I have always been asked by readers how I can travel more.
They know I’m not rich, that I work online (hence, income fluctuates month-to-month, determined largely by the presence or absence of an internet connection in the place I’m visiting), and that I don’t have a rich family I can ask any time to wire me money.
I have written a few posts on budget travel: there’s how to find cheap flights, cheap accommodation, and some tips on traveling on a budget. I’ve also been asked what my recommended cheapest destinations are.
However, I don’t have a comprehensive post yet about these tips, which is why I keep receiving letters from readers on how they can travel more.
For sure, I’m not an expert on this, but I do have several tips I can give based on my experiences of solo and budget travel.
So if you’re in a similar situation: you are earning, you want to travel, and you don’t want to spend gazillions every time you do, here are some tips for you. Pick and choose whatever works best for your situation!
First, start a travel fund
While it’s true that anyone can travel, it’s not much fun if you don’t have money and have to
mooch off rely on strangers’ kindness for your transportation, room, and board. Work for it, eh? Start a travel fund.
Set up a travel savings account separate from your regular account. Ideally, you should set it up in that money is regularly transferred automatically. This way, you won’t have to worry about missing out on a deposit or being tempted to spend the money.
If you can, you should also get a credit card, which lets you gain travel points as you spend and which allows you to take advantage of travel deals. Once you’ve earned enough points, you earn the chance to fly for free.
Just don’t forget to pay your monthly balance on time and make sure your credit card doesn’t charge international transaction fees.
Consider working online
If you’re from a developed country, you can build up your travel fund in a few months and spend a year traveling from your savings. For us Filipinos, however, it’s almost impossible to travel long-term on our savings (unless we’re rich in the first place). The solution: work online!
There are many, many ways to earn money online. I’m a writer and editor, others are virtual assistants, web developers, English teachers, and even accountants. The trick is to look at your skills and find out how to translate it for online work. There are several sites you can start with; I’ve been with Upwork (formerly oDesk) since 2010 and I’m still finding clients there.
Beware of work-from-home scams, though. If your “client” wants you to spend money (e.g., on equipment that you will buy from them), for example, before you start working, block them. If they want to send you a check for you to send back to them in cash, run! Read this article from the FBI.
Word of mouth works too. Announce on your social media networks that you’re looking for remote work and chances are, you’ll get a referral.
Transportation: Choose free or discounted by keeping on the lookout for travel deals
The biggest expense in traveling is in transportation. You can do what my Indonesia friend did, and hitchhike in Europe.
If you’re like me and a bit shy, you can just choose carpooling. Instead of spending 90 euros on a train to Berlin, I only spent 25 euros by carpooling with three other people.
In Asia (or the Philippines) where carpooling isn’t the norm, you can save a lot by signing up for email alerts on airline sales. You can use such sites as Secret Flying and they’ll send you an email each time a deal turns up (and when cheap “error fares” are up for grabs).
For me, it’s simpler. I just go direct to the airline’s website (like Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines) and keep note of seat sales. It’s how I bought a $22 return ticket from Manila to Kota Kinabalu, and a $17 one-way ticket from Verona, Italy to Belgium.
You can also watch out for deals on your Facebook or Twitter feed. Join a Facebook group that alerts its members to travel deals. It’s how I got a return ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Kathmandu for $1! (Yep, that’s a dollar.)
Want to be able to compare deals? Download daily deal apps, and you might even come across a bargain flight to a destination that never crossed your mind before.
Accommodation: Use travel booking sites or be flexible
To ensure you’re getting the best bargain when it comes to hotels, shop around online. There are deals to be had if you know where to look for it.
Browse multiple sites to check and compare the prices they’re offering on your destination of choice. If you can also be flexible, do. There are sharing sites like Couchsurfing where you get to stay at a local’s place for free in exchange for conversation and company. You can also check out short-term rentals especially in big cities like New York.
If you’re staying longer at a place, consider work exchange, or working in exchange for room and board. I have manned the reception counter of a hostel in Bolivia for 3 weeks in exchange for food and accommodation. This is perfect for long-term travelers who don’t have a limited number of days’ stay in a place.
I have also written articles for a travel agency in Cusco in exchange for a room in their volunteers’ apartment for two weeks, and cleaned an apartment in New York for two nights’ stay.
Best of all? I scored a catsitting assignment in Brooklyn for 10 days. Almost 2 weeks of free accommodation + cats = my idea of heaven!
The bottom line is: you can save on accommodation if you’re willing to do something in return for it!
Go local — travel within the country or even within the city!
To travel more, you don’t need to travel far or board a plane. Instead you can go on a staycation—spend the weekend in a nice nearby hotel that has a swimming pool. Go on a microadventure—take a short road trip and sleep under the stars. Or go on a day trip—drive to a local beach that you haven’t visited before.
But if you want to cover as many countries as you can with a limited travel fund, opt for destinations where you can get the most bang for your buck. Topping that list in Asia are Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Go on an extended trip to Indochina and you’ll definitely get to travel more for less.
I guess the takeaway here is, if you want to travel, prioritize travel. Simplify your life where you can make room for traveling to be in your budget and schedule. Make small sacrifices and stop making excuses. You can travel more if you want to and if you set your mind to it. Make it happen!
What are your tips to travel more? Do share in the comments.