We keep track of all our expenses on an excel spreadsheet broken down by category. This way we know exactly how much we've spent and on what. See the link below for our yearly expenses in Thailand. http://freetirement.weebly.com/blog/first-year-expenses-in-retirement
We have broken down our major expenses of full time travel to the four main categories of: transportation, accommodation, food, and entertainment. We would like to share with you some of our most frequently used "travel hacks" and tips about how we get the most from our money, no matter where we may roam.
First and most important, luckily we are very flexible with the times of year that we choose to travel. Not being tied to our classroom teaching jobs and restricted by the school calendar's imposed holidays any longer, we find the best deals consistently occur during off season travel.
Let's talk about transportation first, shall we? It's high on our list of ways to save money because you have to get where you're going before any of the magic can happen, right? Transportation, if you are a flexible traveler, doesn't have to cost a king's ransom. Randy is really thorough in his research for the most economical form of transportation. He uses a variety of travel sites such as Kayak, Google Flight or Fare Compare to locate the best deals on various modes of transportation to get us from place to place.
Budget airlines such as Air Asia and Lion Air in Asia or Ryan Air in Europe offer some great deals, but with these deals, come some things to consider. Are you willing to pay less for the ticket but then have to stop more often or endure long layovers along the way, as these discount fares sometimes require? Do you carry lots of baggage along on your travels? If so, you sometimes end up paying more than the ticket costs because airlines often charge per bag or have limited weight guidelines and the additional fees can add up very quickly. To avoid this, we usually travel very lightly. And by lightly, I mean that everything we own we can fit into our own carry-on bag and a backpack each. We choose not to check bags for a variety of reasons, and you can read here about just how we manage to do that and how I manage transitioning to and from multiple climates with only a capsule wardrobe (hint: it's all about the layering). http://freetirement.weebly.com/blog/travel-the-world-with-only-carry-on-bags-yes-and-heres-how-we-do-it.
Planes may be the quickest mode of transportation, but sometimes we choose a much more relaxing way to get where we're going; the cruise ship. Repositioning cruises are some of the most economical ways to travel. For a very modest fee, sometimes as low as $500 per person for a two week transatlantic cruise (excluding taxes and gratuities), you have just taken care of your transportation, accommodation, food AND entertainment all in one tidy, floating package! Add in the extra bonus features of visiting exotic ports along the route and repositioning cruises also guarantee 0% jet lag, which is something we are always happy to avoid whenever we can. Want to find out more details about this luxury way of off season slow travel? Check out our full story here: http://freetirement.weebly.com/blog/repositioning-cruises.
Read more about transportation in SE Asia here: http://freetirement.weebly.com/blog/free-airfare-well-almost
When we first began traveling almost two decades ago, we used to choose organized group tours that often required stays in four star hotels with pre-set meals and very structured itineraries. While we did enjoy that mode of travel in the beginning and met many friends along the way, we prefer now to do things on our own. We came to realize that we didn't need four star resorts in order to be comfortable. In fact, once we started using Airbnb online and selecting more homey accommodations like bed and breakfasts, guesthouses, and hostels, we find that we really do prefer it over luxury resort hotels. We get to meet the owners of the homes where we stay and learn firsthand about things to see and do in the area. We also meet other world travelers in this more intimate shared setting. In hotels we tend to roll our luggage in the door of the hotel room, close and lock it behind us, and then come and go from our room without ever really meeting other travelers.
We now find that two or three star hotels in other countries are usually comparable to nicer hotels in more developed countries, and at a fraction of the cost.
Most of the time, we book accommodations online for at least the first few days we are in a new country. Then, we wander around by ourselves to see what we may have missed. Some hotels and private B&Bs don't advertise online so we ask around in local cafes or people we meet and you'd be surprised what insider tips others have regarding inexpensive places to stay.
Once we find a place we like in an area that suits us, we begin negotiating the rent for a longer term stay. This is feasible when you slow travel because you are choosing to stay in one place for longer than a few weeks. We like to stay at least several months or more per location when we can. Visa regulations often dictate how long we're allowed to linger in any set place. Read about how we navigate the sometimes confusing and ever-changing visa rules and regulations here: http://freetirement.weebly.com/blog/visas-ai-yai-yai
Our general plan is to stay in cheaper worldwide locations such as Southeast Asia or Central America for longer periods of time during the year because overall, the cost of living in those countries is more economical. That way, we can balance out our shorter term visits in more expensive locales such as Europe. After finding a place we would like to live, we find that landlords are more apt to lower the rent of an apartment when they know it will be rented for a longer term. Always be sure to ask for a discount. Never ask, never know, right?
We managed, through word of mouth, to find our very first house sit beginning this summer in Germany. We are looking forward to our first assignment and welcome the opportunity to take care of their home, pets, and yard while they enjoy peace of mind during their travels.
Another common way we save on day-to-day eats while traveling is to try not to eat all three meals out. Many times, we'll stop by a market or grocery store and buy items like bread, fruit, eggs, milk, and cheese so that we can eat breakfast at our hotel. Eating breakfast on our own allows us to wake slowly, savor the morning, and not have to rush out to find a place to eat.
We also look for lunch specials along the way. Often, restaurants will advertise a "special of the day" fixed set menu that includes a salad, main dish, and a drink or dessert for one low price. In contrast, dinner menus are often pricier so we cut costs by sharing an appetizer and entree. The huge portions are more than enough for us to share and that leaves room for a cocktail or local craft beer to enjoy with our meal. Sharing meals when we can also means we don't have to worry about the inconvenience of carrying around our leftovers.
The final category of travel where we actively look for ways to spend less is our entertainment. This can be a budget buster for sure, so we like to be somewhat creative in our choices for how to keep ourselves "happy busy" when we slow travel in a place.
One of the first things we like to do when arriving in a new location is to research any available "free walking tours". These are in many of the larger cities we've visited, especially in Europe. They are a great way to get an overview of the things each city has to offer. The tour guides are very engaging locals who have a great deal of knowledge and interesting or humorous side stories about the history and culture of their city. The tours, which last anywhere from 1-3 hours are advertised as free but tipping is encouraged and well worth it, in our opinion.
I tend to seek out ways to feel more involved in a new community when I travel, so I visit local cafes that have notice boards on them advertising everything from local weaving classes, cooking lessons, salsa demonstrations, Zumba classes, meditation retreats or volunteer opportunities. I always find something that interests me or an activity that I may want to try for the first time. In Thailand and Guatemala I found weekly Zumba dance/exercise classes for less than $5 per class and I really enjoy being part of that high energy group. It gives me a place to make new friends and sweat my cares away to some great music.
You can read more about our favorite places in Chiang Mai that not only include entertainment, but medical services, eating, and ways to get pampered.
So, go on now. Get out there and explore this beautiful world and all the many treasures it has to offer! There's no truer saying than, "Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer."
*Please check out our pictures of the many countries we have visited, located in our "travel" section dating from 1999 - present. You can click to enlarge the image and each photo is provided with a caption.