Psst…I spent less than $7,000 traveling through Central and South America for 5 months not working (and it so could’ve been cheaper). Seven grand may sound like a lot. But think of it this way… I have made around $20,000 annually for the past few years working in the restaurant industry. I was able to pay my rent and bills but *used to* have nothing else to show for it. Where did all that money outside of bills go? If you start crunching the numbers, budget travel is certainly possible, and here’s how.
If you want to go see the world, you’ve got to quit spending $20 frivolously at the bar, Target, take-out, etc. Struggle through with Netflix. It’s worth it.
Where does that money outside of bills go? Write out your monthly bills and see what extra can be put in your new savings account for the big trip.
What area of the world are you going to? How much is accommodation and food for the day? The internet is an extension of your hand. Use it!!! I created a $30 / day spending budget for my trip via my information from the internet and travel blogs. They are the best resource you could ask for – by traveler for traveler. Check out WikiTravel, Lonely Planet, and Nomadic Matt.
Yes, I’m saying stay in hostels. Hostels are not scary, sometimes dirty, generally awesome places to meet people from all over the world who have traveled the globe and somehow you are now part of their path. I never spent more than $15 / night in various hostels (of various qualities). Most times it was less than $10.
I never used it but have heard nothing but the best things. I intend on being a host when I’m grounded again!
Take the cheap, local bus. Use the budget airlines like Spirit. I traveled through all of Latin America by bus… even El Salvador and Colombia. Everyone takes the bus. And they know where to point the “gringas.”
Flights in and out of a foreign country are your biggest expense. Although one-way is logistically simpler, round trip tickets will save you money. I use Skyscanner.com, Kayak.com, and Studentuniverse.com (no you don’t have to be a student). Make sure your dates are as flexible as they can be. Mid day Tuesdays seem to be the best bet. It helps to be slightly flexible with where you’re going too. It may be significantly cheaper to fly into one place and bus to the next. (Ex: It costs almost double to fly to Belize versus Cancun when it’s a 8 hour bus ride away.)
My first trip I wanted to go everywhere, and, well, I did. But I missed some great places in order to travel greater distances. You can stay in one place for a lot longer and spend less money than you can bouncing around from country to country.
Many places you can see by taking a local bus. A lot of times, you don’t need a guide or a private ride. You can do it all by yourself and save tons in the process.
I spent over $200 on ATM fees over the course of my trip. Not cool. Also, check out a good rewards credit card without international fees. I love my Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
Not only does this give you flexibility, it can also save you major dollars. For example, we took an Amazon tour while in Peru but waited until we were there to shop around. Others on our exact same tour booked online and paid, literally, double. Relax, and let the road decide…
If you’re leaving English speaking territory, learn a little of the dominant language. How do you know you aren’t getting ripped off if you don’t know the numbers?
Being an English speaker is a hot commodity. There are many jobs out there for you just because you speak English! There are also tons of work exchange options all over the world. I highly recommend Workaway.info. The site has everything from farms to hostels to housekeeping. Work for 20ish hours / week, free board. Sometimes free food too; rewards and conditions vary.
I come from relatively low income and have student loan debt. I figured it out. If you want to travel, go!
Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below!