How I afford to travel: Version 2.0
If any of you have browsed through my Instagram gallery (@beyondutah), you know that I’ve got a serious case of the travel bug. My original post on how I afford to travel was posted way back in November 2015.
Almost 2 years later, I’ve jimmied up a few more ways to save money so that you guys can better make travel into a reality!
I’ll assume that y’all are up to date with my version 1.0 so I won’t include any of those tips. Instead, here’s a fresh batch of ideas to kickstart your travel fund:
DON’T PURCHASE AIRPLANE FOOD
Hear me out on this one. Not only have I saved money on long-haul flights by not purchasing meals, but I also don’t risk feeling bloated or rushing to the bathroom every two hours (which in turn helps me sleep through the flight). Of course I accept free snacks and the complimentary beverage, but for what some airlines charge, I’ll skip the meal and catch up with groceries from a local market once I land.
There are so many scenarios for teaching English, it’s hard to give you an idea of all the possibilities. I taught English in Russia for 4 months which is how I could afford to travel at the age of 19. Most schools/programs require TEFL certification, but will accept candidates with a bachelor’s degree.
I wish I could recommend a specific TEFL program, but I am not TEFL certified (yet!). If you’ve already got a bachelor’s degree, you might be able to bypass TEFL certification!
This can be taken two ways.
One, if you have set dates/destination, then Skyscanner can send you daily updates with the price drop/raise. You can then monitor the prices to get a good feel for the right price.
Two, there is an Instagram account called Flights From Home which posts deals specifically round-trip from SLC! You have no reason not to follow them! And Instagram can now notify you when specific accounts publish a photo (flight deal).
If you know you can only afford to travel within a certain budget, this helps you get an idea of what destinations are realistic.
USE THE RIGHTS APPS
This goes hand in hand with researching which apps are the “right” apps. I published my own list of apps for traveling in Europe. Some of these apps will host sales – for example I traveled from Paris to Lyon for $2.25 (2 Euro) roundtrip with Flixbus. That would normally cost $40 on other bus lines, $60 with a ride share, $150 by train, and $300 by plane. You do the math.
DISCOVER THE ALTERNATIVE TO PAYING FOR AN OVERPRICED INTL PHONE PLAN
We’ve all been there. You come home from a trip with random roaming charges that aren’t worth the slow, unreliable data signal you tolerated on your trip. On my last trip to Paris, I paid roughly $100 for service – eek! Determined to never pay that much again, I did some research and discovered Skyroam.
The beauty of Skyroam is that it connects to the strongest phone tower and then projects that as WiFi hotspot for up to 5 devices. For a digital nomad or as a travel blogger, I can connect my phone and my computer with no extra cost. For couples, this can be a huge save! Let’s do the math: I paid $10/day for international service. That’s $20/day for both of you. Skyroam WiFi starts at $8/day. Say you’re gone for 10 days, that’s only $80 for both of you, instead of $200. You can afford to travel with another $120 extra in your pocket. Plus, Skyroam’s WiFi is unlimited!
My readers can get 10% off (which translates to one day of free service for a 10+ day trip) using the code above. 🙂 Check out their website here.
CUT THE COSTS OF HAVING A CAR
This two part tip takes a little extra effort. Part one: my family has a Costco membership (Sam’s Club works too). I make my tank of gas stretch until I can go fill up at a Costco gas station on my way to buy groceries. I save $2-5 each time I fill up because mainstream gas stations are more expensive. Multiply that by 2-3 times a month, and I’m saving $15/month and $180/year.
Part two: see if you qualify for any discounts for your car insurance. I’m getting a good driver discount (no tickets, wrecks, etc.) as well as a good student discount (based on my GPA). I recently realized that I wasn’t getting the good student discount. I called up my car insurance, found out I qualified and now I’m saving $180/year! You never know which discount you qualify for unless you ask!
“Student” discounts are available in many cities for museum entry, attractions, etc. Some places even allow free entry for students! The ISIC card is an international student card and my go-to because my American student ID isn’t always accepted. This is a great way to save money without much effort.
VENTURE OUTSIDE OF YOUR FAVORITE BOOKING SITE
This one is hard for me. My go-to site has always been Skyscanner. But recently I’ve branched out to Kayak, Rome2Rio, and Skiplagged. While I usually end up back on Skyscanner, it’s smart to cross check flight prices.
GO WITH FRIENDS + SHARE THE COST
I went with a friend to Las Vegas back in February and we split the price of everything! I saved on gas, the Airbnb, parking fees, etc… every penny counts! This one doesn’t always work but it’s certainly saved me some money.
Nightlife Tip: If you’re looking to go clubbing, wander near the entrance of the casinos with clubs in the afternoon. Often there are promoters that are handing out flyers for free entry later that night!
CONSIDER MORE THAN ONE MODE OF TRANSPORTATION
This is extremely applicable in places like Europe where there’s almost too many options. I’ve traveled by plane, car-pooling (internationally), bus/coach, and train. Red-eye or overnight could even save you money otherwise spent on a place to sleep! I was able to afford to travel to some places that might otherwise be too expensive if I had gone by plane. By considering all your options, you can see what’s the best bang for your buck.
ORDER MONEY AHEAD TO AVOID AIRPORT SERVICE FEES
Most banks offer to order your foreign currency in advance. There is typically a small service fee but this is considerably less than the commission made at the exchange offices found in airports.
Pro-traveler tip: know your exchange rates, because not all currencies are created equal! With my trip to Cuba coming up, I did some research. There’s a 10% tax on US dollars in Cuba so I plan to bring Euros to exchange. Do your research before hand so you’re not caught off guard when you arrive!
CARRY-ON LUGGAGE ONLY
I’ve saved hundreds of dollars by not bringing a checked bag!!! Since I try to fly with budget airlines (who charge for meals, bags, etc), this one is for the savviest and most frugal of travelers. My YouTube video (link) covers everything you should have in your carry-on, regardless of the length of your stay!
HIKE FOR FREE VIEWS
This would be in place of (or in addition to) paying to take an elevator to the observation deck of a skyscraper. Hikes in general are a great way to explore the nature and appreciate our beautiful Mother Earth!
BRING A WATER FILTER
I invested in a water bottle with a replaceable water filter. I hate paying for something so vital as water! My water bottle has easily saved me $100-$200, as I’ve had it since 2014. My personal recommendation is Seychelles, here’s my exact same water bottle on Amazon.
If you don’t have a water filter, try asking for tap water (if it’s potable!) to hopefully avoid being charged for a water bottle.
TAKE THE METRO OR WALK
Taxis are overrated and over priced. I usually stay on the city limits (cheaper per night), then take the metro into the city where I rely on my feet the rest of the day. I plan my itinerary specifically so that I focus on one area each day. This saves times (no back tracking) and money (no need to take the metro besides the commute in and back home). Plus, I get to see more of the city!
USE VPN OR INCOGNITO MODE TO BOOK TICKETS
Booking websites keep track of trips you’ve looked at. I’ve watched tickets jump prices with a simple refresh of the page. By using a VPN or incognito mode, you can hopefully outsmart the smart and keep your ticket prices the lowest possible!
STAY/WORK IN A HOSTEL
Hostel rooms are a lot cheaper than hotels and can often be just as nice! Traveling on the off season increases your chances of a room to yourself. I booked a bed in a 4 person dorm in LONDON and had the room to myself 2 nights of my stay. Can’t complain when I paid $50/night as opposed to $200/night for a hotel in the same area.
Working in a hostel is something that I’m eager to try! From what I understand, many hostels offer a bed in exchange for work (cleaning or working the reception desk). This would be ideal if you’re staying somewhere for a couple weeks!
Another great option is Airbnb (for renting out whole apartments or private rooms). I’ve used Airbnb to great success in the last few years. Click here to join (make sure you click on the actual page and not the pop up) and receive $40 off your first stay!
USE YOUR UNIVERSITY GYM FOR FREE (STUDENTS IN THE U.S. ONLY)
This is a big one for students! I was considering getting a membership at a local gym since it was “only” $10/month. It doesn’t sound like much, but that’s $120 over the course of the year. However my university has a gym that are free to full-time students (13+ credits), and that’s where I now go to work out! Not only do I get to stay in shape, but I get to save $120 while I’m at it.
If I had a penny every time someone asked me for tips on Paris,
I wouldn’t need a sugar momma I’d be going back every month. One of the best resources out there is travel bloggers! We know our stuff and if we don’t personally know, we know someone who does. I’ve got that huge list of places in Paris (in map form because #millennial) that I share with others when they want recommendations for Paris.
Alternatively, if you prefer to rely on a hard copy, Lonely Planet offers great resources like phrasebooks (I bought one for when I went to Russia) and travel guides from areas as specific as cities to as vast as whole regions and continents!
BE SOUVENIR SAVVY
Instead of getting myself a souvenir, I usually buy a Christmas ornament for my family. It’s a keepsake that’s small (for my suitcase), affordable (for my budget), and easily identifiable (the Eiffel Tower for France). Then every year at Christmas time I have the joy of rediscovering my ornaments and I can tell my family stories about how/when I got specific ones.
While a lot of these techniques have varying degrees of success and can’t cater to everyone, I’d say everyone should be able to come away with at least one new trick up their sleeve. These tips have helped me save hundreds of dollars during my travels and it’s how I afford to travel. And with more travel planned for this fall, I’m always on the hunt for creative ways to save money. Any tips that you have are much appreciated! Comment it below and share this list with your favorite travel buddy!
*All affiliate links are genuine personal recommendations and help me have a couple more pennies for my travel jar.*