“How do you travel so much?” 15 ways to afford long term travel
By far the most frequently asked question I get is, ”How do you travel so much?” Most of the time what they really mean is, “How can you afford to travel so much,” and that’s a great question. I actually spend less money when traveling long-term compared to living in a major city in the U.S. When you factor in things like rent, utilities, car payments, insurance, gas, etc. it really adds up! Here are my top 15 ways to afford long-term travel. Depending on where your destination is you may end up spending less than at home.
1. Take your time
The keyword being long-term travel, trips of 3-12 months are what I will be referring to for this article. When you stay in one location longer not only do you allow yourself to be immersed in the culture but this is how you save money. In this way, you can find a flat or sublet at the local rate for a few months and not have to worry about pricey hotels. The trick is figuring out what the local rates are and finding a sublet or short-term rental. This can be more or less difficult depending on where you are but the best way is to check Facebook marketplace and local Facebook groups for finding house shares or studio apartments. In some places, it's not as easy to find a flat, even as a sublet. In Paris for example, you need to have a french guarantor to essentially co-sign for you and present a letter from your employer, it's not exactly the easiest process as a foreigner. One of my favorite things to do is to travel in the off-season and find an Airbnb I like then contact the owner before making this booking and negotiate a lower rate (more about this below).
2. Learn the local cost of living
This is a must! Assess the cost of living before arriving, websites like nomadlist.com are a great resource. Type in just about any city and you can find out everything you need to know such as the average cost of a 1-bedroom apartment, the internet speed, weather and safety, and much more. Pick a city that you can realistically afford, it may not be your dream destination or somewhere you even considered traveling to but you can save money and open your eyes to a new culture, meet people you otherwise wouldn't have, and possibly fall in love with a new location. I keep my trips to more expensive cities limited to 1-2 weeks and spend months in more affordable locations.
3. Everything in life is negotiable
One of my favorite quotes is by Chester L Karrass, "In business as in life, you don't get what you deserve in life you get what you can negotiate." Once you know the average cost of an apartment you can contact a host on Airbnb and offer a rate comparable to the local rate, this works especially well in the off-season. Once I was able to do this for a two-month stay and also asked to host to provide a desk and chair so that I was able to work.
One of my favorite things to do is to find an Airbnb I like then contact the owner before making the booking. This works best for newer Airbnb listings, ones that are further away from the city center, and when traveling during the off-season.
What you can do is either book it for one night to see if you actually like the space and location then ask to extend long-term or ask for a long stay in advance. The former poses the problem of the space being booked already, even if the host has a later booking for just one night, they may not want to cancel it because if the host cancels on Airbnb they are penalized by having their listing moved to the older pages on Airbnb. Additionally, be aware of local renters' laws and policies. The only two places where I struggled with this method were in Berlin, as they have very strict laws regarding what is a vacation rental and what is a sublet, etc., and in the U.S. as we do not have a very open culture around negotiation. It can be scary if you are not used to it but in fact, in some cultures NOT negotiating makes you look, "Weak." The worst thing that can happen is that they will say no, so just go for it!
4. The off-season is your season
Travel during the off-season and you'll save big on everything from meals, attractions, and accommodations. It may be colder or rainier than the tourist seasons but I'd say that's better than sweating in a long line or enduring mammoth crowds at sunset. Places like Europe are perfect in the so-called “shoulder season” (April through mid-June and September through October). The weather is usually mild, places are less crowded, and you’ll save a lot of cash.
5. House and pet sit
Free accommodation, anywhere in the world, that’s a joke right? Nope, totally possible!
As a house and pet sitter, I have completed 36 house sits in 6 different countries. I was even able to line up my sits consecutively and lived rent-free for 6 months while traveling and seeing the world!
My secret is TrustedHousesitters, a website for travelers to arrange a mutually beneficial agreement where you look after someone's home and pets while they are away on vacation, in exchange for accommodation.
The website has global short and long-term listings and is $129 for an annual membership. If you compare with hotel costs, upon completing just your first night at a house sit you’ve essentially had the membership pay for itself! I’ve been able to visit places I’ve never dreamed of going, travel long-term, live like a local, and meet some really amazing hosts (and pets!).
If you are a responsible animal lover then consider giving Trusted Housesitters a try! Use my referral link for 25% off. Also check out my guide on how to create the perfect house sitting profile, how to give a successful interview, and how to be a great house sitter!
Couchsurfing became a global phenomenon back when it launched in 2008; admittedly it has changed quite drastically in the past few years so you do need to proceed with caution. Read ALL reviews, especially those from women, meet in public, and always have a plan B. That said, I've met some very kind and lovely people from Couchsurfing, the majority of people on the site are ex-travelers and just want to pay it forward by hosting and swap travel stories. If possible it's always nice to bring a gift, offer to cook or take your host out to dinner. It's is not expected but will be appreciated.
7. Seasonal Work
Stack up cash in beautiful locations? Many travelers opt for seasonal work in positions like ski instructor, yacht crew, camp counselor, tour guide, waitstaff and bartenders, cooks, housekeeping, etc. Check out Vagajobs to find open seasonal positions.
8. Homestay Accommodation
Looking for an authentic living experience and low-cost accommodation? A homestay is a perfect solution. With Homestay.com you can find low-cost short and long-term accommodation and a host that will help immerse you into their culture.
Pro-TIP: If you have been looking to get a travel reward credit card, I recommend applying for one before a big trip or purchase. Some of the biggest benefits are earning sign-on points/miles when you first get the card. Plus, many cards offer additional points when making travel-related purchases. Most cards also offer travel protection when you pay for a trip with the card.
Work in exchange for room and board is probably the oldest traveler's trick. Work and live in a hostel in Australia, help build a school in Peru, or become an Au Pair in France. The workload varies greatly depending on the listing it could be as simple as helping around the house to as much as full days on a farm. The returns vary as well, some hosts provide all meals and some only provide breakfast. Some hosts charge a small fee for utilities, others include this-it all depends on the host! Some great places to look for this type of arrangement are Workaway, Worldpackers, and WWOOF.
Pro-Tip: You can book a long layover or multistop flight and get more travel out of your fare
Save money on train or plane tickets, chip in for fuel and meet some awesome people! Bla Bla Car is a popular travel tool throughout the UK and Europe (unfortunately it is not available in the US!). Remember to use the Bla Bla car-specific website for each country you are in i.e. for France use blablacar.fr.
There are a million and one myths and methods to finding cheap flight deals out there. What I know for sure is that your airfare can be one of your biggest travel expenses so it's important to be flexible. How flexible? Mainly when you travel and where you land. (Psst. It's often cheaper to book in a foreign currency.) You can also book a long layover or multistop flight and get more travel out of your fare. Google Flights, Skyscanner, Momondo, and Hopper are my go-to flight search engines. Scott's Cheap Flights is another great resource, they send you a newsletter with the cheapest flights and mistake fares!
12. Get to know your grocery store
It's simply not feasible or even healthy to eat out every day on a long trip. Make sure to plan on cooking some nights and you'll save a ton of money. Something I really enjoy doing is exploring local grocery stores- it's fun to see the differences and similarities to those back home! You can even try out cooking some local dishes or invite some friends over for dinner and make a night of it.
Drinking also eats away at your savings. However, you don't have to go without- a good trick is before a night out set aside a certain amount of cash or money in your checking account. That's your fun money for the night, it's like giving yourself an allowance.
13. Remote work
One good thing to come out of the pandemic is that now it's even easier to find remote work positions. Instead of sifting through job boards where the focus is on-site positions, I've created a list of remote work resources so you can make money from anywhere in the world!
Pro-Tip: Set alerts for your bank account balance. When your balance gets to a certain amount you will get an email or sms notification. You can set as many alerts as you want, $500, $100, $50, $25, etc. This is a great way to keep track of your spending!
14. Skip the lattes
Look, no one loves the dopamine hit of buying a $5 oat milk latte from a pretentious coffee shop more than me but if you are doing that more than once a week it's going to really add up. One year I added up all of the transactions I spent on coffee in the year and it was over $500- that could have been a flight! Add in the lunches, cocktails, impulsive purchases and you're looking at upwards of 3k a year. I'm not saying give up all unnecessary spending but it is worth it to make your own afternoon coffee and pack your lunches at least a few times a week, your wallet and waistline will thank you.
15. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
Ugh, how cliché, I know, but the hands-down best way to save money is to pretty much stay in a hole in the wall. Maybe you stay in a dingy hostel in London for a few days and an upscale apartment in Thailand for 3 months, it's all about balance and flexibility.
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