How To Afford Traveling?

How I Did It Cheap

 
    I got really amused by how many people were convinced that I am secretly rich because of all the traveling I did.  The thing is, I am far from being rich.  My secret for traveling is being smart with my money and planning ahead.  
 
    When I say “planning ahead” I don’t mean every little detail of my trip was planned out.  Really for the actual traveling it was made up as I went.  What I did plan out was flights, train tickets, etc.  
 
    My travel through New Zealand was done mostly on the Stray Bus.  This was great because I didn’t have to worry about where to go next, how I was getting there, where I was going to stay etc.  It was also great because I met a lot of really neat people I would not have met traveling on my own, and a few of them I have stayed in contact with and visited in their home countries.
 
    When I was preparing to backpack Europe, I bought my plane tickets (there and back) and my 2 month continuous rail pass about 6 months before I actually went.  This allowed me to know exactly how much money I had for travel without worrying about running out before getting a good deal on a plane ticket and having to stress about how I was getting home.
 
    Now, some of my money saving methods are not for everyone.  Let’s start with the biggest one: eating.  If you are in another country, for the love of Zues, stay away from American food!  A large part of experiencing another country is in it’s cuisine.  Now, I did not eat a lot when I traveled, mainly because my stomach gets weird when I travel which makes eating difficult/undesirable.  This being said, I save a lot of money by not eating.  However, I always make sure I have healthy snacks (non chocolate so I don’t have to worry about them melting) so that if I do get hungry I can have a quick bite without spending extra money (quest bars, go raw snacks, etc.).  If you do want to eat at a restaurant that offers that country's cuisine, ask locals where they eat.  A lot of the big tourist restaurants are going to be tourist pricing and not necessarily authentic; locals can tell you where to find the hole in the wall, cheaper, more authentic places.
 
    Expense number two: lodging.  I can tell you some of the best parks/train stations to stay the night in around Europe.  When the train station is not desirable, the Eurail gives you free transport to the airport in some countries, which is helpful in the winter to stay warm through the night.  In a pinch, hostels or couchsurfing is always an option.  Hotels will be the most expensive, but if you stay away from the bigger chain hotels, you can usually find a nice room for cheap, especially in the less touristy towns/areas.  For the most part I napped on trains and at train stations in between visiting friends, and most places were pretty alright and used to people doing that.
 
    Expense number three: activities and souvenirs.  I hate standing in queues in my own country, so standing in a queue for museums/activities in other countries is not high on my list of enjoyable things.  I prefer to walk around the cities, taking in the landscape, finding little hidden gems off the beaten path.  I enjoy castles but have no wish to be crammed into one with a bunch of other people I don’t know, snapping pictures, getting in the way, etc.  So, I saved a lot of money by just taking in the culture without doing the museums/galleries and whatnot.  If you really want to see some of the museums or do certain activities, search around for a good deal, plan ahead for that activity, and prioritize the expenses.  Ask yourself, “Is this something I can do at home that will be just as cool as doing it here?”  I did a skydive in NZ, but the only reason was so I could say I skydived over Mt. Doom.  That was an extra perk I could not accomplish skydiving in the states. Souvenirs is another easy one for me; I thrive on the experience and the memory stored in my brain.  I am not a huge photo taker and I am not sentimental enough to buy things that I will have to figure out how to bring back.  One of my most prized possessions is a genuine Russian Nesting Doll, given to me by a dear friend.  I cherish it and am happy she gave it to me, but I never would have bought it for myself, and I never buy anything for the sake of spending money.  Had I seen something that screamed to be owned by a person I cared about, I would have purchased it IF I could not get it back home and it was easy to transport.  Otherwise, not worth the hassle.  The other thing is, the more touristy things you buy, the more anyone paying attention will realize you are a tourist with money and your chances of getting robbed go up; I’m not being prejudice here, just realistic.
 
    Last piece of advice I can give: don’t get sucked in by salesman.  Look I get it, some people’s income is based off commission and they deserve their cut for the work they do.  However, when you are traveling on a budget, you really need to assess whether or not you need what they are selling.