
Or even consider taking local buses. You’ll pay more than walking, but less than cabs or Ubers. You may also make a new friend and get some local tips or recommendations while you’re at it.
For people who love a good road trip, cutting on the ground expenses means something totally different! Be sure and check out tips specifically on how to save money on a road trip – covering things like campgrounds, parking, saving on fuel costs and more.
Cook while you travel
Eating out is great, and I personally love to do it, but it also can be quite expensive. If you make it a point instead to shop for groceries and make some of your own meals while traveling, you can save big time.
Even if it’s only a percentage of the time (i.e., breakfast and lunch here and there) it will still add up!
Where you stay will come into play for this to work as not many hotels come with kitchen facilities. But if you’re already saving by using Airbnb’s or hostels, you are more likely to have a kitchen at your disposal for additional savings.
Score free meals
Once you become a frequent traveler (goal achieved!), you’d be surprised how many free meals you can get during your travels.
Many hotels offer club lounges that include breakfast, hors d’oeuvres, snacks and even drinks to their frequent travelers. Additionally, many credit cards include airport lounge access as a perk of being a card member. Lounges vary, but many include quite the spread of food, snacks, and drinks that you can enjoy.
Anytime you can have a meal for free, that’s one less meal you have to save/budget/pay for.
Take advantage of free activities
The best way to be able to afford more travel is to get things for free. If it’s free, it doesn’t impact your budget one bit. Think of your own city and how many free activities are offered throughout the year. Probably a fair amount!
You can (and should) take advantage of similar activities while you travel as well. Many cities have free walking tours you can partake in. Or they have seasonal festivals with no cost for entry. Not only will you be saving some money, but you’ll often get a better glimpse into the local scenery and culture at the same time!
So, there you have it! That’s my “secret” to being able to afford to travel the world. None of which is really a secret at all, and anyone can replicate for themselves.
What is your favorite way to be able to afford to travel? Comment below and let me know what I should add to my strategy!
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