I love this new movement that’s encouraging people to go beyond their comfort zones and explore new parts of the world.
Travel is not just a fad or something you do for vacation to get away from your realities – travel is an opportunity to learn about the world around you, to challenge your previous limited scope of view, and to unravel stereotypes and misconceptions. Travel is essential for anyone and everyone, and is crucial in fostering understanding – as well as the fact that it can be a great time.
But the harsh reality is that not everyone has the luxury of traveling the world. Tickets to different continents can range $400 to $5000 – and that’s long before the cost of accommodations, food, transport and souvenirs are factored anywhere into the equation. Traveling is definitely not a poor man’s past-time, and the cost can be a hinderance for a lot of young people trying to make ends meet until they can… make ends meet.
These days I see a lot of marketing going on with regards to getting people to sign up for webinars and workshops to learn how to travel for free. Now, while I don’t think it’s entirely impossible to find opportunities to travel without actually spending money – and I myself have done so several times – there is always a caveat. It might not cost you something monetarily, but it WILL cost you.
For some of us living this ‘free travel’ lifestyle, our travel opportunities come with our jobs and careers. In the last year and a half I have traveled to the Middle East at least a dozen times, as well as to many other countries and places around the US. But don’t get it twisted – while I may not pay for flights, food, or accommodations, it is still very much WORK. And work means you don’t get to spend your days hanging out at the beach or exploring new restaurants each meal. It means that you are probably jet-lagged and in an office for a good 70% of your trip, and if you are out and about, you’re running errands for one event or the other. Work is not a vacation, no matter where it is. So while a traveling job means you get to see new places and meet new people, it’s still a job that has certain requirements of you. Not to add the fact that jobs that allow you to travel extensively are hard to find, and also mean missing out on important events at home. Remember: not every cost is financial!
Then there are others who actually make a living experiencing places and resorts and telling others about it. This definitely allows for more of a vacation, but it’s still work. You have to take pictures, follow an itinerary, create content, edit, write and rewrite. Having a blog and an Instagram is difficult as is – I can’t imagine how hard it would be if someone was paying me to do it and had certain expectations of what they would receive in return.
People will suggest using travel credit cards, building up points and using that to fund your travel experiences. I’m not a fan of this route because credit card spending can spiral out of control really quickly if you are not consistently paying down your balance. Also, it takes a lot of spending and a lot of points to get anywhere close to a travel opportunity. If you own a business and you have a card you use to make big ticket purchases, this makes sense. But if you’re an average Jane or Joe like me, you’ll spend a lot more time trying to rack up points to travel than you ever will traveling, and probably land yourself in debt trying to do it.
So what does this all mean? That given your limited budget, six flags will forever be your only vacation option? Not at all! I don’t come from a wealthy family or have a million dollars, but I do travel quite extensively outside of work, and without spending much at all. I took a 7-day vacation to Thailand last summer for about $700, and will be taking three vacations this summer where I’ll be spending $500 or less each – and you can do it too! I have 7 tips for people who want to travel but don’t have all the resources to do so. It may not be for free – because nothing really is – but it’ll get you close enough to your actual budget without skimping on experience.
1. Travel in a group. This will cut down on costs tremendously. What would have been a $1000 AirBnB stay for a week solo, turns into $200 with 4 other guests, and with the same level of luxury. Find a group of friends you actually like and pick a place you’d all like to go to. Do make sure that the people you’re traveling with like each other too – I’ve heard way too many horror stories of vacations going to hell because of a tiff between a few of the travelers.
2. Live like a local. I’m all for the luxury resort life, but you’ll find traveling a lot cheaper if you do less touristy things and bother to make acquaintances with some locals and go to the places they do. You’ll find the food is cheaper – and 90% of the time better – and you’ll get a much more authentic experience overall.
3. Save up for travel. In a ‘now’ generation, this can be a foreign concept, but there’s something to say for actually putting aside money towards a goal so you don’t have to worry about breaking the bank when you do travel. There are several apps these days that will use an algorithm to save money for you for certain purposes directly from you bank account based on both your spending and disposable income. My favorite of all time is Digit, and I currently have savings wallets set up for travel, for a set of Away suitcases, for a rainy day, and for a new laptop! You can withdraw the money at any given time as well.
4. If you do travel for work, take advantage of points programs. Honestly, this is how I can afford to travel on my own outside of work. Rack up enough airline and hotel points and you’ll be able to cover both flights and accommodations, and only have to worry about food! It’s worth sticking to one airline if possible, and an airline that flies or has partner airlines that fly to places you’d like to go. I’m a Delta platinum member, and between all the airlines in the SkyTeam Alliance, my miles take me pretty much anywhere.
5. Travel to places where you know people. This is where family and those high school and college friendships come in handy. There are at least two dozen countries in the world where I know someone living and working, so at the very least, my accommodation cost is covered, and I have a free tour guide! Make sure said person actually likes you, has time to play host, and that you’ll actually get along – nothing worse than invading someone’s space when they don’t want you or aren’t ready for you! Also, bringing a gift for them, cooking a meal for them or paying for their meals when you’re out is a great way to say thanks for their hospitality!
6. Travel during off season. As you look at dates for your trip, figure out which times it’s cheaper to fly to certain cities, and schedule your vacation for then. Not only will you save money on flights and accommodations, but you’ll avoid large tourist crowds and get a more authentic experience in the process.
7. Use tools like Google flights and Hopper to set alerts for cheap airfare. This will tell you when to fly, and when the best time is to purchase tickets based on price fluctuations and availability. I have searches to some of my go-to destinations already set up, so that when something cheap does pop up, I never miss it!