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How I Afford to Travel So Much (And How You Can Too!)

How I Afford to Travel

My tips and tricks so you can live a life of travel.

I’m not a full time traveller. I don’t travel for business. I haven’t won the lottery, and I don’t have a rich family. I’m an average girl who loves to jet set as often as possible. For 12 years, I worked at a full time job in the television industry. Once I figured out how to travel more often, I incorporated at least 6-12 weeks of travel into my life, even with a full time job. You might be wondering how I afford to travel so much. How do I save for it, and how do I pay for it? How do I get the time off work? Let me share all of my tips and tricks with you!

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Prague, Czech Republic. How I afford to travel more often.

Saving Money to Live a Life of Travel

Traveling more starts with saving money that you already have. This can be a lot more difficult than it sounds. We all end up having unexpected expenses, bills to pay, and those little things that add up to big expenditures. By saving funds in your everyday life when you can, you’ll have more money to see the world. If you’re interested in how I afford to travel as much as I do, my first piece of advice always starts with cutting the costs of things that you won’t really miss.

On the Charles Bridge in the early morning. Prague, Czech Republic.

Working a Full Time Job

Though there are many people who live as digital nomads on the road, I work a full time job for most of the year at home. While this doesn’t allow me to travel nearly as often, I prefer this type of lifestyle. Living in one place for most of the time lets me stay close to family and friends, be a mother to two cats, and Justin and I have our own lovely apartment. It also provides a stable life that I enjoy, which includes sleeping in my own bed. I enjoy the lifestyle of the part-time traveler.

Back when I worked in the TV industry, I was able to book off anywhere from 6-12 weeks a year. In the beginning, I worked as a freelancer. This allowed me to book off time whenever I wanted, even if it meant not getting paid while I was away. I had to budget for this loss of wages, in addition to the travel expenses. Then, when I was hired full time, I was able to bank a lot of hours by working overtime. Nowadays, I work as a full time travel blogger, which comes with its own unique set of challenges. For the average person working full time, see if there’s any flexibility in the amount of vacation time you take, or perhaps you can work some overtime hours for extra holidays.

Have a Separate Travel Savings Account

Open up a separate travel savings account, just to save money for your vacations. You can decide to put a set amount of money in there every week or every time you get paid. I put $100 in there every two weeks. I barely notice this amount being deducted and it adds up fast. Soon enough, you’ll have thousands of dollars sitting there and you can splurge on the trip of your dreams.

Glencoe, Scotland. How we afford to travel.

Save Your Coins

Whenever I use cash, I save all of my Toonies in a coin jar (for those who aren’t familiar, these are our $2 coins in Canada). Over time, I manage to save hundreds of dollars without even noticing it. This turns into my spending money for my next trip.

Cut Out Things You Don’t Need

While there are some things in life that you can’t live without, there might be other things that you don’t really need. Just ask yourself, “Would I rather be travelling than have this?”. One thing that I have eliminated from my life each month is my cable TV subscription. This saves us about $1800 per year, which is more than enough to fly us somewhere fabulous. Instead, we watch Netflix, shows online, or simply watch less TV. I also find that I don’t need to buy all of the latest gadgets or technology, unless it’s useful for blogging or travel. Another way that I save money is by not purchasing new clothes or shoes every month. While I enjoy dressing fashionably, I wear some of the same outfits for years until they become tattered or completely worn out.

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, Iceland

Don’t Drink Your Money Away

Going to the bar or pub every weekend will surely drain your savings account. I don’t really drink that often (I would much rather be drinking coffee than alcohol, but that’s a whole other matter…), so this one isn’t a big issue for me. I know some people that drink at the pub every weekend and they’re constantly broke. If you can’t give up drinking completely, it’s cheaper to buy alcohol at the store than at the bar. Also, a bottle of wine isn’t all that expensive if your tastes aren’t too refined.

Don’t Splurge at Salons

Getting your nails and hair done at the salon is expensive. I purposefully have my hair dyed ombré because it requires minimal maintenance and grows out naturally. I rarely get my nails done at salons either. Sometimes there are great sales to be found on group deal sites if you’re looking to treat yourself to a spa day. Or save money and do your nails at home!

Drive a Hybrid Car…or Ditch the Car Completely

I need a car to get to work as there are no public transit options that would take me there. A few years ago, I bought a Toyota Prius hybrid car for both environmental reasons and to offset the high costs of gas. I love my hybrid car. It has saved me so much money over the years, it’s been super reliable, and I was kept very safe once in a car accident. It’s also amazing for summer road trips – we save so much money taking my hybrid car on the road!

Top of Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka

I Don’t Own a House

Justin and I rent an apartment together. Renting just outside of Toronto isn’t the cheapest place in the world, but it’s way cheaper than owning a house. We don’t have any unexpected costs due to fixtures breaking down or things needing to be renovated. I have more free time because I don’t need to shovel snow or mow the lawn. And when we decide to travel for a few weeks, it’s very easy to pack up and go without any worries. Our apartment is decorated exactly as we like it, and I’m able to keep a small vegetable garden on the balcony in the summer. We don’t own that many belongings, and we don’t need any more space than we already have. If one of your dreams is to own a house, I think you should go for it. However, this is my ideal situation at this time.

How to Travel the World on a Budget

Rent Apartments When You Travel

Renting apartments when traveling - in Venice, Italy

I always recommend renting apartments, whether it’s a vacation rental or from Airbnb (get a $50 credit if you’re new to Airbnb by clicking here). We adored renting apartments throughout Italy. It’s often cheaper than a hotel, plus you get an entire place of your own that has its own character. Make sure you rent an apartment that has a kitchen so you can cook your own meals.

Be sure that the apartment comes with free Wi-Fi to cut down on any roaming charges or high cell phone bills. We also love renting a Teppy from Tep Wireless when we travel to ensure that we have Wi-Fi wherever we go. It’s fabulous for getting around town and staying connected, no matter what. Choose an apartment that’s situated in a charming neighborhood, so you can live like a local when you’re travelling abroad.

When it comes to accommodations, some people swear by house-sitting or couchsurfing. I haven’t tried either, but some travellers have great success at both of these options.

Rack Up Points with the Capital One Aspire Travel Mastercard

I started using the Capital One Aspire Travel World Elite MasterCard last year, and I can’t stop recommending it to all of my family and friends. It’s the best credit card that I’ve ever owned. I used to get so tired of Canadians not receiving the same advantages that our friends to the south could get from travel reward programs. I charge almost everything that I buy to this credit card. For every dollar I spend, I receive 2 reward miles. There are premium benefits, such as travel emergency medical insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and World Elite Mastercard concierge services. For new cardholders, you’ll receive a bonus of 40,000 miles, equivalent to $400 in travel once you spend $1000 on purchases within the first three months of signing up. The card has an annual fee, but it quickly pays for itself.

Redeeming miles is a very easy process. Purchase your travel, log into your Capital One account, and click the redeem button for the full or partial amount of the charge. Then, your account will be credited accordingly. Easy peasy.

I’ve signed up to so many travel reward programs over the years, and usually these points sit in my account for such a long time and I’m never able to redeem them for anything worthwhile. With this credit card, I’m able to easily redeem points for travel all the time.

Free or Cheap Activities

Renting bikes while we travel - How I afford to travel so much and you can too!

Once you reach your destination, there are plenty of free or cheap activities to try that are just as fun as the more expensive ones. One of my favourite things to do when I travel somewhere is simply walk around, snap photos, and take in the sights. There are also many free city walking tours that you can easily find by doing a little bit of research ahead of time.

Another cheap or free activity is to explore a city by bicycle. We once stayed at a hotel that offered free bicycles for guests to use. Justin and I also rented bikes in Lucca, and we were able to ride through town and the park that surrounded the city walls.

Many outdoor activities are low cost or free, such as hiking, swimming, sunbathing on the beach, watching the sunset, or snorkeling if you have your own gear. Some museums are free or have an evening where they let guests in for free. And many cities have outdoor festivals that are free to attend. There are also social networking sites like Meetup where you can attend themed events and meet like-minded locals for free.

Use Skyscanner to Find Cheap Flights

I always use Skyscanner to find the lowest rates for flights. This site searches through hundreds of flight websites and finds the best deals. It’s easy to spot which days are cheaper to fly, and I’m able to plan accordingly. In addition, I always make sure to check the airline website. Sometimes the cheapest deal can be found on the airline website, especially if there’s a seat sale.

Staycations

Niagara Falls in the winter - How I afford to travel so much

When I’m not able to travel for extended amounts of time, there’s always something new to explore close to home. At home in Ontario, there are always different activities and places that I’ve never visited before. When Justin and I first started dating, we would often spend the day in a neighborhood in Toronto that we’d both never explored before. This past year, we were in awe of a frozen Niagara Falls during the winter, went kayaking in the 1000 Islands, tried stand up paddleboarding for the first time, had a treetop trekking adventure in Collingwood, and stayed overnight in a glamping tent. Those adventures weren’t far from home, and they were all exciting and memorable experiences.

How to Travel All the Time Without Missing Out

This might seem like a huge contradiction to this article, but hear me out. It’s one thing to cut back in order to save for travel, but don’t deprive yourself of other things that you really enjoy.

Maintaining a Balance

I think it’s important to strike a balance in life. While I love to travel, I also love other things, too. I enjoy spending time with friends and family, so it’s really fun to go out for dinner with them. We also stay in sometimes and play board games or have pot luck dinners, though it’s really enjoyable to have a quality meal at a great restaurant. And of course, I love reviewing restaurants on the blog for all of the yummy vegan food that I find!

Cooking Meals at Home

I try to cook my own meals when I’m home, but sometimes it can be very time consuming on days that I work. I try to prepare meals that can serve as leftovers while I’m working. When I’m not able to cook, I’ll buy healthy meals from a local grocery store’s salad bar or a tofu noodle dish from a fast food place. Even though I love cooking, sometimes I’m not able to find the time and I try not to beat myself up about that.

Vegan menu at Beertown in Burlington Ontario

On this note, going vegan is significantly cheaper than consuming an omnivorous diet. The more expensive items at the grocery store tend to be meat and cheese, while dry beans, rice, potatoes, pasta, and vegetables tend to be cheaper. I tend to spend more money on groceries than the average vegan because I prefer to buy organic, local, and non-GMO products. I prefer to pay a little bit more for a quality product that’s better for me, better for the local economy, and doesn’t cause harm to the planet.

Yes, I Still Buy Coffee

I’m also a self-proclaimed coffee addict. When I’m at home, I brew my own coffee with my Ninja Coffee Bar (it makes coffee one cup at a time, pots of coffee, iced coffee, stronger brews, lattes, and more!). However, when I’m out for the day, I’ll buy coffee at a local cafe. I don’t always spend more money on the premium lattes and cappuccinos, but I do sometimes. I will treat myself to one of these drinks from time to time. And you should, too!

Drinking coffee in Florence, Italy

With that said, even cutting back a little bit can help, like buying a regular coffee instead of a fancy latte. If you stop buying coffee completely while you’re out, I bet you will save a ton of money. And you have way more willpower than me, so I admire you for it. Here are some inventive ways you can brew coffee while you’re traveling to save even more money.

Always Get Travel Insurance

Here’s something you don’t want to skip: travel insurance! It’s always possible that the unthinkable can happen on the road: you can get sick, injured, or need to return home sooner than expected. Thankfully, you can compare travel insurance quotes online quickly and easily to find the most affordable rates.

At the top of the mountains in St. Gilgen, Austria.

Now that I’ve shared my tips about how I afford to travel the world, what about you? I’m sure I’m not the only one with ideas about how to afford to travel all the time. What’s the best tip or trick that you have to share? Do you enjoy a particular activity that’s low cost or free? Do you enjoy saving money as you travel, or do you cut back on things in your daily life to save up for that special vacation?

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What changes have you made to travel more often?

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Kristen @ One Bag Nomad

Friday 11th of January 2019

This article is so spot on and entirely relevant! These are the perfect lifestyle and mindset tweaks to make traveling more a reality. At the end of the day, I think the biggest difference is priority -- if traveling more is your priority, all those other things (like buying a big house or eating out all the time) become less appealing. When my partner and I decided to start traveling full time, we put all our efforts (and money) toward doing just that. At first, it meant doing things like you said -- even avoiding pricey salons...I'm now our in-house hair cutter :P Then, we focused on creating jobs that would let us continue traveling, even after we'd saved all the money we could. Thanks for publishing such a thoughtful article on this. I love how real and practical it is!

Lauren

Tuesday 15th of January 2019

Kristen - yes, you totally get it! I'm glad that you were able to make small changes in your life to get out there and do exactly what you want to be doing - traveling full time! Amazing! Happy travels :)

Hrishi

Sunday 29th of July 2018

I love the article. Its something that I do; save and travel in a stiff budget. But sometimes it gets really tough to pile up money for travel; like my savings got used up in a recent medical emergency my partner had. So I started looking for more reasonable ways to travel and came across this concept called work for accommodation, on Hippohelp. It seems to be fascinating. Do you happen to know about it?

Steve Tierney

Wednesday 28th of March 2018

To save money on trips I have 2 words: Doner Kebabs. I plan on dinner being a Doner kebab at least once a week. While at home our weekly restaurant meal is at a trivia contest which features a great $5 hamburger. We have a favorite Thai place and a BarBQ we go to on occcasion. The only time we get fancy is when we are visiting in DC. Neither my wife nor myself are big drinkers at home or abroad. If you are tight for funds look to destinations that don't gouge tourists. Last year was Bulgaria and Poland. In my journal I often recorded the price of meals- very reasonable. http://tierneysineurope.blogspot.com/2017/ http://tierneysineurope.blogspot.com/2017/07/poland.html By the way, when we were in Lucca our hotel had free bikes available- we rode them mostly on top of the walls circling the city.

Ramesh M Pradhan

Saturday 24th of February 2018

Very nice and opportune article. Really excellent photos.

Pearson Taxi

Monday 29th of January 2018

such a great article with a lot of useful information specially this topic "how do you afford to travel?". Keep writing new articles i would love to read it again, best of luck

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