Travelling regularly may often seem like a far fetched dream to most people because they assume that travel is expensive. While it can be, there are many ways that you can travel cheap, so long as you are flexible with travel dates, locations & most importantly how luxuriously you travel. If you want to travel to exotic islands and stay in fancy hotels, then this post probably won’t be of much use to you. But if you’re willing to live the backpacker life and don’t mind staying in hostels then you’re at the right place. So I’ve put together my top cheap travel hacks to help you fund your future travels and travel often!
Before we dive right into it, here’s a little background about me and my travels, for those who don’t know. I began traveling with friends in 2016. Since then have done a few solo trips and have just booked flights for 5 weeks in New Zealand and another 5 weeks in South East Asia. With that being said, I constantly have friends and family asking me how I’m able to afford my lifestyle. So I finally sat down to share my secrets and what’s been working for me. If you want to travel as badly as I do, you’ll be able to put these tips into practice as well!
1. Set out your non-negotiable’s
While I’m often pretty careful with what I’m spending my money on, there are always some things I will put out extra cash for. When you’re planning a trip, I find it helps to do some research of the place beforehand. Then you can jot down a rough guide of what you want to see and be doing. For some people, they might want to have a great meal at a 5 star restaurant – but that’s not me. I’d rather spend my money on experiences than something that will be gone in a few minutes or hours.
When I first came to Australia on exchange, I knew I wanted to skydive. So I put that on my life of non-negotiable’s or a bucket-list, so to say. By having it written down, I knew I had to have money set aside for that activity. When I go to New Zealand, I want to bungee jump, so I’ve already factored that into my budget for the trip.
Speaking of budget, it’s important to set out a budget for traveling. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to have everything planned and accounted for. Although, you should have a general idea of how much everything will cost you. Below I’ve listed the general way I budget what I’ll be spending money on:
- Accommodation (hostels and/or airbnb)
- Transportation (flights, getting to and from the airport, getting around cities or throughout a country)
- Alcohol & going out
- Phone plan (if getting a sim card)
- Travel & health insurance
- Activities (non-negotiable’s or bucket-list ones)
- Miscellaneous (toiletries, clothes, souvenirs etc)
At the same time, I also write out my current expenses and how much I’m making at work. That allows me to see what I can ideally save before a trip. I find having a good estimate really helps me stay on track when it comes to knowing what I can and can’t spend my money on before traveling.
3. Sell old/new stuff
If there’s one thing travel has taught me, it’s that material things are not important. Obviously to some extent there are material items that I value. But after having experiences in hostels where some clothes have been stolen, I no longer find it too difficult to part with most things. I value travel and experiences much more than a tangible item so I’ve been selling stuff online that I no longer wear/use. I also have been selling new things I’ve received as gifts and may not have a use for, to save up for my next trip.
There are many ways you can go about selling old clothes such as Facebook buy & sell groups and websites and apps that promote buying and selling used items. I personally have been using Carousell and the app Shedd lately and have already sold a few things!
At home in Canada, I would typically sell my clothes at Plato’s Closet. Because there isn’t really an equivalent to that store down under, it looks like the online/app method is best!
This is probably one of the most challenging cheap travel hacks for yours truly. If you can be flexible with your dates and location of travel, you’ll be able to afford to travel a lot more. I’ve learnt the hard way that being less flexible with travel dates will cost you. I decided to fly out of Canada on boxing day because I didn’t want to miss Christmas and wanted to be in Melbourne for New Years. Ultimately, that choice ended up being more expensive. I could’ve saved money going earlier or later but those dates were important to me at the time.
I usually use Google Flights to see what the price of flights are on various days. Then I try to rearrange my travel days based on the cheapest dates to fly.
If you aren’t basing your trip around weather, it’s easy to save money. Flights are significantly cheaper when its off season. I got great flight deals in early February of 2017 when I went to Iceland, probably because it was dreary and rainy but that didn’t stop me from having a great experience. I actually got to see the northern lights which wouldn’t have been possible in the summer due to the excessive amount of light in those months!
5. Track flight prices
Tracking flight prices can be a little tricky. I find that the prices of flights tend to go up when I’m searching on a weekend. With that in mind, I try to book sometime in the middle of the week on a lunch break during the day.
It also doesn’t hurt to look into airline deals. I recently booked a flight to Sydney and got a great deal with Jetstar’s spring sale, saving myself about $100!
When I was at home in Toronto, Canada I subscribed to YYZ Deals. They notify you of crazy flight deals flying out of Toronto. I haven’t tried to find other versions of this with different countries or airports yet, but it may be worthwhile to check out.
6. Go to cheaper countries
I can’t speak to this in too depth as I’ve been living in Australia and going to New Zealand, which are both fairly expensive places to travel. However, half of my upcoming trip will be in Southeast Asia which is HEAPS cheaper. There are always cheaper options for travel. You just need to do the research to find out what will work for your budget!
Also keep in mind that travel doesn’t have to involve going to a different country. You can see more of your own country and do weekend getaways. Since coming back to Melbourne, I’ve been doing little weekend trips around Victoria or have gone to other states for 4-5 days when I find a good flight deal.
7. Work multiple jobs
Ever since graduating from University I’ve held down multiple jobs in order to save for upcoming trips I had planned. It’s not always the most ideal but if you have a few months to save up for a trip, it’s the best way to do so.
It can be difficult to find different jobs that will be flexible enough to work with another work schedule but somehow I’m always able to find a way. Before leaving my hometown, I worked mornings at a gym (securing a free gym membership as well) and evenings at a restaurant. Any free days I had were spent babysitting for a family friend. I’m not going to lie, it was exhausting. I would sometimes go over 20 days without a day off because I would take shifts that people didn’t want. Most days I would work 11-4:30 at the gym and skip my half hour break in order to leave early and get to my job at the restaurant for 5 – close (which could be anywhere from 10pm – 2am). It was crazy and I got a bit run down after 4.5 months of doing that straight, but in the end it was worth it.
I’d say a bar/restaurant job is the best if you’re living in a country like Canada where tips are a huge part of your income. It allowed me to save up quite a hefty amount of cash in short amount of time.
I’ve always enjoyed having different jobs going at once because that way I don’t get sick of what I’m doing. It also gives me the opportunity to meet lots of people. It can be more fun to have a bunch of different coworkers in my opinion!
You may be thinking that you can’t work a second job because you’re already doing full time work. I’m currently working full time hours in my field (copywriting & digital marketing) and have considered doing another job on the side to make more money. For example, I’ve tutored children before so i could possibly do that again in the evenings to make more money. There are many other jobs you can do that are great for evening work such as driving for Uber.
8. Save, save & save some more
This may seem like common sense but can be a difficult step to follow. If you truly want to save money for travel, you may have to drastically change your lifestyle. Or, it could be as easy as making a few minor changes. It really just depends on what your current lifestyle is looking like.
For me I didn’t have to worry too much about big life changes because I had been living the poor student life. That meant I was used to declining offers to go out with people to eat, drink on weekends or go shopping, simply because I couldn’t. While living in Melbourne for the past 9 months, I’ve found it a little harder to decline offers to go out to eat because this city seems to revolve around food! I’ve been able to compromise by finding an amazing brunch spot where everything on the menu is only $11. I also have friends I like to cook or bake with instead.
I’ve also found cheaper places to do my grocery shopping. Each weekend I go to the Queen Victoria market and it’s turned into a tradition with my friends. Who said saving money had to be an unpleasant experience?!
So that’s essentially what I’ve been doing the past few years to afford to travel as often as I do. At the end of the day, if I spend more on a trip than I had planned, I don’t stress. I know that I’m determined enough to make up the difference when I’m back home working. I’ll do what I need to, whether that’s picking up extra shifts at work or spending a few weekends at home because it’s something that’s important to me.
It really just boils down to prioritisation. Is travel something you want to make a priority in your life? The only thing standing in your way is yourself. Go out and make it happen! If you have any cheap travel hacks I haven’t mentioned, I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment below! You can keep up to date with my travels through my Instagram: @dreamingofelsewhere.