How to Afford Travel: Ultimate Guide to Funding Your Trip
How to Afford Travel: Ultimate Guide to Funding Your Trip

How to Afford Travel: Ultimate Guide to Funding Your Trip

Whether you’re planning a six-day, six-month or six-year trip, the thought of ‘how to afford travel?’ will have crossed your mind a serious number of times, and unsurprisingly so.

Having sufficient funds is arguably the most important aspect of any travel plans and can make or break your trip. 

But you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to save enough money before you leave home, nor how you’ll make that money go as far as possible once you’re on the road.

I’ve put together the ultimate guide on how to afford travel; it’s broken down into different sections, each jam-packed with my best tips based on years of budget, long-term travel experience.

I leave no stone unturned as I cover how to cut costs in all aspects of your trip.

A picture of Alan Palazon, the author.
Cascadas el chiflón, Mexico.

How to afford travel? Plan your trip!

It’s not for everyone, but having a plan for your trip will help you to save money.

Knowing beforehand what you want to do and when you want to do it will give you the most amount of time to research your itinerary and find the cheapest options.

This is especially true for bigger expenses such as flights, insurance, travel vaccinations and buying equipment.

Personally, I like to look ahead to have some idea of what I’m going to be doing in the weeks to come and how much money I’m going to need for them. However, I also don’t get wrapped up in planning my travels and spending by leaving room for spontaneity.

A kayak heading down a canal through a forest.

How to afford travel? Have a budget!

You’ll first want to think about your budget when you’re planning your trip at home. The easiest way to do this is to have a target savings total in mind for when you leave and then divide this by the number of days you plan on being away for. This will give you a rough idea of how much you can afford to spend each day.

However, once you’re traveling, you’ll want to update and adjust this daily budget based on how expensive your current location is. This way, you’ll always be able to keep track of your rough spending and have an idea of how long you can afford to continue traveling based on your current expenditure.

How to afford travel? Start saving well before you go!

The sooner you start getting the funds together for your trip, the more money you’ll have to travel. The easy part is that there’s many ways that you can do this; the challenge comes in sticking to your saving plan once you’ve figured it out. But keep reminding yourself of your travel plans, and putting money aside will only become easier.

Put aside savings every month on payday

The first thing to do is calculate how much you need for your current monthly costs at home. So, work out your total monthly expenditure on rent, food, entertainment you simply can’t live without and any other essential costs you might have.

Next, I recommend opening another account with your bank to use as savings. Having a separate account means you’ll be less likely to dip into your travel savings. On that note, I also recommend putting the debit card that’ll come with the new account away and forgetting about it.

Then, come pay day, minus the amount you need for your monthly costs and transfer the rest of your pay cheque into the savings account. Do this on the day you get paid so that you always ‘pay yourself’ first every month.

Speaking of banks, I also highly recommend that you switch to a bank that has good free accounts for people who like to travel. Depending on your country of residence, there are banks that now offer accounts allowing you to withdraw up to a certain amount of money each month from ATMs abroad without any fees.

This is a game changer for travelers as your options were previously to use currency cards or get slammed by ATM fees.

Alan at the summit of Garnedd Ugain. Y Lliwedd is in the background on the far side of the Snowdon horseshoe.
Views from the summit of Garnedd Ugain

Money saving apps

If you prefer to automate your savings, then consider using an auto money saving app that connects to your bank account. Personally, I prefer the manual way of setting up a separate savings account and transferring money myself, but autosaving apps do have their benefits.

There’s a huge market of these apps available now offering a range of features. However, at their core, they are designed to help you track your spending and work out exactly how much money you can save each month, and then transfer this to a savings account for you.

Some of these saving apps can also make investments for you. For example, instead of rounding up a purchase to the nearest pound and depositing the difference into your savings account, the money will be used to buy stocks and shares.

A view of Volcan de Fuego and Volcan Acatenango.

Cut your costs

Now it’s time to figure out how you can bring down that monthly costs total you worked out before. Start by considering the small things that add up to lots of money. How often do you eat out or order a takeaway? And how many subscriptions do you pay for? These are some of the most effective monthly costs to cut and are cuts that everyone can make.

Now what about impulsive buys? Are you someone that sees a pair of shoes they like and then buys them? Well, if so, then cut that to an absolute minimum. Even if it’s only a £10 spend, in some countries that £10 is an extra night in a hostel.

The next cost-cutting tip might not be feasible for some, but can you bring down your rent? This is your largest monthly cost, and so knocking a few pounds off of it will go a long way.

Are you able to move back in with your family until you start your trip. Or do you know someone with a spare room going cheap? Moving can be a hassle and may not be worth it if you’re leaving to travel soon. But if you’ve still got a while, unless your rent is already cheap, then I’d look into cheaper accommodation.

Obviously, you still want to enjoy life, so it’s about cutting costs as much as you can without becoming unhappy.

Two speedboats parked close to the shore at the lagoon in Chacahua.

Work extra hours in your job

My next tip for how to afford travel is to save more money by working extra hours at your job. Let your colleagues and manager know that you’re the go-to person if there’s a shift going.

This does mean that your social life will probably take a hit, but it’ll be worth it when you see those extra £££ in your bank.

Get a second job

Instead of working more hours in your current job, you could get a second one. There are loads of options for picking up a side job, especially thanks to remote working now being a thing.

Working two jobs is tiring, so I recommend looking for an easy earner that isn’t going to burn you out. Cleaning jobs and supermarket shelf stacking come to mind, for example.

It can be a little more mentally taxing, especially after a long day in work, but online English teaching is another option.

These days there are quite a few platforms requiring little to no qualifications or experience to teach conversation-based English classes. The money isn’t great, but you don’t have to do any lesson planning. You just quickly review the material beforehand and turn up to teach. As I said, there are lots of these platforms, but some of the better-known ones are:

You will need a degree for some platforms and/or a TEFL certificate for others. But you can get a TEFL in a few weeks if you put your head down and having one can open more doors to help you make money as a language teacher while traveling, which I’ll get to lower down.

A surfer riding a wave in Chacahua, Mexico.

Start a side hustle

If you don’t fancy becoming an employee at a second company, then you could start a side hustle.

You could work freelance if you’ve already developed a marketable skill to a decent level. This could be:

  • Web design/software development
  • Content/copywriting
  • Photography/videography 
  • Translation/localisation
  • Subtitling

The list goes on…

Look on job sites like Indeed, Simply Hired and LinkedIn for freelance opportunities. Also use any contacts you may have; you never know what a quick message may lead to.

If you’re taking the freelance route, then I recommend spending some time getting your CV ship shape and applying for lower paid, lower competition opportunities to start off with. Higher paying freelance gigs will expect a portfolio of work, and if you don’t have one, you’ll only be wasting your time applying.

A second side-hustle option is to offer a convenient service in your local area. You could clean people’s cars, clear out their garages or walk their dogs, for example. You might even be able to charge for doing food shops for older people.

Pwll Du, one of the beaches on the Gower.

Sell your possessions

Moving on from selling your time and services for money, why not sell some of your possessions? You’ve probably got loads of stuff that you no longer use or want that could fetch you some extra cash. You could sell things individually, or you could do bulk-sale deals to flog your stuff faster. 

Set yourself up with an account on sites like eBay, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace so that you can sell to people near and far.

Another option is to do a garage sale. If you’re going to do this, then I recommend creating some eye-catching posters and sticking them around your local area along with posting on social media about it. Canva is a good design platform that’s easy to use and free for basic designs.

My final suggestion here is that if you have a car, unless you already know that you’re going to need it for when you’re back, then sell it, or at least try and rent it to a friend. Realistically, your car is only going to be sitting there collecting dust otherwise and selling it would add a chunk of money to your travel funds.

A picture of Alan Palazon, the author.
Berlin at night. The famous TV tower can be seen in the background.

How to afford travel? Cut transport costs!

Getting from place to place can use up a lot of your budget if you’re not savvy about the modes of transport you choose. Of course, there’ll be times when you just have to fork out to get where you want to go, but this will be the exception and not the rule if you follow my next tips for how to afford travel.

Fly mindfully

It’s not only the planet that takes a hit when you board a flight, your wallet does too. Flights are the biggest transport costs you’ll have when traveling and, when you think about it, a single flight can cost the same as a hundred bus trips, for example.

It’s for these reasons that I recommend that for your trip, you plan in a way that keeps flying to a minimum. It does mean traveling more slowly and potentially not going to as many countries. But there are many benefits to this.

Firstly, you’ll be more likely to check out places that are off the main backpacker trail and less influenced by tourism. This will give your trip a good balance between the popular places where you’ll get to meet lots of other backpackers, and the places where you’ll get to experience a country’s true culture.

Secondly, the money saved from not buying as many flights will give you more funds for more experiences in the places you go. After all, traveling is about more than just ticking countries off the list.

Snowdon as seen from the summit of Garnedd Ugain.

Take buses

I’ve traveled a lot by bus and stand by it as the second-best mode of transport behind trains. You meet a lot of people, get to see more of a country than flying and it’s cheap.

There are of course some downsides. Buses in developing countries can be dangerous, especially in really poor areas where the vehicles are not well maintained. And yes, you might get charged the foreigners rate for a ticket now and again.

But these potential issues aside, traveling by bus is a brilliant way to help you afford travel and I highly recommend it.

Hitchhike

If you want to avoid transport fees all together, then hitchhiking could be your answer. It’s also a great way to meet local people when traveling and some countries have a real culture for it. I’ve hitchhiked a lot over shorter distances and have always had a good experience.

However, hitchhiking comes with some obvious potential negatives. You have no guarantee that anyone will stop to pick you up and could be waiting hours. And if somebody does stop, you never know the type of person whose car you’re getting into.

This is why it’s really important to use your head when hitchhiking. Don’t do it in areas you’ve been told are dodgy and avoid trying to hitch a ride at night. In these cases, it’s better to pay for transport.

Lily stood on the edge of a lake overlooking a valley.

Avoid taxis whenever possible

Taxis are notorious for overcharging foreigners, so I recommend avoiding them unless you absolutely have to take one. Of course, not all taxi drivers are out to rip you off.

But even still, a taxi fee is always going to be so much higher than a bus. If you do need to travel by taxi, then try and find others who can share it with you to split the cost.

Walk

Your legs are both the cheapest and most reliable form of transport. There’s not really much more to say here, just that the more you walk the more you’ll save and be able to afford to travel.

How to afford travel? Cut accommodation costs!

Almost every destination you go to will have a range of accommodation options varying in price. Whatever accommodation you stay in, look for places out of the touristy zones and always try to book directly to avoid fees from booking sites. I also recommend setting yourself a daily accommodation budget.

Alan stood on a wooden footbridge looking towards Crummock Water. He is on the Scale Force Waterfall walk trail.

Stay in hostels

Hostels are the go-to choice for cutting accommodation costs during travel. Not only are they cheap, but they’re the ideal place to meet like-minded backpackers.

Although hostels are already cheap, there’s a way to make them even cheaper. You can do this by staying at ones that have kitchens for guests and/or include a breakfast in the price.

This way, you’ll at least save the cost of one meal a day. You can also make hostels work even more for your wallet by staying at ones that offer deals for booking for at least a certain number of nights.

Ask for deals for staying more nights

Asking for a deal for staying a few nights is something that you can actually do wherever you stay. You’re less likely to get a deal at a hotel, but no matter your accommodation, asking for a discount rate for staying, say, at least 5 nights will at worst result in a ‘no’.

Sunset on Mont Blanc as seen from Les Arcs, France.
Sunset on Mt Blanc, Chamonix France.

Couch surf

Couch surfing is the ultimate way to cut your accommodation costs and meet locals. The official website is Couchsurfing, where you’ll need to create a friendly and well-written profile to get in touch with hosts and hopefully organise a couch to crash on.

Although hosts aren’t allowed to charge you, Couchsurfing isn’t completely free. There’s an annual membership fee of around $15 and it’s a nice gesture to buy your host chocolates, a bottle of something or to buy the ingredients and offer to cook dinner one night, for example. References go a long way on Couchsurfing as they strengthen your profile making finding the next host easier.

Just like with hitchhiking, you are potentially running a risk by couch surfing at a stranger’s place. Check reviews and always follow your gut. It’s better to pay for accommodation if something feels off.

Alan, the creator of A World Over adventure travel blog.

Discount booking sites

If you do book your accommodation via a website, then I recommend using the following to get the best rates:

Airbnb

Using Airbnb can be a good way to find cheap accommodation if traveling in a group. Even a seemingly expensive place can become cheap when split between a few people. However, as a solo traveler, you’ll probably find that Airbnbs will be a little too pricey.

Camp

My final accommodation tip for how to afford traveling is to camp. Depending on where you go, camping won’t always be free (or possible), but it will definitely be cheaper than staying in a building.

However, camping raises questions around where you’ll shower and cook. But don’t worry, some hostels will charge you a reduced rate to camp on their premises. You’ll get the benefits of regular guests at the hostel, just for cheaper.

Three Cliff Bay, one of the beaches on the Gower.

How to afford travel? Cut food costs!

Food can quickly eat away at your budget if you’re constantly buying your meals out without considering the cost. It’s a tricky travel cost to cut as eating on the cheap can become tiring, but finding the balance between restaurants and alternatives will stretch your money further.

Eat at local restaurants

When you do eat at restaurants, look for spots where locals are eating. This is a good sign that the prices will be friendly. If the restaurant is busy, then it’s also a sign that the food is good.

Ask people who work at your accommodation for recommendations for locally owned restaurants away from the touristy spots. They might know of a few places to check out.

Scale Force Waterfall. The smaller falls are in the foreground and the top of the larger falls are behind.

Look for street food venders

Street food is by far my favourite way to fill my belly with local grub. It’s also a really cheap way of getting a full meal.

Some people frown at the idea of putting food from a street vendor in their body, as they see it as a guaranteed way to get a stomach bug.

I disagree and think that the cost and home-made-food quality benefits outweigh the small chance of getting ill. I’ve eaten a ton of street food on my travels and have never been sick from it.

Eat energy full snacks

When you’re traveling, you almost always have a day bag on you. And in this day bag, it’s always a good idea to have some snacks. Snacks can be the difference between having enough food in your system to wait until you get back to your hostel to cook, or being hungry and having to buy a meal.  

However, not all snacks are created equal. Highly processed snacks with lots of added sugar don’t contain much nutritional value and your body will burn through them quickly. This means that despite having snacks on you, you may still end up having to buy that meal and spend money you didn’t want to.

Therefore, avoid the sugary temptations and try to stick to fruit and nuts etc…It’s a small change that over the course of your travels can save you a decent amount of money.

Sunrays breaking through the clouds over the Langdale Valley.

Reduce your meat intake

Cutting back the amount of meat that you consume is one of my top tips for how to afford traveling. Whether you’re buying ingredients from a shop to cook at your accommodation or eating out, meat options will always be the most expensive.

It doesn’t mean that you have to stop eating meat all together. But setting yourself a ‘meat budget’ will make a big difference to how much you spend on food. For example, your meat budget could be an amount of money that you spend on meat per week, or the number of times you eat it per week.

You’ll also be doing the planet a solid by eating less meat, so it’s a win-win.

How to afford travel? Make money as you travel!

Your savings don’t have to be your only means of affording travel. There are many ways to earn money as you travel, which can make your trip more affordable and even help to extend it.

Find jobs in the places you visit

The most obvious option for earning money while traveling is to travel slowly and find jobs in the places you go. Hospitality is your best bet, as being an industry with high staff turnover means it’ll have the most opportunities for finding short-term work.

You can ask in bars, restaurants and hostels, for example. Farm work is another industry where short-term and piece work can be found.

However, depending on the country you’re in, it can be easier said than done when it comes to finding jobs as a tourist. You’ll have much more chance of finding work in developing countries than in developed ones, where businesses are much more likely to stick by the strict visa laws.

Alan in the foreground looking at Penpych Waterfall in the background.

Teach a language

I mentioned teaching English online earlier in the article as a way of saving extra money for your trip. However, teaching English, or any other native or near-native language that you have as a foreign language, is a really common way to earn some money while traveling too.

You can look for shorter-term teaching jobs in language schools. Depending on its needs, a school may hire you pretty quickly if you just walk in and ask for a teaching job, and can show them a teaching qualification for the language you want to teach.

And, of course, aside from teaching in person, you can teach languages online, which leads me nicely to my next point.

Work remotely

Whether it’s teaching a language online or any other form of online-based work, in my opinion, becoming a digital nomad is the most ideal way to afford travel.

It means that, along with the money that you saved at home before starting your trip, you’ll have a consistent income after you leave your full-time job. This way, depending on your budget and how expensive the places you visit are, you may not even need to use your savings.

But as with all great things, remote working does have its downsides.

Firstly, it does mean that you’ll also be working and not just traveling. There will be days when you’ll have to say no to cool experiences because of this. Secondly, working remotely requires a lot of self-motivation, especially on days when you’re running on just a couple of hours’ sleep because of some snoring guy in your dorm. Thirdly, you’ll have to plan your travels a little more than you otherwise would, as you need to make sure that on your workdays, you have access to good internet connection.

However, for me, those downsides are just things you need to work with rather than negatives. I strongly feel that the long-term-travel affordability and work benefits of being a digital nomad make it worthwhile.

Make things to sell

This tip for making your travels more affordable is great for the creatives out there and what you can sell will depend on your skills.

You could create and sell physical products such as jewellery and wooden items, for example. You could make things like earrings and bracelets using stones and shells that you find, or you could carve small necklaces, pendants or figures from wood. Carrying the materials and tools for these examples shouldn’t add too much weight to your backpack either.

Like with remote working, the internet also opened the door to online opportunities to sell digital products.

For example, as a:

  •  Photographer, you can sell images taken on our travels and presets for editing
  •   Writer, you can sell poetry, short stories and guides to essay writing
  •   Graphic designer you can create and sell all sorts of designs and graphics
  •   Software developer you can create apps to sell

The list goes on and on and on and on…

How to afford travel? Do work exchange!

Instead of earning money, you could work in exchange for accommodation and meals. This is a great way to make travel more affordable, especially if you’re someone who likes to stay in places for more than a few days.

To find work exchange opportunities, you’ll need to create a profile for a work exchange platform(s) paying a fee. Several exist, but the best the best-known ones are:

  • workaway – the most well-known site, great for all kinds of work exchange
  • WWOOF  – the site for farm work exchange
  • HelpX  – good for farm and hostel work exchange

As I said before for Couchsurfing, your profile will need to be well-written. You’ll need to include information about who you are, what you’re looking for and what you can offer. Also make sure to have a friendly profile picture.

Then you can look in the host directory for work exchanges that interest you and message them. I recommend sending a short and sweet, yet polite message introducing yourself and explaining why you’re interested and how you can help. If the conversation goes well, you and the host will then arrange your stay.

There’s also the option to try and sort out a work exchange in person after you’ve arrived somewhere. For example, you can ask in hostels or at farms whether they need a hand.

Alan stood in front of Scale Force Waterfall.

How to afford travel? Choose cost-friendly activities!

The activities that you choose to do on your trip will play a large part in deciding how affordable your travels are. While some activities may be fun, too much of a good thing can burn a hole in your budget.

Also, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone to try something new, especially if it’s an activity that sticks within your budget.

Limit partying

Partying is the number one travel budget buster and you’ll quickly drink away your funds if it’s your main activity. Of course, you are your own boss and you can party as much or little as you want. But if you want my advice, then one of my absolute top tips for how to afford travel is to keep partying to a minimum.

Besides, there are many cool things you can do in the places you visit, which if you’re partying all the time, you’ll probably feel too hungover to want to experience.

Penpych waterfall seen from higher ground. There are trees in the foreground.

Look at your options for paid activities before paying

If you’re doing a paid-for activity—maybe you’re going on a guided hike or renting scooters for a day trip, for example—then try and find different options for booking before paying. It could be that the tour guide business down the road offers a better rate for the same experience than the first tour guide you checked.

You can ask other travers if they’ve done the same activity and where they booked. And you can also ask locals if they know which place is best to book.

When searching for the best price, have a look at reviews. Try to find recent reviews online, or better yet speak with people who’ve already done the activity. Make sure to ask them if they’d recommend the company they booked with.

Reviews are important because a cheap rate can sometimes mean faulty equipment or low-quality guides, for example. And you don’t want to put your safety at risk to save a little bit of cash.

Choose cheaper activities

Some activities are just better for your budget, simple as. These include things like hiking, swimming at the beach/in waterfalls, going for a walk around your current location to check it out, free concerts and events put on by your hostel.

Yes, you’ll likely have to pay entrance fees for cool places like national parks and waterfalls, but these should be within even smaller budgets.

You could also have a system where every so often, or so many paid-for activities, you only find free things to do to balance out paying money for experiences.

Alan standing on a rock overlooking Llyn Llydaw at the Snowdon horseshoe.

More travel advice on A World Over

I hope this ultimate guide on how to afford travel has given you a good idea of your financial plan of attack for your trip. The guide is a growing list and I’ll keep adding to it as I think of and experience more ways for you to make your travels more affordable.

If you’re thinking abut setting off on a trip, then read my guides on the advantages and disadvantages of travel and how to prepare for travel. And if you want more travel advice and destination recommendations, then head to the A World Over blog.

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