Can’t Afford Your Next Surf Trip? ( Budget Surf Travel Guide)

So it’s that time of year again. As summer winds down, it’s time to get away and chase some waves. But whether you’re planning your annual two-week Indo boat trip or heading off on a 6-month budget surf travel epic, you still gotta pay for it… 

If you’re like me, the surf trip process always starts the same way. You finish a shift, get home, open your laptop and start clicking and dragging. One tab on Google Maps, another on the surf forecast for the planned location, another a surf spot guide, two tabs with Skyscanner, and finally, your 50th tab is open on Booking.com… And, dare I say, your online banking. Ahh, the makings of the surf trip. 

No matter your bank balance or trip length, I will show you exactly how I can afford to travel full-time. Family and friends constantly ask me how the heck I can afford to travel so much, and other than being a tight arse, there are many other things I do to make trips happen. 

I will summarize the aspects of making a surf trip happen, including five parts. Planning, saving, mindset, budgeting, and working online. So let’s dive in and discover how these things will help you afford your next surf trip. 

Planning 

Arguably the most critical stage in planning a surf trip (duh) but early, accurate planning means you save money, know how much to save, and can research until your heart’s content. 

Although you can’t beat a last-minute swell chase, planning a surf trip far in advance is also incredibly exciting, and how I spend way too much of my time. Watching videos, checking flights, and gazing at photos. The planning stage should coincide with your budget, and your chosen destination should reflect this. For example, if you’ve got time but need your money to stretch, avoid the Maldives or Tahiti and instead hit Indo or Latin America. 

When it comes to planning your trip, your trip can be broken down into three main stages: 

  • Flights
  • Accommodation 
  • Food 

That’s the cost of any trip at the bare minimum. You’ve got to factor in other expenses such as taxis, hire cars, buses, insurance, surf gear, etc. But for now, let’s focus on the big three and get your trip booked. 

Tip – Some of the world’s cheapest surf destinations include Indonesia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Morocco, and the Philippines. However, you can make any country a budget surf travel destination if  you try! 

Flights 

I like to book flights early. And I also love hopping on a plane last minute when chasing waves. But if you’re on a budget, the further in advance you book, the cheaper the fight will be. Weeks and even months in advance are best for scoring the cheapest airfare. This article breaks down how far in advance you should book flights in more detail; I tend to stick to 6 weeks or two months before the flight, sometimes more.  

Bonus Tip – Ever looked at a flight a few times and thought, why the F is the price going up every time I check? Well, there’s a reason for that. Always use incognito mode when you book a flight. If you’ve searched for a flight before, website cookies remember it, and the airfare site pushes the price accordingly. 

To book cheap flights, I use Skyscanner, Kayak, or WayAway. In fact, I spend a worrying number of hours browsing them… 

Budget Surf Travel - PDF

Accommodation

With your flight out the way, your next biggest chunk of savings goes on accommodation. Your accommodation cost will vary massively depending on where you go, when, and how you’re prepared to travel. Private rooms typically equal high rates, whereas hostel dorm rooms are cheaper! But hostels and staying in mixed 8-bed, or in some dreadful cases more, dorms is one of the ways I can afford to travel full time. 

However, you can sometimes find affordable private rooms, especially in Indo. I’ve never stayed in a hostel in Indo. For accommodation, I use Hostelworld or Booking.com and sometimes Airbnb. Booking.com is fantastic as you can reserve your bed but pay when on arrival. Once I’ve booked my flight and reserved my room, I know I’m definitely going, and I LOVE that feeling! 

Food 

Obviously, you’ll need to eat, but you have to do that at home. So I wouldn’t even consider this a significant factor. If you’re reading this in Europe or North America, food prices in many locations are lower than at home, especially if you cook your own food. 

Cooking your own food is probably not appealing after surfing for 8 hours, but if you do eat out, you can always keep costs down by eating veggie meals and drinking water, not beer (at least some of the time). 

Punta De Lobos line-up while surfing in Southern Chile. 

Saving 

So you’ve planned the trip. Locked in flights, reserved your room, and watched enough surf movies for your eyeballs to fall out. What a feeling! But now comes the hard part, saving. How you save is going to depend entirely on how you earn; for example, do you work a summer season or have a regular 9-5? 

If you’re a surf coach or bartender, the summer is busy, smash-and-grab time for your finances and to save as much cash as possible. While still finding time for a surf and the odd beer. 

But if you want to go full psycho mode, double up and do two jobs. Coach all day, pull pints all night… Challenging work, but remember, you’re doing it for a reason… making your trip HAPPEN. You want enough money stashed away to get you as many waves and keep you in the tropics as long as possible, right? So when there’s money to be made, fricking go for it. 

Although I work online now, I sued to surf coach and always tried to live on the bare minimum from my wages. Covering food and rent, while the rest would go to my trip fund. If possible, try and save 80% and live off 20% of your income, or as close as possible. It’s crazy how quickly this adds up. 

Chicama Surfing Line Up

Ever wondered what it’s like to surf the wolrd’s longest wave? Read the Surfing Chicama blog post, or check out the Youtube Breakdown. 

Mindset 

I think mindset allows me to travel 10x more than the average surf tripper. It’s largely down to an obsession with surf travel. My attitude is 100% focused on surf trips and getting the money to make it happen. Which means I make a tonne of sacrifices. That festival all your mates are going to? Midweek drinks? Meal out? Nice new outfit for the weekend? Yep, I don’t do any of that. 

And while that might seem like the most boring lifestyle ever, I also travel wherever I want when and surf every day because I’ve freed up some income/savings to allow me to do so. For me, surf travel is non-negotiable, and nothing comes before it. So if you’re truly serious about surf travel, that’s the obsessed mindset you need to have. 

However, you may not want to give up your social life, and that’s ok. But remember, the money you spend on club nights and festivals goes a long way in Indo! The mindset also puts you into full savings mode, and you’re more likely to default to small money-saving habits, like skipping the coffee out or making do with an old pair of shoes…All those subconscious saving habits you pick up may seem trivial, but over six months in the lead-up to a trip can add up and make a big difference.  

The Mindset also means you’re 100% going on the trip. No matter what! You’re going no matter what others are doing or how much money you have! 

Budgeting 

Essential to budget surf travel. Budgeting well allows you to stretch your dollars for as long as possible. How strict you are with your budget, though, will entirely depend on your savings. 

When I was 18, I didn’t give a shit; about how I got there or where it stayed. 20-hour flight with a 10-hour layover? No worries. 12-hour night bus? No stress. Sleep in the car? All good. Always keep the goal in mind, as many waves for as little cost as possible. Do whatever it takes. 

Nowadays, I’m older and earn more money, so I stay in better places and choose flights without the ten-hour layover (most of the time) But if you’re on a strict budget, it’s crazy how far you can stretch your money if you have to. Slime tips for budgeting: 

  • Cook your own food
  • Avoid Beers
  • Stay in hostels 
  • Use buses 
  • Book cheap flights 
  • Be a minimalist 
  • Use money-saving apps (Plum & Wise) 

If you want to go full feral surf travel mode, sleep on beaches, live in tents, double up your car as accommodation and shit, forage if you have to. And yep, I’ve done all of them.  

Work Online 

In 2022, there are many ways to MAKE money online while on a surf trip. Being able to earn strong currency while traveling through Indo or Costa Rica, for example, is the holy grail of full-time surf travel and puts you in a formidable position. Working online transforms budget surf travel to comfortable full time lifestyle. 

There are heaps of valuable skills to learn from which you can earn a comfortable living and more from your laptop. Before I discovered working online, I used to do shit jobs like laboring, washing dishes, farm work, and surf coaching. Although surf coaching is by no means a shit job, working from your laptop when and where you want is 10000000X better! Some skills I’d HIGHLY recommend learning include: 

These are all jobs where you can earn six figures working remotely if you get good at them by building up your skills and experience. Jeez, that sounds like I’m one of those “gurus” trying to flog your course for $999 now; thankfully, I’m not, and earning that kind of money comes through only hard work and dedication to a particular skill. 

Don’t expect to learn one of the above skills and get paid the same day. The skills I have now (copywriting, web design, online English teaching, and video editing) took years of failure and constant learning. But if I can learn them, so can you. FYI: I don’t have wealthy parents, and I skipped uni to be a broke-budget surf traveler for eight years. So if I can learn these skills and turn them into a great living online, YOU CAN! 

Dan Harmon Teaching English Online

Summary 

So that’s it. All the things I do to make surf trips happen. I hope these tips have inspired you to get on the road and manifest surf trips, even when your bank balance is less than ideal. I use the word manifest here, not in the wishy-washy, planets-aligning, astrological way; I mean deciding you want to make a trip happen, then taking every possible action to make it come true. 

That said, I take a lot of financial risks; for example, I use credit cards to pay for trips, and although I always pay it off in full each month, my credit card balance gets scarily close to maxing out sometimes. I also work incredibly hard, and although what I post online suggests I just cruise around surfing and doing what I want 24/7, there’s a lot you don’t see. You don’t see the 4 am wake-ups to meet writing deadlines or the sleepless nights of writing, planning, and budgeting. 

In addition, building up the skills I have now took YEARS of constant learning, failure, and dedication before I earned a penny online. But you gotta start somewhere, right? So I hope these things have inspired you to follow the same path and inspired you to travel on a budget, save money, have the travel mindset, work online, and go on endless surf trips.  

If you’ve found this article helpful, please like it, share it, and leave me a comment below with any questions. Also, please subscribe to my YouTube channel! I’m halfway to my 1000 subscriber goal, and it means a lot to me when you subscribe!! I can’t wait to keep making videos and sharing these trips and tips with you, and I have an incredibly exciting end to the year coming up, so stay tuned. 

Dan Harmon

Dan Harmon

Hello! My name's Dan Harmon and I am a full time content creator and copywriter working freelance as I travel and surf my way around the globe. This blog is where I show you how to do the same.

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