How to travel the world when you don’t make tons of money

Hey guys! Guess what? In the coming months, I’m spending a week back in Paris and another exploring Rome!

Luckily, I’m able to afford it…

…even though I’m a paid-by-the-hour grocery store employee living in one of the most expensive cities in the US.

– – –

If I go to AirFrance’s website right now and look for a round trip ticket from Seattle to Paris in economy class (not the cheapest, but the second cheapest) for a random handful of days in November, it costs about $3,000 for a youth ticket.

The ticket I recently purchased cost $470.

The average hotel price in Paris is about 120 euros, or $140. Six nights in Paris gets you close to $900.

I’m staying in a hostel for the same amount of time. It cost $188 for the week.

If you spend $30 on dinner per night, $15 on lunch and $15 on breakfast, you spend around $400 throughout the week for food.

If you only eat out a few times and cook the rest of your food wherever you’re staying, you can easily get by on $150 for a week.

So we’ve taken what was a $4,300 trip down to an $800 trip. 

Want to know how I do it?

1. Make it a priority.

I’m a travel addict, and I’m assuming if you’re reading this you are too. I dream about feeling the rumble of a plane as it lifts into the air, watching patchwork landscapes shift beneath me. Then comes the magical feeling of walking out of the airport, suitcase in hand, somewhere you’ve never been before… It’s simply beautiful.

So I do everything I can in order to travel more often. Sometimes this means making sacrifices- picking up extra shifts at work the week before a trip so I can still pay for rent that month, buying only secondhand, eating a lot of oatmeal, rice and bananas… But it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice because it means I get to travel!

If it’s important to you, it’ll be easier to dedicate the time and energy required to make it happen.

2. Keep an eye on your bank account.

As much as I love rhapsodizing about how much you can save to travel, it’s not free. Travel is expensive, and if you’re not watching what you’re spending you can easily let money slip down the drain.

Every time I get a paycheck, I set aside what I need for living necessities (rent, food, electricity…) and anything I’m doing that month, like a brunch with friends or family member’s birthday. The rest goes into a savings fund that I can only withdraw from a few times per month, which means it’s less likely I’ll waste it on a new pair of shoes or a fancy dinner.

It also helps to use cash for thing like grocery shopping- it helps you physically see how much you’re spending instead of mindlessly swiping a card. It also limits you when you’re out and about- it’s a lot harder to casually pick up $50 worth of random clothing items when you only have a twenty dollar bill in your pocket.

3. Find ways to cut back and/or make more money. 

Live with a roommate and share housing costs. Use YouTube or Amazon and spend $3.99 on one movie per month instead of paying for cable TV. Eat out less and cook more- you can make some pretty tasty things out of vegetables, spices and grains, and those are all very inexpensive. Get a second job. Buy secondhand clothes and home goods.

There are so many ways to live comfortably on a small budget! You still might need to make some sacrifices- but again, if travel is important to you they won’t feel like sacrifices. Giving up your 5$ a day Starbucks habit and having coffee at home might suck now, but when you’re sitting at a cafe in Italy eating pizza and drinking wine, you’ll be glad you did it.

4. Be flexible on dates and locations.

I’ll tell you right now: going to Paris on Valentine’s Day is going to be hard as hell on a budget. But if you look for deals and patiently wait, you can find amazing opportunities.

I recommend writing a list of all the places you want to go, then waiting for a flight to go on sale or be reduced in price. That way you can buy the plane ticket and work the rest of your schedule around the date the flight is available. That’s always going to be the most expensive part of your trip, so getting it out of the way is crucial. I use Scott’s Cheap Flights, and save up money while watching for deals. Then when a ticket is available, I jump on it!


For example, I’ve always wanted to go to Italy. I saved for a few months and then found a $480 round trip ticket to Rome (on average ~$1000).  Kayak is good if you can’t be flexible on dates but still want the cheapest price for your dates of travel

You can also use Airfare Spot or Thrifty Traveler. 

5. Stay with locals!

AirBnb is amazing. I’m spending less than $200 for a week in my own room with a balcony in Rome! I haven’t tried Couchsurfing yet (though I plan to next summer), but I’ve heard good things. If you’re nervous about staying with locals then find a hostel, which will be comparable in price but more like a budget hotel.

None of these options will be as fancy as staying in a hotel… but you shouldn’t be hanging out in your living space for your whole trip! You should be out exploring!

6. Pack light.

Airline bag fees are everywhere, and will take huge chunks out of your travel budget. Also, many budget tickets only allow you to bring one carry-on, so save yourself the worry/expense and just bring a backpack. You honestly don’t need more than that!

Those are my top pieces of advice for those of us on a budget but still looking to see the world. Definitely shoot me a message through my contact page if there’s anything else you want to know!

I feel I should admit that I do have some advantages here- no family to look after, no school schedule to work around, a job that pays a little over minimum wage and is okay with me taking a week at a time off to fly around the world. Still, if you have more responsibilities it doesn’t mean you can’t travel, it might just mean you need to save up a little longer and travel for shorter periods. You do what works for you.

If you want to travel, you can make it happen, I promise.

So… where are you going to go?

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