The one question I get asked a lot, is about how I manage money for travel. Do I save for years? Do I take a loan? Does someone sponsor me? Let me answer all this as best as I can while giving you tips on how you can do it too.
But before I start, let me tell you traveling is not scary and you don’t need to super-rich to be able to travel. But the truth is that most of us who long to explore the world are bogged down by financial burdens. When I started traveling, this was my biggest fear too, but over the course of my travels, I picked up tip and tricks on how to save which helped me immensely,
There are so many reasons to travel - to explore a new place, learn about a new culture, meet new people, and ultimately gain a different perspective. So, it really depends on what you want out of travel and how much. Some of you might just be casual, short term travelers, but there are those who travel long term – three months or more. How do they manage their finances?
Backpacking is a popular option
Backpacking is an increasingly popular way to travel these days, thanks to the ease of getting around and backpacker friendly places to stay and eat!
Don’t let money get in the way of a life-changing experience. You can live minimally and comfortably on the road with a couple simple solutions.
That said, before an upcoming trip, I usually stopped doing things like dining out, cutting back on coffee, buying new clothes or watching movies etc – small things but it adds up to quite a tidy sum. I remember when I had started working and had not managed to save anything at all and yet wanted to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, I would put all the money I saved by not drinking coffee or eating out, into a box which I had named “Kilimanjaro Fund” – at the end of the month I would be easily to afford a new pair of trekking boots or a sleeping bag or something equally useful for the climb. It also made me more budget conscious and a better planner.
Budget and save
Living out of a backpack sounds romantic, but it comes with its own set of challenges for sure. And backpacking doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t need to plan – in fact, you must because it is a very different experience and lifestyle to what you are used to. No matter which way you choose to travel, budgeting is very crucial and understanding how you will travel will allow you to know where to cut back. Then save and stick to it! Always keep your goal in mind – and prep yourself for the challenges and benefits of saving every dollar.
While you’re saving, you should also determine a daily budget you’re comfortable spending based on the region or location you’re visiting. There are many places in Asia where you can get by for less than $50 a day. In fact, I managed to live and travel for USD 25 a day in Myanmar or most days. The days I took public transport, I spent even less. Trick is to look around for options and not fall for the first thing that comes your way.
Don’t be afraid to ask for offers or discounts
I usually book my flights on credit cards that offer maximum points which can be redeemed for the next flight! Plus, make sure to ask (sometimes shamelessly) for discount at the hotel/hostel you are staying. Many places give a night free if you book for more than three nights. Restaurants have discount of some cards, there are happy hours (even on meals). Ask. That is the first thing to do when you plan travel. I usually never plan in advance, which is a disadvantage at times, but if you can plan ahead, you will end up finding cheaper flights or early bird discounts too.
Hostels are a great place to stay
Hostels are great, but you might also consider couchsurfing – that is completely free and you get to meet great people too. Of course you need to be wise in your selection of a host and exercise caution in every way, but it is a great money saver. When you backpack you have more freedom to explore and traveling light can cut down on your costs dramatically. I have stayed countless number of times with hosts from couchsurfing and have been extremely lucky. Small things like picking up from the airport etc is sorted when you have a nice host.
The great thing about hostels is that you can make lots of friends or plan a trip together, which would bring down the cost as well.
Eat wisely and cheaply
Food and drink can be a major budget drain on your travels – but fortunately I don’t drink as a rule (with minor exceptions) and prefer to eat local food. There are several reasons why I don’t drink or drink minimally – it avoids a big bill and I feel better the next day and also have extra spending money which I would prefer to spend on an experience.
I know of long-term travelers who make their own food at hostels, whenever there is a provision for it. increasingly hostels and campsites are offering such provisions, like cooking and washing facility.
This is my favourite way to travel. I have met so many young travelers who despite having very little of their own, manage to travel long term and end up having so many unique experiences. I tried this in Africa – and loved it. This also brought me close to the real African life too. I have hence volunteered at orphanages, old age homes and helped build libraries or simply taking care of babies…it doesn’t cost much to volunteer but what you get out of it is priceless. Some places ask you to pay for your boarding, but that is all. I have met a lot of youngsters work in exchange for free stay and food – like waiting at tables, bartending, being a lifeguard etc. These experiences add value to your travels as much as seeing the Eiffel Tower doer.
Do a barter deal
Given the rise of “influencers” and products and companies wanting to work more and more with influencers, you can dip your nose into the social media pool and ride the wave. Reach out to travel and tours companies, hotels (reviews in exchange for stay), tourism boards, clothing brands…the options are endless. In this case however, you must be absolutely sure to provide equal or more value because something cannot be quantified. Be sure you can deliver everything that you have offered to do.
Follow these simple tips and you’re on your way to your next bit travel adventure. Remember the keywords – plan. Save.