Travel Hacking: Smart Ways to See the World

I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about financial goals. Now that I'm out of debt and have built an emergency fund, I've actually decided that maybe I should set a budget. And one of the things I want to budget for is travel.

Until recently, I hadn't traveled much. I grew up in and and around Portland, and that's where I tended to spend my vacations. But after my wife's parents took us on a few trips (to Alaska, to San Francisco, to London, Dublin, and New York), the travel bug bit me. I'd like to see more of the world, and I'd like to do it without spending a lot of cash.

Travel full-time for less than $14,000 per year
While I was blowing 0 on a single day in Orlando last month, professional world-traveler Nora Dunn was contributing a guest post at I Will Teach You to Be Rich in which she describes her own quest to see the world. Dunn writes:

I “retired” from the rat race at the tender age of 30 to embrace my life-long dream of traveling the world, before life had a chance to get in the way…I am not rich. I am not a trust child, nor do I have rich parents, a sugar daddy, or a stream of income that allows me to live the high life on the road. Full time travel doesn't have to be expensive, and after two years on the road, I've learned plenty of tricks to travel the world without breaking the bank, and without an end in sight.

Dunn's post is enormous. It's packed with fantastic tips divided into eleven sections:

  1. Save 80% on Airfare
  2. Work for Accommodation
  3. Get Free Accommodation
  4. Work While Traveling
  5. Learn the Truth About Volunteering
  6. Become a Part of a Community
  7. Avoid the Biggest Trap
  8. Be Food Wise
  9. Roll with the Punches
  10. Rethink Travel Expenses
  11. Travel Slowly

If you've ever dreamed of traveling the world, this is a must-read article. On the other hand, reading this could be dangerous. When I was finished, I found myself wanting to book a flight to Australia — today!

Travel hacking
One of my favorite blogs right now comes from long-time GRS reader Chris Guillebeau. At The Art of Non-Conformity, Guillebeau writes about “unconventional strategies for life, work, and travel”. One of his goals is to visit every country in the world by 07 April 2013. So far he's visited 111 of 197.

Guillebeau considers himself a travel hacker, and he's happy to share what he's learned with others. His site is filled with informative articles like these:

I sometimes think of Guillebeau as Tim Ferriss lite. I don't mean that in a bad way. With The 4-Hour Workweek [my review], Ferriss inspired a lot of people (including me) to take an unconventional approach to life and work, encouraging readers to consider travel. Guillebeau covers these same topics, but in a more laid back and pragmatic fashion. Some people are put off by Ferriss' personality. If you're one of them, give Guillebeau a try.

Other resources
At the end of March, I wrote about how to find great deals on vacation and travel. For more information on this subject, check out the following sites:

  • OneBag.com, the art and science of traveling light
  • The Professional Hobo, Nora Dunn's personal blog
  • Location Independent Living is great because it documents the actual costs involved for the authors to live in various places around the world.

If you have suggestions for other books or websites about traveling the world (especially on the cheap), I'd love to hear them. Also, what are your favorite destinations for frugal travel?

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Glen Allsopp
Glen Allsopp
11 years ago

I could really relate to this post JD. I have been to 11 countries so far (I’m only 19) but I plan to start travelling again in November. I have no idea where I want to go, I just know I want to go 😉

I’m glad you included both of those resources here, I’m a big fan of Chris and I love that guest post on Ramit’s blog.

I look forward to hearing where you end up!

Baker @ ManVsDebt
Baker @ ManVsDebt
11 years ago

Like Glen, I found this post awesome!

I’m a huge fan of both Nora and Chris. They are both such great people in addition to being extremely knowledgeable!

In less than 100 hours my wife, daughter, and I board a plane for Australia! (By the way, J.D. if you come to AUS and don’t visit cairns, I will be pissed)!

I hope that we can soon follow in the footsteps of some of these great travel hackers. This post has gotten me pumped up!

Wise Money Matters
Wise Money Matters
11 years ago

This is great. My wife and I were wanting to do a lot more traveling before we have kids. We’re planning on visiting family in Hawaii next year and then possibly family in China in the next few years. I’ll have to bookmark this page just for that.

Lea @ Location Independent
Lea @ Location Independent
11 years ago

J.D. – thanks for including LI in your resources, glad you found the costs post useful.

Chris G is probably the best resource around right now for travel hacking – and certainly getting the best deals on flights.

On destinations…SE Asia is a great place for frugal travel – without having to compromise on quality of living. Plus it’s so culturally different – it’s an amazing place to travel around.

April
April
11 years ago

Travel is one of my top priorities. We reached our EF goal last month, so we opened an ING account for our house construction and for a vacation. I am constantly planning trips in my head…I love the whole process.

Frugal Bachelor
Frugal Bachelor
11 years ago

My favorite travel blog is http://www.hobotraveler.com/blogger.html, who has been on the road for 10 years living itinerant lifestyle in mostly third world countries, all over the planet. Basically my dream life. He doesn’t write about finances too much, but he definitely is frugal, and makes a fit if he has to pay more than $8/night for a hotel which is pretty much my style also. My own favorite countries currently are Colombia (South America), Ethiopia, India, Thailand, Philippines, and China. Things change, and you cannot become too attached to one country, you have to be flexible and adopt travel skills… Read more »

Kevin M
Kevin M
11 years ago

I’ve found using the tripadvisor.com forums to be a great help when planning a trip to Boston & Cape Cod this summer, as well as other places in the past. Not really traveling the world like the other examples, but worth pointing out. Recommendations we found there saved us a few hundred bucks.

Powered by Tofu
Powered by Tofu
11 years ago

I quit my job in February 2008 to spend a year traveling around the world, so I really enjoyed reading Nora’s article last week! My blog is a mix of travel blog and all things Portland. Cheapest destinations… definitely SE Asia, but if you want to get off the “backpacker trail” here are a few of my favorite places: 1. I’d suggest the Cyclades islands (home to Santorini & Mykonos) of Naxos and Paros, where you can get a single room for $20-25. 2. Morocco is another cheap destination (as long as you don’t spend too much time in Marrakech).… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
11 years ago

From Wikipedia: “Hack … may refer to a clever or quick fix to a computer program problem, or to what may be perceived to be a clumsy or inelegant (but usually relatively quick) solution to a problem. The term is also used to refer to a modification of a program or device to give the user access to features that were otherwise unavailable.” These are just tips, not “hacks”. I can’t even think of any good “travel hack” ideas, largely because of how heavily regulated it is. Something like this would be a travel hack: Missing the only flight out… Read more »

Jessica the hedgehog
Jessica the hedgehog
11 years ago

I’m so happy you wrote about this! 🙂 My fiance and I traveled around the world for 18 months. We sold everything we owned, quit our jobs, and stepped on a plane to Buenos Aires with one-way tickets in March 2005. It was an amazing life experience and one that we still write about on our travel blog. We also share quite a few travel tips over there too. 🙂 Now that we’re back in the States, we continue to travel each year. This year we went to Mexico City for 1 week, we’re headed to Colombia in a few… Read more »

Erik @ ErikFolgate.com
Erik @ ErikFolgate.com
11 years ago

I just don’t think traveling around the world and being a nomad has a long-term appeal to me. I think it would be a lot of fun to do it for a year or two, but after that, I would be ready to come back and root myself into my community and invest my time and money into one area. Maybe that makes me a traditionalist, but I guess I am just rebelling against this new culture of being a nomad.

EscapeVelocity
EscapeVelocity
11 years ago

I once sublet a room in Berlin from a woman who was a traveler (she was going to Bali at the time). She was a nurse, so she could get a job any time she wanted. She’d work until she had enough money saved up to go traveling (and since she was renting a room in an apartment and living in a city where you don’t need a car, her expenses were low), then she’d quit her job and go off for months at a time.

Joey
Joey
11 years ago

@ Erik:

It isn’t a “new culture” of being a nomad. It’s how we’ve been throughout the majority of human history. If you’re a homebody, that’s fine, but painting a love of travel as a fad just makes you look resentful, not rebellious.

kh
kh
11 years ago

JD,

I’d be shocked if all the writers you referenced didn’t at one point seek out the advice and wisdom of Edward Hasbrouck . His book, The Practical Nomad is a guide on how to travel around the world (and on the cheap).

Cheers.
Ken

Carla
Carla
11 years ago

I enjoyed reading this and the post from “I will Teach You to Be Rich”, but a lot of what is advised involves labor, traveling off the beat and beaten path, etc. That’s all well and good if you are young and healthy and unfortunately, I can only claim young age.

When I vacation, I want/need to rest, have somewhat comfortable accommodations, a refrigerator to store medications, and and not carry all of my positions on my back. Correct me if I’m mistaken, but is cheap travel only for those who can physically “tough it out”?

CPS
CPS
11 years ago

+1 for Couchsurfing! I’m an ambassador on the site and have met literally hundreds of surfers from all over the world by both hosting and surfing. It’s so much more than a free place to stay. But it is that too.

Happy trails everyone

Becky
Becky
11 years ago

Thanks for posting this. Normally I prefer your own posts rather than guest posts, but this was timely (for me). I’ve got a lot of things bookmarked for further investigation.

JC
JC
11 years ago

I guess I would like to hear a more thoughtful discussion that articulates the personal motivations and benefits of travel (all types of travel). Sometimes I feel like travel is just a (middle/upper-class?) fetish that is a widely accepted indicator that one has a “cool” life. What is the personal motivation behind someone hwo wants to visit all 7 continents? What kind of fulfillment does travel uniquely provide? As I write this I’m working away from home – on business travel. The more I travel for work, the more I appreciate the freedoms I have at home (also Portland). I… Read more »

Jessica the hedgehog
Jessica the hedgehog
11 years ago

Hi Carla @ #15! 🙂 From our experience, cheap travel isn’t only for those who can physically tough it out. During our travels we’ve met all sorts of people of different ages and travel styles and health. (And many of them didn’t use backpacks either – small wheely suitcases work well too.) One of our dear friends is a woman in her late 70s who we met via an elephant sanctuary in Southeast Asia. She liked seeing the world but needed comfortable accommodations, and she found that Southeast Asia was a great place for her to find both these things… Read more »

Jessica the hedgehog
Jessica the hedgehog
11 years ago

Hi JC @ #18! 🙂 “…What kind of fulfillment does travel uniquely provide?…” I think the same question can be asked about most any interest. Some people like reading every book they can get their hands on, other people enjoy trying new recipes, some folks like building model airplanes, other people enjoy gardening, some people are into bird watching, and many of us on GRS love budgeting. What kind of fulfillment does each of these activities uniquely provide? I think the answer to the question will vary wildly from person to person. But I think each of these activities brings… Read more »

Hope
Hope
11 years ago

The allure of travelling around the world whenever you feel like it is certainly one I can understand. However, one of the things I don’t see addressed is how such professional ‘nomads’ handle responsibilities like paying for health insurance (especially the kind that will actually work for all these different countries and a somewhat hazardous lifestyle), funds for retirement, and so on? Travelling on a shoestring is one thing, but I don’t think I would be comfortable with my health and future well-being (say, when I’m too old/physically challenged to want to travel any more) dangling from that same shoestring… Read more »

Nancy L.
Nancy L.
11 years ago

@Carla (#15) I think there are tips that are useful, even if you have limitations. For example, the tip about traveling slowly is great. I spent two months living in London. Instead of paying for a hotel, I arranged for a “bed-sit” which is a type of rental. The rate was a LOT cheaper than a similarly situated hotel would have been. I had a bedroom, kitchen & full bathroom, and I was minutes from all sorts of tourist attractions. I was able to cook my own meals and even better, I had an address for people to send mail… Read more »

Charlotte
Charlotte
11 years ago

We love traveling but would not consider ourselves nomads. We took 6 months off in 2005 to travel to Europe and Asia. It was truly a journey of a lifetime. It was a step up from backpacking because we did eat at restaurants and stayed in hotels. We just balanced it out by buying food at the markets and staying at 1 star hotels. Also staying longer in cheaper countries. All in all we have been to almost 30 countries including other traveling that we do. We felt that it was something nice to do like a mini-retirement a few… Read more »

Lady J
Lady J
11 years ago

My most burning desire right now is to travel. As a child and into my teens, my grandparents took me and my sister on loooong road trips every summer, and I am fortunate to have been able to see most of the 50 states (I have yet to make it to the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine). We would sleep in the van, and get a cheap hotel maybe every 3rd night (though I remember a week-long stretch through Utah, Nevada, and Arizona where we just stayed in the van). We’d pack a cooler with sandwich fixings and sodas,… Read more »

Karen
Karen
11 years ago

By far one of the most inspiring books in my life was “Europe on 84 Cents a Day”! I used it to take a 2-month trip for only $25 a day back in 2001. Great advice- taught me how to hitchhike, etc. etc….

My current favorite blog is Travelvice.com. The author and his girlfriend backpack and couchsurf with a baby. Pretty awesome way to break down that “oh, but I can’t because…” feeling.

Ashley
Ashley
11 years ago

I subscribe to multiple budget travel e-mail alerts. Travelzoo.com sends out a top 20 deals list every Wednesday, however, often you have to book within days. Also if you know where you want to go websites like kayak.com will send you an alert evry time the price of your plane fare drops. If you are willing to compromise on times and accomidation you can travel anywhere inexpensively.

Anca
Anca
11 years ago

Very useful to have all those resources listed on one page.

Traveling is great (especially when you have enough time and money that you don’t have to rush your visit), but having just gotten back from Europe a month ago, I realized I could never travel full-time — I’m always looking forward to coming back to my own bed, bathroom, and food (especially hard to be a traveling vegetarian).

halfnine
halfnine
11 years ago

@HOpe (#21) I have spent most of the last 10 years abroad either traveling overland, living abroad as an expat, or living the location independent lifestyle. And the answer to your question is, yes, managing your health care and finances can be done responsibly and with an eye on your future. For health insurance, there are companies that provide emergency evacuation insurance to get you back home, it’s also easy for many people to maintain an individual health insurance plan in the USA, there are companies that provide international health insurance coverage, many foreign countries provide emergency treatment regardless of… Read more »

DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad
DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad
11 years ago

Great post! I have been many places around the world, but there are still places to go.

I have three travel dreams:

1) I would like to travel the USA in an RV with my wife

2) I would like to hike the AT with my daughter

3) I would like to fish rainbows in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho with my son

Kristy @ Master Your Card
Kristy @ Master Your Card
11 years ago

I want to travel more because I really enjoy getting away from my everyday life. I really need to start taking advantage of my vacation time to enjoy life a little more. Most of my vacation has been stay-cations and I think that’s why I’ve been feeling run down lately. I need to get out there and do new things. This post is and excellent resource, and while I’ve already got your site bookmarked, I’m going to have to bookmark this page separately. Invaluable resources! And I’m planning a trip in October, so perhaps I can pick up a few… Read more »

Carla
Carla
11 years ago

@Jessica #19 – Thank you for the info! Whenever I hear about traveling on the cheap, it usually involves activities that only the young and healthy can take part of. Thank you for showing me that its more to it than blood, sweat and tears.

@Nancy L #22 – We did look into a house trade but our landlord wouldnt go for it. Besides, we really only would have less than two weeks and not months. If we can pull off something like that for a week or so, it would work.

(Answers to my post at #15.)

Mike
Mike
11 years ago

Thanks for that link to Nora Dunn’s post. In its enormity it reinforces a few key strategies we’ve come up with over our last year abroad in Southeast Asia. We’re not exactly budget travelers since we freelance online while we travel, so internet connectivity is crucial for our continuing careers. We don’t need (or want) to travel from budget hostel to hostel living out of a backpack, but that doesn’t mean we don’t travel and shop smart which greatly increases our overall take home pay while living at a standard near to what we’re used to back home. The two… Read more »

Ingrid
Ingrid
10 years ago

Some interesting stuff. I have been travelling for over 2 years and started my website in September 09. I have recently added free holidays and flight vouchers so if anyone is wanting freebies hit my site. I dont use Orbitz as a booking engine as I dont think they are very good at getting the best deals. I use Terminal A, Vayama and others on my site. Also not on my site but very good is Kayak, Cheapfares, Skyscanner, Travelsupermarket, edreams, ebookers…..the list goes on. Everyone who travels in Europe will know easyjet and ryanair. Canada you should try westjet… Read more »

krista neubert
krista neubert
7 years ago

I’d like to do this with children

Joel Bolder
Joel Bolder
6 years ago

Great blog, thanks for the amazing work.

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