Two Kinds of Travellers – Which One Are You?
In my experience, there are two kinds of travelers. Some have money and no time. These are the travelers who typically book all-inclusive resorts and cruises, where they can just pay a bill and have everything worked out for them. Other travelers have time and no money, and when you’re in that situation you need to get creative. Our family certainly approached our year traveling around the world with a wild sense of monetarily-challenged creative innovation. Here are some of the ways we traveled the world when we couldn’t afford to.
Accommodations are a huge expense when traveling. Depending on where you are in the world and what time of year, even an economy hotel can cost $150.00 a night or more. That’s a $1050.00 a week or $4200.00 a month. If you traveled for a year like we did, you’d spend over 50K just on accommodations. That’s more than our family of four spent the entire year we traveled for accommodations, meals, airfare, vehicle rentals, food, etc.
Friends, Family and Distant Relations
We have a very social house and lifestyle. We like it when friends and family come to stay with us, and we enjoy staying with others. So if you’re like us, then tapping into your social network is a huge resource. Zara reached out to a friend in Hawaii she hadn’t seen in almost 20 years. We ended up staying with Sean and Alice in their condo in Mililani for two weeks. Packing two families into a three-bedroom condo for two weeks could have been a recipe for disaster. But if you can be respectful, considerate and FUN, you can avoid most conflict and create an awesome experience for everyone. Our time in Hawaii was a highlight for our entire family and our hosts.
In Malaysia, we jumped onboard the wedding celebration for one of Zara’s cousins. This let us focus on just getting ourselves to Penang. Once we were there, we were able to enjoy three weeks of plans made by someone else, including staying in apartments they’d secured outside of the tourist zone, saving us a bundle.
We spent our first week in Australia with relatives in Sydney. One of their family friends invited us to stay at his sheep farm in the Outback. We accepted his invitation too. Not only did these invitations save us money, they provided us with experiences we simply wouldn’t have been able to have on our own.
We booked hostels more than hotels. Not only we were able to rent private family rooms for around $70.00 a night, they also provided us access to a kitchen, which meant we could avoid restaurants and the high costs of eating out. And you never know what will happen…like one night we met a family from England at a hostel in Australia who invited us to stay with them when we made it to the UK. Which we did for a week six months later.
There are many different organizations that provide alternative ways to budget travel like COUCHSURFING, TRUSTED HOUSESITTERS and WORK AWAY. Just before we left Canada, we discovered SERVAS, an international hospitality network of hosts and travelers. After a brief interview and one-time payment of $70.00, we were able to access a list of all the Servas hosts in any country we visited. Servas hosts provide two nights accommodation for free, along with supper and breakfast. All they ask in return is that you share an hour or two a day hanging out and sharing stories with each other. We used this network extensively in Australia and New Zealand. Win-win!
In Rome, we stayed with Zara’s godmother for four days. In Arona, we housesat for friends of a friend for 10 days over Easter while they were away. The only thing they asked in exchange was for us to puppy-sit while we were there. We were in Italy for over two weeks and only paid for one night when we hiked Cinque Terre.
A great guest can break up the monotony of a schedule and make a Monday night feel like the weekend. It works if you like staying with people, and people staying with you. We knew we were going to do this, so we brought prints of Zara’s artwork and my CDs to give away as presents. When a band goes on tour or plays a festival, the cast and crew wear ‘All Access’ passes during the show. We made ‘Leaf World Tour’ All Access Passes, and gave them to every host we stayed with. On the front, we’d arranged our luggage in the shape of an Inukshuk, which is a human figure traditionally built out of rocks by the Inuit people of northern Canada to signify a place of shelter, food, water or to mark the way for others. We wanted to honour everyone who had provided us a place to stay and made our tour possible.
Eating Out vs. Eating In
When we’re traveling, just like when we’re at home, we rarely eat in restaurants. Prices are high, our satisfaction is low…so at the end of the meal it usually seems like we’ve spent a lot of money to be vaguely dissatisfied. When traveling, we choose to eat simple fare in the most exotic locations possible.
Our ‘world tour meal’ involved a baguette, Brie, spicy meats, olives, fruits, chips, crackers, hummus, wine, juice, chocolate. We ate some version of this meal on beaches, mountaintops, coastal cliffs and under tropical sunsets…it never felt like roughing it.
Traveling on a budget as a family forced us to make some specific decisions for transportation. Our kids were 13 and 9 years old at the time. They were carrying their own backpacks, but it wasn’t realistic to expect them to endure (and enjoy) full days of planes, trains, and buses with all their stuff. So we rented cars. It gave us maximum flexibility when scheduling day trips and where and when we wanted to go. It also gave us a place to leave our stuff so we didn’t always have to carry everything all the time.
This worked great in Australia as we drove from Sydney to Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road and all the way up to Coonamble and the Australian Outback. In New Zealand, we chose JUICY RENTALS. They have a service called, El CheapO, where they rent older cars. (I admit I commonly referred to it as El CrapO) We flew into Christchurch and the Juicy shuttle picked us up at our hotel the next day. We drove all over the south Island, including some pretty spectacular off-road goat trails! Included in the rental, Juicy arranged our ferry to the north island where we toured for another three weeks, eventually dropping the car off in Auckland when we flew to Europe. It was perfect.
Another cool option that just might work for you is a service called, Campervan Relocation. The company rents campervans, and from time to time have too many vehicles in one depot or the other. If they need a campervan moved from Auckland to Christchurch or visa versa, and that’s a direction you’d like to travel, you can drive one of their campervans for them.
They describe it this way on their website, “Campervan relocation is an extremely cost effective and fun way to check out parts of New Zealand and visit friends that you struggle to see and catch up with. If you get your timing right, we have deals going from as low as $1 per day for a campervan relocation! Sometimes we will even pay for the vehicle on the ferry and if it’s your lucky day we will even pay for your ticket on the ferry too! If you have not explored much of New Zealand, then this is a fantastic way to get out there and experience it.”
For our time in Europe, we rented a super economical diesel car from EUROPCAR in France because they have a great tourism incentive if you pick up and drop off in France. For around $1500.00 we had a car for the two months we toured Europe. With unlimited mileage we picked up in Nice and drove from the south of France to Stockholm and all points in between, dropping it off at Charles du Gaulle in Paris the day we flew to the UK. It was by far the cheapest and most convenient transportation option.
The trick to traveling the world when you can’t afford it is finding out what works for you. If you’ve got time but not money, and you’re willing to explore unconventional options, you’ll be amazed at ways you can travel the world feeling like a millionaire without actually having to be one.
Got tips, tricks or stories of your own? Please share in the comments!
Rik, Zara, Zion & Riel are world travelers…you can read about their hilarious adventures in Four Homeless Millionaires – How One Family Found Riches By Leaving Everything Behind.