How to keep travelling when you're broke AF

The wanderlust is real... but the bank account is REAL empty! Essentially, you're broke AF! What do you do? Keep scrolling through the 'gram and living vicariously through your friends and favourite travel bloggers in envy? Hell no!

So you've been penny pinching, skimping on that daily coffee, scrounging for shrapnel to add to your coin jar and just cracking down hard on your budget in general. You're doing everything right according to all of those 'how to save for travel' posts you've discovered on Pinterest, and the savings are going reasonably well... but you know you're going to need some serious 'travel hacks' if you're going to be able to keep travelling on your pittance.

Broke AF afraid of bank account

After planning a round-the-world trip for over a year, I have become the queen of researching how to stay abroad for as long as possible, with as little as possible.

Trust me, I'm no guru. After a year of vigorous planning and saving, I'm still broke AF!

But you better believe I have no intention of coming home quickly (sorry mum), so I'm sharing my findings with you all. Some of my findings may be glaringly obvious, but hopefully I've thrown a few curveballs in there that you may not have thought of yet, to keep you travelling for longer.

Are you taking advantage of Frequent Flyer Points?

Snape frequent flyer points

As a travel agent, it ASTOUNDS me how many travellers are not in the frequent flyer game, and have absolutely no idea how to take advantage of all of those points they could have been racking up since day one.

My dad's number one rule in life was 'never get a credit card' but it didn't take me long to figure out that plastic makes the world go round (sorry dad). As soon as I came of age, I did my research and found a zero fees/interest fee credit card which gave me one frequent flyer point for EVERY SINGLE DOLLAR I spent on the card. I linked the card up to my Qantas frequent flyer account, used it to pay all of my bills and took advantage of all of the card's exclusive promotional offers for double/extra points when shopping at certain retailers.

Now remember, this is a post about being broke AF... NOT in debt AF, so as long as you pay your bill on time, before the interest period kicks in, you wont be out of pocket anything. 

I have managed to accrue thousands of points this way, even when I'm not doing a lot of flying!

Here are a few other ways you can earn points:

  • Switch to that airline's affiliated phone and utility providers
  • Booking accommodation and car hire through that airline's booking engine while logged in
  • Eating at restaurants that give you points when you pay your bill
  • Refer friends to the credit card company to receive sign up bonuses
  • Flying with that airline and it's alliances (duh)

For my upcoming world trip, I was waiting to earn just a few more points and had my eye on business class flights, however I received a 24-hr flash-sale offer from Qantas to purchase an economy ticket for half the amount of usual points.

So what did it cost for my one way ticket from Melbourne to LA you ask? Just 22,500 points and $250 in taxes! Mmhmm, NOW PICK YOUR JAW UP OFF THE FLOOR AND GO CHECK YOUR FREQUENT FLYER BALANCE RIGHT NOW! You could have a flight to anywhere just sitting there waiting for you!!

Seriously dude, points is where it's at! 

Look for alternative accommodation options

So you've saved up all of this money, and you're really proud of yourself. It's hard to resist the urge to splurge and treat yo self. Don't get me wrong, TREAT YOSELF GIRL!! You can and should do this every once in a while, but if you're looking at luxury hotels for your whole holiday, well have a nice week away. Looking to stay away for longer than a week? Well you need to think a little bit more thriftily. Trust me anyway, fancy hotels are overrated!

Thanks to the interweb gods, there are SOOOOO many awesome alternative options out there just waiting for you to get into bed with them... Yep, I said it.

Option numero uno: AirBnB

Heard of a little old thing called AirBnB? 

As a travel agent, it's a real bummer that I'm really not supposed to suggest AirBnB as an option to my customers. Lucky for them, I'm good at my job, and may throw a hint in there for them anyway to suss it out, because I love love lurrrrrveeeee AirBnB!

There really are so many gorgeous villas, apartments, houses, huts and who knows what else out there that are just ripe for the booking... for the fraction of the cost of a hotel.

Check out this STUNNING AirBnB in Langkawi that I paid $130/night for (sharing with my spunk, so... $65pp).

I would've paid triple for the view alone!

I'm sure you guys are all over this one by now, so I'm going to move onto a few other options you may not have heard of...

Option numero dos: Trusted Housesitters

Trusted housesitters have popped up on my radar quite a bit lately, meaning they are flogging the shit out of facebook advertising! It's working... I'm intrigued.

Are you a pet lover, have a few weeks to spare and have always wanted to immerse yourself into a particular part of the world for an extended period of time? Trusted housesitters is a website that connects travellers to housesit for other travellers. It's a win-win!

The best thing about the arrangement? Other than the initial registration you pay to use trusted housesitters services, the whole thing is totally free! No money is exchanged between you and the host. Like any other house sitting situation, the arrangement works on mutual trust that you're not going to totally trash their home. And naturally the website works off a review-based system just like AirBnB, so if you or your host aren't happy, the whole internet will know about it in no time!

I personally haven't used the website yet, but I am raring to give it a go! And when I'm old and responsible with a scary mortgage someday, you just know that I'll be on the other end of the arrangement too. 

I guess the only downside of house-sitting is that you are restricted to staying in that region for your whole stay, you can't take a holiday from your holiday because you've made a commitment to be there. If you're looking for a go-go-go holiday, this may possibly not be the option for you.

Option numero tres: Workaway

This option definitely excites me the most! 

Workaway is a program that offers you some sort of work and cultural exchange for accommodation and usually meals too. Like trusted house sitters, after paying your initial sign-up fee on the website, no money should ever change hands during the stay.

The view from our AirBnB in Langkawi... not a bad place for a workaway I'd say!

The view from our AirBnB in Langkawi... not a bad place for a workaway I'd say!

You can peruse through the extensive list of hosts on the website by region, dates and work type. The work ranges from baby-sitting, farming, general maintenance, hostel work, housekeeping... You name it! I have seen advertisements for people purely looking for someone to live in their home and offer a cultural or language exchange to their children (essentially they'll give you somewhere to stay indefinitely just for contributing something new to their household, pfft barely even work!)

I was first introduced to workaway, ironically, while staying at the AirBnB in Langkawi. The host offered complimentary airport transfers and I was picked up by a Polish dude that seemed like the receptionist of the AirBnB. I later found out that he had made the arrangement through Workaway. In exchange for food and accommodation, he picked up the guests and dropped off the laundry each day. He made sure that the tea and coffee was stocked up in the common area by the pool, and helped the guests with any queries they had. That was it. The rest of the time he scooted around the island and went surfing.

The concept wasn't completely new to me, as I have an Aunty who has used a similar website for years now. For as long as I can remember when I would visit her, she would always have French backpackers staying at her house helping her with general maintenance, cooking, cleaning and gardening. She was extremely generous with the extra space in her gorgeous mansion, and now has a huge extended family around the world with all of the people she's hosted over the years.

I have actually signed up for this website and already seen so many workaways I'm itching to do! You could essentially jump between these indefinitely and all you would ever have to pay for is the transport to get between them (and a meal here and there).

The first workaway I have officially lined up is a month staying at a house in Alaska with a family of dog-sledders. I've also got my eye on a hostel on a little island off Mexico. I'M BEYOND FREAKING EXCITED FOR THESE!


This ones good for the wallet and the soul!

Although, you could consider Workaway as a volunteer opportunity with a homestay, I think a lot of people imagine volunteering in a broader sense... like helping the wider community, rather than one individual household.

Often, you do still have to pay program fees to participate in volunteer programs abroad, however it can be a great way to immerse yourself into a third world culture, give back and still cut costs on your trip overall. 

I was blessed to participate in a volunteer opportunity with IVHQ in Kenya for three weeks. I volunteered at a special needs centre an hour out of Nairobi, stayed with a beautiful host family and was stuffed full of delicious local meals every day. The whole experience cost me less than $1,000AUD for the three weeks and was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.

My gorgeous host family, during my volunteer placement in Kenya

My gorgeous host family, during my volunteer placement in Kenya

Split costs with friends

So maybe your love life's not going the way you had hoped... or you just prefer to travel solo? Nothing wrong with that my friend... except when it comes to your finances I'm afraid.

Broke and single live dangerously

It's a well known fact that solo travel can end up more costly. If you are staying in hotels most of the time, you are still paying per room, not per person. You've got nobody to split a cab with, or to go halvies in a huge meal with... you gotta eat that son 'bitch all on your own!

So you've been travelling for a while now, and have taken all of my awesome tips on board, which means you're no longer staying in hotels, or riding in taxis as per the above. You've made some new friends during your travels, and have even forgotten that you ever consider yourself a solo traveller by now. 

Maybe these friends want to go splitsies in some tapas with you for dinner so that you can try more than one thing on the menu for once? Maybe it's time to take a break from the hostel scene, and all chip in for a nice big AirBnB for a few days? There are so many ways that you can cut costs and have a wicked time by doing things in a group sometimes. 

Instead of hitting the town for a big night, you can stay in with your big group of new friends and pool your resources into a big bowl of punch for pre-drinks! So many possibilities....

Travel in off peak times

This one seems like a no-brainer but do your research people! You're on a thrifty ass budget?

  • Steer clear of school holiday dates... period.
  • Don't go to the Greek Islands in summer etc.
  • Fly out on a weekday. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually the cheapest.

Seriously assess your food and alcohol consumption

See above mention of pre-drinks! (Also local spirits can be a cheaper alternative, just don't kill yourself on turps). I'm not even going to bother suggest going sober, fuck that, you're on holiday!

buffet challenge.jpg

Does your accommodation offer a complimentary breakfast? Fill that belly up kid! You won't be needing lunch if you treat the buffet as brunch. Your bloated and distorted stomach may not be thanking you as you try to explore the city an hour later, but your wallet will. 

Food is so embedded in our culture and our body clocks, I find it hard to skip any meal at the best of times. If you just can't bring yourself to limit to two meals a day in the name of saving a buck, head on to the supermarket! Especially if you're basing yourself out of the same place for a while, go do a big grocery shop and have some home cooked meals instead of eating out every night. Of course this goes hand in hand with your accommodation selection... make sure you book something self-catered or at least with a kitchenette.

Even better than the supermarket, head on down to the local markets for some fresh produce. There is possibly nothing I love more than scoring a fresh mango or avocado for the equivalent of 10 cents and demolishing that bad boy, knowing that I have more to spend on a nice dinner later that day.

Life is too short eat dessert first Ubud Bali CarameL


Think carefully about how you're going to get between places. Choosing the wrong transport options can quickly eat away at your budget. 

I am a huge fan of overland travel! Not only is it usually cheaper than flying, but you get to see so much more of the country you're exploring... really get off the beaten track! From matatus in Eastern Africa, chicken buses in Central America, Eurail, the options of public transport are endless.

When you look at the map and think 'I can walk that far' only for the road to turn into a huge bridge of a freeway and the sidewalk slowly starts to disappear...

When you look at the map and think 'I can walk that far' only for the road to turn into a huge bridge of a freeway and the sidewalk slowly starts to disappear...

If you haven't discovered Rome2rio yet, it is my absolute favourite website to figure out how I'm going to get anywhere. You type in your origin and destination and it will compare options for you, so that you can see the cheapest vs. fastest way to get somewhere. Now cheapest doesn't always mean best! Sometimes you need to weigh up if saving 20 bucks is worth adding a whole extra day of travel onto your journey. Remember, you don't always have to be a tight ass!

Naturally, taxis are going to be a big no-no on the budget front, but there are so many other alternatives in the way of apps and websites out there now. Uber is probably the most commonly known, however I was interested to learn that in South East Asia, Grab is more widely used as an even cheaper alternative by the locals! Do your research before you get in destination, or ask the locals when you get there about how they get around!

And then of course there's walking! No doubt you will be eating a lot of local food, and it might be worth considering that that 5km walk from your accommodation to the city is worth the effort for your pocket as well as your waistline! Be safe at night, and assess your options but honestly what's your hurry when you're travelling? Rather than jumping in a local bus, that walk may provide you with an even more exciting adventure!


What other suggestions would you add to keep travelling when you're broke AF?



How to keep travelling when you're broke AF
How to keep travelling when you're broke AF