How to Travel the World on $50 a Day Summary and Review

by Matt Kepnes
Has How to Travel the World on $50 a Day by Matt Kepnes been sitting on your reading list? Pick up the key ideas in the book with this quick summary. Whether you’re simply a new and nervous traveler with dreams to see the world, yet worried about the dangers of it, or if you’re an experienced explorer looking to travel for less money, Matt Kepnes has some advice for you. Kepnes has over a decade of travel experience under his belt, and plenty of tips and tricks for anyone who wants to get out and enjoy the many wonders of the world. This book summary will be perfect for anyone, from the traveler with fears of foreign lands to the traveler wanting to embrace their adventurous spirit. There is plenty of advice for both types of travelers: from how to pack efficiently so you’re always ready for adventure to how to save money on plane tickets, food, and accommodations. But be warned: this information may inspire you to pack your bags and book a plane ticket to the destination of your dreams! In this book summary, you’ll find out:
  • what an RTW ticket is and how it can help budget travelers;
  • how to visit Australia without breaking the bank; and
  • why Southeast Asia is a paradise for any travelers trying to save money.

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day Key Idea #1: Don’t let fear of the unknown or unfamiliar stop you from exploring.

Chances are, there is a dream destination you’ve always wanted to visit, but never have. What exactly is holding you back? For many people with these same desires, it’s one (or more) of three reasons keeping them home: travel seems too dangerous, too expensive, or they think they’re too old. So let’s start off by debunking the myth that the world outside what you’re familiar with is scary and violent. So many people believe this myth, partly thanks to news sources such as Fox News and CNN, who often portray faraway destinations as home to violence, terrorism, and numerous natural disasters. If these sources are where you get most of your information, it’s no surprise that you might think that a trip overseas might put you directly in the path of a tsunami, or lead you into an encounter with a xenophobic murderer. But consider this simple fact: the author has been traveling the world for a decade and has never once encountered violence, or even a person who expressed a strong dislike for his being American. Here’s the truth: most people who are afraid of visiting foreign lands are afraid of the unknown. Let’s face it, your local news isn’t going to report on the good things that happen overseas. A 2010 study by the Pew Research Center found that only 10.5 percent of the news broadcasted in the United States deals with international affairs. So what does make the headlines? Well, to put it simply, all the scary stuff, including terrorist attacks and horrible natural disasters with high death tolls. However, in Kepnes’experience in his travels, people are more or less the same, everywhere in the world. There’s always some risk, of course, but the risk doesn’t increase when you’re overseas. Whether you’re in New York City, Los Angeles, Brazil, London, or Beijing, there’s the same possibility that something bad could happen to you. The second myth that needs debunking is that travel has an age limit. In Poland, Kepnes met a globetrotting 65-year-old man traveling around Europe before heading down to India. The man was far from being isolated or lonely, and spent his time talking to other, often younger travelers, making friends, and sharing his life stories. In reality, there are plenty of these older travelers. In fact, there are even couples and families with children who travel anywhere they want, even for several months at a time. So don’t let yourself make excuses for staying home—it’s time to pack your bags and enjoy everything the world has to offer!

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day #2: Traveling doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank, and there are many creative ways to save money for your journey.

Now that danger and age are no longer things to worry about, the main thing that stops many people from traveling is money. In reality, this is just one more myth holding people back from experiencing and enjoying new destinations. Here’s a quick exercise anyone can do to see how affordable traveling can really be. Grab a pen and paper and write down all your basic expenses, such as utility bills, rent, and car expenses. Next, add up how much you spend each month on food and shopping. This includes groceries, clothes, restaurants, and daily cups of coffee. If you’re not sure about these costs, watch your spending for a few weeks. Once you have your total amount of bills and expenses for the month, multiply it by twelve to get your annual spending amount. Now, as the title of the book suggests, it really is possible to travel comfortably on a budget of $50 a day. $50 per day adds up to $1,500 a month —$18,250 a year. This is why it’s wrong to assume that traveling is out of your price range. Whatever amount you spend annually is likely more than $50 per day. So now, all you have to do is save up some money for traveling. And it turns out, doing so isn’t as hard as one might think. Unless you really enjoy taking risks, or plan on working on the road, it will make things much easier for you if you save up money prior to your departure date. Saving up $18,000 is more doable than it seems at first glance. To start, it’s easy to cut back on or even forego the nonessentials. This includes dining out, drinking booze, and partying. At the very least, you can make your coffee at home instead of getting that $5 cup every morning. A truly effective way to save money is to reduce your monthly rent by getting roommates. Even a studio apartment can be fit for two with an added partition. You can even rent out your entire apartment for a year and become roommates with your mom and dad! If you’re willing to get creative and live a more minimalist lifestyle, there’s really no end to the money you can save.

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day #3: Being more flexible about times and destinations and getting Round the World plane tickets can cut transportation costs drastically.

So, how exactly is it possible to travel the world on just $50 a day? From a simple weekend in Paris to a year-long globetrotting trek, the first step to any overseas journey is good plane tickets. One of the best deals on airfare are what’s called Round the World (RTW) tickets. These tickets help save you lots of money and are run by multiple, cooperating airlines. For instance, American Airlines only flies to certain destinations, so to cover as many destinations as possible, they’ll partner with other companies. Two fairly large and popular airline partnerships are called Star Alliance and Oneworld. So what exactly is an RTW ticket and how can it benefit you? Well, to put it simply, it allows you to travel around the world. Star Alliance offers RTW tickets which allow you to travel 29,000 to 39,000 miles and make up to 15 stops. The only catch with an RTW ticket is that you have to start and end in the same airport, and move in the same direction around the world. However, you can travel backward, as long as you stay within the same continent. So, let’s say you start in Japan and travel east to New York City. Your next stop could be to travel west to Los Angeles, but the RTW ticket doesn’t allow you to travel back across the ocean to Korea after stopping in the United States. Another great way to save money is to be more flexible about where you go and when you get there. Really, the more willing you are to make last-minute plans about your arrival times and destinations, the more affordable it will be overall. On top of that, flying in the middle of the week or even in the middle of the night will always be cheaper than flying on weekends and holidays. The cost of your plane ticket can vary in so many, unpredictable ways, so the best way to feel confident about travel is to remain flexible, so that if a great deal comes along, you can grab it right away.

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day #4: For your travels, it’s best to choose a functional backpack as your main luggage.

Rolling suitcases work great for casually rolling up to your big-city hotel during a business trip. However, if you truly want to experience the world authentically, it’s best to get a good, sturdy backpack on your back. So what should you look for in a good, functional backpack? The first thing you should look for is one that’s at least semi-waterproof, or plan to keep a rain cover handy in case you get caught in a storm. If it’s not waterproof, the second best plan is to find one that’s made of a quick-dry material, in case it does get wet. Next, it’s essential to make sure every compartment has two zippers can can lock together. A lock on your compartments ensures that thieves can’t steal anything out of the backpack and smugglers can’t sneak any unwanted items in. It is important though, that your locks are TSA friendly so that security can open them if needed, without breaking the lock. Lots of compartments is super important when it comes to looking for a backpack. The last thing you want is to be digging through one huge compartment every time you need something important. So, look for an intelligently designed bag so that you have access to items you’ll need frequently and also be able to separate the things you’ll need at different points in your day. It’s also important to note that backpacks come in different sizes, so make sure you get the one that’s the right size for you. Start with figuring out what you’ll need to take with you ahead of time, so you can weigh all of it and see what volume of bag you’ll need. Most outdoor gear shops will let you test out backpacks that are already holding the weight you’ll need. They’ll also have a range of sizes, from 43 liters to 110 liters, so you can get the bag that best fits your body size and how much stuff you’ll need to fit inside of it. For example, if you plan to travel with 50 pounds of supplies, you might go to the gear shop and find that this is way to heavy, so it’s better to know ahead of time what you can carry so you can rethink your packing!

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day #5: Hospitality exchange services are a great way to budget your travel costs.

It’s important to note that only spending $50 a day won’t allow for time in luxury hotels and meals at expensive restaurants. It’s best to eliminate any leftover dreams of these kinds of luxuries now, or your money you saved won’t last very long. Keeping close track of your spending is incredibly important when trying to stay on a tight budget. When you’re traveling to new destinations, so much of what surrounds you will tempt your wallet, but you’ll quickly run out of money if you’re not careful. It’s important to have a set budget and be smart about your spending while you’re on the road. Set money aside for different categories. This would include accommodations, transportation, and food. It’s actually quite easy to stretch this money fairly far by staying with locals when possible and walking around a city instead of paying for transportation. Now, this doesn’t mean you should be so stingy that you miss out on the great experiences that come with travel. If you’re traveling in an esteemed culinary destination like France, for example, don’t say no to even one meal in a nice bistro or brasserie. Tracking your expenses in a journal is a great way to ensure you have enough money to enjoy everything your destination has to offer. This way, if you want to splurge on an expensive meal, you’ll be able to make some adjustments in the coming days to make sure you don’t overspend later on in your trip. Member-driven hospitality-service platforms are another great way to cut costs. A way to save substantial amounts of money is to avoid the high costs of hotels. There are plenty of online hospitality services that allow you to find cheap alternatives easier than ever. CouchSurfing is one of the most popular sites for finding cheaper places to stay. It’s super easy and free to sign up for CouchSurfing, which has millions of users and hundreds of thousands of active hosts in over 70,000 cities around the world. And, since travelers rate the hosts they’ve stayed with, you can always get a good sense of where the nearest friendly, comfortable, and available room might be. Other hospitality service sites that you may find useful are Servas International and Hospitality Club.

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day #6: Another way to save money is by cooking your meals instead of dining out and taking advantage of lunch specials.

While the local cuisine is one of the greatest joys of traveling, if you’re traveling on a budget, it’s necessary to pretend fancy restaurants don’t exist, and cook in your accommodations instead, only eating out on special occasions. Weekly groceries shouldn’t cost more than $50-80 whereas just one visit to a restaurant can set you back more than $20. In other words, eating where you stay rather than dining out will reduce the amount you spend on food by up to 70 percent. Food is an expense that can add up quickly while you’re on the road, so it’s worth working to find a way to cook your own meals, even on a short trip. Many guest apartments and hostels come with a fully stocked kitchen, so you’ll have all of the pots and pans you might need to prepare a meal, but if you do find yourself at a hotel with nothing but a tiny fridge, it’s good to know you can always make yourself a tasty sandwich. This doesn’t mean the local cuisine is off limits though. Local markets and grocery stores are great ways to taste what’s local to the region. If you’re a little lost on what to purchase, simply take a peek at what the locals are buying. Also, it’s good to be on the lookout for lunch specials that may be cheaper than the usual meals at a place. Although these specials are available all around the world, they’re especially popular in Europe, where restaurants often offer a lunch menu with much cheaper prices than their dinner menus have. For example, Barcelona is full of amazing seafood restaurants lining the coast, but eating dinner at one of them could cost you $50 or more in just one sitting. There may be similar places that offer a similar, and equally memorable meal during a lunch special for only $20. While there aren’t usually websites where you can easily find a full list of places offering lunch specials, simply asking the tourist office or the front desk at your hostel could give you a great recommendation.

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day #7: While Australia is often expensive to visit, it can be really affordable if you house-sit, work for room, and stay smart about your food budget.

How do you budget your money, though, if you’re going to visit a more expensive country, like Australia? In Australia, even just a cup of coffee is $4 Australian, which is equal to three US dollars. How are you supposed to manage to stay under budget in a country like that on just $50 per day? By keeping in mind a few tips on hand, it won’t seem as hard to enjoy the land down under without going over budget. One option is to house-sit while you’re in town. Many Australians go on much longer vacations when they go out of town because they’re so far away from other countries, and getting overseas costs more and takes much longer. Because of this, there’s a huge market for house-sitters, who can live rent free as long as they care for the vacationer’s home, pets, and plants. For more details, you can check out Aussie Housesitters at WWOOFing is another great way to get room and board, simply in exchange for doing volunteer work on organic farms and ranches. The name stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), which is the organization that oversees the program. Because of the large amount of agricultural land in Australia, there’s a huge demand for people to pick fruit and plant seeds, and it’s also a great way to save money and meet new people. Eating out in Australia, is particularly costly, even more so than eating out in other countries. In Australia, the food culture comes from the fact that they tend to work with fresh and healthy ingredients, but it isn’t cheap – the average meal often setting you back at least $25. Because food in general tends to cost more, a week of groceries will cost closer to $80, but this is still the much more affordable way to go. Camping in Australia is also a really popular way to be more cost-efficient, but make sure to buy some good cooking gear for camping, so that you avoid spending all the money you saved by not staying in hotels, on food. Because kangaroos, though, are just as common in Australia as cows are in the United States, kangaroo meat tends to be fairly cheap, and is definitely worth trying. How to Travel the World on $50 a Day #8: Southeast Asia is the perfect destination for the budget traveler. While Australia is more expensive than the average excursion, there are also plenty of places that are more affordable than the average spot. One of them is Southeast Asia. Most of the locals only have an average salary of around $1000, so living there is cheap, and $50 a day will go very far. Finding a good place to stay in Southeast Asia is pretty affordable, but, of course, not all countries are the same. People in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore are a bit wealthier, so things there might cost a little more whereas the least expensive countries are Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. In many more rural areas, a single room with a fan and shared restroom might only cost around $2. These are often offered as part of a guesthouse owned by a local family, and while they’re cheap, they’re clean and run by friendly people. Even in more touristy areas, basic accommodations are still cheap, maybe around $10 a night, plus, this will sometimes include air conditioning and a tap with warm water. More luxurious rooms, with a king bed and a TV will still only cost around $15 or $20. In Singapore and the other more expensive cities of Southeast Asia, the economy is doing quite well in recent years, so the cost of living is rising. If you decide to travel there, you consider staying in a place with a communal kitchen in order to stay on budget. However, it’s worth noting that eating in Southeast Asia isn’t nearly as expensive as eating out anywhere else. While Western food might be pretty pricey, local cuisine won’t cost you more than $10 a day. There’s a lot of popular and tasty street food, which is cooked in stalls lining the streets throughout cities and towns. The locals buy most of their food here, from groceries to snacks, lunches, and meals. Southeast Asian marketplaces are also a great way to get some local, cheap, and delicious food. Here, you’ll find pad thai, spicy soups, spring rolls, fried noodles and other local specialties, as well as fresh juices, meats, and vegetables you can cook at home when you need to save more money. So, there’s no need to let excuses hold you back, there’s a whole world out there waiting for you to come explore it. Final summary The key message in this book summary: Traveling the world is much safer, and definitely is not as expensive as you may think. Its important to simply let go of your need for luxury, and be willing to embrace a more open-minded and adventurous spirit. There are so many ways you can save money as a traveler, and chances are, you can travel the world spending less money on a day-to-day basis than you are currently spending at home. Actionable advice: Get a travel credit card. There are credit cards that give you travel points for every purchase you make. With these points, you’ll even be able to fly at a reasonable price, if not for free. There are no extra fees for purchasing things overseas, so this would be a good investment for someone who travels regularly.