Sitting at a beer hall at Munich’s Oktoberfest, a German couple told us they had just taken a trip around the world…for less than $100 a day, all in. My husband Mike and I nearly choked on our Hoffbrau.
It sounded impossible…yet we couldn’t stop thinking about it. So when it came to planning our honeymoon, with the list of destinations we’d love to visit running off the page, that German couple’s trip kept crossing our mind.
Then we realized, “We’ve got some money saved, we’re healthy, and our bucket list isn’t getting any shorter…there is no better time to travel than now.”
So in 2012 we quit our jobs, rented our apartment, bought a one-way ticket to Brazil, and have been traveling the world ever since. Kayaking New Zealand’s Milford Sound, hiking Machu Picchu in Peru, and taking a safari across Kenya, we’ve had more incredible experiences in these few years than both our lives combined.
And for even less than that German couple: $37 per person per day. Saving, researching, and honing our travel-hacking skills, we found a way to affordably travel to 38 countries across six continents, and create some priceless memories in the process. Here’s how we did it:
Small-dose saving: Even if your coffers are bare, you can take a six-month trip if you save $10 a day for two years, or save $13 a day for three years to globetrot for a full year. You may have a healthy savings account already, but there are always ways to cut your expenses and make some extra cash. And it doesn’t have to be difficult, either.
First, you will need some basic self-restraint, like not going out as often and avoiding impulse buys (yes, that Starbucks coffee counts). Consider swapping your $150 cable bill for a $0-a-month digital antenna, switch to a cheaper phone plan (ours went from $120 to $40 a month), and go through your bills to see where else you can cut back.
Make money by using the skills and the things you already have: Rent out the extra room in your home on Airbnb, sell excess stuff on eBay, rent your car on a peer-to-peer sharing site like GetAround, or pick up part-time gigs like babysitting and dog walking.
Mileage hack: School yourself in the art of airline mileage hacking. To maximize our frequent flyer miles, we read books, blogs, and even signed up for a course, and we were able to earn 430,000 miles in the eight months leading up to our trip. It was no small task, but considering that it saved us more than $9,000 in flights, it was well worth it.
The key to earning oodles of frequent flyer miles without affecting your credit score is to start small and stay organized with online tools that help you keep track of your frequent flyer miles and a detailed Excel spreadsheet.
Discover free lodging: From housesitting to home stays, there are numerous ways to find lodging around the world for free or next to nothing. Plus, these experiences are always more interesting than a chain hotel.
We dog-sat in exchange for a private beach house in Mazatlan, Mexico. We harvested vegetables on a family farm in Japan, and were treated to incredible home-cooked meals and a private room overlooking Mount Iwaki.
The cost of all these experiences? $0. And when you include the invaluable cultural exchange…priceless.
Travel slowly: The slower you travel, the cheaper it gets. The cost of planes, trains, buses, and rental cars can easily eat up 30% of your budget if you’re constantly on the move. Now that we travel more slowly, with housesitting, our budget is way less than $40 per person per day. Housesitting in Mexico, immersing ourselves in the region’s cultural and outdoor activities, our total expenses for six weeks of lodging, entertainment, and food were under $200.
Even if you don’t housesit, you can negotiate better rates on accommodation the longer you stay in one place.
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