50+, on a budget, on the road? 15 top ways to eke out the cash and last longer!

If you're over 50 and on a budget – that means no working holiday visas like the 20-somethings, but it doesn’t mean you can’t travel cheaply or make money on the road. Here I’m looking at a few tricks – quite a few – to stretch that budget and keep you on the road longer (and arguably better)!

1.      It depends on your style – but even if you think you want to keep moving constantly, consider staying put a while in one place and house-sitting or doing a house swap – it’s a great way to get to know a place in a lot more depth than merely passing through and taking a few photos of the ‘must-sees.’ It also means you are generally not paying for anything but food. There are numerous house-sitting and house swap sites. If you have done some house-sitting before leaving home (see ways to save) that will be even better as you will have references. However you have an advantage in that people usually prefer the more mature for house-sitting!

2.      Work as you go. Sure, you can’t get a working holiday visa but first of all make the most of your passport – if you have a UK passport you can work legally in the rest of the EU and some other European countries, for a kiwi or Aussie, you can work in the other country – and in both these situations there is no age limit.  Of course you can also work umm when you’re not meant to – consider it work for a donation!

3.      Work for food and board – try Woofing, Workaway and Helpx, and in Australia for the over 50’s try Grey Nomads - where you might also pick up some paid work.

4.      Volunteer – take care about this though as many of these volunteering companies are simply lining certain peoples pockets – no I’m not being cynical – I’ve seen it first hand. I’m not saying paying is always bad – for example, some of the elephant rexcue centres need the cash to keep the animals, but so many other paid volunteering experiences are a complete rip off – don’t get me started. However, try this website for volunteering opportunities. 

5.      Teaching English is another one to consider if you are fluent, and in some countries or schools they will help with visas – but just ask around if you are interested and other travellers will let you know. Rules and needs change so often in these countries that if I put anything here it will be out of date in no time – but Japan and Korea are often good for teaching English.

6.      If you have a trade then you may pick up work as you go – travellers in hostels need haircuts and their cars often need a mechanic and so on. If you have those skills use them with your fellow travellers.

7.      Transport can make or break you! If you’re not in a rush – go for the cheap options of bus and train (although flights in some places can get ridiculously cheap and it is often just the cost to get to the airport that is high). Check for middle of the day, middle of the week as prices for flights, buses, and trains are often much cheaper then. Obviously, if you can book ahead it can also be a lot cheaper, but don’t forget last minute discounts too.

8.      If you are over 60- 65 always check for pensioner discounts on transport – the age limit varies across countries, but often the discount, or free rides, are not limited to just the locals – you can but ask! (If you have some kind of pension card take it with you.) 

9.      Check for local car share / ride systems – Germany has had a particularly good system for a long time  http://www.mitfahrgelegenheit.de/  In Europe you can also use English-based sites like blablacar or carpooling. You can also use local websites like gumtree in Australia  to look for people offering rides for a share in the cost. The bonus of all this – you get to meet some other people you wouldn’t otherwise meet.

10.  Getting around locally – walk or bike around the local area. Hitch-hiking is not always as dangerous as it’s made out to be either – check the local customs and join in if it’s a goer! I have hitched in many countries – Japan, Taiwan, Ireland, Canada (might not do that now), Costa Rica, Nicaragua off the top of my head – I had an idea of the local scene and you don’t have to get in a car if you don’t want to! Another good way is to check who’s going where at the local hostels – people are often looking for someone to share car travel costs. If you really want a car locally look for the local car-sharing site and rent a car just for an hour or two.

11.  Stay in hostels – it can be cheaper and the bonus is you’re going to meet people and hear local (or not so local) tips and about deals they have found. Even cheaper – you can often camp at hostels, but that of course depends if you are prepared to camp and to carry the extra luggage if you’re not planning on hiking/ campinga lot.

12.  Alternatively use couch-surfing – its free although I always prefer to arrive with a bottle or something for my host – or Airbnb for cheaper rates than a hotel and sometimes than a hostel or homestay with a local family.

13.  Shop at the local markets and cook your own meals at hostels – it doesn’t stop you trying local dishes and cuisine but can save a lot especially in the more expensive countries. In some countries where street food is cheap it may not be worth it, but as a general rule it will save a lot.

14.  Always, always ask for a discount for everything you enter – either as a pensioner or a YHA or AA or other travel group member (or any other membership you might have). The worst that can happen is they say No;  the best, they give you some sort of discount.

15.  Travel in cheap countries - check this post  

I hope that helps give you ideas and ways to save -  and I would love to hear from you if you have any experiences you want to share about the ways you have kept your budget down (leave a comment below).
Good travelling and have fun – Sydney.