Traveling is one of the most important things you can do for yourself in your 20s. Yet, we all know how hard it can be to afford to travel at this time in our lives. Money should not stop us from traveling, though.
When I decided to pack up my life and quit my job to travel abroad alone, I didn’t have a ton of money saved up to do so. But that’s ok! I don’t need it. I did need to be sure that I would be safe and comfortable abroad. So, I focused on budgeting. Here are my tips on budget packing and budget traveling. Plus! My guide to the 5 travel websites I could not live without for budget travel, and how I use them.
My two favorite tools in purchasing for budget packing are Amazon and Ebates. Amazon has the flexibility and reviews of products I need, and Ebates is how I get cash back for shopping at Amazon.
Amazon was my go-to for purchasing travel equipment I didn’t already have. It was so much less expensive than shopping at REI or Eastern Mountain Sports. (P.S. use, Amazon Smile so that a portion of your purchases go to a charity of your choice.)
Use Amazon for it’s “buy used” section, it’s plethora of reviews, and the variety of brands it carries for an item to get the lowest price. Thanks to Amazon Prime, ordering online wasn’t a huge time risk, as items arrived in 2 days after ordering. This even gave me plenty of time to return items, which is what makes me prefer Amazon to Ebay or Craigslist.
If you don’t have Amazon Prime because you don’t want to pay the annual fee, an idea is to share an account with roommates so you can split the Prime fee yet it still goes to the same address, like families do!
Some of my favorite Amazon finds are:
- This well-priced backpacking backpack
- Small Power Adapter that works almost anywhere
- Waterproof iPhone case
- Discounted Kindle
- Retractable lock (great for long distance, budget travel!)
Ebates is how I get discounts for shopping at Amazon. Ebates is a third party website that directs you to retail websites, and in doing so they receive a small commission and so do you. You’ll get a percentage of whatever you spend online shopping back to you. If you don’t have Ebates, I can’t recommend it enough. Just from signing up in my link below, you’ll receive an automatic $10 sign up bonus. Ebates isn’t just good for shopping on Amazon, either. It gives you cash back for shopping on countless online sites. I honestly can’t think of any store that doesn’t use Ebates.
When preparing for my trip abroad and using Amazon nearly exclusively to do so, I logged onto Ebates first and then onto Amazon through Ebates. In doing this, I received a 3% cashback credit from Ebates, which will be delivered to me in check form. You can sign up here:
Between Amazon and Ebates, preparing for trips has become so much less expensive. I just wish I could use Amazon Prime to deliver to me anywhere in the world!
Use frequent flyers to save literally thousands of dollars on plane tickets. I have frequent flyer miles to nearly exclusively thank for how much travel I’ve been able to do in my 20s. Airline credit cards are a beautiful thing and help tons with budget travel. They have great benefits, they’re not too expensive to obtain, and they’re not difficult to get in your 20s. It’s through earning frequent flyer miles for so many years that I’ve been able to travel internationally for under $100.
Learn exactly how to do so in my post here.
Find accommodations with food prep options
Food is one of the most expensive aspects of traveling because you basically need to eat out for every single meal. We all know how much that can add up. This personally drives me crazy because I’m one of those people that would rather spend money on traveling more places and shopping than meals that are mediocre anyway. So, when looking for hostels and hotels, I keep an eye out for ones with communal kitchens, microwaves, or refrigerators. This way, I can keep fruit, drinks, yogurt, or cereal around, and save a lot of money. If you can cut the costs of restaurants down from even 3 a day to 2 a day, it will make a big difference.
Don’t pay for breakfast
This is in line with the tip above, but another way to save money on food is to look for hotels and hostels with breakfast included. A lot of them offer this. If a hostel is a couple of dollars more expensive because it includes breakfast, don’t shy away from that. This actually could still be a more financially intelligent option. Included breakfasts are usually pretty plentiful in food. So, you can even combine this tip and the one above and have a big breakfast (included), a homemade lunch of cheese, bread and fruit, and then all you’re really spending money on food-wise is dinner.
The 2 out of 4 rule
I use this strategy in my everyday budget and in my traveling budget. The idea is that you can use “fun” money for generally four categories: food, drinks and nightlife, transportation, and shopping. In order to truly enjoy yourself and make the most of your money, pick only two of these things to spend on. For instance, you can have a foodie vacation where you spend on food and drink, but perhaps swear off taxis. Or, if you want to do a lot of shopping and tourist attractions, opt for cheaper food options. For me here in Southeast Asia, I’m able to eat very inexpensively so that I can save my money for plane travel, which I much prefer than a bus. Whatever combination makes the most sense for your vacation, stick to it.
Tours are truly a great way to see things, and essential in some countries, but also pricey. With the internet and plethora of travel publication, you can brush up on background, history, and culture on your own and give yourself more tours than you need to pay for. I encourage tours, but if you’re on a budget, they might be better to push off until you have a bit more money. Sometimes, a self-guided tour can even be more fun because you can spend extra time on what you love and skip what isn’t so interesting. And, of course, save money!
Traveling is such an important part of our 20s. We shouldn’t let the issue of a budget stop us from having these experiences.
Want to learn more about freelancing to carry you through those dream travels? Grab our side hustler resources below!