In this post, I’m about to show you exactly how easy it is to travel the world when you’re a poor young adult.
In order to make travel happen on a meager salary, you’ll need a combination of the five things listed below:
1. A Smart Budget
2. Cheap Travel Tricks (say this ten times fast)
3. Travel Hacking Skills
4. The Guts To Get on a Plane
5. A Remote Job
I’m going to take you through each of these steps one-by-one to show you how easy it can be to get on a plane and travel the world.
1. A Smart Budget
Yikes.. a budget? But you’re young and fun and you don’t want to set a budget for your shenanigans.
Perhaps you think a budget will never work based on your skimpy salary. Or perhaps you don’t even know how to create a budget.
I had the same mindset when I was in my early twenties. Setting a budget was the furthest thing from my mind. Unfortunately, that didn’t work well with my desire to travel the world. Luckily, the budget system I have constructed is simple, young, and hip, too.
The secret to this budget is to face your spending habits. If you don’t know where your money is going, you’ll never be able to put any into savings.
Define your budget day. This is the day of each month that you will go through all of your finances to see where your money is going, how much you have been spending, and how much you can cut from each category.
Open all of your bank and credit card statements for the past month. You’ll divide your spending into categories (example: groceries, personal care, eating out, entertainment, etc). Read through the statements and place each transaction amount into the specific category. I recommend doing this on an Excel spreadsheet.
Don’t forget to add those pennies because they add up quickly!
Once you have written down all of your transaction amounts for the past month, you will get a grand total for each category. Seeing these total values might surprise you, delight you, or anger you. I know it was the latter for me!
It’s time to set your budget.
Now that you know where your money is going, you can start to decide which categories you can cut back on.
For me, spending money on eating out and groceries seemed to be our highest bills. We decided to cut back on each of these categories, start making grocery lists, and cook for ourselves more. It was easy to set a budget for each individual category and stick to it.
You can do this for every category and decide how much you are willing to cut from each. Once you are aware of your spending, budgeting becomes so much easier.
With this budgeting system, we are able to save over $500 extra each month. This allows us to travel more and worry less about money.
2. Cheap Travel Tricks
After years and years of constant travel, I have learned the ins and outs of traveling on a budget.
Traveling on a budget doesn’t have to mean you are sleeping in a roach-infested motel every night. In fact, traveling on a budget can actually be quite luxurious if you know what you’re doing.
Here are a few of my favorite accommodation, airfare, and entertainment options for traveling the world on a tight budget:
These are the best accommodation options for budget travelers. Some of these options are completely free while others are much cheaper than your average hotel.
Hostels are awesome. They are a great way to meet like-minded travelers and save loads of money.
Prices for staying in a hostel can range from $3/night in places like Prague, Budapest, or Chiang Mai to $35-50/night in places like Paris, London, and Sydney.
The best place to find hostels is on Hostelworld. Pay attention to each of the hostel’s ratings on this website to find the one that meets your needs and standards.
Another alternative option to staying in hotels is renting a room, apartment, or home through Airbnb.
If you haven’t signed up for Airbnb, use this link and get yourself $40 dollars off your first stay.
Airbnbs can range in price from $3/night to over $5,000/night depending on your budget. They’ve got something for everyone in just about every location in the world.
Couchsurfing is a way to connect with locals and sleep on their couch or extra bed FOR FREE. You’ll have access to their bathroom, kitchen, etc. and your host is sure to give the best tips for visiting the city you’re in.
I’m sure most of you are immediately intimidated by Couchsurfing. It may sound dangerous to stay on a stranger’s couch but take it from someone who has couchsurfed all around the world.. it is awesome!
I only stay with hosts that have recommendations from other couchsurfers and are verifiably safe based on their profile.
I would never stay with anyone that didn’t have any reviews and seemed sketchy. Personally, I’ve never had a bad experience with Couchsurfing and I have taken advantage of this option in over 10 countries.
To see for yourself, sign up for a Couchsurfing account and take a look around the website.
If you’re outdoorsy, this is an awesome way to save a TON of money on accommodation while traveling. I have camped in Norway, Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand, and Thailand and have enjoyed it every time.
The campsites we stayed at in Europe were no more than $15/night ($5/person when split between three people). In New Zealand, most of the campsites we visited were FREE. These cheap camping prices can be found all over the world.
Pack your own camping gear in your backpack (unless you’re in Thailand – they provided camping gear for us at the campground) and enjoy what the world has to offer right outside your tent door.
Pro-tip: Use the app, CamperMate to find the best campsites all over New Zealand and Australia. This app will show you free, primitive, and luxurious campgrounds depending on your preference.
Housesitting has got to be the sweetest deal yet! If you’ve never heard of this, housesitting is when you care for another person’s home while they are away. In return, you get a free place to stay.
Housesitting jobs can be found worldwide in some of the most beautiful locations. Instead of paying $200+ per night in a place like Norway or France, think about finding a housesitting gig in the area. This will surely save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars
The three best housesitting websites I recommend are:
TrustedHouseSitters – this is the largest housesitting website and is geared toward housesits in North America, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and everywhere in between.
Kiwi House Sitters – Kiwi House Sitters focuses on New Zealand homes, so if you’re looking to travel here, I recommend this site.
Aussie House Sitters– the sister site to Kiwi House Sitters, Aussie House Sitters focuses on homes in Australia. If you’re traveling to Australia, I recommend using this site.
WWOOF stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms.
Basically this movement brings willing workers to organic farms all over the world. In exchange for part-time work, the farm will provide room and board. There is no monetary exchange with WWOOFing, just the opportunity to live, work, and travel to another part of the world.
Sleeping Bag & Hammock Accommodation
In some hostels around the world, they offer awesome deals for travelers who bring their own sleeping bags.
Since the hostel doesn’t have to wash and replace the sheets, they only charge a fraction of the price.
Hammock accommodation can also be an option. This is quite common in Iceland, although not every hostel will have this option. Check their website for any kind of deal or message them on Facebook for further details.
Some helpful links for finding sleeping bag accommodation:
Hotels typically aren’t my first choice for accommodation because they tend to be more expensive. But believe it or not, hotels can be cheap depending on where in the world you are traveling.
Although hotels will cost you a pretty penny in places like Paris, London, and New York, this doesn’t hold true for hotels in Southeast Asia. Finding four or five-star hotels in Bangkok, Bali, and Siem Reap for $20 a night is not uncommon. Split that cost between two travelers and you’ve got yourself a great deal.
Pro-tip: If you decide to stay in a hotel, book your room through RocketMiles.com. You’ll earn frequent flyer miles to your airline of choice for using their portal.
Restaurant tabs can add up quickly. In fact, eating out can be one of the most expensive parts of your trip. Luckily, there are ways to save money on food throughout your travels.
Cook For Yourself
An easy way to save money is by cooking your own food. Every city will have a grocery store. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to find ingredients and put together a simple (or fancy) dinner. Almost every Airbnb and hostel will have a kitchen, fully-equipped for you to make your own meals.
Cooking for ourselves has saved us hundreds of dollars while traveling. In order to get the cultural experience that comes with local cuisine, we still leave a bit of room in our budget to enjoy a meal or two at a popular restaurant.
Eat Street Food
Street food can be found around the world and is unique to each country, whether it’s oliebollen in the Netherlands, crocchè in Italy, or hot dogs in Denmark. Not only is street food a taste of local cuisine, but it is undoubtedly much cheaper than any sit-down restaurant.
The prices of flights turn most people away from traveling, especially international airfare.
Mike and I have mastered the art of booking the cheapest flights around the world. Here are a few of our favorite tips for buying dirt cheap airline tickets:
Earn Free Flights Around The World
Our absolute favorite trick for scoring cheap flights.. TRAVEL HACKING!
Mike and I just purchased roundtrip tickets to Kauai, Thailand, and Bali for just the taxes and fees. If we would’ve paid full price for all of these flights, we would’ve spent over $3,800. Instead, we were able to spend mere pennies on these flights.
We think this is a skill that everyone should learn and we outline all of the details of travel hacking in this blog post:
Use The Best Search Engine
When travel hacking isn’t an option, we use our favorite travel aggregator, Skyscanner, to find the cheapest flight options. Understanding the ins and outs of the Skyscanner website is extremely important; we have used our Skyscanner tricks to book ridiculously cheap flights. You can read about these tricks here:
Use Discount Airlines
Discount airlines are not really a thing in the United States but they are definitely an option everywhere else in the world.
Finding flights as cheap as $5 within Europe and Asia is totally possible.
Here are a few discount airlines we have used in the past:
New Zealand & Australia: Jetstar
Trains are a major asset to budget travelers. Overnight and cross country train tickets can be purchased for as little as $3! Train systems are found all over the world, simply Google the country you’re visiting followed by “train system”.
One of the most famous train systems in the world is Eurail, which spans more than 26 European countries. This train system is easy to use and has great deals for travelers, whether you’re visiting one country or twenty. Visit the Eurail website for more information on passes and prices.
Getting Around A City
Want to know what’s expensive? Taking cab rides around a pricey city.. The best way to save money on travel around a city can be found below:
Public transportation is by far the cheapest way to get around a city. I’ve learned quickly that if the locals are doing it, it is probably relatively affordable.
Subways, trains, buses, and light-rails are the best option for traveling on a budget. Figuring out and using public transportation is a fun and exciting adventure in any city, but it can also be stressful.
My advice is to research the city’s public transportation options ahead of time. Many modes of public transportation will also offer cell phone apps and maps, which can help you understand the system better.
Some cities, towns, or villages, are small enough to walk around. These are the BEST cities. Take advantage of the smaller cities and walk when you can. It’ll save you money, give you exercise, and show you places in the city you might not have thought to explore.
Another way to get around a city, big or small, is by bike. Amsterdam is a city governed by bikers. Barcelona also has bike tours and bikes for hire. You can typically rent a bicycle for around €5-10 per day depending on location.
Carpooling is also a cost-effective way to get from one destination to another. Sharing the cost of a trip between three people is always cheaper than driving alone.
The best website for carpooling and ride-sharing is BlaBlaCar.
In some countries, hitchhiking is a common way to get around. I’ve successfully hitchhiked in Iceland and Germany, but be sure to research the implications of hitchhiking in the country of your choice. Some countries advise against it due to safety or laws.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that being a tourist WILL require some money. But that doesn’t mean prices should control your agenda. These are the best ways to save money while still getting the most out of every trip:
Alcohol costs money.. a lot of money and there’s no escaping it.
Overall, the easiest way to save money while traveling is by not drinking.
Buying a beer in Norway costs around €10-15 per pint. So either participate in a lot of happy hour deals, buy your liquor from the convenience store, or skip it entirely. Save your money and use it on something you will remember (literally).
Find Free Activities
Finding free activities while traveling is as awesome as it sounds. They’re FREE. There are so many things to do that are free, you just won’t discover them until you do a little research.
One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to take walking tours. Almost every walking tour is free (they work off tips, so be sure to tip them a few dollars) and you will get to see so much of a city and truly learn about its history. Walking tours also help you decide which attractions are worth spending money on later.
Another activity that I spend A LOT of time doing is hiking. A lot of major cities won’t have hiking trails (but some do!) but smaller towns outside of cities will. Our cheapest activity in Switzerland was hiking; it was also the best thing we did.
Meet Some Locals
With websites like MeetUp and CouchSurfing, it’s easy to meet up with locals, share stories, and tag along with them while they show you their city. Not the tourist version of the city, but the behind-the-scenes locals-only version of the city. I guarantee they will know hundreds of things to do that will cost you little or no money.
Surprisingly, Couchsurfing isn’t just for sleeping accommodations. I met so many people through couchsurfing just by selecting the option, “Wants to Meet Up”.
Purchase Tickets Online Ahead of Time
If you plan to visit a popular tourist attraction, check online for cheaper prices. There have been many times where I have saved a big chunk of change by booking it online. Some even let you skip the line!
Travel Throughout Southeast Asia
If you’re looking for dirt cheap travel, your answer is Southeast Asia. It is a mecca for budget travelers. I never spent more than $3 USD on a delicious meal and accommodations were very affordable.
Consider Southeast Asia for your next travel destination if you want to stick to a tight budget.
3. Travel Hacking Skills
Our secret weapon when it comes to traveling for cheap is travel hacking. We’ve acquired these skills over time through research, trial, and error. Travel hacking has helped us purchase flights around the world for FREE (or sometimes just the taxes and fees).
The key to travel hacking and earning free flights is skymiles, skymiles, and more skymiles.
We have learned how to stockpile skymiles several different ways. With all of our earned skymiles, we have been able to book roundtrip flights to Kauai, Thailand, and Bali within the past year. Not to mention the countless hotels we have stayed at using these points, too.
4. The Guts To Get On A Plane
There are thousands of excuses for why someone “can’t” travel.
“I don’t have the money.”
“I can’t take the time off work.”
The truth is that many people don’t travel because they are afraid. Traveling to an unknown country can be scary. I know I was very intimidated the first time I went abroad.
Even though traveling can be a jump into the unknown, it is worth it. Every single time.
5. A Remote Job
Working remotely is not necessary to travel the world, however, it has helped us stay on the road longer. If you’re thinking about a transition into the digital nomad-travel lifestyle, remote work is the way to go.
Personally, we use our blog as a source of remote income, as well as teaching English online. Take a look at a few blog posts I’ve written about remote work and where to find it:
Want To Be A Travel Blogger?
If you’re curious how we’ve been able to transform our hobby blog into a 6-figure business that allows us to travel the world, grab our free guide where we share the 6 important steps we took to make it happen.
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The Wrap-Up: How to Travel the World When You’re a Poor Young Adult
We’ve learned through years of exploring that travel doesn’t have to be expensive. With a smart budgeting system, cheap travel tricks, travel hacking skills, a remote job, and the guts to get on a plane, anyone has the power to travel the world.
Use these tips to get out there and do the things you want to do. You won’t regret it!
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