Travelling is an expensive business and one of the questions I get the most is how do I afford to travel so much? It's easy to look at Instagram and feel like the whole world is going on fancy holidays while you're stuck in the office. But the truth is, anyone can have this lifestyle. It just takes a readjustment to the way you think and a few sacrifices. I've been travelling and living abroad for over five years which has been a real rollercoaster. From staying in hostels to luxury 5* resorts, I've gone from living on instant noodles to dining at Michelin-starred restaurants.
I won't pretend I'm making $$$ from Instagram posts, or I have a secret sugar daddy. I'm very lucky to live the lifestyle that I do, but it isn't unattainable and anyone can have this life for themselves. There's a lot of work that goes on behind-the-scenes to keep this lifestyle going, and I've made a lot of sacrifices. But choosing this lifestyle was the best decision of my life, and after five years, it's only spurred me on. Want to live a life of travel? You just need to break down those mental barriers and stop thinking about how you should be living your life. The day you stop, is the day you'll start living your real life.
The truth about how I afford to travel so much
Travelling is my lifestyle
Most people spend their whole year looking forward to their holiday 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. 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'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 snorkelling trip to stay within my budget. It's all about conscious spending.
Working Holiday Visas
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. It allowed me to travel 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 aged 18-31 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. Often you can also work for accommodation. If you're travelling long-term this is a perfect way to enjoy the experience of living abroad.
Finding cheaper options for accommodation
If you want to travel long-term, fancy hotels are not a realistic option. Instead you'll want to look into budget-friendly options from house swaps, to Airbnb, to working for accommodation. In Australia and Asia, a lot of travellers will work for accommodation in hostels and sometimes even get extras like free food. It's possible to find live-in jobs where accommodation is provided or taken out of a wage – check out au pair roles. Why not look on Booking.com for cheaper apartments and homestays that give you a much more local experience. Or, if you're on a strict budget, you could try couchsurfing.
By skipping hotels and looking at other options, you could potentially stretch your accommodation budget to double the holiday time or even more. If you have more flexibility with dates, search for the whole month and book the lowest prices. (You can do the same with flights!) I often stay in hostels or apartments because I find them the best value options.
Use your skills to get freebies & reduced rates
If you have a talent – use it! For me, it's writing, social media and using my platforms to promote brands. I use this blog to help me work with brands and either review hotels/activities, a discounted rate or for a fee. It's meant I've had some incredible experiences that I couldn't have afforded myself. But you don't need a blog for this! If you're a whizz at creating videos or an awesome photographer – why not market these skills to brands?
It doesn't stop there – you could start entering travel competitions or scouring the internet for great deals. Become a travel agent and earn a commission on travel. Follow the #FreebieFriday Twitter feed and see what you can score there – I won a celebrity photoshoot with Hello Mag simply by retweeting! Read this post on how I ALWAYS save money on trips and how I picked up £4.70 flights to Germany.
Unconventional ways of living
For me, travel is not about 5* hotels and living glamorously. It's about immersing yourself in another culture 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. I have a few friends who have gone off-grid and either tried vanlife or even living in a hippie commune to save money. Both are great options, or find live-in jobs where you can stay in a place long-term while earning.
Making friends with strangers
One of the most valuable things I have learnt is the power of positivity and of welcoming strangers into your life. Growing up, we're taught about stranger danger but I can tell you all that is waiting out there is a whole world of potential friends. Always put your safety first, but making friends is a great way to make travel more cost-effective. From finding people to split the cost of tours with, to having housemates to cook with or even hire a car with. It's a big money-saver to have friends all over the world who can offer you a place to stay or a home-cooked meal.
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. 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, bungee jumping, or diving on the Great Barrier Reef. It's also very expensive and trips can quickly eat into your budget. Often I'll find new ways of doing trips whether it means making friends with the locals instead of hiring a tour guide. Read about my experiences with the woman who wanted to adopt me in Ayutthaya.
When I traveled solo to Europe, I joined free walking tours and saved a fortune on organised trips. I also really just love finding adventures by walking around a new place and getting lost. 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
It's simple – I'm very organised with my finances and I'm never lazy when it comes to shopping around. I always keep a main bank account, a short term savings and a longer-term savings. I keep a rainy fund for emergencies and I always budget my outgoings according to my incomings. It sounds boring, but keeping on top of our money and being careful with your spending is the best way to save. Things like cooking your own meals instead of eating out – they soon add up and I'd rather do that than live off instant noodles for 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've just scored half price outdoor gear including walking boots and a coat thanks to newsletter discounts. I make food plans for the week to save money on food shopping, and I love vintage shopping. There are so many small lifestyle changes that can save a lot of money. Check out my free guide for all my top tips.
One extreme to another
While most people choose a slower paced work life to afford one holiday a year. I spend a few months working every hour possible in order to save a good chunk of money. Then I spend the next few months travelling freely without worrying about money. My work-life balance is more extreme, but that's a big benefit of working freelance. 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 have worked up to five jobs, and have cut back to basic spending. Short-term sacrifice for long-term gain. This doesn't work for everyone, but it's a balance I've learnt to love.
This turned into a pretty epic post but I hope it's answered some of your questions and has shown you how you might afford a life of travel. The biggest point I want to make in this is that it is much cheaper to slow travel long-term than it is to own/rent a home in the UK. Between rent, bills and general costs of living, I wouldn't be able to travel the way I do. The fact that I have sacrificed having a home or a long-term base of my own, means I can afford to travel how I do. It's a huge sacrifice but one that is well worth it in my opinion. But that doesn't mean travel is beyond your means – you just have to work hard and be smart with your money. Use these tips to save you money in ways you might not have thought of before and don't forget to download my free guide to saving £10k.
How do you make travel more affordable? What are your top money-saving tips for travel?