An 8 step plan for running out of travel money

Click here to send me a tweet if running out of money on your trip is something you worry about!

I’m pretty sure my twitter feed will now be swamped (if you can be bothered to click and send). If we were all sitting together in a room, your hands would now be up.

We worry about running out of money on our travels because we know it spells the end of our adventure and freedom.

You can’t travel without it. You can’t really do much without it. So yes it matters.

The fear that your hopes and dreams will disappear like a mirage in the desert keeps you tossing and turning in a pile of sweat each night.

Just last week, I was tossing.

Travel in Australia ain’t cheap and a lightning bolt of realisation hit me that perhaps we were spending a little too much. The fear is nauseating and causes hyperventilation.

The road ahead is etched in detail so sharp you feel the razor’s edge.

Long plane flight. Shoulders drooped. Tail wagging between your legs. They were right. Now you have to go back to that job you hate. Utter defeat. Humiliation. Depression.

The dreaded What Ifs

The fear brings the thoughts a swirlin’ around in your mind.

What if I don’t have enough money? What if the money runs out really quickly? What if something unexpected comes up and we’re stuck with no money?

What if all I end up doing is scrimping and saving and I don’t enjoy myself? What if the debt collectors come knocking while I’m gone?

What if? What if? What if?

What if you just stopped worrying? What if you stopped trying to predict and control the future? What if you just focus on what you know to be true now?

What if you just made a plan using that present information? What if you look back to see how you’ve been supported before?

What if you just trusted?

Leap and be caught

I had a conversation with Tim Reid the other day on his podcast, The Small Business Big Marketing Show. I knew I was in the right place when he said he embraced a bit of the woo woo too.

His thoughts: I’ve come to learn that there really is universal support out there. When you do take those leaps (the ones that most frighten you) doors just magically start opening to support you.

I agreed wholeheartedly with him.

My proof comes from it always happening to me in my life AND being a witness to it for so many people.

It really does come down to TRUST.

We also agreed that trust is not an easy thing to do. Especially when you’re planning on doing something like pack up your whole life to go chase mind-blowing sunsets and lions in the savannah.

It’s easy to worry and fret that your world is going to fall apart if you step towards a new uncertain life. It is going to shake up because all change brings chaos. But, think of it as a falling together, rather than falling apart. You have to trust in the empowering side to the change.

To trust, you have to let go of all control.

Look Mum, no hands!

Remember how hard finding that balance on your bike was, but once you found it wasn’t it one sweet ride?

Which scenario are you backing yourself for?

You absolutely could run out of money. But, then again you might not.

Why don’t you put your energy and thought into the second scenario? Why back yourself to fail?

Because if you don’t back yourself to succeed, who will?

Here’s what I know to be true.

If you do run out of money, you’re smart enough to deal with it at the time. You’ll find a solution. If the travel is what your heart aches for, and if in doing it you become a better person and leave a deeper footprint, then the solution will more than likely find you.

Appease your mind with my 8-step plan

That’s the woo out of the way.

Now let’s get down to logic and plans – the food your mind likes and it’s a beast that must be tamed. If you don’t, your future scenario is always going to be the doom and gloom one.

So let’s control it and create a prevention plan.

Here’s what to do if you’re scared of running out of money on your travels:

1. Research diligently all your costs for your trip

Research the cost of your travel – food, accommodation, transport and tours for the length of time you are going for. Google is your friend. Now you’re 80%. prepared.

If you’ll be following the working holiday strategy, then do it for the period of time you’ll travel before you start work. (Be sure to read this guide on things you need to know before moving overseas)

2. Add in an emergency buffer

You’re worried about unexpected problems arising? Great. Add in an emergency buffer when budgeting for your travels.

Guess what? Things always will pop up. There you go, now that fear has been answered, make a plan for it.

3. Add in a dream buffer

What if you arrive at the Great Barrier Reef, but don’t have the money to go scuba diving? It’s been your dream since you first saw Nemo, and it’s one of the reasons you decided to travel in the first place.

Great. You know your purpose for travelling.

It is about the everyday journey, but it’s also about those bucket list moments.

Put money aside for your bucket list experiences. Don’t touch it for your every day travels. It will be far too easy, when lost in the joy of enjoying a few whisky buckets on a Thai beach, to just spend that money you’d planned for your bucket lists.

So put it in an account that you can’t get access to until it’s time to do those adventures.

Exploring the Great Barrier Reef
Exploring the Great Barrier Reef

4. List your income

How much money do you need? (Clue: travel expenses + emergency buffer + dream buffer)

Where is your money coming from? Do you need to work extra hours or a second job in the lead up to your travels? How can you create more money?

Stack the odds in your favour and make this a priority before you setting out on your adventure.

Craig and I always worked extra jobs, extra hours, boarded out rooms in our house, or sold things.

TIP: If you follow the working holiday strategy, like we have for 16 years, then you never need as much money to start your travels with. (Work as you go and continually fill the cup!)

5. How can you earn money on the road?

Make a list of all the things you could possibly do to make money while you’re travelling. Now you’re ass is covered if you do run out of money.

If your dream is a digital lifestyle – i.e a business that you control, don’t stress yourself out and kill your dreams by thinking you can only make it work with the money your business makes.

What’s your purpose? To travel or to earn money online.

If the travel is the priority, and it means to stay travelling you may have to work a job on the road then do it.

Here are the jobs we’ve had working around the world. I even chipped barnacles off pearl shells in the tail end of a cyclone just so I could get the money to travel more.

I turned up in London with the real problem of having no money. It was something I never worried about happening before I left home. I was just focused on the dream.

But guess what? I had an infected foot and drank too much arak in Indonesia. The money disappeared quick and I was in trouble.

Real power comes when you’re present. There’s nowhere to go but towards a solution.

I started working in a bar in Liverpool St only a week after my arrival. The money started flowing until I could find a teaching job when school returned from summer break.

I arrived in Dublin with even less money a couple of years later. I hit the pavement and that afternoon had work in the Temple Bar district earning good money. (Best. Fun. Ever)

On our current road trip, I’ve seen people selling home-made jewellery from their vans and stopping to work as cleaners and farm hands in lodges and properties. A friend earned some extra cash travelling by giving haircuts to other travellers in the caravan parks. You could teach yoga or meditation or personal training, offer babysitting services, or car tune ups. (Read more 20 jobs to work and travel Australia)

Think of all those people travelling who no longer have access to those things you get in a permanent settled life. How can you supply them with what they need and make a bit of cash on the side?

There are so many ways to make money on the road and keep those travel dreams alive.

6. How can you save money on the road?

From couchsurfing to cooking your own food, and self-guided tours there are hundreds of ways you can save money on the road.

The more you save, the longer you travel. So get creative. Embrace things like house-sitting and travelling countries by bike (all the crazies say I).

7. What’s your worst case scenario?

This is the most important part of the fear-busting plan.

You must know and accept your worst case scenario.

Then you can tell your mind,

“It’s okay buddy. If worst comes to worst, I’ll just do this. And I’m okay with that. If it means, I’ve taken the risk, made the leap and quite possibly had the most amazing experience of my life, then I’m okay with maybe having to cut it short and return home. I won’t feel bad about myself, It’s just one of those things. And I’ll return bigger and better and stronger.”

The truth is, you’ll regret more the things you didn’t try than those you did and failed at.

Those monumental mistakes (or lessons rather) you’ll never regret. Because you’ll know, you gave it a go. You chose to live large. And so what if you had a speed bump?

You chased the dreams, you took the gigantic leap. That’s more than most and deserves celebrating.

It’s so rare for me to meet someone who has ever regretted travelling, even if they did run out of money. It’s so rare for me to meet someone whose life has not been greatly improved because they did travel – whether they ran out of money or not.

The risk is worth it.

The rewards are massive and if your greatest fears come true – if you do run out of money, then it’s cool, you’re okay with returning home to work at the checkouts at Woolies (or local supermarket for you).

That’s my worst case scenario and I’m okay with it. It used to be teaching, but I burnt my teaching licence when I could no longer cope with that worst case scenario.

8. How have you been supported before?

This was a strategy I just plucked out of thin air when I was worried about running out of money planning for our Aussie road trip, this time last year.

I’d followed the above steps, but my mind kept rushing out into that unpredictable future with doubt and dire warnings.

Doing this activity finally appeased it and my decision to go was backed with confidence at last.

How has the Universe supported me before?

I thought of all the times I had leapt into the great unknown. The leaps made to chase the dreams that kept me awake at night, not the ones off rocks.

I was never dropped.

I came close and sure the money sometimes took a vacation, but the travels never stopped. Not for 16 years. The support for your dreams is monumental if you just trust enough to let go and jump.

Worrying just steals the joy from your present moment.

Put those plans in place to cushion a possible fall, but just let go and leap.

little girl jumping into the ocean

Check out these amazing tips from our Facebook community when I was freaking out last year. Totes awesome!

Our travel story on the podcast

  1. Episode 1: Solo Travel and Working Abroad before we met
  2. Episode 2: Our 5 year honeymoon living and traveling the world
  3. Episode 3: The Dark times and Birth of the girls and travel blog
  4. Episode 4: Embracing Family Travel and our 18 month Australian road trip
  5. Episode 5: Getting a green card and traveling the US (our dream realized)

How do you cope with the fear of running out of money on your travels? How did you recover if it did happen?

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26 thoughts on “An 8 step plan for running out of travel money”

  1. I leave next week for my first solo open-ended trip and running out of money is something I’m always thinking about. But like you said sometimes the only mode of transportation you have is a leap of faith and every time I’ve jumped I’ve been caught by something so why would this be any different? I loved the job that I left to travel (working with baby dolphins is a rough job but someone has to do it!) and I’m hoping to find amazing zoos and aquariums around the world that I can both share my expertise with and learn from. I’m doing the WHV in both Australia and NZ after about 8 months of traveling around Asia and Australia has so many wonderful aquariums! Learning how other countries train their animals and educate their guests is really interesting to me and would be a dream way to fund my travels! Thanks for another wonderful and inspiring post!

  2. Hi Caz, I lived in LA for a year and worked as a nanny and did not earn very much money. My room and board was always covered and the extra went towards travel and activities. I decided I wanted to travel to NYC for Christmas to be with an Aussie friend and my host family gave me a big Christmas to pay for my plane ticket. Unfortunately once I got there a mammoth blizzard hit and I was stuck in NYC for an additional week and ended up needing to fork out for hotel rooms in NYC over New Year’s Eve. While it totally sucked and I did run out of money – I had to suck up my pride and ask Mum for a loan and then as soon as I got back my host family paid me even though I hadn’t been there all week. It turned out fine in the end. I always spend soooo much time stressing and it ALWAYS ends up fine. I need to remember how I’ve been supported in the past more xx

    1. Love this story Aimee! Thank you for sharing. It always usually ends up okay- at least it gives you a story to tell in the end. It’s amazing how when our worst fears are realized they turn out to be not so bad after all. We survive and discover how smart we really are. I’ve had to call mum and dad for the loan before too, although I hate doing that. There’s always a solution!!

  3. All great advice, as always. I think the biggest thing is to never think that a job is beneath you – no matter no experienced or educated you may be, there is always something to be gained from the experience you have doing “mundane” or “low end” jobs. There is always time to find a position in your profession – if that’s what you’re after.

    1. Totally agree Michelle! I actually loved doing different jobs outside of my field. Although I hated the hours, I did really enjoy bar work and waitressing. You often met cool, happy people and when tips came they were good!

  4. Hi Caz, I agree about opening up to the universe and trusting all will be fine when travelling. First trip away solo when I was 21 meant overnighting on Greyhound buses across America to save on accommodation – of course the trade off was missing some amazing country side. Next trip was by bicycle with a friend in Europe, saving money by camping anywhere we could – once in a Lord Field in the U.K.
    We are heading off as a family (2 daughters 9 and 12) at Christmas time, buying a 7 or 8 seater van and just going for it… assuming that our house will be rented and we can make a few dollars to supplement doing anything at all along the way for about a year.
    If I waited and travelled when the bank balance was a definite – I’d possibly have not left the country yet!!
    Always managed to do the things I most want to do and not get too worried about funds! Happy travels everyone! x

    1. It’s so true with everything really – perfect never comes so if you wait around for the perfect situation you never end up doing anything. Might as well jump and grow your wings on the way down!

      Enjoy your epic adventure!

  5. Caz, you talk about the Universe so often, I wonder if you realise how so very often you and your posts have come into my life just as I have needed them! I am just one month away from heading back to Sydney to try and give it a second chance, for me to get closure and live the dream I wanted the first time, and the anxieties about money are beginning to creep in!
    But I need to remember that my old hospitality and temp office agencies have agreed to put me back on the books, as has my nanny agency and so I hope and think that this time the Universe will be kind to me and allow me to have the experience I never managed last October.

    Thank you as always

    1. Oh Toni you are being so supported! You’ve definitely got all the right things in place, now you’ve just got to ask that anxiety to leave because you are going to be fine.

      It’s so easy to freak out because of our past experiences, but they don’t need to be a reflection of your present ones. That’s in the past now and the future is so much better for you. We’ve just got to work on getting those prices of grapes down!!

      They’ll come down soon enough. I saw the red ones on for about $3 in Coles yesterday.

  6. Caz I have to be honest. When I read the about on your email in my inbox I looked around for a camera. I am currently 135 days in on a (hopefully) never ending travel adventure with my family and I am freakin’ out about money! I actually thought I could smell it burning as our bank balance is shrinking. I need your help for sure!! We haven’t touched the reserves yet. We are working on a freelance opportunity and the universe has always been there to catch us to so we’re going to figure it out. Thanks for the support Caz:) I seriously broke out laughing because of the timeliness of your email.

    1. Ha! Big brother is always watching! I figure that if I’m struggling with something someone else is, which is why I love to share this stuff. Keep focusing on how you are being supported and let go of the fear a little as you do have your reserves so you’re not in dire territory. Don’t anticipate that you will get there. Freaking out about imagined results you don’t want, blocks the channels that brings in the stuff you really desire!

  7. I’m a big believer in ‘What you focus on is what you get’ and the ‘Law of Cause and Effect’ – if you have a belief that’s about running out of money than I believe that this will happen. If you focus on ways to earn more money and the things you can do to support yourself, this too will happen. Put in the strategies and the work involved and it should work out. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you. In my experience things work out even better than I imagined when I do what I like to do and what I enjoy doing.

  8. I wrote a very similar post ( on my own blog not too long ago. The way my girlfriend and I have been travelling is we stay in a place, make money, save. Travel around for a while on the savings. Then stay in a place, make money, save. I call the saving time period “hibernation”.

    Anyway, when you’re travelling around it’s easy to forget the problems of the world, but as soon as you stop in a place and try to get a job all those stresses flow back. It’s scary and can be overwhelming because suddenly you’re confronted with the reality. If you don’t make money, you’re doomed.

    However this isn’t really a travel related problem, you’re doomed if you’re not making money when you’re settled as well. This is the nature of the world we live in. If we don’t have jobs, we’re basically fucked! It all adds to the stress of trying to get that money.

  9. Wow this is actually just what I needed to read. I’m thinking about moving to japan in 18 months to pursue my dream of being a fashion photographer, and while this is more about being a travel guy, this certainly applies to my situation. Thanks!

  10. Hi there Caz – stepping into my writing has been a bit of a huge leap and I still don’t know if it will work out or not. (I’m 48) One of the things I am struggling with at the moment to keep moving forward is the thought of getting a ‘job’ to assist me in travelling ever onward and keeping a roof over my family’s head. My background is as a Counsellor and I find it hard to think menial and not career-so have moments when I seem to go round in circles inside 🙂 I truly believe I’ve had a second chance at life with my happiness as a person brought to the forefront and ‘TRUST’ is the key every time I think. Thanks for the thought provoking post! Janice

  11. Hi Caz,

    #5 and the whole list rocks. This one resonates with me. Kelli my fiancee and I have been blogging from paradise for the past 40 months, traveling the world with mobile sources of income. We chose to take the job/money/income with us by monetizing our blogs and running freelance writing businesses online.

    We only return home in NJ to visit our family. Never to work, because we’re both retired from the 9-5 as pro bloggers. I actually teach bloggers how to retire to a life of island hopping through smart blogging at Blogging from Paradise, my blog.

    I saw and met many travel bloggers who were trying to crack the digital/nomad lifestyle code, so they could travel indefinitely, not needing to worry about returning home, to make money through jobs, or not needing to worry about saving up.

    Even though we run prospering blogs and businesses we still save, and unintentionally, live a minimalist lifestyle. Hey, gotta sock that money away through savings accounts, retirement accounts and pensions.

    I wrote my new eBook and started my new blog to address this specific financial question. Love the post Caz, as you’ve covered the basics really well.

    See you soon.

    Tweeting this now.

    Signing off from Fiji!


  12. This is a huge fear of mine and I’m so glad you’ve addressed it here! Sometimes it feels like all the planning won’t help me feel better, and it won’t. Somtimes you just gotta have faith! 🙂

  13. I’m never afraid of running out of money, because I cherish the experience of running out! It builds character.

    It’s all in the adventure and, like you said, we’re smart enough to figure it out when the situation arises.

  14. Hi Caz,

    Thanks for another inspirational post about traveling, letting go of your fears and taking the leap. Love this!

    As you know, I’ve been traveling the world solo since 1998. Along the way I’ve had to find many different ways to earn money to keep traveling. A couple times I’ve ended up in near panic mode when my funds were nearly depleted and I didn’t have another income source or job lined up. Once I got super depressed to the point where I thought I needed help to pull out of it.

    I pulled myself out and very soon landed my next scuba diving job. Whew. Another example that things always work out somehow. You don’t get tossed into the gutter.

    Like you, many times I’ve decided to stop worrying and trust that things will work out. In more recent years, I’ve been taking more & more leaps of faith, particularly for traveling to countries that I wanted to visit but never dared because they’re so expensive.

    Case in point: New Zealand this year. I’ve been wanting to go there, bad, for over 20 years. And I’ve been in SE Asia (relatively close to NZ) for many years. In the past 2 years I started to try harder to get there. In 2012 applied to House Sitting gigs in NZ but never got any. ‘Ah,well, next year’ I said. 2013, same story. Finally, at the beginning of this year I was so fed up I just said, “Screw it! I’m going! It will work out somehow. Even if I have to dig into my savings, it’s worth it. I MUST go to NZ”. I had almost no money as I had not been making much for 4 solid months. So financially it was rather a crazy decision. In previous years I would have (well, did) been to scared and practical to go.

    Almost immediately after making that decision in Feb. everything suddenly seemed to turn around! In Feb. I suddenly made more money on my site than ever – my top month. I found HelpX online, applied to several hosts, and within 2 weeks had 3 months of HelpX gigs lined up to do! I discovered NakedBus, which has crazy low bus fares (I mean, $5, $10 overland) and nearly half price fares on hostels around NZ.

    It was really phenomenal. So phenomenal that 1. In my first month in NZ I spent only $200! and 2. I never even got near touching my savings. It all worked out!

    I could go on and on with other examples of things, people, situations ‘falling into my lap’ but you get the point.

    I just wanted to pitch in and stand behind you on your claims to your readers that ‘take the leap of faith and it will work out’ really does work!

    I also agree with you wholeheartedly about making the choice to think IN FAVOR OF yourself instead of against yourself. A great way that I heard this explained is: Whatever your mind is thinking about future scenarios (What if this, what if that), your mind is just making it up. It’s just fiction. Possibilities. Not reality. So, since you’re making it all up, why not make up / imagine / believe great things happening?! Since you’re just making it up, why would you make up bad things for yourself?

    That explanation really clicked with me. Oh, yeah, it’s totally retarded to decide against yourself! Duh!

    So, Caz, thanks again for the inspiration and reminders. I really love reading your inspirational posts.

    cheers, Lash

  15. I had all these fears when I was planning on moving to Peru (and I have them again now that I’m planning on moving to Thailand). It’s hard to convince myself to stop worrying but it really doesn’t help anyone. You just kind of run around in circles. The biggest thing is, when the time comes, you just do it. It was so helpful to buy my plane ticket in advance. That way I knew that no matter how nervous I was or how little money I had, I was leaving. And everything worked out fine!

  16. Researching before booking a flight and actually getting to your travelling destination is the most important step. Lots of my friends jump head-first whenever they receive an email inviting them to take advantage of an incredible offer when in fact it’s a big scam; if you factor in all the extra taxes or the fact that the hotel has super pricey food you will see that you will end up paying even double.

  17. I’m just about to head to a monastery in Thailand and though I keep talking big time it is the first time I’m leaving Europe. I wasn’t able to make a ton of money but enough to get there and stay for a while. I’m really nervous and scared but reading your blog on this issue has made me feel immensely better. I would love to stay on the road as I find it the only way to soothe me and make me feel like myself. So thank you so much! I feel a lot better. Fantastic read!

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