Life has been full of travel and adventure since my husband Duncan and I first realized that it was cheaper for us to travel the world than to sit on our couch back home.
Just last year, our travels took us to Thailand, Spain, Sweden, France, Montenegro, Croatia, on a cruise from Spain to Panama, then onward to explore Mexico, Cuba, and Barbados. We did it all on a budget of $70 a day—in fact, we had $190 left over on the last day. We blew it all on a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and a sumptuous three-course lunch in one of Barbados’s top beachside restaurants.
Since 2013, we’ve successfully used all sorts of travel tricks—from housesitting to flight hacking—to travel the world on $70 a day. Here are some of our top tips…
We first learned to slow our pace. By staying longer in a place, you not only enrich your experiences, you also cut your costs. Our first year, we were on the move every four nights, so our travel costs skyrocketed. But when we planned a three-week stop on the Greek island of Santorini, we realized what we were doing. A big lesson learned. In those three weeks, we had no transport costs. And we met locals who showed us where they bought their fruit, vegetables, local wine, and the best places to eat away from the tourist areas.
Use a budgeting app
Perhaps our most powerful tool is our budgeting. I don’t mean being miserly; just tracking your outgoings and adjusting accordingly. If you overspend in one place, go somewhere cheaper next time, or watch your spending more closely somewhere else.
There are various travel apps available to help you manage your daily budget. We use one called Trail Wallet. We load the currencies of the countries we are traveling to and set our daily budget. If we want another chilled bottle of French wine at lunch, a quick glance at our app will tell us what we have left to spend for the day.
Be selective with flights
Use Google Flights, Skyscanner, and other flight aggregators to reduce your flight costs. Instead of round-the-world tickets or round-trip tickets, look at one-way flights, instead. Become creative in your itineraries; enjoy stopovers at destinations you haven’t considered; use a variety of airlines; choose regional airports; and reduce your travel costs. We have saved up to 75% on some tickets. For example, instead of flying direct from Barbados to London, we saved 75% by flying from Barbados to Fort Lauderdale on Jet Blue, then flying Norwegian Air to Stockholm and SAS to London. And because we were not “time poor,” we could stop over in Stockholm along the way.
Budget airlines are a great way to reduce your travel costs. But always read their small print on baggage allowances, printing of boarding passes, and seat selections. If you play their game right, you can save big-time.
Use alternative accommodation
For us, our biggest savings come from housesitting. We estimate we’ve saved over $50,000 on accommodation alone in our first year traveling. Currently, we housesit between four and six months a year in places that we once only dreamed of visiting. Our recent international housesits have been in Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico, France, Barbados, Spain, Goa, and Koh Samui (Thailand). We lived like locals, enjoyed the local green markets…and our costs averaged $7.60 to $15 a day.
We’ve found that hostels these days are often more like boutique hotels. We have traveled the world, staying in hostels in some great city-central locations. We book a double room with an en suite bathroom and enjoy the camaraderie of other travelers.
Eat and drink like a local
Watch where the locals are eating and stay away from the major tourist areas. In Italy, we were given a tip to eat at the major railway stations—the pasta was better than at some of the local restaurants, and a lot cheaper.
Eating with the locals also gives you a more authentic experience. In touristy Córdoba, in Spain, we spent time exploring the back streets and fell into a local tapas bar full of locals at lunch time. We struck up an animated conversation with hand gestures (our Spanish language skills weren’t as good as we had hoped), and the locals guided us through the menu, ordering for us the best tapas and advising what wines we should order to accompany them.
In Italy, stand at the bar to enjoy your coffee or a chilled glass of Prosecco—it’s cheaper than sitting down. Plus, you could find yourself enjoying the experience with a local or, as we experienced, a local artist who was patiently waiting for his next model to arrive. “Always late,” he shrugged. “But it does give me a chance to enjoy a Prosecco—it gives me patience.”