Nothing opens you up the way that traveling does. But sometimes that lifestyle can seem unattainable. You see those friends who seem to bounce from place to place, filling up your feed with gorgeous Instagram worthy pictures, and you think to yourself, “how lucky are they? I wish I could do that!” The thing is, you can.
Sure, there are definitely loads of people who are lucky enough to have seemingly endless piles of money to fuel their travels. But as for the rest of us, we need to work, prioritize, and budget.
At this stage of my travels, I am more inept to long-term travel (months at a time), but at my beginning stages I started off with shorter trips that just lasted a few weeks. These are the types of trips that we’re focusing on right now. Long-term travel is a whole different animal. It’s a lifestyle, not an event.
But in the event of a short trip, follow these tips to get where you need to be, and hang on to your pennies while you’re at it.
1.Rack up the Rewards
If you’re already lucky enough to have a Triple A card, or Miles Rewards card, use that to your advantage! See what types of discounts and price cuts you’re looking at before you start planning your itinerary, and utilize those discounts into your plans. You can get discounts on restaurants, hotels, transportation, plane tickets; literally everything you’ll need abroad!
Also, these programs will often give you higher rewards for spending on items such as food, hotels, and transportation. So in the months leading up to your trip, try to rack up as many rewards as you can! Within reason of course. You don’t want to drain your bank account while you rack up rewards, so buy from the specific companies and establishments that they sponsor when you happen to be spending anyway.
For Instance, with a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, 50,000 points can be redeemed towards $625 of travel cash. If you don’t have a rewards card, get one! Chase will give you 50,000 if you spend $4,000 within the first three months of having the card. This might sound like a lot, but consider how much you spend on rent, bills, and utilities. Just use your card to spend the money you would be anyway, and rack up the rewards!
For cheap flights, there is no comparison. Skyscanner is the absolute best and always my go-to for last minute flights. The flight is constantly updating to give you the best deals, and let you know when the best time is to buy.
2. Hostels over Hotels
I’m not sure if it’s due to that god awful film that came out many years ago. You know the one. The one where the main character doesn’t speak a lick of Dutch the entire movie, and is suddenly fluent when he’s about to get his manly bits hacked up.
Whatever the reason, there is a stigma against hostels. I think mostly in part because the people who stigmatize these places have never stepped foot in one. Sure, some hostels are dirty; and some travelers might steal from you. But you’re not going to be safe from dirt or thieves whether you’re traveling or not. So you might as well save! Many hostels have single rooms which are probably cheaper than a hotel. They might even include an ensuite bathroom if that’s what you’re concerned about.
But I highly suggest that you spend at least one night in a community bunk. The glory about traveling is the people you meet, and you don’t want to close yourself off from likeminded people who already know the area you’ve come to explore.
And as for stealing, I speak for long-term backpackers when I say that this is a rarity. There is an unspoken code among us. We’re all in the same boat. We all thrive off of energies of the universe, and karma is the most unforgiving. You’re way more likely to get robbed by a local who pick out “rich” travelers passing through their town. To calm any paranoia you might have, bring a lock with you. All hostel rooms come equipped with a safe or lockbox, so your precious items won’t be jeopardized.
Check out Hostelworld.com to find your ideal room. All of the hostels are rated in terms of cleanliness, fun, and wifi availability.
3. Transit Passes
Traveling in a foreign place can be intimidating and draining. You don’t want to suck all of the fun out of your trip getting lost, or paying too much for transport! There are a lot of easy and thrifty ways to get around without breaking your budget!
Taxis and Ubers can be a fun way to get the low down on some of the local history and hot spots, but let’s face it. Those rides add up and they get to be very expensive. So look into transit passes. All major cities have some sort of a metro system, some of them being universal. By universal I mean, one single card can be used for buses, trains, subways and ferries.
For instance, in New South Whales, Australia, they have what is known at the Opal Card. The card is free to get, and you can “top up” at any local convenience store. There are even rewards for using these cards! With Opal, if you use your card 6+ in a day, your remaining rides will be free. If you use your card 12+ in a week, then you ride free for the rest of the week! How awesome is that! It’s a godsend for commuters. Sure, no one likes to be cramped and slammed into on a busy Monday morning. But free train rides to the beach all weekend? I’ll take it!
Check the local transit for wherever you are visiting. In New York they have Metro to ride the subways, train and bus.
Europe has Eurail which is used by 28 different countries. This makes things less complicated and easier to change your plans! Just buy one pass, pick a destination, and go. One of the best parts about the Eurail is that you can take in all of the beautiful countryside as you’re passing through. You can rest as you ride, or take the opportunity to meet locals and travelers alike; learning about hidden travel destinations.
4. Check the Local Promos
Anywhere that has high tourist traffic is bound to have loads of wallet-easing deals aplenty! You just need to know where to look. Local hostels are a good start. Even if you aren’t staying in one, many team up with local bars and restaurants to promote backpacker happy-hour! Again, you may not be backpacking, but you can still live like a backpacker. $8 for dinner and a beer? Not too shabby!
Upon check in, ask about any local discounts for food, drinks, and activities. I’m sure the front desk will have the lowdown on the local mixers and where to catch some freebies.
5. Visit your local travel office (at the first destination).
Even if it’s just to pick up a few pamphlets and see what the area has to offer! But while you’re there, it wouldn’t hurt to ask some of the staff for some travel advice. Most of the people who work in these places are travelers themselves, so they’ve picked up a few tricks on the road to save money and time. They’ll give you the lowdown on what companies to travel with and where to stay, all within your level of comfort and budget.
6. Make your own food.
This might seem like a given, but many people don’t utilize this money saving practice. Imagine you’re out on a day trip, and hunger strikes. You didn’t pack anything, so you hit up the concession stand for a $5 bottle of water and $13 sandwich. If you’d just stopped by the store, that would have been a $1 bottle of water, and $10 on supplies for multiple sandwiches. Bulk up on energy sustaining snacks like trail mix and the like. You don’t want to spend your precious time scouring for a cheap meal.