7 Ways to Save Money While Backpacking
Traveling is one of the most rewarding experiences in life. Do you ever take a vacation and wish you had just a little longer to stay and explore? Do you immediately plan your next trip upon arriving back home? Are you the kind of person that really wants to see and do everything everywhere? Backpacking may just be the life for you! In order to backpack you typically need two important things: a lot of time and a good amount of money.
The problem is those with money rarely have the time. And those with time rarely have the money. If you fall into the latter half but are still determined to make your backpacking dreams, come true, here are 7 ways you can save money while backpacking.
#1: Try your hand at woofing.
Being a woofer means you work for your accommodation. You can often find jobs on farms or remote areas where you’ll be offered a bed and sometimes a meal or two per day worked. These jobs can be very tiresome and hard work since they are typically positions locals and natives are unwilling to fill.
Hostels will also occasionally offer woofing positions where you will be offered a bunk in exchange for daily housekeeping and/or reception duties.
Woofing is also dependent on the country you decided to backpack. Developing countries will be more likely to let you work “under the table” without a proper work visa, but you should never count on this.
New Zealand is an example of a country that will not let you work without an official work-holiday visa. Whether you only want to work the minimum hours required for a bed (typically 9-12 per week), or full time (30-35 hours per week) for accommodation plus additional pay, it is a good idea to go ahead and get the work-holiday visa for the country of your choice.
#2: Get a job while overseas.
Similarly, to woofing it is possible to get a job while abroad. This is the best option if you already have accommodation but still need to make a little bit extra to stretch your travels even further. Typically, work-holiday visas do not require you to work, but simply give you the option to if you choose.
Like woofing, it is possible to work under the table, but visas are always the safest bet! Lawrence worked a landscaping job that paid like a contractor while in New Zealand. He was only able to get that job through familiar connections and would have been turned away otherwise if he had applied without a visa.
I personally recommend working if you are visiting a more expensive Western country. New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Western Europe, and the United States are all examples of Western territories. This means you’ll make more money since the earning and living rates in each country are higher than that of developing countries. Especially if you plan to travel to less expensive places later, your $20 USD an hour will last you 2-3 days in a country like Indonesia or Vietnam.
#3: Stick to a strict budget.
This can be difficult if you are visiting an expensive country with limited transportation options. New Zealand was extremely difficult for us to leisurely travel around without prepping far in advance. Almost every option cost a pretty penny as well, and we had essentially no choice but to spend double our budget.
However, I recommend giving yourself a monthly budget. This way if you go over one month you have an opportunity to recoup the next. So, if you budget $3,000 per month but spend $3,500, the next month you can adjust your budget to start at $2,500 and so on. This way you’ll know months in advance if your spending habits are not sustainable, leaving you with the option to cut the trip a little shorter, but still have enough to buy a plane ticket home.
#4: Use those perks and discounts!
There are an infinite number of great travel credit cards and discount deals out there. If you apply for a travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire (our personal pick) or an airline specific card (offered by most major airlines) gain and spend your points wisely.
For example, our Chase Sapphire card offers bookings through the card for flights, hotels, car rentals, activities, and tours. They not only offer great deals, but you earn points every time you purchase anything, and earn double to triple points on things like travel, dining, and even streaming sites.
Designate one credit card for all your payments while traveling and be sure to pay off the FULL BALANCE at the end of each statement. Once you have enough points use them to purchase flights and hotels as you move place to place. Since you must spend the money anyway it only makes sense to get a free flight here and there.
After using our Chase Sapphire card for one year on all our expenses we’d typically pay in cash or with a debit card (gas, bills, food, etc.), we earned enough points to get each of our $700+ flights to New Zealand down to only $95 per person. That’s essentially free money!
If points are too wild for you, consider getting a credit card with good cash-back perks. Chase Freedom Unlimited has a 1.5% cashback on everything, plus additional bonuses for things like restaurants and grocery shopping, that you can use to pay off the card sooner, which is doing pretty much the same thing as earning travel points to pay for your next flight.
(We are not even sponsored by Chase; they just have great perks!)
#5: Buy groceries instead of eating out.
While backpacking the most common accommodation comes in the form of hostels. The great thing about hostels is they are made with backpackers in mind. This means communal kitchens are typically available for you to prepare and consume your own meals.
Dining out for 3-meals a day will add up crazy quick, even in the cheapest of countries. We are not saying NEVER go out, but try to make a weekly or bi-weekly trip to the grocery store. This will cushion your overall budget and leave room for more exciting and important expenses like activities and transportation.
#6: Include instant coffee (or tea bags) in your packing list.
Are you a caffeine fiend? Personally, I could not go a day without my cup (or two or three) of joe. And hey, I’m all for an indulgent trip to Starbs every now and again, but it’s definitely not sustainable to purchase designer coffee every day on a strict travel budget. Since most countries outside of the United States don’t offer a coffee maker for drip or brewed coffee consider packing a small container of instant freeze-dried coffee.
Instant coffee works just like hot chocolate powder or tea bags. You simply need hot water and a tiny spoonful of the highly concentrated caffeinated particles. Since hostels and hotels will typically have access to hot water or the ability to boil it yourself, you can keep yourself happily caffeinated for a much lower price than going on a daily coffee run. The same goes for tea bags if that’s your cup of tea.
#7: Wash your clothes by hand.
Usually, you can find access to a washing machine and dryer for a decent price. But if you REALLY want to pinch those pennies consider handwashing your clothes in the sink. In New Zealand most hostels offered washing and drying for a total of $8.00 per load. That’s not a crazy amount, but if you’re doing laundry once a week it’s an easy $8.00 to pocket (you could put that money towards something indulgent later, or it’s $8.00 off your next flight!).
Pack laundry detergent sheets for a flat, dry, easy-pack option. Then you just need to plug up your sink and get to scrubbing!
Bonus tip: bring a small robe and paracord to use as a makeshift drying rack. You can string it across your bunk so it’s out of your roommate’s way, but still off the floor.
We hope this list is a little helpful to put towards your next travel adventure! For more tips and tricks checkout our Guides page for plenty of helpful travel articles.