Traveling as a broke adult

When I started traveling as an adult I was just out of high school. I was broke. I would never have called myself a tourist. I was a backpacker. Now that I am a few years older I am still less broke but somehow that doesn’t make traveling any easier.

I learned all of this the hard way but I made a lot of good choices between the bad ones. Here are a few tips I strongly encourage you to follow if you want to travel the world as an over worked, under paid adult:

Spend your vacation time wisely


Right now I work more hours than I want to, have less vacation than I feel I need, and travel less than I want to. I’m lucky enough to get a few days per year as “paid time off” but you can even travel with a bad job that doesn’t give vacations.

How do I still get to travel with only a few holidays per year and very few vacation days? I don’t take time off for 3 day weekends unless a holiday falls on that week. I then travel to places that don’t observe that holiday! I save my money and my vacation time and travel on longer trips less often. For example, if you live in the United States then take the 4th of July off and visit Canada!

Drink less alcohol

Yeah, you heard me. How much do you drink now? Just drink less. You’ll see photos of alcohol around my website but that is when I travel. I choose not to drink very often at home because it is expensive and prevents me from traveling! Just do the math. If one alcoholic drink costs between $2 (at home) and $6 (drinking out) and you have 4 drinks per week that comes out to between $416 per year and $1,248 per year! It doesn’t sound like much but that is airfare to almost anyplace in the world! For many of us those 4 drinks are actually many more. Drink less and you will travel the world faster.

Don’t go to big western cities

Big cities are expensive but big western cities are the worst. They are far too expensive for budget travelers. They are more expensive than you can imagine if you aren’t from these places. Also, if you want to visit them then you have no choice but to travel like the rich and famous. That’s expensive. I have some tips for visiting some of these places on a shoe-string budget but honestly, avoid big western cities. If you think you can’t afford it then trust me, you can’t…

Cook for yourself

Don’t eat out unless you are traveling and even if you are traveling then try to eat like the locals. In many parts of the world the locals cook at home. If you are anything like me then food is your biggest expense after housing. Hopefully that means you can control it the more than anything else. Cook for yourself and make it a game. Make it fun! Make it a family activity! If you have children then they will remember cooking with you, if you are married you will have more bonding time with your spouse, and if you are single then knowing how to cook makes you a hot item in the dating pool. 😉

Don’t buy travel stuff you don’t need

This should apply to any part of your life but here are a few highlights:

  • Don’t buy new clothes to travel. Just pick stuff that is comfortable and socially appropriate where you are going. See my page on culturally appropriate attire.
  • Don’t buy new bags. If you want to travel on a budget then traveling with less is the first step. Use old school backpacks, old hiking backpacks, old duffel bags. Just use what you have.
  • Don’t buy fancy hiking gear if you aren’t a hiker. Don’t buy fancy camping gear if you aren’t a camper. Most of this stuff can be rented locally for less than the cost of buying it and for most travelers it will be cheaper that way.

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