Dreaming of leaving your cares behind and going off on a long-term travel adventure? Here’s our guide to easily afford an extended stay trip.
I’m sitting on a sofa in a San Francisco suburb with a pure white Maltipoo dog whose fur is the texture of a baby lamb, while her greyish/brown canine companion dutifully stands guard at the window. I only met these dogs a few days ago, but I want to hide them in my suitcase and smuggle them home when I return next week after nearly six months’ absence.
The life-changing decision my partner and I made over a year ago to quit our mundane jobs to travel, took us to ten countries, several dozen cities, and involved caring for nine dogs and four cats. Along the journey we learned life lessons about ourselves, and how to travel long-term on a budget and still not miss out on seeing unforgettable sites, including a Tokyo skyline view, the Colosseum in Rome and a sunset in Santorini.
Below are my top 10 tips for how to travel long-term on a budget:
House sitting – House sitting involves free accommodation in exchange for taking care of the owner’s pets and property. It gave us the opportunity to live in various international communities and immerse ourselves in the local culture. Consequently we experienced four countries as more than just tourists, and spent four of over five months travelling on a round the world ticket, house and pet sitting. Our seven house sits included a five bedroom, five bathroom abode near London with a Golden Retriever who loved gallivanting off-leash through his neighbourhood heath, a Portuguese dwelling during the sweltering summer with a sweet-natured rescue dog and a grumpy cat, and a New York apartment with two Shih Tzu mix pint-sized pooches who oozed so much cuteness that we fell in love with them instantly.
Securing your first house sit online requires a well-written profile that includes details about your relevant experience, love for animals and motivation for house sitting, and several character references. Do a quick Google search to find articles with tips and tricks for creating a successful house sitting profile to help you stand out from the strong competition.
TrustedHouesitters is among the world’s most popular house sitting websites. Although possibly more pricey than its competitors, from my experience the site tends to offer more potential house sitting jobs. At least half their opportunities are UK based, but more obscure locations such as Morocco, Luxembourg and Panama are also listed.
Avoid eating out – Cooking your own food is a great option if you are staying in a house sit, hostel or accommodation where this is practical. If you are without car access, I recommend checking the walking distance to local supermarkets before arranging a place to stay or you may end up with unexpected Uber bills or shoulder pain from lugging heavy bags. If there are several supermarkets nearby, compare price differences online before you go. For example, Audi won’t stock as many brands as Kruger or Morrisons but it will save you dollars on similar products. Alternatively, you can order online, pay a bit extra for home delivery and avoid the temptation to purchase snacks and unplanned goodies as you wander the aisles.
Only eat restaurant food as a special occasion – If like me your culinary skills often result in a dinner disaster, microwave meals and macaroni cheese is going to get tiresome pretty quickly. However, if you save restaurant dining for a special treat rather than a nightly occurrence you will appreciate it so much more. If you feel like you are missing out on the local cuisine with too much home cooking then make sure to research your options before you go out to eat. Tripadvisor is my bible for restaurants. In large cities like Rome where there are over 10,000 food options ranging from take out hole-in-the-walls to Michelin 5* dining; anything in the top 200 is most likely a taste sensation. II Pastaio di Roma, currently Trip Advisor number 127 in Rome served us fresh, flavourful home-made pasta for only four Euros.
Buy from local deal sites – Discount coupon site Groupon.com is now available in nearly 50 countries from Argentina to the USA, and most popular tourist destinations have online daily deal sites. You can sign up to receive emails promoting reduced rates on local attractions, tours and restaurants or even haircuts and beauty if you are in the mood for some pampering. Many cities also provide multi-day passes on major attractions, which you can usually purchase online or in-person from the town’s visitor centre.
Only pack what you can carry – To be honest this is more aspirational, as even after reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and following the KonMari way, I still managed to stuff my suitcase to almost bursting point with clothing I later decided to discard. After the first dozen airports I realised the benefits of mixing and matching outfits, and that I couldn’t partake in my usual shopping excursions as I literately lacked space to put it all. While on the road it surprised us how many people we encountered who are converts to carry on only. Initially this sounded like mission impossible but a quick YouTube scan proves that plenty of people are doing it and not looking back as they pass the queues at the luggage carousel.
Free walking tours – Technically not free as the name suggests, however the concept’s pretty simple. After wandering around a town for several hours listening to a guide describe its history in fascinating detail you pay what you think the tour is worth. Generally I tipped around 10 euros for walking tours in Europe and 15 U.S. dollars for a two hour tour, which is still a bargain compared to the packages other companies offer for essentially the same thing. Google free walking tour plus the applicable town to view the options in your chosen destination.
Free opening hours – Did you know that admission to the Vatican in Rome is free on the last Sunday every month? The New York Museum of Modern Art charges no entry fee from 4-8pm on Fridays? Or that you can visit all U.S. national parks on four public holidays a year at no cost? Before you visit a place investigate if museums or other sites tourists frequent provide discounts on particular days, for certain age groups or are totally free like many iconic London museums and, galleries.
Join Meetup – For those unfamiliar with the concept. meetup.com, is a social networking site where members join local groups related to various interests, and organizers arrange events for people to meet at a specified location in real life. Two years ago I started a meetup group which now has over 1,000 members and held events from pub quizzes and picnics to bar hopping, bowling and unintentionally mountain hiking in the pouring rain. Meetup is an awesome way to meet locals, people new to town or other tourists just passing through. Plus it’s a chance to be immersed in the city’s culture from a local perspective rather than viewed from a tour bus or over-priced guided excursion.
Research accommodation options – I like to save money where I can, however, I know one girl who took budget conscious travelling to the extreme by freedom camping and pitching her tent just about anywhere. While my idea of rough sleeping involves sharing a room in a hostel dorm, the two options above definitely keep accommodation costs to a minimum. If you prefer the comfort of sleeping in an actual house then www.couchsurfing.com is still around, although I advise travellers to read past reviews before confirming with a host. If you are a cycle tourist consider www.warmshowers.org which is specifically for bicycle travellers.
wwoofinternational.org World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or Willing Workers on Organic Farms, known as woofing, is where you receive hospitality in exchange for a few hours cleaning or manual work, usually in a rural area.
The hotel industry no doubt universally despises Airbnb however its presence makes accommodation more competitive. It allows anyone with a spare room or sleep-out to convert it to a cheap guest house or bed and breakfast. While it’s nice to splash out on a hotel, Airbnb’s great if you are strapped for cash or visiting a place without many hotel options.
If soaking in a bubble bath or sipping poolside cocktails appeals to you, a decent a hotel doesn’t always cost a fortune. Popular search sites offering daily specials on various hotels include www.expedia.com, www.orbitz.com and www.booking.com, while www.tripadvisor.com, www.trivago.com and www.kayak.com compare hundreds of booking sites at once. Rather than booking a low-budget dive with reviews that recommend bringing your own disinfectant, I find there are usually one or two hotels in the cheapest price range range with above average reviews.
Research transport options – The transport method providing the best link between two cities or countries often depends on your location and destination. For example, train trips in Italy are reasonably priced and comfortable, Germany and Holland provide excellent cycle tracks, in Thailand and Vietnam buses are the dirt cheap, and in the US sometimes renting a car is less expensive than flying due to low gas prices. Investigate multiple travel modes before making a decision and expect to save some cash.
As an extra bonus tip: don’t ever avoid taking out travel insurance to skimp on money. I had my passport and wallet stolen while travelling, broke a bone in my foot, and heard worse travel horror stories from other travellers.
Hopefully the above advice from my own travel experiences inspire you to start yours, and prove that with a little cost saving in certain areas your dream vacation can cost a lot less than you think.
About The Author: Vanessa is from Wellington, New Zealand, and currently works for an online startup managing marketing and business planning. She has a business degree and masters in human resources, but her real passion is travel. She has visited over 30 countries and recently returned from a five month trip around the world. Vanessa enjoys yoga and taking part in activities to raise money for charities as a volunteer for www.altrusa.org, a community service group. You can connect with Vanessa at https://travel2andfro.com/ and https://www.instagram.com/