10 Ways to Travel the World on a Budget

10 Ways to Travel the World on a Budget

Today’s guest author, travel blogger Taylor Fields of CallawayRose.com, is graduate student at Oxford University who took a year-long solo trip around the globe after graduating from college in 2013. Here are her tips to travel the world on a budget. 

When I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2013, I set out to find a job that was stimulating, creative, high paying and rewarding. What I found were a lot of jobs that felt like compromises: they paid well, but didn’t interest me in the slightest, or were exciting but paid nothing. Finally, I realized the traditional post-graduate trajectory wasn’t for me; if I didn’t want to spend my life behind a desk, why should I start my life there?

In August 2014, I left everything I knew behind: my family, my friends, my clothes, and all the comforts and indulgences of home. I knew if I wanted something different, I was going to have to be the one to make that happen. So I set off on a year-long, solo trip around the world: an adventure spanning six continents, dozens of countries and countless cities. I think it’s safe to say I picked up a few frugal travel hacks during my journey that can benefit anyone looking to travel the world on a budget. Here are ten of my favorite ways to travel the world on a budget:

1. Swap Hotels/Hostels for Workaways

Workaway in Ulladulla Australia

The view from my workway on a vineyard in Ulladulla, Australia. Rough life, I know.

A workaway is an exchange program between volunteers and hosts where individuals, couples, and even families can work for small businesses, organizations, or other families in exchange for free food and housing.

As anyone who has traveled knows, apart from the plane ticket, food and lodging are by far the biggest travel expenses, so to be able to exclude them from your budget is like attending a One Direction concert: a blessing. Oh, and you meet really incredible people and get to do really amazing things, like work at a vineyard in Australia, run a bed and breakfast in the French countryside, help publish cook books and so much more!

To learn more about workaways, check out Workaway.info.

2. Buy a Round the World ticket through an Airline Alliance

Taylor's RTW Ticket

My very own RTW ticket.

A Round the World Ticket is an airline ticket purchased through an Airline Alliance (Star Alliance, One World, or SkyTeam) that, as the name suggests, makes it easier to travel around the world. Rather than buying an individual ticket for every leg of your journey, the RTW ticket lets you bunch your itineraries together and, if done right, saves you a boatload of money in the process. I used Star Alliance, but all three are great options for travelers looking to hit multiple continents and countries in one go.

My RTW ticket (from Paris to Vienna to Istanbul to Bangkok to Sydney to Auckland to L.A. to Lima to Buenos Aires to Paris) cost $4,200. I know that’s still a lot of money, but when you consider that a flight from the U.S. to Australia is say, $2,500, it’s an incredible deal. Think about it: I am going around the world, literally, for about $4,000. That’s amazing, and would be IMPOSSIBLE to do if I bought each flight individually.

There are a lot of logistical details that go into booking a RTW flight, so if you’d like a step-by-step breakdown, I wrote a detailed blog post about my experiences.

3. Pack the Right Clothing

Packing ListFirst, know that packing is the most daunting and emotionally draining task any long-term traveler will face. It’s a process best accompanied by Cheetos, red wine, and Sherlock reruns, and it will make you question your sanity and will to live. When it comes to choosing what to pack, I have two major tips:

  • Regardless of what items you settle on, don’t settle for the cheapest. I know, I know: as a full-time traveler I’m supposed to be frugal and un-materialistic, but the truth is that if you pack $10 sneakers from Target and a handful Dollar Store t-shirts, you’re going to end up spending so much more (not budgeted) money during your trip than if you just invest in a few quality pieces you know will last. Suck it up and splurge before you go, so you don’t find yourself having to choose between replacing your pants with holes in the crotch or day tripping to, I don’t know, ANYWHERE.
  • Do your research. If you are visiting South America in July and decide to pack nothing but booty shorts and crop tops, you will freeze because it is winter. Research the weather in the places you’re going so you don’t have to spend any money replacing your suitcase of off-season clothing.

4. Eat Street Food

Meats at the Barcelona Farmer's Market

Causal meat selection at the Barcelona Farmer’s Market.

Eating street food has three distinct advantages:

  1. It is the best way to sample the local cuisine, meet locals, and learn about local customs and traditions.
  2. It is typically really, really, really good.
  3. It is exponentially cheaper than dining in a restaurant. Even in Europe you can stuff yourself for about $10 – the cost of a tall coffee after the exchange rate kicks in.

5. Curb Your Coffee Addiction

Speaking of coffee, don’t drink coffee. Coffee adds up. It may only be $2-5 dollars a day, but over a year, that adds up to $730-$1,825. That is so many dollars.

6. Give Up Your Phone Plan

Taylor in France

Ditch your data plan and experience the world without a screen!

To SIM card or not to SIM card is a much debated and timeless question for travelers, and I am adamantly in favor of the later: ditch the SIM.

It is 2016, people. Thanks to the wonder/horror that is modern technology, you are never more than a hotspot away from being connected to the rest of the world. Seriously, WiFi is literally everywhere; there’s WiFi in hotels, restaurants, cafes, malls, airports, train stations, bathrooms, arenas–EVERYWHERE.

And in the rare and infrequent instance when there isn’t any internet, embrace it. Believe it or not, there is a world beyond the neo-glow of your iPhone, and it’s actually pretty beautiful.

7. Keep Track of your Expenses with an App

Budgeting apps are extremely helpful when you’re on an around-the-world trip and need to keep track of your every expense. While traveling, the little things add up quickly–subway tickets, museum fares, souvenirs, street food–and though you may not be spending a lot on the big things (flights, hotels, etc) you shouldn’t let the little purchases sabotage your monthly statement.

8. Walk Everywhere

Bratislava, Slovakia

Taking a walk through Bratislava, Slovakia

Walking is a win on every front: you burn off your inevitable breakfast binges, you save money on public transportation, and you really, truly, get to know a city. Walking is my very favorite and the absolute best way to get around because every city in the world is sweetest in its unsuspecting moments, is most beautiful in its surprises, and will always reward those who remember to look at the quiet and forgotten.

9. Use a credit card

There are lots of great credit card options out there for travelers that will both save you money in a multitude of ways. They help cutback on ATM withdrawals, they typically eliminate foreign transaction fees, and they usually offer ridiculous point-earning opportunities on travel. For example, my Chase Sapphire Preferred card gives me two points for every dollar I spend on travel, so every hotel, hostel, flight, bus, train, etc. earns me double the rewards.

10. Plan ahead to use public transport

Paris Metro

When in Paris, take the Métro!

If you want to seriously travel the world on a budget, try to eliminate taxis from your itinerary. A typical cab ride from the airport to the city center can range anywhere from $30 to $100, while the bus that drops you off a block away usually costs around $1.40. Before you arrive in any city, use Google Maps and plan your route using public transportation. It could be a train, a tram, a bus–but regardless of the medium, it can save you cumulative hundreds over time.

Want to learn more about Taylor and her adventures abroad? Check out her blog, Callaway Rose, where she posts frequent updates on her travels and TONS of gorgeous pictures. 

Do you want to travel the world on a budget? Tell us your dream destinations in the comments!