If you’re like me, you think about travel more often than you might care to admit. You may even have a travel wish list, with some improbably far-flung places hovering near the top. If you’ve been putting off making your wishes come true because you think the costs would be too much, you’ll be happy to know that nowadays there are dozens of solutions and tricks to cutting costs to the point where travel—even long-term travel—is more possible than you might think.
For many years, I longed to visit India and other South Asian countries, like Bhutan, but it always seemed like a far-away dream that would never materialize. I thought the costs would be prohibitive so I never made any plans to actually go until several turns of fate forced me to think long and hard about my life. I realized that if I was ever going to pursue my travel dreams, I couldn’t put it off any longer. It really felt like now or never.
So, I explored all the possible ways I could make it happen, such as finding the lowest possible airfare and getting deals on accommodation. In December of 2005 I left for Delhi on a six months’ odyssey across the subcontinent. I consider that trip the best thing I have ever done.
Nowadays, it’s even easier to cut costs, which is why I’ve been able to keep traveling on a regular basis.
Below are three major ways you can turn your travel dreams into reality, using the latest tips and tricks from travel experts.
1. Cost of airfare
The number one objection most people cite for not pursuing their travel dreams is cost. There is a perception that far-flung or long-term travel is highly expensive. That’s not entirely true. It can be highly expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.
Airfare is usually the single biggest cost factor to long distance travel. But there’s lots of ways to reduce the cost such as saving up and using points, researching deals and lower-cost routes, flying on off days or during the low season and more. It’s definitely worth it to put in some time and research ways to save money on airfare. Sometimes, just taking a different route or booking well in advance can save money big time.
Nora Dunn sold everything (including a busy financial planning practice) in 2006 to travel the world full-time. She’s still on the road today, and writes about travel, personal finance, and lifestyle design. She specializes in teaching others how to travel full-time in a financially sustainable way on her site The Professional Hobo, and this is what she had to say about saving money on flights:
“I’m a big fan of frequent flyer miles, and regularly fly long-haul in business class for less than the price of an equivalent economy ticket. But more recently I discovered mystery shopping airfare and I flew from Canada to Peru for 50% off. I’m intrigued to do more of that when there aren’t frequent flyer deals to be had.”
Matt Kepnes has been traveling the world since 2006, and he dispenses budget travel advice through his site and weekly newsletter. On the Nomadic Matt website, he provides, “tips and advice on how you can travel anywhere you want without spending a lot of money. These are the tips I use to travel the world so I know they work. They are experience tested.” Here’s Nomadic Matt’s best advice on how to find a cheap airline ticket.
Check for airfare on numerous price comparison sites to find the best deals, and try different dates and routings. These are considered some of the best sites for finding deals:
- Review of some of the Best sites to search for flights from Go Click Travel
- Flightfox connects you to flight experts, who find the cheapest possible fare, for a small fee. You save time and money.
- Priceline allows you to bid on hotel rooms, flights, vacation packages and more.
- With the Hotel Tonight app, you can find good deals on hotels at the last minute
- Learn to use points more effectively from The Points Guy: The Points Guy’s Beginner Guide
- How to cut costs on airline fees
2. Cost of accommodation
The other big-ticket cost of travel is accommodation. Again, there are strategies for avoiding high-priced hotels that don’t require bedding down in a dubious dorm such as:
- staying in up-market and even luxury hostels (yes, they do exist!)
- homestays and small guest houses
- renting an apartment or renting a room in an apartment
- house-sitting or pet-sitting
- home exchange
- volunteering in exchange for room and board
Nora Dunn said that, “In my first five years of travel, I saved more than $65,000 in accommodation costs by things like house-sitting, volunteering, doing hospitality exchanges and living on boats. Here’s my advice on how to get free accommodation around the world.”
From my experience, the key to finding quality budget accommodation is to take the time to read reviews left by previous guests. I have used Airbnb several times successfully, and I have found some great small guest houses on TripAdvisor — and I think it’s because I read the reviews really carefully. When you search for hotels on Skyscanner, it pulls together reviews from several sites, which makes it easy to compare and get a reasonably accurate picture of what to expect.
- Booking.com provides reviews, guarantees best available prices, gives you many different filters for searching and allows you to book a wide range of accommodation all over the world.
- Airbnb is a platform that connects travelers with people offering unique accommodation, from a room in an apartment to a privately owned castle.
- World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. “WWOOFers” are people who work on organic farms around the world. Usually, WWOOFers live with their host and are expected to join in and cooperate with the day-to-day activities. In most countries, 4-6 hours help is expected in exchange for a full day’s food and accommodation.
- Luxury Hostels of Europe
- Trusted House Sitters
- House sitting guide and FAQ from Wanderlusters.
3. Planning and saving
Do you find the idea of planning and saving for a “big trip” overwhelming? If you literally don’t know where to start, try consulting the blogs, websites and articles by people who’ve been there and done that. (See the resources listed below).
You might be surprised at the number of people who live a “location independent lifestyle” traveling the world or who’ve taken RTW (round the world) trips. Many of these people blog about their experiences, dispensing advice on topics such as how much it costs to live in Thailand, how to avoid roaming charges and how to travel on $50 per day.
“I’m often asked how much money you need to travel long-term,” said Nora Dunn. “It’s a difficult, if not impossible question to answer, since there are so many variables. I try to break it down to a calculable science in this post, How much money is needed to travel long term?”
- The Professional Hobo: Financial Travel Tips
- Nomadic Matt’s How to travel the world on $50 a day e-book
- Nomadic Matt’s How to be a travel hacker
- 7 ‘digital nomads’ explain how they live, work and travel anywhere in the world
- Rick Steves is a well-known online Europe travel expert. Here are his top 50 thrifty travel tips.
- Wisebread is a site dedicated to frugal living. The Travel section offers “practical advice for expanding your horizons on a dime, dinar, or dobra!”
- 21 tips for traveling in style on a budget
Go for it
My mother always used to say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” If you have the desire to travel the world, don’t let money concerns hamper you. Plan, save and follow the tips and tricks from the experts and you too can make your travel dreams come true.
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