7 key things to consider if you dream of traveling full time

When I quit my job in 2017 to spend a few months traveling to find more meaning and purpose in my life and work, I thought I was crazy. The big resignation came a few years later, and it turns out I was a trailblazer!

I honestly thought I was taking a break from my career; I had planned to travel for 3 to 6 months and then come back to “real life”. Instead, I fell in love with full-time travel and 4 years later have visited 27 countries on six continents – and the first 2 years were on my original budget. If you have read my other articles, you will know that I spent 2 years stuck in New Zealand because of the pandemic, and it is not cheap!

More and more people quit their jobs and travel. Some do it solo, others with another. What is clear is that what started as a few “crazy” people jumping ship is an idea that the pandemic has made the new normal. There are many types of full-time travelers; some want to take a break and reconnect with themselves, and others choose to work remotely and trade a home office for a global office. Yet others have reached or are about to retire and intend to travel the world as the next stage of their lives.

The question I get asked most often, no matter what type of full-time traveler they intend to be, is how do you afford it. Like a full time travel coach, I teach people to afford to travel full time. I’m going to share some of my top tips to help you afford full-time travel, if that’s on your radar. Whether you’re retiring, quitting your “normal day job,” or becoming a remote worker, all of these tips will help.

A sculpture outside the Weta workshop in Wellington, New Zealand, reminds full-time travelers not to crush their budget.
(Photo credit: Heather Markel)

Create a budget

The basis for enabling full-time travel is having a travel budget. Many factors come into play, and many methods should be tailored to your specific goals and assets. That being said, here are some things to think about to guide the creation of your travel budget.

1. How long do you want to travel?

The duration of your trip is extremely important. Obviously, money will stretch further in a shorter period of time than in a longer one. So if you travel for 3 months on $10,000, you can afford a lot more than if you planned to travel for 6 months on that budget. Knowing your desired timeframe is essential to establishing the right travel budget. This is just the beginning.

2. Where do you want to travel?

Next, think about where in the world you want to travel and what currency you are traveling in. If your local currency is dollars or euros, much of the world will be more affordable to you than those with other currencies. Parts of Southeast Asia and South America will be so inexpensive you’ll be amazed. But an African safari or a trip to Europe or America will cost more. Where you go plays a big role in how big your budget is.

3. How do you travel?

Do you plan to fly, rent cars, take trains, buses or boats? The means of transport you choose have a direct impact on your budget. The more ready and able you are to take the bus, the less expensive your trips will be. Obviously, long bus journeys can be taxing on the body, so it may be a less comfortable choice.

4. Be honest about your travel style

If you’re used to traveling on vacation with a corporate job, you may have stayed in luxury hotels and eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world. If you try to travel full time in this style, you won’t be able to travel long unless you are rich. (And if so, good for you!) If you want to make trips last longer, then adapting to a more budget-conscious style will leave you with more time. It’s a choice you have to make.

I’ve shared a few rooms with cockroaches and lizards, used shared bathrooms, and dragged my own bags up the stairs. But it’s not for everyone. I fell in love with travel, so I do what I can to extend it. If you prefer luxury travel, be honest about it. The worst thing you can do is travel in a style you hate and end up frustrated with the whole experience.

Author in the desert of Namibia.
Author Heather Markel enjoys Namibia
(Photo credit: Heather Markel/ heather starts)

Reconsider how you use money

The value of money will change when traveling full time. When you’re in a fixed location, you buy bottles of shampoo, olive oil, and a whole lot of stuff on Amazon that you don’t need. When you travel, you want to save money and space. You will most likely be carrying your own luggage, so consider reducing the weight of your luggage – this can save you money and your back, as you will frequently see charges for extra luggage. You’ll go from prioritizing buying souvenirs to buying experiences you’ll remember for a lifetime.

5. Save before you go

You may realize that you need to create savings padding before you go, but it can be difficult to figure out how to do it. I took a Financial Planning 101 course years ago, and it opened my eyes to spending and saving and allowed me to start being smarter with money. If you are already looking for good reads on how you spend your money, there are some great titles from Olivia Melan. Although written a while ago, I found his insights very helpful, especially in understanding your money-spending style – and how to fix it.

The more money you can save before you travel full time, the longer you can travel. This is a good time to clarify your travel goals, then evaluate each expense to determine whether it brings you closer to those goals or away from them. Also, cutting back on “nice to have” and recurring expenses is a great way to start cutting costs. You can then put that money into your savings account and watch it grow.

6. Save on flights

If you’re flying, there are great ways to save on airfare. You probably know that choosing flights with layovers can save you a lot of money, but, of course, take more time. If you get a credit card that helps you accumulate points for future travel, it can make flying virtually free. There are a few other interesting strategies for reducing flight costs.

Be flexible on your travel dates. Flying in the middle of the week is often much cheaper than flying on weekends. On a recent trip to Florida from New York, I saved $300 on the price by flying out on a Wednesday. As a bonus, I also find that I am more upgraded on mid-week flights than on weekends.

Apps like secret flight (or follow them on Twitter) will keep you updated on amazing flight deals and airfare errors. Note, however, that incorrect airfares carry the risk that your ticket will not be honoured.

7. Save on accommodation

Since you will need a place to rest and shelter each night, anything you can do to reduce this daily cost is essential to allow you to travel full time, at least if you intend to. do it for more than a few months. One way to save is to stay in one place for more than a week. This is often where discounts come into play. If not, talk to the property or hotel manager and see if they will reduce your rate for a stay. longer.

Housesitting is an ideal way to completely reduce the cost of accommodation. You usually take care of someone’s pets while they’re away and can use their kitchen, which also helps keep your food costs down. If you love animals, you have the added bonus of wonderful company on your trip. However, it can be hard to leave some pets behind, speaking from personal experience. Trusted house keepers is the best known, but you can also find pet sitting companies around the country.

The advantage of joining an international housesitting service is being able to accumulate good reviews. However, depending on in-country competition, member pricing, and availability, locals may sign up on a local website.

There are other options, like Couchsurfing and Host a sister, where you can get a few free nights at someone’s place. If you are able to rent out your existing home while you are traveling, this is a great way to fund your travels.

The Three Sisters rock formation in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia.
The Three Sisters rock formation in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia
(Photo credit: Heather Markel/ heather starts)

Traveling full time can suit everyone

As you can see, full-time travel is available to everyone, but it requires careful planning and strategies to make it happen. Your unique situation will determine the best ways to save money, earn money on your trip, and how long you can keep going. I jumped in thinking my budget would last 3-6 months. The more I traveled and engaged in the lifestyle, the more successful I was in making that budget last. In the end, my initial budget lasted more than 2 years. This way of life is really accessible to anyone who wants to do it.

Further reading: