Many people have dreams of traveling the world. Whether there’s a specific city you’ve always fantasized about visiting for a spell, or you’d love to go on a lengthy backpacking adventure and experience as many different countries and cultures as possible, chances are, at least one item on your Bucket List involves travel. Unfortunately, travel isn’t always practical. A major reason why traveling the world can be unfeasible is the cost, which can be quite high. Factoring in airfare, lodging and food expenses, even a relatively short trip to a foreign land can end up costing thousands of dollars– especially if you consider potential earnings you might lose from taking time off work.
However, if you’re open to taking a trip that involves cooking for yourself, forgoing the fancy hotels, and even – gasp! – doing a little work, travel costs can actually be quite manageable. Moreover, alternative vacations in which you spend some of your time volunteering for a good cause or staying with local hosts can be a much more immersive and enriching experience than your standard vacation package. If you have a travel bug but limited funds, consider the following tips. Unadventurous spirits need not apply!
Because time isn’t cheap, many people try to squeeze as many destinations as possible into a one- or two-week vacation. While fast-paced trips can be fun if you’re short on time, they are also expensive, as you end up spending a lot of money on transportation costs to get to each destination and on food and other conveniences at each stop along the way. Alternatively, if you visit fewer places and allow yourself to put down some roots in a single location for a week or more, you’ll have time to do money-saving things like cook for yourself and make friends who can warn you against expensive tourist traps. Furthermore, you’ll get to know a place better and, ultimately, have a more rewarding experience.
Although lodging and food can be attained cheaply enough by preparing your own meals with ingredients purchased at local markets and staying at hostels or with local hosts (more on that later), saving money on airfare can be more of a challenge. Still, there are some things you can do to save money on flights. Try searching for flights with smaller budget airlines which may not be indexed in the major airfare search engines (You can go to the website of your destination airport for a list of all the airlines that service your destination.) Also, try to book mid-week flights, which are usually cheaper than weekend flights. And of course you can always attempt to beat the airlines at their own game.
Voluntourism – a play on “volunteer” and “tourism” – can be a great way to save money on travel if you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty for a good cause. Voluntourism trips – whose activities range from working with children at an orphanage in India, to painting the roof of a school in Latvia, to repairing a hiking trail in Alaska – also allow you to really get to know a particular locale, as well as your fellow volunteers, and experience the satisfaction of making a positive change in the world. Most of these trips include food and hostel-style lodgings for an all-inclusive fee. The participation fee can be expensive, but most voluntourism trips are cheaper than a traditional vacation. Depending on the hosting organization, long-term volunteers who can dedicate several months of their time may receive a small stipend for miscellaneous expenses. Still, it’s a good idea to do your research before booking a voluntourism trip to make sure the organization you’re volunteering with is reputable and that the fee is competitively-priced.
Work-trade organizations such as WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) arrange for you to barter work for room and board with local hosts around the world. With WWOOF, you’ll earn your room and board by working on an organic farm, but if farming isn’t your thing, there are numerous other kinds of work-trade organizations which allow you to work for a local host in exchange for short-term, rent-free living. Some of these include Caretaker’s Gazette and Help Exchange. Work tasks might include house-sitting, pet-sitting, yard work or others.
CouchSurfing is another great online network that connects you with local hosts worldwide. If you’re a member of CouchSurfing, you can find a local host just about anywhere in the world who will put you up for a night or two, or sometimes longer. With this organization, you don’t have to work – you just have to agree to host other CouchSurfing members who travel to your neck of the woods. Besides saving money when you travel and getting to know the locals, participating in a program like CouchSurfing allows you to meet people from around the world without ever leaving home. You can also, of course, “couch surf” on the couches of any friends you have that live somewhere you’d like to visit. How to make friends who live in cool places? Voluntourism trips and other alternative travel experiences are great opportunities to make friends from all over the globe who might be able to host you when you travel to their city.
Depending on your skill set and desired type of travel experience, this might mean taking a medium- or long-term job in an overseas destination, such as teaching English or bartending abroad, or you might find a vocation that involves frequent travel to myriad destinations, such as a flight attendant or cruise ship worker. Or, you might be able to land a job that can be conducted remotely, such as freelance writing, which offers the flexibility of working from anywhere with an Internet connection. Other job ideas for people who want a vocation that allows them to see the world include Peace Corps worker, travel nurse, Navy sailor, and online poker player (just make sure you’re actually talented at poker before quitting your day job).