"It's a dangerous business Frodo, going out the door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." -J.R. R Tolkien
After graduating from University in 2014 I had no idea what to do with my life. After reading this quote I realized, this was my one chance. I needed to travel. There was only one problem, I didn't have a huge savings. I decided to work my ass off during the summer, saved $4,000 and went for it. During this first trip, I spent six months in SE Asia, made life long friends, fell in love, and became a travel addict. Three years later, here I am. I have traveled to nine different countries, spent three plus months at each destination, and only been home for a total of six months. If you are like many of the million Americans and think that you are too broke to travel, think again Findlay Force.
Below, I will explain some easy tips that I picked up along the way to extend the lifetime of my cash and hopefully get some of you on the road.
Find Cheap Tickets
Plane tickets are the most expensive part of my trip, but I don't let that get in my way. First thing I do is be flexible with my departure date. Try and think of the time of month, week and day that other people won't be traveling. Airlines will jack up the price around Holidays and when schools are out. I have also found that flying on a Tuesday or Thursday is the cheapest. Don't ask me why, but it is. If I can't find a cheap direct flight, I split it up. The best to do this is by using Google Flights. From here, I type in my departure city and use the map function to find the cheapest airport to fly into (in the general direction of my destination). After finding the right airport I then book two separate tickets. By doing this I get to explore a new country and add another stamp to the passport. I have found it extremely frustrating navigating through airline websites to find the right ticket. So you don't have to deal with that stress ,I have listed my top four favorite sites to buy tickets below.
Finding Cheap Accommodation
DO NOT PRE-BOOK ONLINE! I know this can be scary but I have found that prices for rooms online are usually way more expensive. When I travel to a developing country where bartering is common, I know that I will be able to talk down the price. Also, when solo traveling, you will always make friends. I don't want to be locked into a place I booked online if I want to move on with them. What I have done in the past is use Airbnb's app to find rooms available in the different destinations. Then, go directly to the house and book with the hosts. If I travel to a more developed country, like my girlfriend and my recent trip to New Zealand, I have found that buying a van and living in it was the way to go. It's more fun than sharing a room in a hostel and it gave me the freedom to explore.
Once I made the initial purchase of the van there was no nightly charge and I was able to cook my own meals. At the end of the trip, I was able to sell it back and only lost about $800 USD (I would have spent way more on nightly room charges). The website I found the most helpful in New Zealand with purchasing a van was http://www.backpackerboard.co.nz/.
[Note from Jimmy - Check out using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) web-app when booking anything online. Using a VPN, you can adjust the settings so the websites think you are browsing from different countries. Often, this can help you save money! ]
Drinking and Eating Abroad
This was the hardest thing for me to learn. The less I spend on booze and food the longer I am able to stay abroad. I am not saying I never drink a beer or two in the evening, I just don't spend all day at the bar (anymore). When it comes to food I love to eat out. I love the social aspect of it and not having to do dishes. Unfortunately, I found this habit drained my bank account like no other. This is why I always try and find a place to stay with a fridge and some hot plates. Even if I only make one meal a day, it saves me a ton of money in the long run. If these luxuries are not available, I'll ask the locals and fellow travelers to find the cheapest restaurants. A good rule of thumb is that, a restaurant with the most locals will probably be the best and the cheapest.
To visit most countries top attractions, you will probably have to pay. On top of spending your hard-earned cash, these places tend to be packed with selfie sticks and rude tourists. To avoid these crowded places and save my money, I try and stay as far away as possible. Some of these attractions might be worth it, sky diving in New Zealand or scuba diving in Thailand would be ones I would personally pay for. Before I head to a destination I search the web for the best free activities and make a list. On top of that, I always rent a motor bike (If its SE Asia) or have some sort of transportation. This gives me the freedom to explore off the beaten path. Also, when arriving at the destination I always ask around with the locals to try and find their favorite spots. Budget travel blogs can be a great tool as well. I have used Nomadic Matt's website many times.
Find Cheap Transportation
Transportation costs, just like airline tickets used to take a big chunk out of my savings. Luckily, with a little practice, I was able to find ways to avoid pricey rides. Let me explain this by giving you an example of my visa run from Thailand to Laos. When I was doing research on how to get to Laos, the quickest option was to fly, this was also the most expensive. The cheapest way was to take a train. Unfortunately, the train took two days from my location in the South. I wasn't in too much of a rush and decided to take the train. In the end, I saved at least $100, got to see some amazing parts of the country and meet some awesome locals. What I learned is that I needed to be flexible (there it is again) when traveling, and try to think about how the locals get around. In every country I have been to so far, this lesson learned in Thailand has helped me keep money in my savings.
Working Holiday Visa
Even if I am great at managing my money it tends to run out. When this happened to me the first time I started getting nervous and upset. I didn't want my trip to end. But guess what, it didn't have to. After talking to some friends I found out I could keep my dream alive. I applied for a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand and spent 7 months working, saving money and exploring with my girlfriend. I saved up enough money to continue my adventures to Indonesia before going home to spend some time with my family. Here is some info on the Working Holiday visa;
The Working Holiday visa is a non-sponsorship working visa approved if you're between the ages of 18-31. The most popular places to get these Visa's are Australia and New Zealand. Other countries offer something similar, but not as easy to obtain as an American. The Working Holiday Visa can also be a great way to travel if you just graduated from University, have some student loans to pay off, but still want to get away from home. This trip was a great way for me to get immersed into a different culture, meet the locals and create a home in a foreign country. If you can't tell already, I highly recommend it. Below are the links to Australia and New Zealand's Working Holiday Visa.
New Zealand Working Holiday Visa: www.immigration.govt.nz
Australia's WHV: www.border.gov.au
If you have any personal questions regarding how I got my Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand or Australia, feel free to email me or comment below with any questions.
There you go Findlay Force, the most useful lessons I learned while traveling to save my money, leave my old life behind and travel the world. Sounds pretty straight forward right? That's because it is! Just remember, the hardest part will be getting on the plane coming home.
Elliott Tauscher elliottstravels.com