We’re coming up on our thousandth day of consecutive travel so I thought it would be a good time to properly define different parts of our nomadic lifestyle.
So far, we’ve traveled to 14 different countries on three continents spending an average of $65 a day for all of our living costs. That includes flights, accommodation, entertainment, and visiting attractions.
Most people would think we are budget travelers, but I don’t think that’s actually true.
Here’s a list of things we don’t do to save money as we travel:
- share accommodation in hostel dorm rooms
- sleep in airports or bus stations
- always choose the cheapest mode of transportation possible
Here are things we always try to do:
- procure excellent free accommodation
- avoid taxis
- pack as light as possible
- book accommodations with kitchens to cook our own meals( for the most part).
The first list includes things traditionally associated with budget travel and the second one focuses on things people on a budget might do to save money traveling. Contrary to popular belief there is a huge difference between the two.
Here’s how we see budget travel: Choosing the cheapest options for all aspects of a trip (transport, accommodation, entertainment), being reactive to get the lowest price, booking different parts of a trip piecemeal to create the cheapest trip (compromising on comfort to varying degrees).
Here’s how we define traveling on a budget: finding options that offer the best value for money for each major travel expense, being proactive and methodical in our bookings, and calculating all aspects of our trip before committing to any destination
In a nutshell, we look to
- Find great value for money vs. cheapest prices
- Be proactive vs. reactive when booking anything
- Consider all costs vs. booking piecemeal
I will try to illustrate how we travel cheaply without being traditional budget travelers more clearly in this article.
So, what do we think are the best ways to travel cheaply?
After 2 and half years traveling the world as digital nomads we’ve learned a thing or two about saving money on the road. While our movements are more calculated than wayward, working from our laptops gives us the freedom to travel longer and farther than a lot of people can understand.
For example, we spent only $55 a day traveling 8 weeks throughout the U.K. When we tell people this you can see their confusion. Then we usually get “You guys were camping, right?”
The fact is we didn’t camp and it was easy to save a lot and not compromise on comfort during our time in the United Kingdom, one of the most expensive areas in the world. I can totally understand why people are so confused about how we afford to travel like we do. Many still think what’s considered “leisure” travel denotes financial wealth. We can honestly say it doesn’t have too.
Thanks to the internet and the sharing economy we’ve begun a new era where people can travel on a budget without the discomfort of being a budget traveler.
A nomadic lifestyle defined in the simplest of terms is traveling well for longer. Here’s how we travel full time, with very few compromises on comfort on a budget of $65 USD or less a day for a family of three.
Two things primarily influence where we choose to travel. First thing is desire, we have a list of places that we want to visit and we always consider it before booking our next onward destination. We choose destinations from the list that are convenient and affordable to get to from where ever we are in the world.
If there isn’t any affordable way to get to one of the places on our list, we seek some inspiration to choose the next destination. This brings me to the second thing we do, we investigate house sitting opportunities nearby and/or research cost of living information via Numbeo and Nomad List.
Nomad list helps people find the best places in the world to live and work remotely. Traveling on a budget, we like that they offer a detailed variety of filters to quickly and thoroughly customize our searches for excellent affordable destinations. Nomad List is a site any traveler can benefit from using, not just perpetual travelers. You can learn about the culture, safety, and weather in an area based on time of year. It is super detailed including filters like air quality, vegan food choices, and overall pricing for the cities it covers.
Numbeo isn’t as detailed but it offers travel related cost information (averages for hotels, hostels, and attractions) and cost of living details for common food items, eating out, and short term rental apartments. We like to cross reference information between Numbeo and Nomad List to get the best idea for costs in the places we research to visit.
Using these sites helps us find the “best value for money”destinations. We don’t simply pick the cheapest place overall, we consider a variety of things to make our stay the most comfortable for the best price.
Once we narrowed down budget friendly suitable destinations (we usually have 3 cities chosen) we look for flights.
When it comes to booking flights our greatest asset as digital nomads is flexibility. With no strict timeline for departing or returning and time to research the best days and times to fly cheaper helps us save a lot of money on flights. Typically we fly budget airlines and choose to visit areas of the world that offer a wealth of cheap air travel options like Europe.
In fact, we found traveling in Europe to be much cheaper than South America in large part because of flight costs. In our experience flights within South American countries were pretty affordable but flying from one country to another was really expensive. In Europe there are a number of low-cost airlines; Ryan Air, Easy Jet, Wizzair, and Norwegian just to name a few. Flying from one country to another in Europe can be really cheap because of low-cost airline competition for business.
The cheapest trans-Atlantic flight we took (the best flight we’ve ever taken as well) from Fort Lauderdale, U.S.A to London, England was $750 USD for all three of us. The cheapest flight overall was on Ryan Air, London, England to Bucharest, Romania at a cost of $13 U.S.D per person.
Here’s what we do to find cheap airfare prices:
- We pick the days that are cheapest to fly which are usually mid-week
- We are flexible with where we choose to fly; within a country, not just a specific city or we widen our net to include a few different countries that offer an affordable cost of living
- We fly at the cheapest time of day- early morning or late at night
- We look to book flights between 5 and 2 weeks before we want to relocate. This has been the sweet spot for us- not too far in advance and not last minute either
Airline fees and amenities are other things we take into consideration before booking any flight. The initial seat price might look really cheap but fees for baggage and exorbitant charges for meals or entertainment can increase the cost of a flight significantly.
We always pack as light as we can (a minimal amount of mix and match clothing, efficient outerwear, and multi-purpose shoes). We do carry more than carry on size because we travel perpetually and need to pack clothing suitable for cold and warm climates. That being said, we only carry the things that we use most often there are no “just in case things” in our bags. This helps us keep baggage fees as low as we can and also saves from struggling more than we need to with giant bags on metros and public transit, our primary modes of transportation.
After proactively finding some suitable flights we look at accommodation choices before we make any bookings.
Accommodation is where we benefit from the best value for money by far. We have stayed in a villa near the beach in Spain for two months, in a three-bedroom home with a pool on the Turquoise Coast in Turkey for 4 weeks, and a restored guest house on a private manor in England for three weeks, all free of charge. We procured free stunning accommodation by house sitting. House sitting, hands down saves us the most money on travel. There are some caveats we adhere to before committing to any house sit.
The major differences house sitting as opposed to other forms of accommodation when traveling (aside from it being free) is the level of responsibility that goes along with it. You are caring for someone’s home and, most times, pets while they travel. This can put limitations on the things you can see and do on your trip.
Here are some key differences house sitting vs. staying in tradition vacation accommodations:
House sitting –
- Staying in a local neighborhood instead of a tourist area
- Accountability to ensure the safety of pets and upkeep of a home
- More private space and access to creature comforts like at home
Other traditional vacation accommodations-
- Located in or close to tourists areas
- Your time is your own with minimum upkeep
- Limited space (having to venture out for eating, and share more public spaces for relaxing)
Here are the caveats we adhere to before accepting any house sit to help us enjoy our trip, and keep responsibility and time restraints to a manageable level:
- We look for house sitting assignments that are in cities (or close to cities) we want to visit.
- We choose assignments that are at least two weeks in duration
- The home must be located within walking distance to some amenities
- We ensure easy access to public transportation or the use of a homeowners car
- We care primarily for dogs that can be left at home for longer periods during the day
The biggest benefits of house sitting are it’s free and the accommodation is like home or better. Hotels, hostels, and Airbnb apartment rentals just can’t compare to the space, comfort, and value we enjoy house sitting.
That being said there aren’t always house sits available in areas we want to visit, so we opt for entire place Airbnb rentals instead. Renting apartments with Airbnb has been cheaper than both hotels and hostels in all of the cities we booked with them.
Here are 5 of the things we insist on with Airbnb bookings:
- We look for entire place rentals in desirable neighborhoods not too far from tourist areas (close to things we want to see and do or easily accessible to public transit)
- At least 5 or more great reviews on the rental
- It must be within walking distance to amenities like grocery stores and restaurants
- We prefer it has a full kitchen to cook meals, washing machine, and at least one bedroom
- Hosts that offer a discount when you book a week or more of accommodation
I wrote this post, How we feel at Home Traveling with Airbnb, that outlines all the things we consider before booking Airbnb options in more detail.
Entertainment and attractions
There are a few things we do to travel well cheaply, and only choosing free attractions to visit isn’t one of them. We have made the most of visiting amazing cities like Madrid and Brussels by taking top rated walking tours. One of the best ways to travel on a budget and still experience excellent food, culture, and activities is asking locals what they love about their city. We have found taking a city tour that has lots of rave reviews at the beginning of our trip is the best way to learn about the best value for money activities and restaurants in the places we visit. Tour guides are experts and they love to share their opinions about great things to do in their city (over and above what’s featured in the tour). Pay for a great tour at the beginning of your stay and ask lots of questions to find hidden gems and best value for money attractions to visit during your stay.
Here are some ways we save big on attractions and restaurants traveling:
- We ask Airbnb hosts and homeowners when we house-sit what their favorite restaurants and attractions are in their city
- We pay for a great tour, ask lots of questions to find hidden gems, and save on great experiences throughout our stay as a result
- We buy city cards to get discounts on popular attractions and garner free public transit access in the process
- We visit restaurants and businesses loved by locals outside the tourist zone. Search sites like Gayot, Dine, Zomato, Trip Advisor, Open Table,and Zagat to find local reviews
These are the best ways to travel cheaply based on our experience traveling for the last 930 days
We don’t sleep in airports or bus stations to save money or only check out free attractions to make our stays more affordable. We won’t compromise on comfort by always choosing the cheapest options for all aspects of travel.
We do stay in incredible homes free thanks to house sitting and garner expert (local) advice to help us choose the best value for money things to do in the places we visit. We will always research and consider all of the best value options before booking all parts of our trips.