Updated: 02/20/2019 | February 20th, 2019
I’ve been traveling the world for over a decade now, spending more time on the road than in any single place. While I’ve spent a lot of time in New York and Austin, and while I’m about to spend an extended period of time living in Paris, I’m still a nomad at heart.
I’m a regular at airports. I familiar with getting lost in foreign lands where the language is a mystery to me. I’m constantly searching for cheap flights and collecting as many air miles as I can.
After visiting some 100 countries, there’s a familiar line of questioning I get that usually leads to this: How do you afford to travel so often?
Am I rich? Do I travel for work? Am I a male gigolo? Sell drugs or run guns?
Sadly, it is none of those. (Ok, I’m glad I don’t have to sell drugs or run guns!
As I said in a previous post about how I find money to travel, desire is what motivates and keeps me going.
I want to travel — so I do.
And while privilege plays its part, it doesn’t completely solve the practical issue: money.
No matter how cheap you can travel, you do need some money.
So how do I afford to travel so much?
I work a lot.
I’m frugal. (I still stay in hostels when I travel!)
A lot of people have this misconception that travel is expensive, that whenever and wherever you go, you are going to spending a lot of money. In some places like Europe, that may be true. In some people’s cases, that is always true. But for most of us that isn’t true. Travel can be cheap and cheap doesn’t mean bad.
I tell my former co-workers all the time that I just travel cheap and images of awful service and rundown hotels pop into their mind. Backpacking isn’t for them and they want their comfort. I want my comfort too. I eat out and do nice things while I’m away. It’s not all 12-person dorms and instant noodle meals. So maybe frugal is a better word to use. I don’t travel cheap. I travel frugally.
When I am home, I work and I save. I don’t go out every night and am careful about how I spend my money. I make travel my monetary priority. That’s the most important part of the puzzle. Don’t waste your money. If you are always spending on something else, travel will always seem out of your reach.
You need to make travel a priority too.
Once it becomes important, you begin to find ways to save. Cut out the Starbucks and the fancy lunches. Every dollar count.
Before I went away in 2006, I saved for over a year. I acted like a pauper so I could make sure I had enough money to travel. When I was on the road and ran out of money, I taught English in Bangkok.
There are tons of other ways to make money while traveling, too. Working at a hostel, seasonal farm or restaurant work, remote freelancing, travel writing — the list goes on!
Once you get creative, travel becomes an endless possibility. It won’t be easy or glamorous, but it is 100% possible if you’re willing to make some changes to how you view travel.
People, especially Americans, have this image of travel and hotels, of fancy things and shopping, and luxury. All they see is dollar signs but you can have a comfortable vacation without comfortably spending your life savings.
The sharing economy has changed the game, with platforms like Airbnb and Couchsurfing make travel more affordable while also making it more cultural immersive.
Flying might be more expensive than it was in the past but there are certainly good deals out there and those flight tickets don’t have to cost a fortune. I always seem to manage to find prices that don’t kill my wallet and that’s because I look hard and just don’t jump on the first flight I find on Expedia! Find an alternative to flying if you can. Trains and buses may take longer but are a lot cheaper. Most people don’t take a trip because flight costs scare them but, if you do your homework, you’ll find a cheap deal.
Step out of your guidebook and find those little tiny local restaurants with great food and little tiny price tags. Eat where the locals eat, not where Frommer’s or Lonely Planet tells you. The locals aren’t spending a fortune living in their neighborhood and you shouldn’t either. You travel to see new places not new hotels. Living locally and traveling differently will save you money and give you a richer travel experience.
This site is dedicated to keeping you motivated, telling tales, and showing you how to travel frugally. You don’t need a lot of money to travel — you just need to think differently. Forget packaged tours and expensive hotels and overpriced restaurants and souvenirs. You can still have a luxury vacation without a luxury price.
If you want to travel more, it all starts with a change in mindset. After that, it’s just a matter of knowing where to find the deals and putting in the work to track them down. Just booking that package deal on Orbitz isn’t going to save you money. You need to be smart if you want to become a savvy traveler.
So that’s how I find the money to travel. And that’s how you can too!
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day
My New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach you how to master the art of travel so that you’ll get off the beaten path, save money, and have a deeper travel experience. It’s your A to Z planning guide that the BBC called the “bible for budget travelers.”
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Want to travel for free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation. They are what keep me traveling so much for so little. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.