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Five Ways to Travel for a Year and Not Break the Bank

This is a guest post by Katherine Sazdanoff.

Traveling for an entire year on an around-the-world trip certainly isn’t cheap. But, it also doesn’t need to be prohibitively expensive. I know this well. In July of 2012, I departed on a year-long trip through Asia and Europe ultimately visiting twenty-five countries. Along the way, I learned many life lessons including five ways to travel for a year and not break the bank.

To plan your own affordable RTW trip, check out the tips below:

Travel slow

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Life moves slowly on Laos’ Mekong River

Originally, I planned to zip through mainland Southeast Asia in two months. Within the first few weeks, I learned that this was a bad, bad idea. Instead of enjoying each moment in vibrant Vietnam and relaxed Laos, I found myself constantly strategizing on how to fit it all in and not overspend. Thus I reworked the plan emphasizing the importance of traveling slow, which loosely translated to one country per month.

With less transportation costs and the ability to negotiate lower rates for longer accommodation stays, traveling slow was the cheapest way to go. If you do it right, it’s possible to travel on $30/day.

It’s worth noting that I stuck with this plan in Southeast and South Asia, but quickened the pace in Europe where countries are generally smaller and infrastructure is much better. You may want to consider doing this as well.

Here’s a country-by-country cost breakdown of a RTW trip.

Reserve (or, at least research) lodging in advance

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Researching hotels

Reserving lodging in advance ensures the best bang for your buck. Why? If you arrive in town without a reservation and most accommodations are full, chances are that you’ll be forced to stay in a subpar room at an overly expensive rate (I know this well after an unfortunate stay in Sukhothai, Thailand!).

Do your research, send an email and voila, you’re all set with an affordable, comfortable stay that won’t break the bank.

Buy food at the grocery store/outdoor market instead of dining out every meal

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Shopping at a local market in Istanbul, Turkey

This tip is especially applicable when traveling in Europe where restaurants are generally expensive, particularly with the unfavorable exchange rate with the dollar. While having access to a kitchen is ideal, it’s not necessary.

I did not regularly have a kitchen, but still discovered all kinds of delectable cheap and healthy foods at local markets that didn’t need to be cooked.

In Europe, I happily survived on market staples such as Scandinavia’s pickled herring, Italy’s flavorful olives and antipasto, Bosnia’s stuffed cabbage, France’s freshly baked baguettes and cheese, and bountiful produce throughout the entire continent.

Take overland travel within countries whenever possible

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Train travel to Ella, Sri Lanka

Plane travel gets you where you want to be licketly-split, but it’ll cost you. If you have time, aim for cheaper overland travel on tourist buses and trains. Though, do make sure to do ample safety research to ensure secure passage.

I traveled overland on tourist buses and trains quite frequently in Southeast Asia and Europe (mostly with a travel partner), but not so much in South Asia due to safety concerns.

Travel in the shoulder season

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Swimming in Greece with no other tourists in site

Finally, my very favorite cheapie tip to share with fellow RTW travelers — travel in the shoulder season. During the high tourist season the weather may be perfect, but crowds of tourists and inflated prices are less than ideal.

However, traveling during the low season can be miserable (I know this well after spending two weeks in rainy Cambodia during the monsoon season). The shoulder season is the perfect time to visit when the weather is generally nice, tourists are at a minimum, and prices are low.

My month in Greece last October may have been the best month of my trip—and wow, was it cheap!

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