THE QUESTION

A gold buddha statue surrounded by gold leaves
Location: Krabi, Thailand

The number one question I get ask every single time by pretty much everyone is ‘how do I afford to travel so much’. That’s a fair enough question, especially considering the amount of totally self funded travel I’ve done over the last 9 years. The short answer to this is that I can afford it because I prioritize it. I have made decisions in my life over those 9 years that have allowed me to pour more of my finances in to my travel than anything else in my life. The long answer involves a lot of basic information that will not surprise you, but with a few things that may, so read on and see if you can adopt any of my travel saving methods to help you on your way to wherever it is you want to go!

1. Budgeting.

Yes it’s obvious, but it’s the most important thing you need to address if you are planning on extended travel. If you can make budgeting less about feeling poor and more about tangible awesome aspects of your travel goal, you’ll stand a better chance at saving. There are a million resources about how to budget so I won’t go in to it, but the only way you’re going to save money is to spend less than you earn and save. So get out your pen, paper, and calculator and figure out where your money goes and look for places where you can save. That daily coffee you spend $4.50 on adds up to $135 after a month – equivalent to a week’s accommodation in Asia. See what I’m doing here? Make your savings tangible to help keep you on track!

Yel’s Travel Hack #1: Slip a reminder of your planned travel in places where you know you’ll look when feeling tempted to spend. For example, a small photo of Angkor Wat in your wallet the next time you reach for your credit card for that unnecessary purchase.

2. Banking.

I know, more boring advice, but I remain unapologetic! Finding a good bank that offers a nice high interest savings account will also help you increase your bottom line. Usually you’ll have to lock your money away for a specific period and make regular financial contributions to your account, but when you start to see the interest being earned on your account, you’ll be glad by the end of your savings period that you locked it away and earned a nice tidy sum on top. An extra dollar you save is an extra dollar you get to spend elsewhere!

3. Sell stuff.

I sold A LOT of my stuff. I found this harder than budgeting  because it required more effort to dig through, sort, prep item for sale, take photographs and post an ad. However, I was able to lighten the load I left with my parents for storage and made some money on the side. So be ruthless. If you’re going to be traveling for an ‘endless summer’, do you really need all that snow gear that you’ve used once? Let it go and get the cash. Minimalism is the new consumerism.

4. Extra income.

For my current trip I was able to supplement my income with some photography jobs. If you have the spare time to get a second job or a skill you can do on the side, then do it. Just don’t kill yourself working five different jobs all day, every day, because you’ll burn out faster than you can board the plane.

5. Plan your week.

You don’t have to stay home and eat tinned tuna every day because you’re saving, I certainly didn’t! Plan how often you’ll go out each week and set a budget to work within. If your friends are good they will understand and respect that.

Yel’s Travel Hack #2: Plan your activities to tie in with the destinations you want to visit. Off to Thailand? How about catching up at that cheap little Thai place! This will help you stay focused and can be cheaper than the usual hangouts.

6. Choose cheaper destinations.

I learned this the hard way: You will get more dong for your dollar if you choose your destinations wisely! A trip through Scandinavia when I was 24 almost ended one of my trips, but I learned the value of a favourable exchange rate and lower cost of living as result. Since then I balance out my itinerary to include more cheaper countries than expensive ones.

7. Play the currency exchange game!

Ok so it’s not really a game, but I kinda turned it in to one. Last year when I was planning a trip to Japan I kept an eye on the currency market, and lo and behold the currency gods smiled on me and gave me a knock out exchange rate of AUD $1 = JPN 100 Yen. Needless to say I stocked up on Yen. So monitor the currency market a few months beforehand and be ready to exchange if the currency gods smile on you.

8. Visit ‘cheap’ and free sites.

Big cities always have a plethora of cheap and free things to do and see – so exploit them! One of the most impressive things I saw on a trip to Prague was the John Lennon memorial wall which cost me nothing! A bonus is that these sites can take you a bit off the beaten track and you’ll get to experience a different side to the city!

Yel’s Travel Hack #3: Research freebies before you go and keep a list of it somewhere. You’ll be less likely to find them when you ask the locals for good things to see – nine times out of ten they’ll point you to the major tourist attractions which can be expensive and a bit dull.

9. Work and travel.

Can you teach English abroad? Can you volunteer in exchange for board and a meal? There are heaps of organisations that can help you fund your trip while you’re on it. I funded a year in Europe through a British Working Holiday Visa, where every weekend and on my annual leave I was out exploring Europe. On a recent trip I completed a two week stint doing the WorkAway exchange program in Niseko, which I can’t speak more highly of, and will definitely be doing again in the future. All it cost was the sign up fee and the train ticket to get there, otherwise my board and food was included and I got to see more of the Japanese countryside without having to fork out for it.

10. Call in favours.

If you’re lucky enough to have relatives or friends that live in or near the places you want to visit, get in touch and see if you can meet up with them or even stay with them! Don’t forget to do something in return for them, like cook a meal to say thank you, and also be willing to return the favour if they ever visit your home town. I’ve done this numerous times myself, and am fortunate to have family that live in Europe as well as my partner’s family and friends in the United States and Hong Kong; this can save you a lot of money and also give you a lot of insider information on the place you’re visiting.

11. Check out passes.

A lot of places do rail, bus and even plane passes! If you know your itinerary you can work out what’ll work best for you and save. I’ve personally used and found both the Eurail and JR Pass (Japan Rail) to be amazing value and a great way to travel across country. City passes are another potential gold mine, but only worth investing in if you actually want to see the sites listed, otherwise it may not be cost effective for you.

12. Look for specials.

You can find airline, accommodation and even food specials! I ate ridiculously well on a three month trip through Europe by eating lunch or dinner specials; you just need to keep an eye out when you’re sightseeing for restaurant and café advertisements.

Yel’s travel hack #4: You can save big bucks on food by eating only one restaurant meal a day. For your other meals go to the supermarket and grab a baguette, some cheese, tomato, or whatever else you like and sit in a park and people watching while you eat! Also, street food isn’t half as bad as people make it out to be, and it can be a lot cheaper than eating in a restaurant.

13. Lower your standards.

If you want to travel in luxury but can only afford budget, then you need to realign your expectations with your reality. Unless you enjoy being chained to the bank and your job, I’d advise that you travel within your means!

In addition to this, I don’t drink or smoke and stopped spending money on things like clothes and shoes a long time ago, because these things eat into your travel money and I’d rather buy awesome things like experiences when I’m away.  I’m only just taking a foray in to the world of freelance or independent location employment so can’t give any advice on that just yet, and I don’t earn anything from blogging or from my social media platforms; they are there to share what I’ve seen and done to inspire and encourage others (as well as let my family and friends back home keep an eye on me).

I sincerely believe that if you really want to do something, you will make it a priority and align your decisions and your actions to making that priority a reality. I strongly advise against going into debt to travel, and encourage you to make good financial decisions that will not only help you travel, but will set you up on a good financial footing later in life when the wanderlust bug leaves you (if it ever leaves you!).

I hope that this answers your questions, and also that you can take some of this information away with you and use it. I’d love to hear any other words of advice on how to fund a long trip away that I haven’t tried, or if you have any other comments head over to our Facebook page as we’d love to hear them!

Photograph by Jelena Stipanicev.