Saving money whilst traveling is an essential tool for any budget travelers.
Traveling, vacationing, holidaying, whatever you call it, you are likely to spend a lot more money than you think. In the case of long-term travel, however, the least money spent is always best but not always the easiest. Some countries proof more expensive than expected. We spent two years saving for our trip, so most of this advice has been in practice before hitting the road/skies/tracks.
We ended up spending too much money for our time in Thailand, a very cheap destination. It was our first country and we were ill-prepared for the very hot weather. Not wanting to test my IBS reactions to Thai food so drastically, we also overspent on food. I know, overspending on food in Thailand seems like a difficult thing to do, but we managed it.
After discovering the beauty that is $0.30 Pad Thai and Sweet Potato Balls, we dove into trying local food and therefore saving money, thankfully the stomach agreed too.
Other ways to save money whilst traveling were learnt on the road, normally after a costly mistake or simply realizing the error of our ways. Somehow there seem to be more of them than expected..
Travel is, after all, a great lesson.
One piece of advice we would certainly pass on, is to try and travel within the same climate. Obviously, it is not always possible. But certainly cuts down on packing space and weight.
We had a year of Summer, coming from the end of New Zealand’s Summer, to Thailands hottest month then to summer in China, Mongolia (although very cold at night) Russia, Ireland, the UK then Croatia. We still had to pack for the colder months that we knew we would encounter in Europe later in the year. Hence our large and heavy packs. If we could we would be enjoying another summer in the Southern Hemisphere right now!
Some basic tips to save money:
Make your own coffee.
Being from New Zealand (Coffee snob country) we hate an ill-prepared coffee and have yet to taste a better one on the road (by a barista) than in our own country. We will re-test this in Italy though.
Coffee-snobbery aside, we got used to instant coffee or pre-mixed coffee. There are actually good brands out there. The mix coffees only require hot water so are your easiest cheapest option. I know, you can’t Instagram a shot of your instant coffee next to a bowl of oats…. or can you? Lets get rid of the myth that all travelers are cafe hopping, latte drinking, croissant-eating people. Invest that money in a better experience to Gram.
Do your own laundry.
Paying for someone else to do it seems silly when all it involves is putting items in a machine and turning it on. It’s not that hard. The other, normally the cheaper option is to pay for the use of the laundry machines.
We often hand-washed our own gear using small bags of washing powder from the 7/11 in Thailand or some good old hand soap in Croatia.
Otherwise when looking for accommodation check if they have a free laundry. You don’t realize how many dirty clothes you produce until you have to pay to clean it!
Get a refillable water-bottle.
All you need is a functional reusable water-bottle. We have found great Contigo bottles that can clip to your bag so you do not have to carry it or fit it inside your bag.
Water is free, plastic is not. Stop wasting plastic and money continuously buying bottled water.
In countries where it isn’t safe to drink the tap water, bottled water is necessary. An option here would be to buy larger bottles kept in your room and you refill from here.
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Make your own meals.
Be honest, back home would you actually go out for every meal every day? Probably not. So why would you when in another country? Breakfast is such a cheap meal when purchased from the grocery store. We use instant oats (porridge) and Sistema breakfast bowls every day. All you need is access to hot water. Which, if no kitchen is provided, hot water usually is. The oats cook themselves in the bowl within 10 minutes. Add some sliced banana and Voila! Breakfast of champions!
We pack a lunch if we are out for the day. Even some simple homemade sandwiches cost you far less than buying them. In Croatia, we would purchase a large loaf of sliced bread, tomatoes, and cream cheese to make our sandwiches. Because we are weird, we added some salted chips to each sandwich. It gave it a necessary flavor kick.
In some countries (South East Asia mostly excluded), supermarkets provide cheap food and you can normally prepare your lunch and dinner for a fraction of the price of eating out. For Vegans and Vegetarians, this resource is invaluable in non-veg friendly countries. Yes, you can end up putting the strangest concoctions together, but if it’s edible, who really cares.
This helped our budget significantly in Russia, UK, Ireland and Croatia so far. We will continue to use this easy resource. The use of supermarkets leads into finding suitable accommodation.
Budget accommodation is generally abundant throughout the world. One must lower their standards and realize you can not have all your home comforts with you everywhere.
Costs are higher for accommodation if you are not in a Hostel dorm room, so for a couple expect to pay more than two single explorers. Unless you enjoy falling asleep to a symphony of snores.
The main benefit of Hostels is that they tend to have kitchens. Where you can use a supermarket and prepare your own meals.
Hotels are more suited to the holiday makers, or the wealthy. They are not great for budget travelers, they tend to have no kitchen facilities and either nothing or just a kettle in the room. Forcing you to spend more by eating out all the time. The only upside to a hotel tends to be having your own bathroom! Woohoo.
A great option which gives you the best of both worlds and variety, Airbnb. You can find places cheaper than hostels (for a couple) with a kitchen, sometimes even with the luxury of your own bathroom! We use Airbnb for a more local feel of the place and the owners tend to be more invested in providing a great service.
Or better yet, use this great way to travel with no accommodation costs. Not only do you get a house with a kitchen and bathroom, but you get to look after cats, dogs, lizards, birds or any other hoofed, pawed or clawed animal. Frankly, that is much more appealing to us than an animal free traveling experience. Trustedhousitters has provided us with some amazing and unforgettable experiences and we have met some great animals, and people and stayed in less touristic places. (Middle of rural France with 5 cats, dogs, a goat, and geese anyone?)
Remember the ways you saved money for your travels before you even got on the plane. Integrate those saving schemes back into your travels.
It starts to feel less like a holiday and more like real life, but after all, is that not the point?
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