Travelling is an expensive business, and it’s easy to look at Instagram and feel like the whole world is going on fancy holiday after fancy holiday, while you’re stuck under the gray skies of England. I’ve been travelling for nearly 3.5 years and during that time I’ve gone from staying in hostels to luxury 5* resorts, I’ve lived on instant noodles and goon, but I’ve also dined at Michelin-starred restaurants. Recently I’ve had a few emails from readers asking how exactly I’ve managed to live and maintain this lifestyle for so long, and I thought it was about time I shared my secrets with you all. Because I am very lucky to have the lifestyle that I do, but it isn’t unattainable, any one of you could live exactly the same way. It just takes smarts and thinking outside the box a bit, you have to get creative and break down the mental barriers you have, the ideas you have grown up with about how you should be living your life. Forget all of that and actually start living your life.
So, you want to know how I afford to travel so much? Then read on for all of the secrets behind my amazing adventures…
Travelling is my lifestyle
When people go on holiday, they spend their whole year looking forward to it and want to go all out. We’re talking fancy hotel, cocktails with every meal and all of the adventure activities. That’s totally understandable but it soon adds up and before you know it, you can spend over £1,000 in a two-week holiday. I can easily make that my average monthly spend, depending on where I am. How do I do that you ask? Well, I treat travel like it is my lifestyle instead of a treat. I’m a big advocate of slow travel and really getting to experience living in a place, so I don’t often stay in hotels preferring budget-friendly and quirkier options. I use public transport instead of taxis, and I spread my activities over a longer time period. If I fancy eating at a really expensive restaurant, perhaps I’ll choose that instead of doing a snorkeling trip to stay within my budget.
One of the best ways I have found for maintaining long-term travel and a great way to top up your funds. I just finished the working holiday visa in Australia where I spent two years earning an Australian wage which allowed me to travel pretty much the whole country, and then to travel parts of Asia. You can easily get a WHV for Australia, New Zealand, Canada, even Singapore among other places, these allow anyone under the age of 30 (diff for each country) to earn a full-time wage while living in the country. I mentioned slow travel before, this is a great way to spend a few months living in a place and then travel for a few months. It’s also easy to pick up seasonal work such as fruit-picking and to chase the work/seasons as you travel, and often you can work for accommodation.
Finding cheaper options for accommodation
These can vary from doing a house swap to bargain Airbnbs, to working for accommodation. There are so many options available and it’s easy to find an amazing and budget-friendly place to stay without bankrupting yourself. I had a lot of friends who worked for accommodation in hostels in Australia – for a few hours work a week, they saved hundreds on their week’s accommodation and some even got free food! Hotels don’t have to be your first shout, how about staying in an apartment you can rent by the week for a couples break, or hiring a big Airbnb with friends instead of getting hotel rooms. If you have more flexibility with dates, you can search for the whole month and then book according to when the lowest prices are, likewise with flights. I often stay in backpacker hostels because not only is it budget-friendly but it is also great for solo travelers. Since travelling with my boyfriend, I have found apartments to be much cheaper for the two of us.
Who doesn’t love a freebie? When it comes to blagging, I like to consider myself pretty good at it. I’m talking everything from winning competitions and scooping great deals, to the amazing experiences I manage to get as a result of this blog. I know so many people who have won holidays and amazing prizes through competitions, it is worth entering them and you can get some really amazing experiences as a result. Take advantage of Twitter’s #FreebieFriday feed and see if you can blag some good freebies there – I won a competition for a celebrity photographer to take my pics and then to attend a Hello Mag party simply by retweeting!
When it comes to getting great deals – I’m talking watching carefully before you book and knowing the best times to buy. Read this post on how I ALWAYS save money on trips and how I picked up £4.70 flights to Germany. Finally, travel blogging – it’s an amazing way of getting ‘freebies’ – now I say freebies but there is a HECK of a lot of work that goes into running a blog, maintaining it and promoting it before you ever see any pay-off. But I love that my hard work really does pay off now and I’m at a point where I am invited to stay review incredible accommodation, restaurants and even activities like the hot air balloon ride in Sri Lanka.
Unconventional ways of living
For me, travel is not about 5* hotels and living glamorously. It’s about immersing yourself in another culture, about living as the people there live and getting out and finding new experiences that challenge you. Some of my best experiences have been staying in huts with hill tribes in Thailand and living out of a car and camping wild in Western Australia – both were some of the cheapest living I have ever done and would be great ways to maintain travel for longer on a small budget. My boyfriend’s sister has been off gallivanting around Europe and is currently living in a hippie commune in Portugal, which sounds amazing and just relies on everyone contributing what they can. Likewise, I know of other friends who have done similar things in Costa Rica and around the world to maintain their travel for longer. My boyfriend and I are planning to turn a van into a camper so we can use it on trips around Europe over the next year.
One of the most valuable things I have learnt is the power of positivity and of welcoming strangers into your life. Growing up in the UK, we’re taught that strangers are bad and before we go travelling, everyone tells us to watch out for the people who want to rob us or harm us. I can tell you that is all the biggest load of rubbish, there is a whole world of friends out there just waiting for you to meet them. Making friends with strangers is a great way of making travel more cost effective and of making it more fun! By making friends you can find friendship groups to split the cost of tours with, you find people to live with and cook with, you have people to hire a care with. By making friends with people you have a friend in every new city, a place to stay and a tour guide, likewise they have the same if they come to visit you. It’s not taking advantage of people, its a community where we all give what we can and help each other out – that’s what I love the most about backpackers and travellers. When I spent a month travelling Europe, I stayed with friends in Amsterdam, Germany and Bulgaria which saved me a fortune and meant I got to see a totally different side to the country by staying with a local. I’ve even been offered a place to stay for my next road trip when I move to Germany – the kindness of strangers is one of my favourite parts of travelling, it restores your faith in humanity.
Finding adventure in the everyday
While it’s fun to go off on your travels and to go skydiving, or bungee jumping, or even diving on the Great Barrier Reef, it’s also very expensive. Trips quickly add up and can eat into your budget, so often I’ll find new ways of doing trips whether it means making friends with the locals and being shown around by them instead of a tour guide – read about my experiences with the woman who wanted to adopt me in Ayutthaya. I also love getting out and just exploring on my own, when we went to Asia, my boyfriend and I hired a motorbike everywhere we went and just went off exploring by ourselves.
When I traveled solo to Europe, I joined free walking tours to get to grips with the area and saved a fortune on organised trips. I also really just love finding adventures in the every day, in walking around a new place and getting hopelessly lost, of finding new friends in complete strangers and losing myself in the wilderness. I spent so long travelling as a backpacker that I became very good at finding free activities wherever I go – check out these gems for Sydney.
Being smart with my money
I always organise my money well by separating my income – for example, I keep the income from my main job in one account, and my income from blogging in a separate account. Usually one of these I use as savings and the other as spending money. I always keep a savings account with emergency money for a rainy day – or you could try emergency money from Lendgreen – and I try to budget when I travel by keeping an eye on my outgoings and sticking as closely as possible to the allowance I set myself. It sounds boring but it makes a big difference when you actually put yourself in charge of your finances instead of being the person who blows all your money in one go and lives off instant noodles for the next few weeks.
I always look for deals and discounts when I buy activities, tours or items, it takes very little time but I can save a lot of money. I saved my parents hundreds on their trip to Porto and I just saved £200 on my new camera by shopping around. I’m always saving my money for the next adventure, so I do things like making food plans for the week to save money on food shopping and I’m happy to go vintage and buy things second-hand to cut costs. There are so many simple changes you can make to your lifestyle to save huge amounts of money.
One extreme to another
I’ve very much chosen a life where I will spend a few months working every hour I can, so that I can then spend the next few months travelling freely without worrying about money. My work-life balance is pretty extreme but I love the freedom I get when I hit the open road and don’t have anything holding me back. It does mean that at times I have taken on five jobs at the same time in order to save as much as possible, and that I have cut back my spending to very basic living, but I’m more than happy to make short-term sacrifices if it means I can go on epic adventures. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s a balance I’ve learnt to love.This turned into a pretty epic post but hopefully it has answered some of the questions I’ve been getting, and hopefully it might help you guys to make travel more affordable and to make your dream holidays more attainable. Travel can seem like one of those far off dreams that will never come true, but it can, you just have to work hard and be smart about how you use your money. Whether it’s a weekend away, a summer holiday or a long-term backpacking trip – use these tips to save you money in ways you might not have thought of before. Let me know if any of these tips works for you!
How do you make travel more affordable? How do you save money on accommodation and flights? How do you save money for travel?