How to Plan an Inexpensive but Awesome Trip Abroad

There is a widespread (and erroneous) belief that traveling has to cost a fortune .Let me let you in on a little secret- it doesn’t.

With a bit of finagling, you can save money both by saving hard before your trip as well as watching every euro, lira and rupiah you spend on the road.

Here are some tricks that can keep your traveling enjoyably and inexpensively. 

Before your trip:

 Buy the ticket far in advance, using points if possible. Be vigilant about looking for flights far in advance.

Find  flights using a few methods: first research using the , Your Vacation Gurus Booking Site which estimates how much it will cost to fly to various destinations from the airport of your choice.

Then, before booking a ticket call Your Vacation Gurus and compare prices they have with there Air Consoldiator Agrncies  (615 219-5831. 

You should also subscribe to Your Vacation Gurus Facebook Page to get the cheapest deals.  They find so many great bargains, from on-sale airfare to discounted tours, and usually post daily. 

Book local budget flights in advance too.

One way to save money on flights is by finding the cheapest possible flight to get to the continent where you will be traveling (i.e. Europe or Asia) and then buying another local budget flight to get to your primary destination.

For example, book a cheap flight from Chicago to Ireland,  spend  a weekend enjoying Dublin and then take an inexpensive  flight to Paris. Doing it this way  can save you about $400  than flying directly to Paris. 

Budget airlines in Europe: Ryanair, Easyjet, Wizzair (flies to Eastern Europe)

Budget Airlines in Asia: AirAsia, TigerAir

Keep in mind when flying budget airlines there are few perks. There is no free checked bag, no free water or food and you usually have to print out your boarding ticket in advance.

And with European budget carriers like Ryanair or Easyjet some flights are seasonal– certain routes are only available in summer.

Also some airports are extremely far from the actual destination– Paris Beauvais is two hours from Paris and Frankfurt Hahn is two hours from Frankfurt.

Your dollar will go further in some countries than others.

For example, if  you are backpacking in Western Europe, you would budget about €50 ($70) a day (less if you found accommodation through Couchsurfing, of course). And this would be a bare-bones budget: Hostels, picnics in the park, few adventure activities.

By comparison, You can live comfortably on $20 a day in Cambodia. And by comfortably I mean comfortably: Eating out every meal, daily massages, hostels with a pool.

So when planning a long backpacking trip, favor cheaper countries. Why live like a pauper when you can live like a king?

Nomadic Matt has great Country guides  that can help you set a budget for the countries where you will be traveling.

Consider working abroad.

There are so many ways to work on the road: Picking fruit in Australia, Au pair-ing in Europe teaching English in Asia… though some opportunities are much better paid than others.

The most lucrative job abroad at the moment is teaching in Korea. (For more info on teaching in Korea check out Farsickness, Curiosity Travels and Atlas Sliced. )

Alex in Wanderland has a great new series called Earning Abroad in which she interviews travelers who work abroad, from co-owning a bar in Thailand to crewing a sailboat in the Caribbean. Highly recommend you check this series out if you’re considering working on the road!

Use to keep track of your money. is a free web-based financial management system that monitors your bank accounts among other things. Our favorite feature is the weekly email telling you how much you spent, where you spent it and your total net worth and credit card debt.

Mint is perfect for travelers– it will notify you if you are unnecessarily paying any foreign transaction fees and alert you if there is a sketchy drop in any of your bank accounts.

I  highly recommend both for saving up before traveling as well as budgeting on the road. 

Apply for a Charles Swab Credit Card card so you won’t pay any foreign ATM fees.

Not only does Charles Schwab not charge you a foreign ATM withdrawal fee, it refunds you any money that foreign ATMs charge you by depositing a lump sum into your bank account at the end of the month. Wow.

When traveling abroad always carry at least two debit cards and two credit cards in case of theft or loss. (also make sure to keep your backups in separate places.)

Here’s more info on which Credit and Debit Cards are best for backpackers.

Sell things you don’t need before you leave.

If you’re looking for quick cash look into selling some things you don’t need. While many swear by eBay you might have better luck  Selling with Amazon.

If traveling to Europe, consider getting a card with chip and pin technology.

In Europe, the credit and debit card system is completely different. In Europe there are many automated machines that only accept cards with chip and pin technology, and not having a chip and pin card can be a huge hassle.

For more information on maximizing smart chip credit cards in Europe, check out The Point’s Guy helpful post.

Other credit cards with chip-in technology: British Airways Visa Signature, Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard, Hyatt Credit Card, among others. 

Once you’re there:

Stay at hostels.

 Use  Hostelworld to find hostels when traveling Europe or South America. Be very careful about checking reviews and don’t stay at a place that is rated less than 85%.

And while it is a great idea to book hostels in advance in Europe or South America, it’s not necessary in Southeast Asia- most hostels are less than $7 anyway! Just show up in town and ask other backpackers where they’re staying (and preferably check the hostel’s ratings on Hostelworld)- it’s that simple.

That being said, you should book in advance when traveling to expensive Asian cities like Hong Kong or Singapore. Also always, always book a hostel for the night after a flight- the last thing You want when arriving to a foreign city is to worry about where you will be sleeping. 

Consider Couchsurfing.

Not only is Couchsurfing an incredible way to save cash, it’s a great way to meet locals. All you have to do is create a profile, add lots of info and photos and reach out to potential hosts. Personalized messages always go further so read their profile! 

Track on the ground expenses with Trail Wallet.

When you are traveling use Trail Wallet to track your spending- it really helps you stick to a budget. Because You pay mostly in cash when backpacking, it’s easy to lose track of where your money is going.

You will love Trail Wallet’s pie chart feature because it shows you what percentage of your money you spend on various amenities, including accommodation, transportation and food. (You can add and remove categories too which is a very cool feature.)

Find cheap transportation.

Use Megabus frequently when traveling in the U.S. (and plan on using it in the U.K.) Use car-sharing and it is definitely a service you will like. Essentially you pay a stranger for a ride in their car- and while it sounds sketchy I know people  who use it all the time.

They have carsharing in many European countries: BlaBlaCar (France), Carpooling (UK), Flinkster (Germany) among others.

Credit Catds

Money set-up:

Charles Schwab- Your go-to debit card.

Chase- Your back-up debit card. Has a high foreign transaction fee and foreign ATM withdrawal fee so only use it in case of emergencies.

Paypal- How you should get paid for most of of online jobs. (Just an account, not a card.)

American Express Starwood Rewards- Your main credit card.

Chase Sapphire Preferred- Yourvbackup credit card. Also plan on using this in Europe because it has a smart chip.

More of my money-saving trick posts:

How to eat cheaply abroad
How to drink cheaply abroad 

How to open a bank account in Europe