Tips For Long-Term Budget Travel
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Tips For Long-Term Budget Travel

Long-Term Budget Travel

Many people share the desire to explore the world, and each person does so in their own unique way. Some escape their normal work routine to relax at an all-inclusive resort in Hawaii while others backpack through their local wilderness for the weekend. While shorter vacations like these make up the majority, there are also people who make traveling their full-time job. If you dream about exploring the world for months at a time, here are some tips to get you moving in the right direction:

Get in the Right Mindset

Traveling long-term isn’t an easy thing for most people to wrap their heads around since it involves quitting a steady job to pursue an adventure with little to no financial income. The idea of having less financial stability is uncomfortable, which is why a lot of people who desire to travel long-term never actually make the departure. The “money excuse” is valid to an extent, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty, the cliche saying “money can’t buy happiness” stands strong. If traveling the world is something you constantly think about doing, then put forth the energy and effort to make it happen.

Start a Savings Plan

Once you make the mental commitment, set a goal departure date and start saving. Depending on your lifestyle, this will probably involve some lifestyle changes and serious budgeting. Start by setting a goal amount to save and put away a certain amount of money each month. This will be easier if you cut out unnecessary expenses like eating out, drinking, or shopping for unnecessary things. Adopt frugal habits like cooking at home and shopping at thrift stores; you’ll be surprised by how the dollars start adding up!

Don’t Neglect Debt

Whether it’s college debt or a car loan, you should set aside money to pay these while you’re traveling. Selling your car is always a great option, but don’t forget that it’s possible to manage student loans on the road. In order to keep your credit up, it’s smart to set up auto payments for any bills that you’ll continue to pay on the road.  

Choosing Where to Go

Destinations like India, Thailand, Central America, and Mexico are cheaper to travel in than others, which stretches both your dollar and travel time. Sure, it can be tempting to plan your trip around the most affordable places, but don’t let that become a limiting factor. If you dream of traveling somewhere more expensive, just do it! Depending on how you go about it, seemingly expensive destinations like Australia or Europe can also be affordable for budget travel.

One of the first things you should look into is the country’s current exchange rates because they constantly fluctuate. For example the Australian dollar recently lost a third of its value, making it more affordable than ever for travelers.

Buying a Plane Ticket

This is when the dream becomes reality. You’ve saved and planned for months all for this moment. However, once you’re ready to purchase the plane ticket, don’t jump at the cheapest option on your run-of-the-mill ticket comparison site. Keep in mind that ticket prices change, and a lot of this depends on how often you search a particular route. You can avoid this by researching flights in an incognito window. Start by searching one-way tickets on Hipmunk to find the cheapest day to fly out. Continue to compare ticket prices according to that day, and remember that no search engine consistently has the cheapest price. Thrifty Nomads has a great guide that outlines the process in more detail.

Start Budgeting

Sure, making a travel budget on top of your other travel planning is a time consuming process, but it pays off in the end if you stick to it. Keep these things in mind before jumping in headfirst:

  • Research your destination’s tipping customs and try to tip with the local currency’s cash
  • Include some wiggle room in your budget by allowing for a 10% spending cushion
  • Download a free travel budgeting app like Trail Wallet to keep track of your daily spending
  • Research or book accomodation ahead of time (hostels are usually cheapest)
  • Consider Couchsurfing. It’s a social network that connects you with locals who open up their homes for travelers to stay in.
  • Look into local travel costs (taxis, trains, flights, etc.)

It can be difficult to book your accommodation or tours ahead of time if you aren’t making specific plans for each day. This is perfectly fine, but do take some time to research the local rates and estimate how much you’re going to spend per day. Stick to the budget and travel frugally to avoid running out of money on the road!

Fighting the Desire to Spend

The temptation to buy the first cool souvenir you come across is something you’ll probably experience during your travels. Sometimes local shop owners will diligently harass you into buying something, and it’s honestly difficult to say no. Either way, you need ask yourself whether or not you really need it. Keep in mind that long-term travel typically involves packing one light backpack, so whatever you buy will only add to that weight. Spend very wisely and treasure experiences over material things.

Responsibly Embracing the Unexpected

All this said, there’s a fine line between being responsibly prepared and limiting yourself by over planning. If each day is scheduled in detail, you may miss out on spontaneous travel adventures! It’s common to meet a new, awesome group of people through happenstance and choose to travel with them and stray from your planned route. Embracing the unexpected is part of traveling, so remember to go with the flow and enjoy the ride!

Bree Allen, Travel Writer | May 17, 2016

Bree is an aspiring travel blogger with a passion for exploring music festivals across the United States. Eventually she wants to study herbalism and incorporate that into nutritional counseling after traveling the world.

Follow Bree on twitter @BreeAllen11.

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