I’ve been on the road for awhile. And I imagine many of you are wondering how can this guy afford to traipse around the world. Well, it’s actually more affordable than you think. I’d like to share some things that are working for me. And hopefully explain how this long term trip I’m on is financially possible.
When I started planning my trip a little over a year ago I wondered if I would be able to afford it. I started researching long term travel and stumbled upon a book written by a young man advocating traveling on $50/day. I was intrigued and upon further study realized it was indeed possible.
Fifty dollars a day was a magical figure for me as well. As it was what I felt I could comfortably afford on the funds I had at my disposal on a monthly basis. Let me share how I planned this and how it’s working out.
Internet research was vital for me. I used multiple search engines for transportation, lodging and general travel advice. There is much available and it proved invaluable.
One of the biggest expenses we Americans face traveling overseas are the ridiculous prices in airfare! Once you start comparing prices you soon find out how much we get screwed by our country’s flag carriers! The price of my ticket? Free! Say what? Yes, I used the travel points I had accumulated from my Capital One Venture Card. A few years ago I made a conscious decision to pay off my balance. And then use my card for every purchase I could. Paying the balance off each month. It’s amazing how the points can accumulate! When it came time to purchase airfare I found the best price and then used points to pay for all of it. I still have points left over! I highly recommend this.
Next on my major expense list was the cost of lodging. I had decided that hostels would be the way to go as they offer great affordability. Not everyone’s cup of tea but for the solo budget minded backpacker they are hard to beat. Again I used different search engines to research hostels in the area I was visiting. I used a website called Hostelworld which has thousands of hostels listed. With descriptions and reviews. It was invaluable! I also booked through them as it was easier for me instead of contacting each individual hostel. My reward for booking early. A savings of $5-$10 a night. My average hostel stay is running $15/night most with breakfast included! Now I know sleeping in a dorm with strangers and using communal bathrooms/showers isn’t for everyone. But it’s working for me. And I’m saving a ton of money!
Transportation between destinations can really eat into the budget. But there are budget options that can lessen the impact. One of the tenants of long term travel is being able to slow down. Staying in a area for a longer period than you would normally be able to on a regular vacation. It allows you to explore the flavor of a place. And hopefully a chance to interact locally. One of the side benefits is a savings on transportation. By staying put longer you lessen the impact of bus/train fares. Travel days are expensive. You have the cost of your transport. And lodging. And you do have to eat! Each day I travel costs me money. By staying put longer I get to enjoy the area more and save money.
But when I do travel here is how I save money. Riding buses is a very affordable way to travel. It takes longer but I have the time! In Ireland the national bus provider isn’t dirt cheap but affordable. And goes almost everywhere. My average ticket price has been about $20. But I’ve also been able to use a couple of budget bus providers who serve smaller, local areas. These prices have run between $5-$10. Megabus is huge in the UK and I have a couple of bus tickets booked for $2 each! What!!! I was able to accomplish this by booking early. Most bus/train tickets go on sale online 60-90 days ahead. By building these schedules into my online iPhone/iPad calendars I’m reminded to book the first day the ticket I want becomes available. I have some UK train tickets booked for $5-$10 respectively. It’s all about research and staying on top of things.
Attractions/Tours can put a serious dent in ones budget. But again there are budget tricks available. When I first came to Ireland I purchased a OPW card for $25. Many of the historical sites in Ireland are managed by the Office of Public Works. Many individual sites charge admission and some are free. The OPW card gives you admission to every site managed by the OPW. From my research I was able to surmise I’d be visiting many of the places managed. By my calculations the card is going to save me around $100! Many major cities offer tourism cards similar to this. Usually for a set amount of days. You really have to do your research as some of the places offered aren’t very popular and the major attractions aren’t included. Right now the only major city card I plan to use is in Berlin. I’ve also saved money by buying admission online. Another side benefit of purchasing online is that you get to bypass the ticketing lines and go straight in to the attraction. Bunratty Castle was a good example. I paid $10 online and admission at the gate was $15!
Food/Beverage can bust a budget rather quickly. So far I’ve kept it in check. As I mentioned most of my hostels have a free breakfast. And I do take advantage of it! Usually cereal, toast, jam, tea and coffee. But some have included fruit, oj, yogurt and rolls. A great way to start the day! I then usually have a late lunch at a local pub. Lunch is cheaper than dinner and I get to have my daily pint. I’m usually spending between $8-$15. If I’m hungry later I’ll have some fruit or yogurt or maybe a cookie. Hostels allow you to use their kitchens and refrigeraters to store food you have bought. Some days if I’ve spent more for a attraction or something I’ll eat in at the hostel. I’ll have a ready to microwave meal! There are plenty of grocery store options and I buy a little food wherever I go. It really helps the budget! They have great Aldi’s over here. I’ve also ate a little take out. Fish and Chips the other night for $5! Don’t get me wrong I didn’t travel 5000 miles to eat TV dinners and McDonalds. I’ve had plenty of Irish stew, seafood and bangers and mash. I just try to stick to the $50 overall budget for the day and see what the day dictates as far as eating. I’ve been very happy with the food budget so far.
These are the major areas that have impacted my budget. I’ve also used a few groupons and local coupons. Many of the hostels offer discount coupons to selected pubs, travel discounts (Ring of Kerry tour cost $17 instead of $25 by going through the hostel) and some hostels even have a once a week communal meal compliments of the hostel!
So what is the bottom line. Have I been able to stay at $50/day? No. Not everyday. But a day where I go over the next day I will go under. The ramifications of this. My first month I was $112 under budget! Now this is a good thing because when I get to the UK it’s going to really stretch the budget. The exchange rate is not very favorable and my $50/day will look more like $35/day. Ouch! But I’ll make it work and look forward to getting back into the eurozone when I arrive in Paris!
The real story here is that long term travel doesn’t have to bust the bank. But you do have to make some compromises. And change the way you think/approach travel. But I think the rewards speak for themselves.