Our big secret: how we afford to travel full-time

We always get a lot of questions about how we’re able to travel full time.  Did we win the lottery?  Unfortunately not!

Did we get a big inheritance?  Nope

Were we super rich and just didn’t tell anyone?  Yes!

No, of course not!

If we were, we would have left long ago!  But none of that is important, because we learned that you don’t need to be super rich to travel well.  you just have to make smart choices and be comfortable with your decisions.

So, you know why we decided to head out on this trip, but here’s how we did it.

They say that a journey of 1,000 miles starts with one footstep.  Well, the same goes for this trip.  It takes one decision to make it all possible.  Maybe it was perfect timing for us, but we just decided to do it.  That’s all it took.  A simple yes.  And somewhat of a plan, but more on that later!

There were a hundred reasons keeping us at home.  The good jobs, friends and family, our cat, our condo, the actual expense of this trip, the things we were going to miss out on.  The list goes on and on.  But the fact that we wanted to go on this journey was enough for us to take that leap.

We know we’re putting our careers on hold. And we know we’re missing out on hockey nights and Thursday Happy Hours, but we’ll jump right into that when we get back home.  And the money?  Yeah, let’s be honest, this trip is costing us a pretty penny, but we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Peace out Canada, here we come world!

So, how did we save so much?  Well, we were careful with our money.  We had actually started saving to buy a place long before we had this idea.  So a chunk of our spending money comes from the savings we had.  Sure, that doesn’t leave much of a security blanket for later, but we know we’ll be heading home eventually, getting work, and we’ll fill it back up. (Then probably decide to leave and spend it all again).

We actually don’t mind that. We realized that we want to travel more than to have that security anyway.  With everything we do, we do it our way, so we’ll make it work.  We know that this is what we want to be spending our money on anyway, so it doesn’t matter how much we have in the bank now.

Before the trip

So how did we save? Well, we made sacrifices.  Our priority was to fill our account as much as possible, so that’s what we did.  At all costs.  Did we stop having fun?  No, we just limited the amounts of times we did it.  It’s crazy once you stop buying things, you realize you actually don’t need that much.

So here are some of the ways we saved before our trip. Basically, we looked at what we were spending the most on and started cutting there.  You’ll notice that most of our spending was on drinks and nights out.  We knew that having less fun at home, where it costs more to live, would mean more fun on the road.  That was motivation enough.

Make lunches and dinners

We’ll start off simple, and it might not seem like a lot, but spending $10 on lunch 2-3 times a week adds up real quick!  Ordering in does as well!  Instead, we would make weekly meal plans and make sure we had enough for lunches too.  Your meal cost goes waaaaay down when you start making a weekly meal plan that uses the same ingredients.  We bought in bulk when we could, but avoided wasting food.  Did we coupon shop?  No, that’s not our style, but if it’s yours, then you go with your bad coupon self!

Go out less

We love going out with friends.  Drinks on Thursdays, date nights on Tuesdays, random party nights on Fridays or Saturdays.  And we like to eat and drink a lot.  So that’s the first place we cut.  Not to say that we didn’t go out, but we limited ourselves to going out once every 2 weeks or once a month.  This was a vast improvement from our usual 2-3 nights out.

When out, spend better

This is pretty simple, we would simply stick to a budget when we went out.  We would pick a more affordable (but still delicious) place.  We would only have 1 drink (or none, if we were feeling strong), and pick an affordable meal option.  This usually means no appetizer, but that’s ok!

Stay in and host

We throw epic parties! Always have, always will.  And we love hosting, so it was easy for us to keep this trend going.  One thing we did do however, is to host less, and spend less when we did.  I make insane amounts of food, so Derek had to limit me and veto some of my more expensive choices, but our parties were still epic.

Quit the drinks and snacks

This is probably where most of our money goes.  We love a good bottle of wine, or scotch, and probably make alcohol runs every week to stock up our cellar.  We had to cut on spending here, and make our runs less frequent.  We also limited the number of snacks we got and ate in a week.  Derek is a snack fiend, so this was harder for him!

Be a cheap date

We are firm believers in date nights.  After 8 years together, we want to keep the flame alive, so we try to do a date night every week.  Instead of going out, we would find cute date nights to have in.  Each week, the other person would plan, and it could be as simple as watching a movie, to cooking an elaborate meal with a fancy wine.  If we were feeling extra special, we would splurge on getting a dessert.  There are still tons of things you can do keep the romance alive, without spending a ton of money!

Stop buying

We had started doing this long before this trip.  We realized that we actually don’t need that many clothing options to look good and professional at our jobs.  Trends come and go, and the stores want you to buy more.  Instead, we bought classic pieces that would not go out of style, and didn’t spend on things.  Do we really need 4 pairs of jeans?  Probably not.

Buy with incentive

One of the things we discovered was buying through Ebates.  A lot of the sites you buy on, like Amazon, booking.com, Sephora, and more are on the site.  So when you buy from those sites, you actually get a percentage of your spending back.  And everyone loves to get money back!

Shop the sales & sign up for the newsletters

That’s pretty clear.  If we needed to buy things, especially for this trip, we would only shop during sales.  Mark-ups in retail are pretty crazy, sometimes as high as 60%.  Knowing this, it only makes sense to buy things when they are on sale.  Also, we signed up for the newsletters of all the stores we knew we needed things from for our trip.  Signing up gave us extra discounts that we used towards our purchases.  Another easy win!

Sell, sell, sell as much as you can

We had to clear out our place to move out, so what better opportunity than this to get rid of all those things we don’t need.  We have a rule that we stick to, and that’s if you haven’t used it in 1 year (sometimes even 6 months), then it’s time to get rid of it.  We give a lot to our local Salvation Army and to our friends, but if we had things that were gently or barely used, we sold them.  From clothes to kitchen appliances to furniture.  Whatever we could, we did sell!  We even sold our car, which helped us quite a bit.

Truth be told, we probably could have spent less and saved more, but we don’t like to limit ourselves to the point that being at home is no longer fun.  We kept our budget loose, but whenever we were going to spend money, we would ask ourselves if it was really worth it and if we really needed it.  And if the answer was no, we would just walk away!

During the trip

We also try to keep our spending to a minimum while on this trip.  That means getting creative with the way we do certain things.  We’ll get into detail about some of these but here are some tricks we’ve found that work for us.

Renting our condo out

We didn’t want to sell our place, though, that may have made us some more money in a quick flash.  Instead, we decided to reap in the long-term benefits of owning property and renting it out. We don’t make huge margins because of the way we get taxed, but it’s enough to keep the travel going a little more each month.

Cheap hotels

We don’t slum it completely, but we try to pick pretty cheap hotels.  Truth is, we barely spend any time in our hotel room.  So why spend a huge amount on a place we’ll only be sleeping in.  We pick private rooms (we’re too old for dorms) in hostels, cheap hotels, whatever we can get a good deal on.  If they have laundry or breakfast included, then it’s a major win!

Hotels with kitchens

We love cooking and being away from home, it’s harder to do when we travel so much.  That’s why we like to get rooms that have a little kitchenette.  Even if it’s just to make breakfast in the morning, or pasta a few nights, it’s nice to eat in and to save on meals.

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I’ll take your sweetest mango to go with the sweetest wife

Using referral codes

Because we book so many hotels, we have a pretty sweet deal through Booking.com.  And you can have it too!  We have a special link that allows us to get $25CND back when people book through it.  When you use this link, you get $25 off too!  We have other friends that have this link too, and we use theirs when we book our rooms.  So that’s a whole lot of savings and money back. Win for everyone!

Another great way to save some money for you and your friends is by referring people to Airbnb.  By having someone new sign up to Airbnb, they receive a $45 discount, and at the same time, you get a $25 dollar credit for you to use.  For anyone looking to get in on this deal, check out our link here.

Hotel collaborations

Because we have a growing following on Instagram and this blog, we have been fortunate enough to work with certain hotels.  In exchange for visibility on our platforms, we get free nights accommodations.  We still end up doing a lot of work to get these, but they do help our budget out.

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A recent collaboration with Bai Hotel in Cebu, Philippines

They are also beneficial to the hotels as they get added visibility and content that they would not get otherwise.  We also offer them other services to help them out.  Each influencer has their own thing, so if you want to do this, find what works best for you and for them.  It’s important that this relationship be mutually beneficial.

Eating smart

This may not be a great solution for everyone, but it works for us.  We usually wake up pretty late, just in time for brunch.  Then, we’ll grab a fruit and veggie snack for a late lunch, and eat an early supper.  By cutting the number of meals we eat during the day, we end up saving quite a bit.  Another solution is to find cheap local eats that are still delicious.  In Japan, the 711s and Lawson’s have some pretty delicious meals that are cheap AF.  Street food in Thailand is also amazing.  The food at local markets give you nutritious and delicious meals at a fraction of the cost.

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Market food is so good, and so cheap

Drink and snack less

This is probably the hardest thing for (one of) us to do.  We drink and snack a lot back home, so breaking this habit was a little tougher.  But once we realized how quickly things start adding up, even the $0.50 beers in Vietnam, we put a cap on our drink/snack spending.  We only drink 1-2 beers with 1 meal.  And we only drink 2 days of the week.  As for snacks, we have a weekly budget so that it doesn’t get too out-of-hand.

Couchsurfing

This is not a way to get free accommodations.  This is a way of life and a great way to connect with people.  We love, love, love couchsurfing.  We have met such amazing people while we have been traveling through this platform.

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One of our best nights in Japan with our Couchsurfing hosts and 2 other couchsurfers

Living with locals, taking part in their daily life, seeing a part of town that tourists don’t see, that is what couchsurfing is about.  Yes, you get to stay with someone for free, but that is just the cherry on top of the sundae.  It’s so much more worth it for the lifelong connection.  But more on that later.

Workaway

Workaway is a great way to give back, stay put and get back to a certain routine.  Basically, you are given accommodations and sometimes food, and in exchange, you help people out.

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Derek doing a little handy work during our Workaway in Langkawi, Malaysia

The types of organizations you work with are smaller, mom-and-pop type operations, eco-resorts or other community-oriented places, which is great because you really feel like you’re giving back!  The type of tasks can range from hospitality, minor construction, cooking, cleaning, whatever.  Usually, you work for 4-5 hours a day, with 2 days off a week.  More on our first Workaway experience here.

Petsitting

This one is for pet lovers only.  We wouldn’t recommend this if you don’t love cats or dogs.  Basically, this is like house-sitting but for people who have pets and who don’t want to put their fur babies in a kennel or pet hotel while they travel.  You live in the person’s house while they are away and take care of their pets.

We did this in Sydney, for 2 weeks over the Christmas holidays and it was an awesome experience.  Not only were we in a great part of Sydney, but we got to get cat cuddles for 2 awesome furry friends.  As you can guess, we’ll have much more on this later.

Relocations

While in New Zealand, we wanted to rent a campervan for the entirety of our stay.  Driving all over the South and North islands ended up costing us more than we bargained for, but thankfully, we were introduced to a campervan relocation online service called imoova.

They operate by renting you the campervan for $1 day in exchange for bringing it from point A to point B within a certain time frame and amount of kilometers.  We ended up taking a huge 4-berth campervan from Chirstchurch to Auckland, in 5 days over 1,000 plus kms.

Thanks to imoova, this journey cost us a ton less than had we rented a campervan on our own.  Details to come on this whole experience soon.

Freelance and make money

I have been fortunate enough to be able to freelance while I’ve been on this trip.  Before I left, I had 2 clients that I helped with branding, social media and business consulting.  It wasn’t crazy hours, but it was enough to add some money in our bank account.  It was more of a “cherry on the sundae” situation, than a “keep doing this and never come back home” thing.  It helped for sure.

If you have a speciality like translation, photography, programming, or anything really, you can also offer these services to hotels, restaurants and small businesses you meet along your travels.  Or, you can put up offers online through sites like Fivrr.

Airport spending

This one is pretty simple.  Keep airport spending to a minimum.  We usually eat before we get to the airport, and always bring snacks and water with us.  This contradicts a previous point, but snacks are essential because Carine gets hangry.  And it’s not pretty!

Also, have you seen the price of certain snacks at the airport?  No thanks!  And with our Lifestraw Go, we can always fill it back up at a fountain after clearing security, so no need to buy bottles of water either.

Buying certain things back home

Inevitably, some things cost more when you’re traveling.  We found this especially true when we were in South East Asia with something we needed everyday: sunscreen.  It costs 3 times the price of what it does back home.  You have much less selection, unless you are looking for a whitening cream, and you can’t find eco-friendly options that easily (because some sunscreens kill coral and we don’t want that).  So do some research and stock up on certain things before you leave.

Drink water anywhere, anytime

This is such a simple solution to save you money and save the planet at the same time!  Instead of spending insane amounts of money every day buying plastic water bottles, we refill our Lifestraw Go.  It’s a win for you and the planet, so it’s just awesome!

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The best water solution out there, the Lifestraw Go

No souvenirs

Can you believe that we have not bought a single thing in 9 months of traveling?  Not a single knick-knack, souvenir, trinket, nothing!  Yeah, sure, we’ve seen tons of cool stuff at pretty decent prices, but do we really need it?  Nope.  Because those things take up tons of space in our luggage, and they just take our money away from what we want to spend money on.  Experiences!

Not moving around too much

Another no-brainer.  It may not seem like it, but you can’t travel for a year like you would on a 2-week vacation.  The pace is impossible to keep up in the long-run.  So take your time and travel slow.

We know we’ll be coming back to these areas later in life anyway, so if there’s something we didn’t see, we can always go back to a country.  But moving around every 2-3 days just takes its toll on you.  And the cost of moving with ferry or bus tickets, taxi fees, entry visa costs and all that, just adds up too quickly.  Not to mention the time and effort it takes to find places to stay and things to do.  No, we didn’t see it all, but what we did see, we got to enjoy and really explore.

Traveling smarter

This one is another easy one.  Traveling smarter means looking for the cheapest but best way to get from point A to point B.  Same as the previous point, we look at where we want to go and see how to get there.  We’re not always married to our next destination, so we use the “Everywhere” on Skyscanner to find the cheapest city to fly to.  We scope out prices online and at terminals for bus or train tickets (usually, IRL is cheaper).  We look for deals or promo codes online to save a few pennies.  It may seem like a lot of work, but to us, it’s totally worth it.

There you have it!  These are the ways we’ve found to cut our spending or earn a little side money.  We’re curious to know if you’ve found creative ways of doing this as well.  Let us know in the comments.


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6 thoughts on “Our big secret: how we afford to travel full-time

  1. Thanks for the tips guys! We are at the saving part now! Mostly staying home and working. 7 more months to go before the grand departure! 🙂

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