I think the biggest misconceptions of traveling is that it has to be expensive. It's easy to look on social media and see all these glamorous vacation photos at five star resorts and think "I could never afford that." But traveling is not just for the super wealthy. In fact, I recently just came back from a two-week trip where I visited 3 countries and 5 cities for just a little over $1,300 USD!
To be clear, I don't have a fancy job, my parents aren't funding my trips, I don't get paid to blog, and I don't have a sugar daddy (sadly). I'm also a recent college graduate riddled with student debt. So yeah...I'm pretty much broke af.
So the million dollar question is "how do you afford to travel??" Well unfortunately, I don't have some magical formula. The simple answer is just a lot of hard work and saving up!
Below, I've outlined my expenses for my two week trip, so you can get an idea of how I budgeted and where the money went:
Disclaimer: I have family in Hong Kong who took care of me in terms of lodging, food, and transportation. If it wasn't for the cheap flight deal I found or have family there, I would probably skip it since it is rather expensive, especially if you're on a backpacker budget. But there are a number of budget hostels in the city and dining can be cheap if you eat like a local. I would suggest allotting $50-$75 for daily spending.
If you break it down even further, this trip costed about $88 a day. And as you can see, the biggest expenses were airfare and the visa for Vietnam. Fortunately, everything in Vietnam and Thailand was super cheap. An average meal was typically $2-3! Plus, it was great traveling with a friend, which helped cut the costs of lodging in half.
Prior to this trip, I worked hard and saved up for 4 months, which may seem like a lot compared to only two weeks of vacation. But in the end, you're not going to think back on all the long hours you work. You're going to remember all the adventures you have. The personal growth and unforgettable experience you gain from traveling are things that can't be measured in monetary value.
So there it is, proof that you don't need thousands of dollars saved up to travel. And while I'm no professional traveler by any means, I do want to share a few tips on how you can save up for your own travels:
1. Make it your priority
Now I do realize that traveling is a luxury and a privilege. People have responsibilities, bills to pay, and not everyone is in a position to prioritize travel over life's necessities. But I also know that there are people who want to travel, but they choose to spend their money on eating out everyday and buying things they don't really need. If that sounds like you, you've just got to decide that traveling is more important than all the stuff you're buying. All the money you spend on eating out and shopping could easily be put towards buying a plane ticket. Do you really need a new pair of shoes or would you rather spend a day with elephants in Thailand?
2. Pick cheap destinations
If you're traveling on a budget, don't pick a place known for being expensive. Like I wouldn't exactly go to Switzerland or Dubai unless I had the money ball out. Instead, choose a place where a dollar goes a long way, like countries in Southeast Asia, which are great for budget traveling in general. Countries in this region are super popular amongst backpackers or people who decide to sell all their belongings and live abroad for an indefinite amount of time. We even met a few of them during our travels!
From experience, I also believe cities like Madrid, Florence, and Budapest are fairly affordable if a European vacation is on your mind. It all depends on where you choose to stay and eat!
You don't even have to leave your country, or even your state, to travel. There's adventure to be found and places to explore wherever you are. Think outside the box; don't limit yourself to the idea of your "dream vacation".
3. Have a travel rewards credit card
When you're traveling abroad, you'll want to have a credit card doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee. I didn't have one while I was traveling around Europe, so every time I swiped it, it tacked on another 3% fee. I racked up so many little fees that could've easily been avoided! And even though cash is still preferred in many places, I highly recommend having a travel card for larger purchases. Plus, you'll earn points on it that can be put towards paying for your airfare or hotels.
4. Research alternatives
Alternative flights, alternative modes of transportation, alternative lodging...there is always a cheaper option. For example, it was cheaper for me to fly into Hong Kong and then taking a budget airline to Vietnam, rather than flying directly there. When I was traveling in Europe, instead of staying in hostels, I saved money by couch surfing instead. If you do some extra research beforehand, you'll find that there are tons of options out there that will help you save money!
Here are a few of my favorite travel sites to help you find cheaper alternatives:
1. One of my favorite websites for finding cheap flights: Travel Pirates
2. Carpooling service: BlaBlaCar
3. Meet and stay with locals for free: Couchsurfing
4. Figure out how to get there the cheapest: Rome2Rio
5. Work while traveling the world: Working Traveller