People we meet tend to ask about how we afford traveling for so long and how we budget and manage our money. While we wish we could give a magical answer or some sort of amazing spreadsheet but the truth is, unlike most other travelers, we don’t actually budget. Our philosophy on this trip (and for most of our lives) has been that if you really want to do it, then do it… but if you can do something cheaper without sacrificing much, then do it cheaper!
Saving daily on the small stuff, allows us to go big on the adventure. We didn’t ever worry about saving for expensive must do’s like Carnival, Tour de France, Oktoberfest, the Galapagos or the Olympics because we are automatically saving on a daily basis. Below is a small list of a few things that we do at home and while on our trip to consistently save money. Some only save small amounts, but when you consider how many times we have saved… well, the numbers add up. So, without further ado…
K&R’s Top Money Savers:
1. Never go out for Breakfast! In our opinion, eating out for breakfast yields the least value (and nutrition) for money. Instead, we carry a gallon Ziploc full of homemade muesli and a smaller Ziploc of instant coffee. To complete the meal we pick up a yogurt and some fruit from a local shop. Tip: try dry soy/milk powder when shops aren’t available and adding cinnamon or coconut flakes to spice it up.
2. Drink Tap Water! In some restaurants bottled water can be more expensive than beer or soda! On average we see 500ml being sold at newsstands for $1-$2. If you find a grocery store you can get a 1.5L for about the same price. Between the two of us we usually drink between 5 and 6 liters a day… so being conservative we’ve easily saved over $2,000 so far on this trip alone. Tip: Carry around an empty bottle and fill it where ever you can.
3. Wash Your Own Laundry! We’ve met travelers who waste a day of vacation because they have to pick up their laundry at a certain time. We estimate that over the course of traveling through Europe and Asia, the conservative average of a typical load of laundry would be about $5. We wash out our drawers at least four times a week, so we’ve already saved upwards of $1000 on laundry fees on this trip alone.
4. BYOB! Buying alcohol at bars or restaurants is always at a premium, so this is an easy fix. We buy roadies from the grocery store and take ‘em to the park, or enjoy homemade cocktails before heading out to eat. We once watched how a bartender made a $12 cocktail, and then went to the store and bought a $6 bottle of the same liquor and had cocktails all night!
5. Pack a Lunch! We limit the amount of times we eat out by booking accommodation that includes kitchen access, and if we don’t have a kitchen we prepare simple and easy meals. Remember, food vendors at events sell crap food with enormous mark ups so try preparing something healthy and pack it in! Tip: This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the local delights; instead try eating OUT for lunch and eating IN for dinner.
6. Use Local and Alternative Transportation! It’s easy to drop cash on a Taxi, and even more when they rip you off. We would rather spend a little time planning to save a lot of money using public or alternative transportation our bicycles! Example: Lots of cities have expensive hop on hop off bus tours that take you around to all the sights, however some cities have local buses or trams that do the same thing at a fraction of the cost. Instead of a €19 bus tour in Lisbon, Portugal we used city tram 28 to go on the exact same route for only €2.85.
7. Shop Around for Accommodation! We don’t sacrifice safety or cleanliness when looking for a place to stay. However, we modify our accommodation spending to beat the market rate for each city. We do this by doing a quick compare of hostel sites, hotel sites and home away sites like airbnb. Tip: hostels aren’t always the cheapest option, and booking on line is usually more expensive.
8. Tour It Yourself! We avoid paying a premium for tour packages. We have found that local knowledge can easily be found through a multitude of channels on the internet whether it be from suggested itineraries on travel blogs to actually emailing our questions to local people through community sites like couchsurfing. Here is an example of how to save big by doing it yourself (we will spare the bad advertising for the tour companies we compared with by keeping their names off the blog, but by all means please ask us for the links).
Tour package: 10 days, 9 nights, 4 islands: $4,5001
Do it yourself: 10 days, 9 nights, 4 islands: $13782
Both of the above options include the exact same itinerary (i.e snorkeling tours, hikes, places of interest, etc...) To be fair, the more popular way to tour the Galapagos is on a cruise ship that comes in at anywhere between $150 and $400 per person per day. Our trip cost us $50 per person per day and covered the same itinerary as the budget cruise ships.
1 for 2 people without dinner and only some lunches
2 for 2 people including all meals (with the option to add an all-inclusive 5 day volunteer stint for only $285)