20 Tips on How to Afford to Travel Long-Term
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Ever wanted to travel long term but just not sure how to afford it? Well in this blog, we reveal how we (and how many other travelers) manage to afford to travel long term. It includes 10 MUST-KNOW tips including how to save money before you go, how to travel cheaply, and even some tips for making and saving money while in a foreign country.
Traveling long term is a dream for many. To be able to see tons of different places around the world over an extended amount of time makes for a trip to remember!
Trust me, Dan and I have figured out how to travel long term (and afford it) for many years now and have created what feels like an endless list of memories and experiences.
Since 2014, the shortest trip we’ve taken was 3 months long. That’s right, Dan and I love long term travel! When that 3-month trip was coming to an end, I was upset to have to leave. I had to be back in Australia for work, and I was mad about it. I wasn’t ready to go yet! It was then that I promised myself that I would never go on a trip with a return ticket booked again – and I never have.
In 2016 we spent 14 months traveling Latin America, in 2018 we spent a year in New Zealand, 2019 included 5 months in Asia (Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Bali) followed by 3 months in Canada, and then we ended 2019 in Patagonia before starting the new year in Peru and Colombia.
But how do we afford to travel long term all the time?
Well, in this blog I’m going to tell you 20 tips that we live by to help us afford to travel pretty much infinitely!
The first step to being able to afford to travel long term is saving some cash. This starts at home, months (if not years) prior to your long term trip. Creating good spending habits and building up that travel fund is essential – and here’s how we do it!
Get rid of all that stuff you don’t use or don’t need. Have a garage sale, sell things online, use Facebook buy and sell groups. Get rid of much as you possibly can!
There are a couple of reasons you should do this.
First of all, obviously the cash you’ll make from selling your things can be the start of your travel savings account. Keep in mind that while an amount as small as $20 at home might not buy you much at all, in a foreign country it could be your entire daily budget – every little bit counts!
Downsizing also helps you prepare for your long term travels. You can’t bring everything with you, and you might even need to rent storage for your things at home if you don’t have a place to store them. Less stuff means less hassle when you are ready to leave so you might as well just get rid of it now.
Lastly, it is good to get used to having fewer things. When you’re on a long-term trip you’ll likely be living out of one backpack or suitcase so you should start getting used to having fewer things now.
2. Save every penny possible
When saving for a trip I change my daily spending habits massively. Knowing that even $5 makes a big difference overseas, I scrimp and save wherever possible at home leading up to the trip.
Do you really need to eat out tonight? Are new shoes a necessity? If so, where can you find the cheapest pair?
It is all about making sacrifices now that pay off when you’re traveling. If you’re dedicated to being able to afford that long term trip, then prove it! Cut back on those extras and in no time, you’ll start to notice that you’re saving.
3. Set a savings goal and keep it
The best way to save is to know the exact amount you’re saving for. For example, before Dan and I went to South America I wanted to save $20,000 AUD for that trip. Having a set number in mind gave me something to work towards. As I got closer and closer, it got easier and easier to save more because I was just so excited!
Setting a realistic goal can be challenging. You need to have a rough idea of how long you plan on traveling and where you plan on going.
For example, I spent roughly $5,000 AUD on a 3-month Southeast Asia trip including flights. In New Zealand, $5,000 would barely last me one month of traveling around once I paid for flights. For comparison sake, a hostel in Southeast Asia is less than $10 a night on average, whereas in New Zealand, expect to pay around $30. Your budget needs to reflect your travel destination.
If you’re still unsure how to set a savings goal, just set one anyway. Choose a number like $10,000 or $20,000 and tell yourself that once you hit that goal you’ll go traveling. Book a ticket and plan on traveling for as long as that money lasts. Book a return flight once the cash starts dwindling.
Just having a goal, an end in mind, will make saving money so much easier!
4. Set a daily budget
Start keeping track of your daily spending habits and set a daily spending goal. The app TravelSpend is super useful for this. Although made for traveling, I use it at home too. It averages out your daily spending and puts each purchase into categories.
It is useful for analyzing where your money is going, and where you need to cut back.
Also, just writing down every purchase you make is helpful in holding yourself accountable too.
Plus, once you’re overseas you’ll need to keep track too! It’s just a good habit to get into!
5. Work hard
Leading up to your long term trip, work as much as you possibly can. It won’t be long before your overseas, off work, and having the time of your life. So for now, put your head down and work! Pick up overtime shifts where possible or maybe even get a second job.
Keep in mind that the time you spend working is time you can’t spend, well, spending!
Leading up to our South America trip, Dan and I were both working 60+ hours a week. By the time Sunday came around (my one day off a week) I was too tired to do anything, and pretty much all the money I had left over after paying bills went straight into my travel savings account.
Tips for Traveling Cheap
Now that you have some cash to travel with, you need to know how to use it!
The next secret to affording to travel long term is making your money go further. By traveling cheaply and making smart decisions you can stretch your money out over a long period of time making it that long-term trip you’ve always dreamed of!
6. Travel cheap countries
The most important tip for traveling for cheap is choosing a cheap country! Traveling to a destination that is relatively cheap will allow you to travel much longer, stay in nicer accommodation, and eat good meals all for a fraction of what a more expensive country would cost.
When it comes to going on a long term trip, you should choose a cheap region with a few different cheap countries to travel to. This way, you can explore multiple places that are affordable!
The most common affordable destinations for long term trips include Southeast Asia and Central America. While South America and some parts of Europe can be cheap, there are also areas that can be expensive, so you might just have to be careful if that’s where you’re headed.
Obviously, many westernized countries are the most expensive. I’d avoid places like Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK if I were you.
Related read: While New Zealand is generally expensive to travel, renting a campervan in NZ and living in it is one of the best ways to travel on a budget there. Otherwise, getting a working holiday visa is smart too!
7. Go where your currency is strongest
This tip might sound silly, but it really makes a lot of sense! If your savings is in one particular currency, go to a country where that currency is very strong! This way, your money will go a lot further and buy you a lot more!
Tip: One of the best apps for travel is Currency Converter. It’ll help you determine your currency worth in whatever country you visit (and will likely be a lifesaver on multiple occasions when you’re overseas.)
8. Book cheap accommodation
Cheap accommodation will be the biggest budget saver (or budget breaker) on your long term travels. The truth is I actually love staying in hostels, and nowadays they aren’t all the dirty, bed-bug invested, party place that you might imagine.
In fact, there are lots of really nice hostels around that are comfortable and clean. Dan and I don’t often stay in dorm rooms anymore just because we are over that, but we do frequently stay in private rooms within hostels. Hostels are generally cheaper than hotels, you’ll meet other travelers, and they usually have a kitchen so you can cook in your hostel too!
The easiest way to find cheap places to stay is to use the website and mobile app Booking.com. On here, you can easily compare prices for your desired dates and they have a “lowest price guarantee”! That means, if before your stay you notice a cheaper price on Booking.com or elsewhere, they will actually match that cheaper price.
Booking.com has everything from luxury hotels to hostels to guest houses advertised. Plus, if you use them a few times, you get “Genius” status which gives you extra discounts.
Hostelworld is another good website for booking hostels. In terms of hotels, it is pretty much useless, but the platform has more backpacker hostels than Booking.com.
Tip: For long term stays in one place, consider booking an Airbnb instead of a hotel or hostels. Many Airbnbs offer up to 50% off for a long-term stay (over 28 days) and with this discount, you can often snag an entire apartment for the same price as a hostel room! We use Airbnb whenever we plan on staying in one destination for longer than 4 weeks – it’s so much more comfortable too!
9. Travel by public transport
Taxis and Uber are some of the quickest ways to spend cash fast. In some countries, they aren’t too badly priced, but in most, they are expensive. If you can, learn about the public transport system in each city you visit and use it! Moovit is another great app for traveling as it helps you navigate public transport systems all around the world!
Also, try to travel from one destination to the next with public transport too. In places like Central America, they have chicken buses which are a fun and exciting local way to get around. In Vietnam, consider getting on an overnight sleeper bus! Each country has its own method that locals use to get around, and flying usually isn’t one of them.
Tip: Busbud is a website you can use to book inter-city buses. It is a safe way to book a bus ticket for cheap and you can even select your seat in advance. In South America, Dan and I used Busbud all the time to get from one city to the next.
10. Use apps to watch flight prices
For booking flights, it is essential to get a good deal. Flight prices vary so much and can be a huge budget breaker if you get on the wrong side of a sale.
The app Hopper is useful for monitoring flight prices. It will also notify you when your flight prices drop, and based on historical data, tell you the best time to book your flight.
11. Travel in a group
Traveling solo is the most expensive way to travel. By traveling in a group or even just a couple, you will be able to split many costs including taxis and groceries.
Another reason to stay in hostels is to meet other travelers. On more than one occasion Dan and I have made friends in hostels that we travel with for longer periods of time. It’s fun, and saves some money!
12. Cook your own meals
When you’re going to travel long term, you’ll probably need to cook. Sure, you could eat out for every meal (and in some places like Asia that is totally normal), but be prepared to cook too. In most countries around the world, it is cheaper to cook your own meals than it is to eat out.
So, be sure to book accommodation with a kitchen! Often, hostels have kitchens and so do Airbnbs. Lots of hotels do not offer kitchens, so that’s something to keep in mind!
Related read: Plan on cooking in hostels? Check out our blog that includes 6 important tips that’ll help make cooking in hostels less terrible!
13. Get cheap long term travel insurance
Travel insurance is a budget breaker – especially on a long trip! Do not skip it though. You need travel insurance in case something goes wrong. Dan and I have cashed in our travel insurance numerous times for hospital visits, emergency evacuation flights, and stolen items.
The cheapest travel insurance you can get for a long term trip is with Safety Wing. Not only is it just $40 per 4 weeks, but it is also charged on a month-to-month basis. So, you don’t need to fork out thousands right at the beginning, and it automatically extends each month until you cancel. Perfect if you don’t know how long you’ll travel for!
Alternative option: World Nomads is another insurance provider lots of budget travelers use. I’ve used them too and had a good experience, I just tend to prefer Safety Wing because their long term ongoing policy makes it easy for me.
14. Don’t lose out on bank fees
When you go on a long trip, you’ll spend a lot of money on international transaction fees and bad exchange rates. The last time Dan and I went to Argentina, we were spending $12 on bank fees every time we withdrew $300 from an ATM!
To prevent this, be sure to organize the right bank cards to bring with you on your long term travels. Some banks offer travel money cards that have low international withdrawal rates. Some banks also even offer cards that refund all of your withdrawal fees! You can even find credit cards that charge nothing for international transactions too.
Do a bit of research in your home country before you leave to secure the best cards and way to access your money.
15. Negotiate prices where possible
In foreign countries, bartering or negotiating on the price of things is common. If you want to be able to afford to travel for a long time, then you need to get good at this – every penny counts!
Certain higher priced things like tours or longer taxi rides are definitely negotiable. Be sure to always ask for a cheeky discount and see where that gets you!
16. Don’t party (too much!)
One of the biggest budget breakers when you’re traveling will always be booze. Alcohol is sometimes cheap overseas, but when you drink enough of it, it really adds up! In order to ensure you can afford to travel for a long period of time, make sure you cut back on partying.
Dan and I love to go out and party here and there when we travel, and I rarely eat dinner without a glass of wine, but besides that, we do try to keep our drinking to a minimum.
17. Keep track of your spending
The only way to know how well you’re doing at traveling for cheap, you need to keep track! Use the app TravelSpend to record every time you purchase something. This app does the currency conversion for you which is super helpful in understanding new currencies and what items are actually costing you.
TravelSpend also allows you to set a daily budget and averages out your spending per day too. This way, if you have a big spending day (which will happen) you can balance it out with a few days of spending much less.
Making Money While Traveling
The main reason Dan and I can afford to travel long term is that we make money while traveling. We originally started off by freelance writing blog articles for a couple of companies. While this didn’t pay much, it really helped to supplement our travel spending.
Recently, our blog started making enough money that we both make a full-time income off of it. We can work while traveling anywhere in the world and it’s fantastic! But this did take us years to build up and we understand that not everybody has the time or desire to commit a few years to build a blog.
With that said, there are a few things you can do straight away to make a little cash while traveling and stretch your travels out even further:
18. Get a remote job
You can always pick up odd jobs for cash while traveling. Although some countries are strict about work visas, some are not. Also, businesses will often pay cash for small jobs that you can do. Look at backpacker hostels or on Facebook groups for these work opportunities.
If you have a skill, especially on the computer such as building websites or online marketing, there are lots of opportunities out there. Alternatively, hostels are known to hire backpackers to complete odd jobs such as painting or gardening.
Note: Remember that working in a foreign country for cash without a proper work visa can be risky. Weigh out your options and make a smart choice.
19. Do some freelancing
Do you know how to write? Do you speak a couple of languages? Do you take nice photographs? Can you build a website? Code?
These are all marketable skills that you can use to find freelance jobs online.
There are online platforms like Upwork (our personal favorite) and Fivver that will allow you to become a freelancer where other companies and people hire you. The platform deals with the exchange of payment to ensure both parties are always taken care of.
Sometimes it can be hard to get hired on these platforms when you’re just starting out. You may have to complete a few jobs for cheap to be able to get reviews and get off the ground. But after you build up an experienced profile, you can make decent money! It just takes some hard work and dedication.
Alternatively, if you take lots of photos you can upload them to stock image websites and make a little extra money that way too.
Volunteering in a foreign country won’t make you any money, but sometimes it involves getting free food or accommodation in exchange for the hours you work.
Some hostels have programs where you work a couple of hours each day in exchange for a free stay. Since accommodation will be your biggest expense during your long term travels, this can really help stretch your funds further!
There are also websites you can use to find volunteering opportunities in exchange for a free stay. Workaway and WWOOF are the two most popular.
Dan and I used Workaway one time when we were in Peru to find a volunteering opportunity in the amazon. We helped build eco-lodges for four hours a day in exchange for a place to stay (a little cabin) and three meals a day. It was a really neat opportunity and since none of the workers spoke English, we really improved our Spanish during this experience.
Before you go…
So there you have it, 20 different tips that’ll help you afford to travel long term! I hope some of the takeaways help you prepare for that long trip, and that you enjoy it!
Be sure to browse some of our other travel advice blogs including some of our most popular ones:
January 9, 2021