Whether you’re a shoe-string solo backpacker staying in £2 hostels or a family dipping into the travel money fund to take some time off with the kids, maintaining tight control of your budget is key to a successful long-term trip. Maximizing your savings, being conscious of how much you have available and can afford to spend on different aspects of travel, and sometimes even making a little bit along the way are all factors that can help you stay on the road for as long as possible.
Before you leave, analyze all the assets that you have and are willing to use for your travel experience. Consider how accessible your funds will be abroad, what would happen if you lost a credit or debit card, and having an emergency back-up stash to be used only in cases of unexpected and extreme need. Consolidating your money into a bank account that offers good international processing rates (some charge 3% or more per withdrawal, in addition to ATM fees from local banks) is essential, but it’s generally a good idea to have at least two accounts in case one becomes inaccessible or compromised. Tell your bank(s) about your travel plans before you leave, so that your international account activity doesn’t raise red flags in their systems.
For backpackers, the biggest expense is generally the flight. While international airfare is generally much cheaper than it once was, the price of a trans-oceanic ticket is often equivalent to weeks or even months of daily expenses. Research extensively before buying your ticket, taking into consideration creative possibilities like multi-city flights with long stopovers, round-the-world (RTW) tickets, frequent flier miles, and more.
You’re likely to find that much of the world is significantly cheaper to travel in than wherever you call home. In Asia and South America, it’s possible to get by on a budget of several pounds per day. Eating street food, staying in hostels and small guesthouses, traveling by local transport, shopping for food in the markets, and other tricks will not only keep your budget down, but also lead to a more enriching experience as you interact more genuinely with local people. Keeping careful track of the money you spend will allow you to quickly determine a feasible daily budget, be conscious of the things you’re spending the most on, and quickly notice if any of your funds are missing. This helps develop better habits, and can make your expectations of how long you can travel much closer to reality.
Another way to keep your travel budget healthier is to expand it while on the road. Temporary or seasonal work is an option in many countries, the English teaching industry has never been bigger, and even small-scale freelance writing, web or graphic design, editing, photography, or other jobs can support a modest traveler’s budget. This can allow you to basically travel indefinitely.
However you manage it, being careful about your finances is a necessity if you hope to enjoy your next long-term travel experience.