Last updated: 7/10/23 | July 10, 2023
One of the most common questions I get asked about my ability to travel long term is how can I afford to travel so much. am i rich Did you pay mom and dad? Do I have a rich uncle? Did you win the lottery?
Before I could turn this blog into a business, I spent years traveling the world by doing one thing: I kept track of my spending.
This really is the secret to long-haul travel. Really good money management.
Simple and boring.
Yes, you have to save money before you travel (or work abroad to keep refilling your bank account) but long-term travelers are really good at managing money because you have to create a limited resource (your bank account) that lasts for a long, long time.
When I first started traveling, I pinched every penny and saved money every chance I got. While I sometimes spent money as lavishly as if it was becoming obsolete, other days I made up for it by staying in and cooking pasta. (After all, did you live like a pauper at home to go to Australia and not dive the Great Barrier Reef? Of course not! You have to live a little sometimes!)
I keep a journal of what I spend so I can keep track of my spending and make sure I’m staying on budget. (Side note: I love when I see travelers keep a spending journal to keep track of their budget. These are the travelers who end up staying on budget!)
While on the road (just like at home), there will be unforeseen circumstances that affect your savings, such as missed flights, lost camera, or a change of plans that cause you to have to pay extra for accommodation (which is why you have insurance travel until these costs are covered). You can’t avoid these kinds of things, but you can be prepared.
To help you make your money last down the road, here are the strategies that have helped me make my money last:
1. Know what you want to spend the money on
When I travel, I don’t set aside a lot of money for accommodations, tours, or transportation. I find the cheapest accommodations and walk everywhere. If I need a ride, I’ll take public transportation or hitchhike!
But I will spend a lot of money on food and drink.
Because that’s what I want to do!
I didn’t pinch pennies at home so I could fly to Australia and spend my nights watching Netflix, and I didn’t head to France just to cook meals at a hostel every night.
no not me. I came to eat and drink.
And I am willing to sleep in huge lodgings, on the ground, or walk seven miles to make sure I have the funds to make it happen.
Knowing what you want to spend money on will help you create a realistic budget based on your travel desires so that you have enough money for what you want and don’t feel guilty about spending it. I see a lot of travelers go through their budget quickly because, even though they planned to do a lot of activities or eat out, it wasn’t included in their budget.
2. Create your budget
When you know yourself and what you want to spend the money on, it’s easy to create a budget that will cover you for the duration of your trip. This is where pre-flight research comes in.
When I started planning my trip in 2005, there wasn’t a lot of travel information available online. I spent a lot of time reading guidebooks and looking up any information I could find on pricing. I’ve put together a convoluted table of how much I’ll spend each day in different places based on how much I can save and what I’ve found online.
These days, you don’t have to go crazy when you’re planning your trip, because there’s plenty of information available online about prices. You can literally Google the price of anything you want!
Too often I see travelers get shocked by unexpected costs.
“Wow! That tour is too expensive. I’m out of budget!” “I didn’t expect the drinks to cost so much!” “This place is more expensive than I thought.”
I just shake my head when I hear these comments, because these are the people who clearly didn’t do any planning.
Don’t be like these people. Do your research, plan ahead, and avoid the pitfalls that will get you home much sooner (and poorer) than you’d like.
My travel guides to over 300 destinations are a good place to start.
Write down all the things you want to do, where you want to do them, and how much they will cost. Consider your food, insurance, transportation, flights, lodging, wine, activities, and whatever else you think will be relevant.
(Note: I won’t go into how to save for your trip in this post. But I have tons and tons and tons of posts on how to do that. You can find them here.)
3. Keep track of all your expenses
While on the road, you need to keep track of all your expenses. The people who have to go home early are always the ones who have no idea how much money they are spending on the road.
By tracking every expense — from your dorms to that snack you bought — you can see if you’re on the right track or if you’re overspending (in which case you can correct your spending).
This is it the The most important thing you can do to make your money last!
If you only do one thing, keep track of your spending! Sure, you have to remember to do it, and it’s easy to forget, but doing it actively will ensure that you become a better budget traveler, and soon it will become a habit.
You can keep track of it all in a journal (I use a Moleskine notebook) or use an app like:
I suggest tracking your expenses for a few weeks at home before your trip to get into the habit. This way, when you’re on the road, it won’t feel like a chore. Here are some free budget templates you can use to get started.
4. Free travel
Like I said, making your money last is really all about budgeting, saving money, and tracking your expenses down the road. But another great way to make your money last is to not spend it. And there are plenty of ways to do that.
First, you can always work while traveling. There are a lot of jobs out there for travelers. And you can always work on a farm via WWOOFing, which is a great cultural experience that many travelers do.
Second, you can use the sharing economy to cut costs. You can stay with people for free, share rides, and more. Sharing websites and economy apps connect travelers with locals and bypass traditional travel guards. Now you can not only save money but you can meet locals!
Third, use points and miles. BEST FREE FLIGHT ACCOUNT Collecting points and miles can enable you to get free flights, transportation, and accommodations. You can do this before you travel and while on the road with your daily spending. I have written extensively on this subject. It’s the number one way I travel a lot for very little. Download my free guide and learn more!
Your budget will only last as long as you plan it to last. If you plan your budget well, it will last until the end of your trip. No matter what you do, write down your expenses!!! Tracking your expenses will allow you to make adjustments on the go and ensure that your travel funds last as long as you want them to.
By planning and tracking like a financial ninja, these things are less likely to happen. That means more days on the road, more adventures, and more great travel experiences.
The better you know yourself and budget accordingly, the longer your money will last when you travel!
Book your flight: logistics tips and tricks
Book your flight
Find a cheap flight with Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the world so you’ll always know that no stone is left unturned.
Reserve your accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it constantly shows the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will protect you from illness, injury, theft and cancellation. It is comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
Want to travel for free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodations – all without any additional spending. Check out my guide to choosing the right card, current favorites to get started, and see the latest best deals.
Ready to book your flight?
Check out my resources page for the best companies to use when traveling. I list everything I use when I travel. It’s the best in class and you can’t go wrong with it on your trip.