When speaking about where I’m traveling to next, the number one question I’m asked by fellow bloggers, followers, friends, and even family members is: “How the heck do you afford to do all this?” I’d like to take the time to briefly answer this question for anyone who might be wondering, and for anyone who might be looking for ideas on ways to travel cheaply.
First thing first, so I do not give anybody the wrong impression, I have to set a few expectations:
- I’m 22 years old and I while I do have monthly car payments to make, I don’t have greater financial responsibilities like a mortgage or children.
- I do not necessarily recommend all of what I’m about to tell you to everyone. For instance, solo-traveling females should use caution when looking into staying in a hostel.
- I firmly believe that, regardless of the above expectations, everyone can travel, and should do so. So many people say they wish they could travel but can’t right now. Traveling is something you have to put your mind to doing, no matter what it takes, and as soon as you do, you’ll find that every minor set-back you encounter on the way to traveling was absolutely worth what it took to overcome. For further explanation on this, I would point you to my page, Travel Philosophy.
Phew…now that that’s done with, on to the fun stuff!
There are a few keys to traveling cheaply. The first two go hand-in-hand.
Have Flexible Travel Dates / Have Flexible Ideal Travel Destinations
I wrote about this in my Travel Philosophy, but the following is how I currently book my airfare and choose a destination to go to:
Go to kayak.com. Open up another web tab and choose a world map from Google Images. Find a country off of the world map who’s name catches your eye and type it into kayak.com. Check airfare prices for the whole month using the calender box on the right. Continue to do so until you find the cheapest destination. Go there.
I’ve booked my last two trips this way. Iceland: $400 round-trip international airfare, and Peru: $470 round-trip international airfare. While there may have been even cheaper destinations available, these two were the cheapest I came up with in the amount of time I gave myself to type different country names into the web. You can even take this one step further by allowing yourself to have flexible airports of which to leave from. For example, being from Connecticut I usually fly out of Bradley International or JFK, but for Peru I’m flying out of Newark New Jersey because it saves me $175 on the ticket.
Stay Away From The Touristy Stuff
Rather, become like a local in the area of which you’re visiting. Before you left for your trip you read on the internet about a great 5-star restaurant located right smack in the middle of the tourist district. Stay away from it! Places like this will likely be geared towards tourists looking to spend money on over-priced “local” food. Instead, I like to actually ask the locals for recommendations of places to eat. When I do this, I often find the response to be “how much are you looking to spend” in which case I like to respond, “how much would you spend?” When this is done usually a small, and often hidden, restaurant run by friendly local people, and which offers real local dishes at a great price, will be recommended.
You can use this philosophy for tours as well. While tours are often great and a lot of fun, it is always interesting to see a location from a local’s perspective. This may lead to the discovery of locations many non-locals don’t get to experience, which would be far more valuable than any tour.
Stay Out Of 4 or 5-Star Hotels
In my opinion, a 3-star hotel is just as nice as a 4 or 5-star hotel without being overly flashy (and pricey). Many 3-star hotels offer great deals to those willing to stay there short-term. Yet, other accommodations can be found for the truly adventurous. I’m all about staying in the hostel. In fact, people often get the wrong idea about what a hostel is, which is why I did this post a while back. Many of the hostels I’ve stayed in have offered free wifi or at least computer access, 24-hour customer service, included breakfast if awake between certain hours, locked storage for valuables like passports and credit cards, and dormitory style showers. While the last thing on that list might get a few people crazy, for a price as low as $7 per night, it’s totally worth it.
And finally, my last key to affording travel:
Give Up Unnecessary Expenses
This is why seriously wanting to travel means putting everything you can into it. You have to be motivated to do what is necessary to travel, and what’s necessary is not going out every night and spending money on drinks at the bar or dinner at the restaurant. What’s necessary is not buying the new iPhone when your current phone works perfectly fine. Instead, put that money aside for good use, and don’t touch it again until its time to catch your flight to whichever country you were able to find on kayak.com.
Afterall, which piggy-bank do you think looks better?
Or this one:
Yep, I thought so.