A Step by Step, No BS Guide To Exactly How I Paid for a Year's Travel

United States Insider Guides Financial Savvy
by Tara Povey Nov 20, 2015

THIS IS SOMETHING I GET ASKED CONSTANTLY. So I’m just going to tell you everything about how I afford to travel, even if it’s not cool or if it’s kind of boring. I think that’s kind of better anyway. There is no big secret to cheap travel. I haven’t been robbing banks (people suggest this far too regularly, maybe it’s my love of balaclavas? Or dead president masks?). Keep reading and you’ll see that most of the reasons that I can afford to travel will be things that you can do too.

First things first, I am neither a trust fund baby, nor a prostitute (not that there’s anything wrong with either). Sorry guys, all of THIS *gestures sassily to self* is not for sale. So that rules two common guesses out . But let’s get down to the nitty gritty, how I afford to travel so much. One girl, one year, sixteen countries, what’s my secret?

Being a Pharmacist

I’m afraid my big secret is that I have a job that pays well. Sounds simple? Well, I guess it kind of is in one respect. However, I had to finish a degree and a Masters in order to get that job. And, honestly, it’s an extremely stressful and responsible job to walk into when you’re 23. I worked for 2.5 years, saving a bit of money every month while still spending more than enough to enjoy myself. So, when the time came around to travel, I had a pretty healthy looking savings account.

That’s not me bragging, I’m just stating a fact. You did ask how I afford to travel after all.

In the past year I have probably spent about half of my savings. But I’ve been to 16 countries (excluding the UK & Ireland), had the MOST AMAZING experiences ever and met some incredible people. I could have spent less, but I’m not really a shoe-string traveller. I like cheap travel but I LOVE comfort and convenience. I’ll always be willing to pay a bit extra for that, though maybe not TOO much extra.

The other incredibly convenient thing is that my job allows me to come back to work whenever I need to. So at the moment I’m working for 2 months back in Devon to top up my savings before I head off again. Not a luxury too many people are afforded, which I appreciate (Gotta throw that in just in case my manager is reading, hah ).

Most big companies offer a “career break/sabbatical” policy (which is what I’m currently enjoying). If you like your job and want to return to it after travelling make sure you ask your manager/ HR department if there’s one in place in your company.

The Blog

Then there is the whole travel blog thing. In the beginning that didn’t offer TOO much of an advantage. But once I gained a fair amount of traffic and social media attention I ended up getting free or discounted stays/trips/flights etc. Not that it’s exactly free, as there is a lot of work involved in social media coverage and write ups etc. I spend a lot of time in nice places staring at screens.

However, now this has become a big part of how I afford to travel. Obviously this has dramatically reduced the cost of travelling for me over the past couple of months and I am extremely thankful for that. I’ve worked with some great companies and look forward to working with many more in 2016!

You can set up your own website too! The travel blogging community is a friendly, helpful one that isn’t quite over saturated at the moment, unlike other kinds of blogging.

Freelance Work / Etsy Selling


This is not a massive contributor to how I afford to travel, but it does make a difference. Before I left the UK in October 2014 I had started selling drawings (not just drugs) and hand decorated shoes on ETSY. This gave me a little bit of extra income to play with. Not much at all, seriously very little, but anything helps.

Now, I have started taking on paid free-lance writing assignments for other websites, which again provides a little bit of extra income for my travels. Hopefully this will increase in the future!! So if I can’t find cheap travel at least I’ll have the money to pay for it.

Also, now that I’m back in the UK I’m thinking about selling the shoes again. Good idea? Any takers??

There are a tonne of different ways to make extra money while travelling. I have friends that teach English via Skype or that do digital marketing for companies remotely. There are PLENTY of options to earn while you travel.

New Friends

The more you travel, the less it costs…… well….. not environmentally (I do feel guilty about that, but I’m a vegetarian so that mildly offsets it, right?? Please say yes!). BUT ANYWAY, the more you travel the more amazing people you meet from all over the world. And if you’re lucky, they’ll help hook you up in some other places in the future. For instance I met Nathalie, an amazing Danish Doctor, while I was kite-surfing in Portugal. Then when I visited Copenhagen she was kind enough to have me stay at her apartment. This makes for cheap travel.

And even more interesting is that I only ended up kite surfing in Portugal because I had previously worked with Surf Experience Portugal and they were cool enough to hook me up with the kite-surfing trip. This kind of thing happens all the time when you are open to the infinite possibilities that life holds, especially while travelling.

It’s not about using people, I obviously only visit and stay in touch with people I actually like/care about. I love the relationships I build while travelling.

Obviously anyone can do this! Make friends, stay on their sofas, make more friends, go visit them. It might be tricky if you’re extremely shy, but have a couple of shots, get some dutch courage and make some friends!

Going Home

Right, I know I’m 26, soon to be 27 as my boyfriend loves to remind me, but going home every once in a while saves me SERIOUS money. If I’m ever not sure about where to go next then I head home to Ireland for a week or two and plan my next trip. To be honest, sometimes it’s nice to just stop for a few weeks as well and not have anywhere to be.

Ireland can be expensive so it’s nice to see my friends and family and not have to pay for accommodation for a little while. Plus it gives me time to catch up on my blogging with reliable internet (most of the time).

HOPEFULLY most of you have this option too. If not to a family home, then to a close friend’s house.

Travel Smart

You can make travelling as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. I try to keep my travelling to a mid-range budget. There are a number of things that I do to keep the cost down. I can’t fit them all in this post, but here’s a few that contribute to how I afford to travel!

1) I am a firm believer in budget airlines and cheap travel when I can find it. I love Ryanair as you’ll know from my controversial guide to flying Ryanair. I spent a lot of time travelling around Europe this Summer, mainly because Ryanair & Easyjet make it so cheap and convenient. Even in Asia you have airlines like Air Asia & Cebu Pacific that can be incredibly cheap. You don’t have to spend a lot on transport and I rarely do. Just bring your own entertainment and snacks and it’s grand. Or, failing that, a sleeping pill, hah.

2) I try not to travel during school holidays unless it is absolutely necessary. Obviously the flights are more expensive and the airports are a nightmare.

3) I also always use incognito mode on my browser to book a flight, or clear the cookies, so that the website doesn’t recognise that I’ve looked at the flights before and hence hike the prices up. This is a classic cheap travel tip.

4) I usually stay in guest houses and hostels if I’m travelling solo and have no one to split the cost of a private room with. If it was a country or area I was worried about I sometimes spring for a hotel or private hostel room. However, for instance, I’m off to London next week and I’m paying £16 a night to stay in a 6 bed dorm door to save money. I, personally, don’t do couch surfing. However, I have friends that do it and they say it’s wonderful and a great way to save a lot of money while travelling.

You can do all of these and more. There are so many ways to make travel fit your budget.

Christmas/Birthday Presents

Nowadays I ask for all Birthday and Christmas presents from my family to just be cash, or items I will need for travelling! EASY! It sounds a bit mercenary or grinch-like but it really makes a big difference. It has saved me hundreds of pounds without having to do anything and it makes Christmas shopping much easier for everyone. This really is an important part of how I afford to travel.

So next time your family/friends ask you what you want for Xmas, you know what to say!

Marry Someone Rich

Joke. Just checking if you were still paying attention. You are, right?? Of course you are, you’re the best.

So there you have it. One girl, one year, sixteen countries. That’s how I did it. Now you know! HOW I AFFORD TO TRAVEL! I think that’s all of my secrets to cheap travel ?? If I think of anything else I’ll update this.

In the mean time, how do YOU afford to travel?? Leave your personal experiences below. Maybe I can try some of your tips.

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