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Why You Don't Have to be Rich to Travel

07 May 2012

I've been busy planning our "Big Adventure,"
aka our seven weeks of travel before returning to the US.
I haven't really said much about it here,
partially because I wasn't sure how interesting it would be to read,
but more importantly because I thought it would give the wrong perception.

You see, a few status updates on my personal FB account have mentioned our upcoming travel.
And, in return, I got tons of comments about how J & I are traveling fools,
and I felt that the underlying message was something along the lines of "gee, it must be nice."
Maybe I'm being a bit sensitive, but I think some of our friends are searching for the money tree in our backyard.


Well, I'm here to tell you, you don't have to be rich to travel.
{you do need some discretionary income and advanced planning}

Let me explain how non-rich folks, like J and I do it.

Costa Rica -- February 2010:
{This was for our destination wedding.}
Flights: We had two free flights through credit cards points (approx $600 value)
Accommodation: 5 nights in a little beachside bungalow for $350
Meals & misc: another $350

I'm not including the costs of our wedding or honeymoon here,
(although I'm happy to do a separate post about our budget wedding if requested,)
so for 5 nights it totaled about $700, which we had over a year and a half to save for.

©Comfort Studio Photography
Europe -- August/September 2010:
{I was selected to work an overseas conference.}
Flights: My flight was paid by my work.  We used all the money we got from our wedding to pay for J's flights (approx $1,100)
Accommodation: 5 nights paid by my company, then we found budget apartment rentals for our nights in London & Paris.  $550 for 5 nights.
Meals & misc: another $600(ish)

Because we turned a work trip into a vacation as well, we really saved on costs.
Total cost was $2,250, but we only had to save for $1,150 worth because we used our wedding money.
We booked hotels & tours a little at a time, over a 4 month period, so we paid under $300 per month.

The Big Adventure -- June/July 2012
So here's the deal, ever since the idea of Australia came about, J and I promised each other that we'd travel for a couple of months before returning to the US.  We decided that we simply couldn't be on this  side of the world, without seeing a fair bit of it.

And we're sticking to it!
Even though I don't have a job lined up in the US,
and things are ridiculously busy with J's work right now,
we're doing it.

Here's our itinerary:
5 days in Hamilton Island, Australia (Great Barrier Reef)
1 week in Bali
2 weeks in Vietnam
3 days in Taiwan
5 days in Okinawa, Japan (visiting my bestie)
2 weeks in New Zealand (north & south island)

How on Earth are we paying for it?
Well, remember that we've been thinking about it for over 1.5 years.
Our total budget is $10,000.

1.) We're "homeless" during this travel time--i.e. we aren't paying rent anywhere.
2.) My work contract includes a contract completion bonus, which (post taxes) will be about $2,000.
3.) It's required by Aussie law that my employer contribute 10% of my salary into a retirement fund.  We'll cash this out when we go, pay the tax penalties, and get about $4,000.
4.) Our Aussie tax return from 2011 was $1,800.
5.) When we move out of our apartment, we'll get our security deposit returned ($2,000.)

So there you have it--our ~$10,000 in travel money.
We've also saved money during the past year, because some of the items I mentioned won't be paid until after we've started traveling.  So in order to have money to get everything booked, we are using money out of our savings and reimbursing ourselves when the bonuses, security deposit, and retirement money come through.

So as I said, you don't have to be rich to travel.
{so long as you plan ahead & have some discretionary income}

My biggest learning in all of our travels, is to start paying a little at a time, at least six months in advance.  It can make a big sum of money seem much more manageable!

What's your budget travel tip?

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  1. I love this, it's great. And very, very true. Thanks for being so honest, it's nice to see actual figures and actual people working this kind of stuff out. I do freak out about the cost of travelling but realistically, it ain't so bad :)

    I always just over budget for everything. When Justin and I went to NZ, I made sure to over budget and save extra hard so that when we came home with left over money, it went straight into my savings :)


  2. I have almost no money and barely a job right now but I've been traveling constantly for two years. My biggest tip is to receive. When people offer you something, take it graciously without feeling embarrassed and then thank them in the way that you can. Also...staying at people's places rather than a shopping instead of restaurants.

  3. I would kinda love hearing about your wedding and how you worked around the budget.
    The idea of a wedding has come up in quite a few conversations with my boyfriend and I... and I'm really not sure what route we would take - our hometown or a destination wedding... so hearing about everything you need to think about would be a huuuuuuuuuuge help.

    P.S. I'm still super jealous of your travelling adventures! But more than that... so stoked to hear all about it!!! xo

  4. I actually wrote a post about this about a week after I returned from Israel (link here: ), and my favorite tip is to stay in hostels or rent out apartments or camp. Hotels are nice, but they are suuuper expensive, so if there is a clean and safe alternative, I usually go with that.

  5. ummm....marry a tour coordinator and live off the perks of his job? OK that's probably the best tip - but it's worked for me.

    To be honest I never plan a trip without consulting my lonely planet. They provide a wealth of tested low-medium-high options for accommodations, eating, activities etc. Rarely does it let me down. Also I scour travel sites like Expedia for deals on flights and hotels months before a trip.

    And one more thing - try to keep the cost down by travelling by train or land. It's a more scenic and cost effective way to discover a new country.

    Oh and find the nearest backpacker area for some cheap and delicious eats.

    The end.

  6. You are much braver than I...

    Incredible itinerary...I'll just live vicariously through you.

    Another great post!!

  7. Wow! This is lovely post. You've shared it all beautiful. Thanks for sharing this excellent post.
    Good Job!

  8. Great post! Some people really do think you have to be loaded to travel, and it can be very uncomfortable!

    My husband and I were married Key West, spent a week with our families and then departed on a cruise. It got to the point that I was nearly uncomfortable telling anyone our plans because of the looks we recieved! I am a super thrifty person and we are not rolling in extra cash, so it took a lot of planning!

    Very excited for you and your husband about this trip! I bet it is incredible! I look forward to hearing about it--I've been wanting to travel to Bali!

  9. I've had a lot of frustrating self-lessons in discount European travel, but apparently I've become the go-to person around my husband's office. His coworkers come to me to ask about places to stay, flights, etc. Really, we're just trying to get the most out of our time and money in Europe and I'm wiling to do the leg-work ahead of time for it!!
    That's a lot of "sudden" money- I think using it for this trip is brilliant!! I can't wait to hear all about it!

  10. Hi, I'm a new follower! I'm a library science student in Canada : )

  11. Well said. I think if you want it bad enough you just have to make it happen. :) So looking forward to hearing more about all of those places, particularly Bali! Please do blog about it! :)

  12. I'm lucky enough to have a boyfriend with a family in Europe. We've also been turning his family events into vacations and graciously accepting any help his family offers. We went to Cyprus for his sister's wedding (as I posted about on your). So, we had a whole day of activities we didn't need to pay for and his parents graciously paid for half of our hotel costs. Since our flights were three times as much as theirs, they offered to chip in. We will someday repay their kindness when we have a bit more money. We'll be going to Scotland for his cousin's wedding in September and will stay with his parents most of the time. So, I plan and accept any help any one offers me in order to travel.

    Penniless Socialite

  13. I loved reading this post, thank you for sharing! Hubby and I have not yet taken a honeymoon (been married 8 months). I have just always been a saver and I would hate to spend money on a few day vacation rather than saving money for a house. Good for you guys though.

  14. 7 weeks of travel is awesome!! Perfect timing that it is between moves as well. I look forward to hearing about your adventures in the east! My next big trip will definitely be to South Korea :)

  15. I love this post. It's so true. Tim and I travel a fair amount, but for short periods of time due to the nature of his work. We get the same kind of vibe from some people we know, like... wow... another vacation?! We don't travel super far (ahem, Bali? Jealous.) but we probably take 6-8 trips a year.

  16. I think it's nice you laid this out for everyone. It's true, if you set a savings goal and try to stick to a savings plan, you can travel to some amazing places without breaking the bank.

    My best travel tip is to stock up on snacks before leaving. Especially as a vegetarian I always bring foods I know I will eat and like in a travel backpack. Also, for drinks, we usually go get some wine and beer from a liquor store and keep it in our hotel room instead of buying over-priced drinks at the hotel bar/restaurants.

    Can't wait for your new adventure to start. I want to live vicariously through you!

  17. SO smart!! New follower! I cant wait to follow you on your adventure :)

  18. Wow, you are so inspiring!! Ready to get my travel on!

  19. we also save money far in advance. we paid for our honeymoon with money we got from our wedding. we paid for our recent trip to florida by putting money in our savings every pay period from september - til we went in march. we never put anything on our credit card we cant immediately pay off, but we smartly use certain credit cards for points/watch for deals and saveeeeee

  20. This is such a great post! I know a lot of people make it seem like if you travel you must be rich, but really all it takes is good planning and saving. I think my biggest travel tip on one of the biggest expenses is if you know when you're going to travel, book your flight early. Bing has a pretty cool travel prediction that I used when buying my trip to england and it saved me $300 more than the first time I had ever booked a flight there. Instead of paying the $1200 that it normally costs, I found one for $900. Had I booked earlier I also found some at $700, so definitely book early. And start saving early. Calculate how much you need to save every month to meet your goal during a specified amount of time. If traveling is something you really want to do, you know where you'll want to make sacrifices to make it happen. I know for me I cut down on eating out so much and limited my shopping. And I over budget to make sure that I have more than enough when the time comes.

    Also I would love to hear the details of your budget wedding! :)

  21. Love it! Miss you Emily... Just as you're finishing your big adventure We'll be heading off for our Peru Adventure. I'm looking forward to seeing you back at Lilly in some facet or another... I 'feel' it!

  22. This is a great post, Em! Mr. TBS and I are currently using my credit card for all purchases and automatic billing accounts to rack up the rewards (and it's working so far)! We're hoping to use it for airfare for Germany where one of my close friends lives and has guest rooms or to take extended weekend trips to visit other U.S. states to see where we want to move to next and set roots to have Banjo.

    It also helps that neither of you will have to request leave from work! Nice! I can't wait to see photos from your trip! It's going to be an amazing seven weeks, and then... home to your pups! :-)

  23. WOW!! I am sooo jealous!! I wish I could take a trip like that! sounds amazing!

  24. Holy Shit that's quite the adventure!

    We are pretty much doing your Europe work trip this summer. I "have" to go to London and Paris for two weeks this summer, so we are adding on trips before and after, and enjoying the free hotel in between.

    Our big trick is just to combine work with pleasure whenever possible, but I'm lucky to go to pretty nice places.

    Also, we are working on a vietnam honeymoon for two weeks so I CANT WAIT to hear about what you guys have planned for that!

  25. I'm so jealous of you. I've always wanted to go to Bali. Saly, I can't even get Boyfriend to go to Hawaii, he's just not a vacation type of person.

  26. Emmy, how cool! I cannot wait for your trip!!! I have always wanted to visit that side of the world, and I cannot wait to hear all about it! {And I love hearing all about how you planned it and saved for it all, it makes it do-able! Thanks for sharing all of that.}

  27. Yes! This is so true!
    And I think I've convinced my hubs to take advantage of us being in the middle of the Pacific and going to a few places over here, while we're halfway there (compared to being in the continental US.)
    I've never looked at getting apt rentals in other countries! I've only done that for US trips. Good tip.
    Can't wait to see all your pics and updates on the great adventure!!

  28. Stumbled on your blog while doing some memory-jogging reading on Ubud... This is a great post!

    I know what you mean with how some people believe that you are loaded if you travel, but really the myth that you need to be rich to travel needs to be knocked over. My partner and I don't have a TV (or cable!), only recently bought a mobile phone, watch our spending and start saving early for travel plans.

    We have a trip coming up to Norway and Sweden, two of the most expensive countries in the world - we started saving for this trip last year!

    So kudos to you and keep travelling! :)

    Hope all is well back in the US... Sydney just weathered a storm and is back to being summery and sunny again. Safe trails.

    Peggy Tee
    Freelance writer and blogger at Taking to the Open Road


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