Steph the Shuffler | Travelling on the cheap

When Pat first spoke to me about retiring early, one of my initial worries was that our travelling days were over. I shared these thoughts in my very first post ‘A Shuffler’s other half – what the girlfriend thinks‘ as Steph the Shuffler.

As we spoke more, we agreed that we wouldn’t sacrifice the things that are important to us. However, any future trips between now and retirement will need to be super frugal.

To be honest, Pat and I have always been mindful of costs when travelling.   We’ve certainly made some expensive mistakes too – which I feel are worth sharing and learning from.

If you’ve got a similar goal of financial independence, and perhaps the ability to travel is your motivator for that, keep reading. I hope you get something out of our experiences below.

The places Pat and I have collectively visited.  30 countries seemed like a lot, but when you map it out like this, it really puts the world’s tremendous size into perspective. Still have plenty of exploring to look forward to 🙂
Are you a Tourist or a Traveller?

Pat and I consider ourselves to be travellers more so than tourists. In our view, tourists visit new places mostly just to tick off major, well known sight-seeing attractions from a list. Perhaps they hop off their tour bus, taking their photo of the Eiffel Tour or the Tower of Pisa and move onto the next monument. And that is a totally OK way to travel too. Each to their own.

As I write this, I can already hear Pat in my mind exclaiming that I am much too polite about this distinction.

I actually do think it’s cheaper to be a ‘traveller’ than a ‘tourist’. Tourists get sucked into tourist traps. They pay to wait in lines and they buy useless, over-priced souvenirs. Money aside, I genuinely enjoy just strolling through a city, imagining myself to be a local.  Wandering through a city, village or natural wonder in my own time, stumbling across awe-inspiring, hilarious or eye-opening things that a brochure or guidebook just can’t tell you about.

Timing is Everything

We’ve learnt the hard way to not travel internationally around the Christmas/New Year period again.   As 2016 was coming to a close, Pat and I kicked off a 10 day trip to Japan – it had been over 2 years since our last overseas trip, so long overdue for your typical Aussie. Despite scrounging around for the best value-for-money hostel deals and opting for the cheaper midnight to 6am flight layover, the trip was by no means a bargain.

Unfortunately our society is set up in a way that forces a lot of us to take time off work all at the exact same time. Why not take this rare opportunity to go away, right? Well, Pat and I are going to do our best not to fall into this trap again. Lesson learned.

For a bit of fun, check out our Japan travel video below!

Watch in 1080p for best quality 🙂

No need to bring your house

I’m proud to say Pat and I have skilfully mastered the art of light packing. In 2014, we set foot on a 3 month trip to Europe with nothing more than a carry-on bag each. Perhaps more importantly, we returned home with the exact same luggage, nothing more. I’ll admit, this was during the hot summer months, so I’m personally not sure if I could have pulled it off during winter (Pat thinks otherwise). Nonetheless, this saved us money in checked-in luggage fees.

Pat did a lot of research on the best carry-on bags out there before we embarked on the trip. And I’m glad he did, because we’ve been using these bags for years and hopefully years to come. After much comparison-shopping, he concluded the Osprey Farpoint 40 was his pick of the bunch for its functionality, material and suitability for our 3 month backpacking journey (funnily enough, the website considers it to be ‘perfect for a weekend getaway’). I wanted to trust Pat’s judgement on this one, but didn’t want to boost his ego too much, so got the similar but slightly different Osprey Porter 46.

Best travel card

The best advice Pat and I can give when it comes to spending money overseas is to a get a Citibank Plus Everyday account, which comes with a debit card for you to take on your travels. No fees on international transactions and market-leading exchange rates.

Best of all, you get to keep your own local money in your bank account until you actually need to make a purchase. Though the distinction may seem subtle, it means you don’t need to shuffle your money back and forth between currencies, losing money on exchange rates each time .

We’ve been using our Citi cards for all international travel for the past 3 years and have not looked back!

Pat and I still have a lot more travelling to do, so if you’ve got some frugal travel tips, we’d love to know!



3 Replies to “Steph the Shuffler | Travelling on the cheap”

  1. Do you use travel points? I need to research them, but they just seem like a marketing gimmick to me. I always wonder what the non-financial ‘cost’ is.

    1. We don’t actually, from what I understand some people do quite well taking advantage of the programs, but I have also read reports suggesting people who use credit cards spend about 12% more than those who use cash or debit card. I suppose it comes down to your personal discipline.