10 Ways to Save Money While Traveling Long Term


We spent two nights at the Casarão Verde Hostel in Itacaré, Brazil. 


1. Peanut butter & jelly.

Some people would rather ham and cheese it, but I'll take pb&j any day. Add in an apple and you're all set. The point is, when you're on the road you shouldn't be buying $4 cups of coffee or eating at restaurants (at least not all the time). And goodness knows fast food joints aren't the answer. On a week-long road trip we kept a cooler in the back, sought out grocery stores when needed, and maintained a fairly decent diet without taking on a mountain of credit card debt.


2. Leverage your home.

Yes, I'm a huge fan of Home Exchange and I sing its praises whenever I get the chance. Because it's a life-changer. Because half of our trips would not have happened without it. We've also leveraged our home by renting it out while traveling, but after a handful of less-than-ideal renters, this is now an absolute last resort. Home Exchanges have always been wonderful experiences.

3. Leverage your car.

On a two-month exchange in Brazil, we also exchanged vehicles. This negated the need for a rental car and when we flew to other locations in Brazil, we took advantage of public transportation. Exchanging both a car and a home can take what would have been a $5,000 trip for a family of four and turn it into a $500 trip.

4. It's not a vacation.

Long-term travel isn't living it up. It's about living - in another country experiencing their culture. A walk around town, a chat with locals, and learning about their history are all free activities.


5. Keep Working.

Hopefully you love what you do, because you'll eliminate a substantial amount of stress if you keep up efforts to bring in a paycheck while away from your usual work routine. You can accomplish a fair amount by just brainstorming projects, solutions, and marketing campaigns (depending on your line of work) with a pen and paper. If you have technology, you can take it a step further and keep up to date with emails and conference calls. Just make sure you don't work so much that you lose sight of your surroundings and all they have to offer.


6. Say no to theme parks.

Okay, I admit we went to Australia Zoo in Beerwah, Queensland. But it was Steve Irwin Day and I couldn't resist the opportunity to pay tribute to the Crocodile Hunter and learn all about the zoo's conservation efforts.


On the whole, though, we avoid water parks, theme parks, and expensive tourist destinations. If you're really into those things, then you probably need to plan more of a vacation (limited length of time, set destination, budget for tourist activities) than a long-term, nomadic trip.

7. Street food.

I love street food and you can find it the world over. It's far less expensive than food from a restaurant and often more authentic. If you're intimidated by obtaining your food from a truck or cart, know that every time I've had food poisoning, it's been from a restaurant. Not once from street food.

Street drinks are always fun, too...


8. Souvenirs come last.

When you arrive somewhere, there's an urge to purchase souvenirs. Always save this until the end of the trip when you've seen more of what's available. You may find the same souvenir you initially fell in love with for a lot less money somewhere else, or you may decide that the seashells you picked up from the beach were all the souvenirs you needed.

9. Guidebooks lie, anyway.

They don't intentionally lie, but by the time you buy and read a guidebook, the off-the-beaten-path restaurant they recommend isn't off-the-beaten-path anymore. (Because it's since been featured in a guidebook). If you want recommendations, you can find more current information on the internet. Even better, ask a local. If you spend any money on books in preparation for travel, start with Rolf Pott's Vagabonding. This is the indispensable starting point for approaching the "Art of Long-Term World Travel." (Yes, if you're serious about travel, I am suggesting you buy this book before one of mine).


10. Give and take.

Not everyone gets to do everything they want to do on a given trip. That goes for the parents as well as the kids. Maintaining a happy and healthy family of four while keeping the bank account out of the red means we all have to sacrifice certain things when on the road. The good news is that while we have to give up a little in the way of indulgences, we reap far more in return in terms of invaluable cultural experiences.

Sitka, Alaska
Not sure where to go? Let the location choose you.

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