How To Travel The World When You’re Broke

How To Travel The World When You’re Broke

For anyone like me, you constantly hear the world calling your name, beckoning you to run away and explore it. Wanderlust is totally a real syndrome and sadly an expensive one. But it is possible. I consider myself a broke 20-something. For those of you who are new here,  I’m 24, living in one of the most expensive cities in America, have an average salary that gets sucked up by San Francisco rent each month and I still have figured out how to be able to take trips every couple of months. So, how do you travel the world when you’re broke? Here’s my biggest secret: 

You have to put travel above everything else.It has to be a lifestyle. People don’t magically save up enough money to backpack across Europe by accident.

The time to travel doesn’t usually fall into people’s laps, either. It’s hard, but you have to put travel before everything else to make it work. Future trips have to be more important to you than eating out with friends, gym memberships, shopping habits and late night Uber rides. 

A lot of my tricks involve cutting corners, saving money and even compromising on travel. It takes practice and time to fall into the habit of a travel-minded lifestyle. We don’t have large savings accounts, but we do travel a lot because that’s important to us. Here are my biggest tips to saving up and getting out there. 

    1. Limit eating out or grabbing drinks to once a month. This also includes eating lunch out! Robin and I hardly go out to eat so we can save up money to spend on plane tickets instead. It’s silly to totally remove going out with friends, but limiting those nights is the smarter way. 
    2. Cook all your meals yourself. Seriously. This goes with #1 of not eating out. Spending $10 each day for lunch seems small, but that’s $50 a week, $200 a month. Or, $2400 a year that could easily cover a month of travel across seas or 3-4 small trips within the USA. We cook all of our meals and make bigger portions to take to work for lunch so we don’t have to be forced to throw money away on takeout. Yes, it’s time-consuming, but your body and wallet will thank you. 
    3. Take advantage of 3 day weekend trips. After studying abroad in Europe and traveling on weekends between classes, I grew to appreciate Friday-Sunday trips. The bests ones are when your destination is under 5 hours away by car or plane so you can leave early on Friday and head home late on Sunday, getting a full travel experience in between. These trips are great because you only have to take one day off at work (or none over holidays!), and the shorter the trip means less money spent on hotels and food. This past December, Robin and I did a 3 day trip to Seattle and we had a blast. I also went to Portland with a girlfriend for three days.
    4. Try “Lockdown” months.  I put us on “lock down” months where we don’t spend anything outside of food, rent and bills. Think of it as a trade. You’re giving up your yoga classes, happy hours, new shoes and nail salon days one month for a trip to someplace you’ve never been before. You’ll be shocked at how much you’ll rack up when you aren’t spending on so many little things.
    5. Automatically have $100 a month sent to your savings account. And then don’t touch it! I have my bank automatically tuck savings away each month for me and I never consider my savings account as money I can use. Having a little less in my checking makes me more aware of everything I’m spending and by not touching my savings, I can grow it quickly. 
    6. Plan to cut corners while traveling. Maybe it’s that budget hotel or you choose to walk everywhere instead of taking Ubers. You can have a late breakfast/early lunch each day to hold you over until dinner to only have two meals a day instead of 3. Or perhaps you like to see a city by just exploring it instead of taking guided tours or going to expensive museums. Sometimes to make a trip within my budget, I know I have to cut corners somewhere else during the actual trip.
    7. Book on Hotel Tonight instead of planning stays way in advance. I love this app so much – they work with hotels that haven’t sold out their rooms and want to list them at a discounted price. You can score really nice places for a fraction of the listing price. Use promo code KHARMS11 to get $25 off your first stay!
    8. Or use Airbnb, especially when you are staying in the same city for more than 3 or 4 nights. I always take advantage of the kitchens and do a quick grocery shop so I can save money on breakfast, morning coffee, snacks, even dinners. Get $2o off here.
    9. Just do it. When it all boils down, you have to just do it. Just book that ticket and stop giving yourself reasons why you shouldn’t travel. It won’t be time wasted and yes, you’ll come home to less in your bank account, but you’ll have priceless memories. Looking back at my life, my most vivid memories are the ones from travels, not weekends with Netflix or comfortable nights with the same friends at the same bar. Just do it. 

Want to learn more travel goodness? Follow me on Instagram @TheWhimsySoul to follow along my adventures. 

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  1. January 15, 2016 / 5:42 pm

    As if I already didn’t have the travel bug before, I definitely do now, especially since I’m knee deep in snow and back to class. These are some great tips, thanks for sharing!

  2. April 17, 2016 / 10:00 am

    Great tips! Hard, but oh so worth it!
    Thanks for sharing 🙂 xx

  3. Daisy
    April 26, 2016 / 7:32 am

    Hey Kara, thanks for sharing this great post. It’s definitely a great trade-off to cut spending & corners yet get to see the world. Keep enjoying your travels! I’ll definitely be tweeting & pinning this post!

    • Kara
      May 22, 2016 / 4:50 pm

      Thank you Daisy!


  4. Rachel White
    May 20, 2016 / 10:36 am

    I love your tips! My husband and I are trying to save money to go on these types of trips! What is a great place to go on a budget? Any suggestions? (Stateside)

    • Kara
      May 22, 2016 / 4:45 pm

      I think you just have to pick a state or place you’ve been wanting to go to and figure out how to make it work with your budget (example maybe stay at a budget hotel or pick a place that serves a large breakfast to cut costs). Let me know if you have any place in mind!


  5. Matilda Grace
    August 10, 2016 / 11:12 pm

    Great advice. I lived on a very small budget when planning my travels. However, it is hard to get back into saving mode after you have been on a spending rampage in Europe.

  6. August 24, 2016 / 10:31 pm

    I love this article! I have very much the same thinking as you. I love my holidays. I am now up to 21 countries and I go to 23 when I see Vancouver and San Francisco in a week!!! I am so excited!

    • Kara
      August 27, 2016 / 6:03 pm

      That’s so exciting! You’re going to have a GREAT time here in San Francisco! Let me know if you need any tips.


  7. Mike
    September 21, 2016 / 2:08 am

    Lovely post. Thanks for sharing your story and great tips on saving money to travel. It’s definitely worth sacrifying for.

  8. Isabella
    December 18, 2016 / 2:59 am

    Love these tips! I’m looking to travel Europe next year from Australia and I’ll definitely be applying these and more to my life for the next 6 months!
    X Isabella

  9. Nina
    March 23, 2017 / 6:16 pm

    Thank u Kara! I agree w the tips 100%.. I already do 1,3 & 6 and is true. I travel a lot more than I did when I made twice as much at wrk ( I also spent just as much) lesson learned..

  10. Lilly
    August 9, 2017 / 12:19 pm

    This is the most realistic and helpful article on budget traveling I have read so far. Thanks! The last point is the one that rings truest for me, sometimes you just gotta GO!

    • Kara
      August 10, 2017 / 11:28 am

      Yes, sometimes you just have to do it! So happy you found this helpful!


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