Happy Monday everyone! A common question I’ve been asked over and over again is “How were you able to afford to backpack Europe for months?” Another popular statement is “Wow, you must have had a ton of money to be able to do that.” The simple answer is I definitely didn’t have a lot of cash, I just stuck to a budget. In this post I’ll give you some tips on how to save and manage money for a long term trip based on what helped me.
Work your butt off.
My last days in college came quickly and I had no idea what I wanted to do once I was finished. Do I immediately settle into a full time career at age 21? I couldn’t travel because I was left with little money after 3 years of rent, tuition, and every other cost that came with post-secondary education. Well, I decided travel was exactly what I needed and I had to figure out a way to make money so that could become a possibility.
I was fortunate enough to land a job doing hard labour for a construction/landscape company the week I graduated college. I worked 10+ hour days in the blazing summer sun Monday to Friday and took no holidays. I worked hard because I had the constant motivation of being able to afford one more train ticket, or one more night at a hostel once I was gone.
Be frugal with your money.
My parents have always instilled in me that life is not about how much money you have or the material things you own. In teaching me this, they also gave me great advice on how to be frugal with my money while still having fun. Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t care about having the best clothes or the newest phone, and this came in especially useful when I needed to start saving more for my trip. The summer I spent saving I worked hard but I still had fun with my friends, I was just more aware of my spending. Is it worth it to go to that restaurant and buy a meal plus a drink? I knew saving that could lead to a meal when I’m hungry and roaming the streets of Paris. I’d go and get a meal with a water, or just a drink and eat before I left. You can still have fun with your friends while limiting your spending. It was easy once I was in the mindset that if I save on the small things, it will allow me to do the bigger things. Start making lists of groceries and products around the house you need, then look at flyers for the best sales in the surrounding stores. Say no to getting that new pair of jeans you know you don’t need but really want. There are so many simple ways to cut down your spending on things you need so it can be saved for future adventures.
Research, research, research.
I’m not going to lie, it took me a long time to research hostels, bus/train tickets, tours, restaurants, etc. There are so many little things that go into a trip, you have to put a lot of work in beforehand to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
While booking hostels, I would look up availability and prices on sites like Hostelworld. Although these websites make it very easy to book through their site, they charge a fee if you book through them. Once you find a hostel that you like, find their website and book straight from that instead of through a second party website to avoid fees.
While looking for tours ALWAYS look up if there are free walking tours for that city. I did a free walking tour in 4 different cities (Paris, London, Prague, and Budapest), and they were all so well done with great tour guides and loads of history and stories to hear about.
If you’re trying to find a nice place to eat, look up menus beforehand and compare prices. Reading reviews on Tripadvisor are always very helpful as well because people are honest about their experiences and whether it was worth it or not.
When it comes to buses/trains/planes/rental cars, I found buses to be the cheapest way to get from country to country. My main source of transportation was Flixbus because it was so affordable, reliable, and they had so many routes and times to choose from. They even have an app that is very user friendly and let’s you show your ticket from your phone or other device instead of needing a printed copy.
Use your connections.
I see this question get brought up on a lot of travel forums: Should I ask a friend abroad if I can stay with them while I travel? My simple answer is, let them know your itinerary, and if they offer you a place to stay, go ahead. You don’t want to feel like you’re using people for a roof over your head, and you would hate if someone did that to you. Well I am fortunate enough to have friends who live in different countries all over the world, and was offered a place to stay while in London. If you have the opportunity to stay for free somewhere, especially a country that you know will be expensive, take it. I saved a lot of money just by staying a few nights with my friends family, because the exchange rate for the Canadian dollar to the pound was so terrible. They were gracious hosts, they even made me meals and showed me around a lot of the city. Not only that, but I got to experience London with locals who showed me what everyday life was like in that city. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
It takes some time and hard work, but with the right mind set, saving for a long trip can be achievable. See where your priorities lie, and start from there. I hope these tips and my story can help one of you in the long run with planning and beginning your own big adventure. And remember, it’s not about how much money you make, it’s how you save it!