This is something I hear from everyone I talk to: “Matt, I just don’t have enough money to travel.”

This problem and how to overcome it probably my most asked question.

I answer this question in a plethora of posts, emails, tweets, and Facebook posts. Long-term readers might even be getting sick of me discussing this subject because it is one I talk about to such an extent. One of the questions on my recent Q&A was about how someone who doesn’t function in travel can actually afford to travel. “What can they do?” they asked me.

Since this question comes up so often, I like to constantly remind people of this fact:

You do not need to be rich to travel.

Let’s repeat that.

You do not need to be rich to travel.

I sure wasn’t. I had an average-paying administrative job the year before I left for my first excursion. It wasn’t a considerable measure after taxes (I had less than $15k to live on for the year after taxes and loans were paid off).

Yet I managed to save enough to travel the world. How? I made it a need. If travel is not a need for you, you will always find some other things to spend money on and you’ll never have “enough” money to travel. I never have enough money to go shopping or buy a new electronic gadget because I spend my money on travel, so there isn’t much left over for non-need expenses. Everything I do is focused on having more money for travel (and other things I love like sushi, movies, and nice dinners)!

What is your savings need? Is it travel? If it is travel, what is keeping you from saving money? What are you spending it on?

A few months ago, I wrote about the importance of writing out your expenses and then cutting them to save money for your excursion. I offered 20 hints on how to do so โ€” the same tips I used before I went away. At the time, I was all the while paying college debt, and yet using those tips managed to save over $20,000 for my initial outing around the world.

“But Matt, I work a lowest pay permitted by law job/am a student/live on Social Security/am underemployed/live with my parents/spend a considerable measure/have kids/[insert other excuse here] and regardless of what I can do, I’ll never be able to do it. I can’t even pay back my student loans. What do I do?”

The Ultimate Guide to Cheap Travel

Getting free flights is one way to travel with no money

What do you do when you are in that boat? What do you do when prioritizing your budget and using my 20 hints to grow your bank balance won’t even work?

Many things.

So the focus of today’s “you don’t need to be rich to travel” reminder is to discuss all the ways you can travel for virtually free. You don’t need a ton of money to begin. Even if you don’t earn a great deal or have debt, there are ways to go overseas still. If you feel that regardless of what you do you will never get ahead by saving money, follow this guide to ultimate travel frugality and see the world on the ultra-cheap:

Work overseas โ€” Not making enough money at your job? Why not get a job overseas? There are plenty of opportunities in the world as long as you aren’t picky โ€” and after all, this isn’t a career you are starting, it’s only a way to earn money for travel. Here are some jobs you can get to pay the bills and fund your travels:

Au pair


Hostel worker


Farm worker (very popular in Australia and New Zealand)

Dive instructor (some certification required)

Visit guide

Cruise ship worker

Casino worker

Seasonal worker at ski resorts

Yacht worker

(Click the highlighted connects to read stories of individuals who have done those exact jobs!)

Working overseas often gets discounted as an alternative because it seems hard to do. It’s most certainly not. Simply be open. These jobs don’t require advanced degrees or a great deal of work experience either. Are you going to get some high-paying office job? No. Will you get a shitty, low-wage job that will pay all your travel bills? Yes! I’ve met people from all walks of life, both from Western and non-Western countries, funding their travels this way.

LEARN MORE: How to find a job and function overseas

Teach English overseas โ€” One of the best ways to make money for travel is to teach English overseas. You can make a considerable measure of money teaching โ€” I replenished my travel funds while working in Thailand, and I have had friends leave South Korea with tens of thousands of dollars in the bank. All you need is the ability to speak English fluently and maybe a TEFL degree, depending on the country you work in. The world is yearning for teachers, and this is a job in high demand; many companies in Asia will even pay for your flight over.

Here is a more advanced, in-depth guide for those ready to take the plunge. Or, on the other hand, read this interview with Emily, who funded her entire trek by teaching overseas.

Get free flights โ€” There are so many ways to earn free flights, I hate when people tell me they can’t afford to fly. Sign up for a few travel credit cards, collect miles, and then fly for free. Most cards offer sign-up bonuses of 50,000 focuses โ€” and if you sign up for both an airline card (think a United airlines card) and a general rewards card like the Chase Sapphire or AMEX card, you can combine the two point balances and get a cheap flight faster.

I’ve been a travel hacker for a long time and it’s what allows me to fly and stay around the world for free. I collect miles and hotel focuses through credit card rewards, online bonuses, category bonuses, surveys, and special offers. Travel hacking is how you can travel cheap!!!!

Can’t sign up for credit cards? There are many ways to increase your mileage balance without credit cards. Three high-impact ways are:

Watch out for deals โ€” I sign up for all the airline mailing records. I always watch out for special 2-for-1 miles deal, or when they have special card offers to get extra miles. United Airlines just gave me 1,000 miles for watching a demo on their new shopping toolbar. I once got triple miles by buying some clothes from Gap just by seeing it in their mailing list. That doesn’t even utilize all the special bonus offers airlines have on cars, restaurants, and hotels.

Put everything on the card โ€” I pay nothing in cash. I put everything on my card, from Starbucks to phone bills. My total monthly spending is about $2,500 per month. That’s more miles for me. Everything I do is to benefit my mileage account.

Stay with locals for freeโ€“ There are many services that connect travelers with locals who are willing to let them stay with them for FREE. Using this site you will never have to pay for accommodation. Years ago I read about a guy who traveled for years while just Couchsurfing. I’ve used this service about 10 times and always meet amazing people. Sometimes you get a room, sometimes a couch, sometimes an air mattress, but it’s always free. There are also local Couchsurfing group meet-ups that can help you make friends in your new city. Moreover, because of the rise of the sharing economy in the last few years there are currently websites that let you stay with locals as well as share rides, meals, train tickets, gear, and much more! These website save you a TON of money as well as get you off the traveler track and into the local life. Win-win!

Using the sharing economy โ€“ You can find cheaper accommodation, peculiar visit guides, rideshare choices, and home-cooked meals with local chefs. You can bypass the traditional travel industry with sharing economy websites and gain access to locals using their own particular assets and aptitudes to become small tourism companies with cheaper prices. (For example, my Airbnb stay in St. Croix was $50 per night while the cheapest hotel I could find was $150.) Moreover, locals know where to find deals. They know which supermarket is cheapest, which stores offer the best sales, and where to find the hole-in-the-wall restaurants and bars with the tastiest food at the lowest prices. Talking directly to them gives you access to that knowledge.

Airbnb (accommodation)

Vayable (visits)

BlaBlaCar (ridesharing)

EatWith (meals)

Hitchhike โ€” A free way to get around destinations that is relatively safe and quite common in many parts of the world, including Central America, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. I’ve hitchhiked in more than a handful of countries in the world.

San Francisco is an example of a city with free walking visits

Free walking visits โ€” Want to learn about the city, get your bearings, and see the major sights? Take a free walking visit. You can find them in 90% of the major cities in Europe, and there are also a few in large Asian cities, South America, New York, Australia, and New Zealand. To find these visits, ask the local vacationer office, your hostel staff (or simply walk into a hostel and ask about them), or Google “Free walking visit (city name).”

House-sit โ€” Can’t afford your vacation? Watch someone’s house while they go on theirs. You can sign up for one of the sites below and watch people’s homes for free, allowing you to stay in one destination for a while and get to know it well without having to pay for accommodation. Added bonus: you get a kitchen to cook your food (which saves you even more money!!!) Here is a step-by-step guide on how to become a housesitter.

Cook your meals โ€” The best way to save money on the road is to cook all your own meals. I recently spent $60 USD for a week’s worth of groceries in Stockholm instead of an average of $15 USD per meal eating out! That’s a saving of $150 USD! If you are Couchsurfing, your host will probably have a kitchen, as do many hostels, campsites, and guesthouses. No kitchen? Pack your own container and silverware and make some sandwiches and salads in a hurry. Not every meal requires a stove right?

Because you are traveling, it doesn’t mean you need to eat out every meal. You won’t demolish your excursion to Paris if you decide not to eat out

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