Most people are unaware that with proper financial planning, their expenses while traveling abroad will be significantly lower than at home or when simply vacationing.
Short or Long-term traveling can be less expensive than traveling for just five, ten or fifteen days per year. It’s crazy yeah?? I know! It’s actually a very simple equation; living at home comes with a substantial amount of spending that doesn’t exist when you’re living on the road! This is especially true if you’re living in an expensive country, sometimes with ruthless social standards and obligations.
Think about it and do the math yourself. Try calculating your monthly expenses, like your rent, car payments, gym memberships, phone/internet bills and gasoline. Not to mention some quite expensive activities such as partying, dinners, lunches, movies, shopping etc… What about your habits, as well as the many things and objects you tend to use frequently in order to break away from life’s daily routine. Things and needs that tend to significantly dwindle on the road.
People generally tend to consider travel as an expensive luxury, partly because they don’t differentiate between vacationing and long-term sustainable travel which are two completely different things. Vacation travel is almost by definition an excuse for excessive spending. Five star hotels and sophisticated meals are an integral part of this experience, a ‘getaway’ from your everyday life back home. But when your everyday experience is travel, you’ll realize that those things quickly lose their appeal. Moreover, the pace of travel can fluctuate a lot between the two, leading to an entirely different cost outcome. For example, anxious vacationers desperately seeking to collect every possible experience into their one-week trip will pay for services and extras that they often can do without, like grabbing a cab when the metro, bus or even walking will do, or buying tickets on arrival instead of waiting for discounted days and sometimes even free admission to places. Active travelers don’t feel the ‘vacation pressure’ and the need to pay for every single thing right now. For them, some places and things just aren’t worth the price. With their surplus of time, they don’t usually worry about missing the nearest ‘once in a lifetime’/’it’s now or never’ opportunity because they know another one is just around the corner. Their choices become wider and cheaper… their days less stressful… their nights more spontaneous… which is what true vacations are supposed to be.
Your travel experience doesn’t have to exceed the cost of your daily ordinary life, when it becomes part of your ordinary life. After some time on the road, I’ve learned a few tricks to keep my travel spending at bay. Let me share them with you:
1- Volunteering for accommodations: One of the biggest expenses for a traveler is accommodation. Swapping work for accommodations is a great way to meet the locals, learn about the culture, and even a new skill! All while saving hundreds if not thousands of dollars on places to sleep.
2- Free accommodations: Using hospitality exchange communities, such as couchsurfing where you become a guest in somebody’s home free of charge. The arrangement generally lasts only a few days as opposed to the weeks and even months that a work-trade deal will last, so it is more geared towards active travelers. Although your stay is technically free, common etiquette dictates that you bring a gift for your host, and help out with the household chores and such. These experiences can create some very interesting and friendly encounters with people who are usually quite hospitable and helpful.
3- Working while traveling: Do you know how to mix drinks? Serve tables? Are you a scuba dive master? Are you certified to teach English? You would be amazed at the working opportunities that you’ll find out there on the road. You can also do freelance work on the web. With the widespread use of social media, and online businesses popping up everywhere, it is very possible to make a living online while you travel, with not much more than an internet connection. Personally, I make some money as an online community manager, with an income that pays for my daily expenses.
4- Stay away from ‘tourist traps’: One of the easiest ways to save money while you are traveling is to steer clear of the souvenir shops. Consider asking yourself these questions: will I use this? Was I planning on buying something like this in the first place? Will this help me remember this trip? If the answer is anything but an emphatic ‘yes’ to these questions, it is best to reconsider your purchase.
5- Travel at a slower pace: The more flights you take, the more money you will spend. The more you have to pack up, hop on a bus, a train, or a taxi, and find a new place to stay, the more money you will spend. Want to keep your travels free or almost-free? Consider traveling slowly. Think of your trip as a lifestyle and not just a getaway, even if you are only traveling for a short time. Don’t worry about seeing absolutely everything there is to see and just focus on the important stuff.
6- Watch how you eat: If eating lunch and dinner out is not part of your daily routine back home, don’t do it while traveling! Instead save your money and buy some basic ingredients from the grocery store and cook your own food. If you don’t have time since you’re out all day then do try street food and the experience it brings with it. This can be part of the essence of traveling and really living the culture. Some of the best and cheapest food can be found in the simplest places on the road.
7- Keep walking: Save hundreds of dollars on monthly gym payments simply by being an active traveler. Walking is one of travel’s largely overlooked hidden treasures. The ease in which you can incorporate physical activity like ‘exploration walking’ into your daily routine on the road is simply unheard-of back home. So whether you’re an avid trekker or simply do a lot of commuting by foot, take advantage of that!
8- Stay connected: When you’re on the road, most of your communication can and should be done online, especially when you’re trying to get in touch with the folks back home. Needless to say that online apps like Skype, Facebook and Whatsapp are helping us save small fortunes on monthly phone bills. So embrace technology! As long as it doesn’t get in the way of your localized social integration 😉
That’s it for the moment. In future posts we will keep exploring the subject of travel spending and budgeting, but for now…keep calm and start planning your next adventure!