When I quit my job in 2017 to travel for a few months to find more meaning and purpose in my life and work, I thought I was crazy. The Great Resignation came a few years later and it turned out I was a trendsetter!
I really thought I was taking a career break; I had planned to travel for 3 to 6 months and then come back to “real life”. Instead, I fell in love with full-time travel and 4 years later I’ve been to 27 countries on six continents – and the first 2 years were on my original budget. If you’ve read my other articles you know I’ve been stranded in New Zealand for 2 years due to the pandemic and it doesn’t come cheap!
More and more people are quitting their jobs and traveling. Some do it alone, some with another. What is clear is that what started with a bunch of “crazy” people jumping off ships is an idea that the pandemic has made the new normal. There are many types of full-time travelers; Some want to take a break and reconnect with themselves, others are opting to work remotely and swap a home office for a world office. Still others have reached or are approaching retirement and intend to travel the world as the next step in their lives.
The question I get asked the most, regardless of what type of full-time traveler you want to be, is how can you afford it? As a full-time travel coach, I teach people to afford full-time travel. I’m going to share some of my top tips so you can afford to travel full time if that’s on your radar. Whether you’re retired, quitting your “regular job,” or becoming a telecommuter, all of these tips will help.
Create a budget
The basis for being able to afford full-time travel is a travel budget. Many factors come into play, and many of the methods need to be adapted to your specific goals and preferences. That being said, here are some food for thought to guide you as you create your travel budget.
1. How long would you like to travel?
The duration of your trip is extremely important. Obviously, money will expand further in a shorter period of time than in a longer one. So if you travel 3 months with $10,000 you can afford a lot more than if you travel 6 months with this budget. Knowing your desired time frame is important to set the right travel budget. That’s just the beginning.
2. Where would you like to travel to?
Next, consider where in the world you want to travel and what currency you will travel with. If your home currency is the dollar or the euro, much of the world will be more affordable to you than those with other currencies. Parts of Southeast Asia and South America will be so cheap you’ll be amazed. But an African safari or a trip through Europe or America will be more expensive. The places you visit play an important role in how far your budget will stretch.
3. How do you travel?
Are you planning to fly, rent a car, take a train, bus or boat? The means of transport you choose will directly affect your budget. The more willing and able you are to take buses, the cheaper your trips will be. Obviously, long bus journeys can put a strain on the body, so this choice may not be as comfortable.
4. Be honest about your travel style
If you’re accustomed to vacation travel because of a corporate job, you may have stayed in luxury hotels and eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world. If you try to travel in this style full-time, you won’t be able to travel long unless you’re wealthy. (And if so, good for you!) If you plan to travel longer, then adjusting to a more budget-conscious style will buy you more time. This is a choice you must make.
I’ve shared a few rooms with roaches and lizards, used shared bathrooms, and lugged my own bags up stairs. But that’s not for everyone. I’ve fallen in love with travel, so I’m doing what I can to prolong it. If you prefer luxury travel, be honest. The worst thing you can do is travel in a style you hate and get frustrated with the whole experience.
Rethink how you use money
The value of money changes when you travel full time. If you’re in a fixed location, buy bottles of shampoo, olive oil, and lots of things you don’t need from Amazon. When you travel you want to save money and space. You will most likely be carrying your own luggage, so remember to reduce the weight of your luggage – this can save back and money as extra luggage fees often apply. You will shift from prioritizing buying souvenirs to buying experiences you will remember for the rest of your life.
5. Save before you go
You may realize that you need to create a savings account before you go, but figuring out how to do it can be overwhelming. I took a financial planning course 101 years ago and it opened my eyes to spending and saving and allowed me to be smarter with money. If you’re ever looking for a good read about how to spend your money, there are some good Olivia Mellan titles out there. Although they were written a while ago, I found their insights really helpful, especially in terms of understanding your spending style – and how to fix it.
The more money you can save before traveling full time, the more time you can travel. This is a good time to get clear on your travel destinations and then evaluate each issue as taking you towards or away from those destinations. Eliminating nice-to-haves and recurring expenses is also a good place to start cutting costs. You can then deposit that money into your savings account and watch it grow.
6. Save on flights
When you fly, there are some great ways to save on airfare. You probably know that choosing flights with stopovers can save a lot of money, but of course it also takes more time. Getting a credit card that allows you to earn points toward future travel can make flying practically free. There are a few other great strategies to reduce airfare.
Be flexible with your travel dates. Flying during the week is often significantly cheaper than flying at the weekend. On a recent trip from New York City to Florida, I saved $300 off the fare by flying on a Wednesday. As a bonus, I also find that I get more upgrades on the midweek flights than on the weekends.
Apps like Secret Flying (or follow them on Twitter) keep you up to date on great flight deals and erroneous fares. However, please note that if the fares are incorrect, there is a risk that your ticket may not be redeemed.
7. Save on accommodation
Since you need a place to rest and shelter every night, anything you can do to reduce those daily expenses is key to being able to afford to travel full-time, at least if you intend to do so for more than a few months to do. One way to save is by staying in the same place for more than a week. This is often the case when discounts take effect. If not, speak to the hotel or property manager and see if they lower your rate for a longer stay.
Housesitting is an ideal way to reduce overall accommodation costs. Typically, you’re looking after someone’s pets while they’re away and you can use their kitchen, which also helps reduce your feeding costs. If you love animals, you have the added bonus of wonderful companionship when you travel. However, from personal experience, it can be difficult to leave some of the pets behind. Trusted Housesitters is the best known, but you can also find pet sitting companies in the country.
The benefit of joining an international housesitting service is being able to collect good reviews. However, locals may be listed on a local website depending on the competition in the country, membership prices and availability.
There are other options, like Couchsurfing and Host A Sister, where you can get a few nights for free at someone’s house. Being able to rent your existing home while you travel is a great way to fund your travels.
Traveling full time can be something for everyone
As you can see, full-time travel is possible for anyone, but it requires thorough planning and strategies to make it happen. Your unique situation will determine the best ways to save money, make money while you travel, and how long you can last. I jumped into believing that my budget would last 3-6 months. The more I traveled and committed to the lifestyle, the more I was able to hit that budget. In the end, my initial budget was enough for over 2 years. This lifestyle is truly available to anyone who wants to do it.