When to Save & When to Splurge When Backpacking Abroad

If you’re planning to travel for an extended period of time, you’ve probably got a rough budget you need to stick to. When every dollar counts and an extra peso  in your pocket means another day on the road, it’s easy to get caught up with the penny pinching and forget that every now and again a splurge can have a big impact on the quality of your trip. Below are my top 10 Save Vs. Splurge occasions:

What to Save On:

Travel slowly & over land whenever possible:  Most people either have time or money but rarely enough of both. If you find yourself with ample time but limited funds, travelling slowly will help to stretch your budget. Travelling over land as opposed to flying will not only save you money but allow you to see more of the country than you would if flew direct to each destination. Focus your mindset on getting to really know a few cities or countries rather than trying to jam pack as much into your itinerary as possible. Not only will it stretch your travel budget, but you’ll likely enjoy the relaxed pace more as well.

Train to Sapa, Vietnam
My first overnight train ride!

Cook for yourself:  Unless you’re in South East Asia, eating out can add up quickly. Even cooking a simple breakfast before heading out for the day will save you several dollars.  When you’re away for months on end, cooking for yourself is not only a healthier option but lets you indulge in a few of your favourite meals from back home.

Saving money, tips to save in South America
Cooking for yourself will save money and a few calories

Book last minute deals:  If you’re schedule is flexible, wait until those last minute deals come up for flights, accommodations and tours. I saved over 65% off my last minute tour to the Galapagos by booking onsite only a few days in advance. Unless it’s Christmas or Easter holidays there is almost always space available for whatever tour you’re hoping to book.

Do it Yourself: Better still, nix the tours and go it alone. Not only will you save loads of money arranging your own transport and activities but it often leads to a greater adventure, more time to interact with locals, and learn about the area. If you really want to test your travel skills, forego the prepackaged options, jump on the back of that chicken bus and see where it takes you.

Shop locally: Avoid the kitsch tourist stalls and search out handmade souvenirs at local markets. Not only will you land an authentic keepsake, but you’ll be giving back directly to the artists and their community.

Shop locally, local markets, saving money
Shop where the locals shop for better value and a better experience

When to Splurge:

Safety: It goes without saying that safety should always come first. If you find yourself arriving to a new town late at night, skip the public transit and jump in a cab. In South America especially, it’s always wise to take a taxi at night and often it only costs a few dollars to your destination. Checking into a hostel that doesn’t jive with you? Get out while you can and book somewhere else. There’s nothing that can impact your holiday more than jeopardizing your safety and well-being.

How to Make the Most of Machu Picchu
Splurge on your bucketlist, if you don’t go today, you might not get a chance in the future!

Once in a lifetime:  There’s no point in travelling if you don’t check off some bucket list items along the way. From going to Galapagos to hiking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu to learning to surf, whatever your bucket list items are, go for it. Come home with no regrets. You only live once and if you don’t do it now, you might never get another chance.

Souvenir for home:  Souvenirs do more good than just take up space in that already heavy backpack, they give you something at home to remember your travels by. Photos are great, but sometimes it’s nice to have something to hang on your wall or a cheesy t-shirt to remember that full moon party by.

Good meal:  Whether you’re trying a local specialty or just need a solid hit of western food, splurging on a good meal every now and again is beneficial for both your stomach and let’s your experience the culinary side of the destination. If you’re living off instant noodles and PB&J sandwiches a good meal will go a long way to reviving your taste buds and your vitamin deficiency.

Splurging on a good meal when travelling
Every now and again, a good meal goes a long way

A good night’s sleep:  From noisy dorm roommates to finding out you’ve booked a place next to the loudest bar in town, sometimes sleep can be the hardest thing to get on your vacation. Every now and again treat yourself to a quiet room in a affordable hostel or hotel and indulge in a little R&R. There’s nothing better than waking up refreshed after a good night sleep, ready to take on the world – literally.

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