How to travel the world on a limited income

How to travel the world on a limited income

You have big travel dreams. You want to see the world. Global wanderlust has become a daily occurrence for you. There’s just one small problem: Your income doesn’t seem to match these lofty plans.

Jet-setting conjures up certain images. Think James Bond. Richard Branson. Don Draper. There’s a significant reason for this connection. Commercials, ads and other media lead us to believe that seeing the world is a privilege only reserved for the rich.

In reality, you really don’t need a millionaire’s salary to enjoy the perks of international travel. While you won’t be flying first class, these aspirations are within your reach.

So it’s time to start crossing items off your bucket list. If you have always wanted to see the lights of Paris, surf near the beaches in Rio or eat sushi in Tokyo, you can do so on a budget. Here’s how:

Refine your typical hotel search
Looking up hotels and resorts? Right away you will discover that in many of the aforementioned cities, the prices are going to be jaw-dropping. The reason you only see four-star resorts and lavish hotels in your search is because these companies have astronomical advertising budgets, allowing them to dominate TV airwaves and internet ad space. There are numerous small franchises that you can choose instead. If you decide a hotel is the route for you, there are many ways to save money when booking a hotel.

The great thing about the internet is that our world has become increasingly global when it comes to travel. Here are some excellent sites that can give you an alternative to the usually pricey hotel options:

Airbnb, HomeAway and Couchsurfing: Apartment and condo renting has really taken off in recent years, especially in the case of Airbnb. The concept is simple. You enter in your respective dates, see if a person’s apartment or condo is available during those dates, and then you basically rent the host’s apartment. This not only allows you to sometimes cut the price of lodging in half, but you can often get more of a local perspective and insider tips of places to see and things to do in your destination. The great thing about these sites is that you can often rent an entire place or just one room – which gives you even more flexibility in your budget. Another added bonus? Having a full apartment means you also have a kitchen, so you have the opportunity to go grocery shopping and cook your own meals (Also see our post How to Save Money on Food While Traveling).

Hostels: Contrary to Hollywood horror films and less-than-stellar tales from your roommate about “that one time” he spent the night in a hostel in college, hostels are actually – for the most part – a safe way to spend the night. Do your research first to pick a reputable one. Look for places that provide lockers to secure expensive belongings, on-premises Wi-Fi, hosts that speak English and locations in safe neighborhoods. Reviews will also give you a better idea of what you are getting into.

House-sitting is also a growing trend for travel, especially with websites like and In the same vein, you can also house-swap with another like-minded traveler with websites like These lodging options won’t suit everyone, but they are excellent ways to stay in the foreign country for free (or very little).

A working vacation
You can work your way across the world as well, as long as you don’t mind stepping out of your comfort zone a little. For example, if you’ve always want to visited epic wine regions like Tuscany in Italy or the Loire Valley in France, travel during harvest season and you can usually find work on vineyards (in some cases, you can even secure room and board on-premises and get to taste all of your hard work).

While we’re on the topic of agriculture and traveling, another noted organization to mention would be the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms project, which links would-be jet-setters with organic farmers across the globe looking for volunteers. In exchange, your host offers food, accommodation and the opportunity to learn about (and work with) organic farming.

Thought Catalog also listed several short-term jobs that can help you pay your bills while you are traveling, such as a cruise ship worker, seasonal work at ski resorts, bartender/server, au pair, tour guide or working at a hostel.

Alternative excursion options
If you are traveling through Europe, Central America and parts of Southeast Asia, you will quickly discover that is remarkably easy to hop from country to country or city to city. These regions often have transit systems that don’t require flying at all (or if you do, there are more discount airlines compared to the states). Rail passes are a wonderful way to save money on traveling (especially if you book ahead of time), and if you are a student you can stack up the discounts even more.

Save Your Money Prior to Traveling
Finally, it is critical to save money for your trip. See our post on How to Save for Vacation on a Tight Budget to learn how.

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