So you are scrolling through your instagram feed and it is filled with stunning pictures from dream destinations. You get this pit feeling in the bottom of your stomach that is telling you that it should be the back of your beautiful head fronting these incredible landscapes. You are thinking about your two part-time jobs that you have just to make ends meet and these trips just seem completely out of reach.
Well dude....I've been there! I understand! Everyone your entire life has lead you to believe that travel is ridiculously expensive! While it is definitely way too easy for this to be true, it is also possible for you on your ramen every night budget to have an amazing trip to these exotic destinations you only thought you could dream about! Here are a few hacks on how to make your travel dream a reality.
1.) Fly Smart
The single largest expense for your trip will probably be the cost of getting to and from your destination. Well lucky for you, we have this nifty little thing called the internet! There are countless websites and applications that help you compare flights from all different airlines simultaneously so that you get the best bang for your buck! Some of my favorites are Google Flights, Kayak, Jetradar, and Scott Keyes.
The best day of the week to go online and book a flight is Tuesday! seriously, test this out and it will blow your mind how much cheaper flights will be compared to other days of the week. I found my one way ticket to Barcelona from Austin,Texas for $291 by doing proper research and by looking daily at different flight deals. Guess what? I bought that little baby on a Tuesday.
You also have a much better chance of getting a killer deal if you do not have a set destination or date in mind. Many of these websites you can subscribe to and you will be blown away by the deals that they send you for incredible far away places you thought were way out of your budget to travel to.
2.) Pack Lightly
Many airlines nowadays will charge extra for heavy luggage, extra bags, checking bags, or if you are flying a super budget airline even a carry on! ALWAYS READ THE FINE PRINT regarding baggage fees, because this is where they can get you! Make sure that a checked bag or a carry on is included in the fee and if it is not, include this in your budget. Do not wait to be surprised when you go to check in at the airport, because as a budget traveler every dollar counts. Any money that you spend on things that are easily avoidable is money that could have been spent on an awesome travel experience. Also, who wants to lug around heavy baggage for the whole trip? If it's not 100% necessary, leave it at home.
Seriously, leave it.
3.) Where to Stay
This will also be another one of your biggest expenses while traveling, but if you are adventurous and open minded enough, it doesn't have to be! Hotels can be super comfortable, but they are ridiculously expensive. You may be thinking that $200 dollars a night on a hotel is such a good deal! Well, there are better ways my dear.
Airbnb - Surely you've heard of this one. This is a great option if there are several of you traveling or if you have a few extra bucks to shed per night for a comfy room. You can find some pretty incredible places on this site and even meet some super fun people! Generally though, this can a pretty secluded way to travel for the solo traveler and in my opinion is not the most economical choice.
Hostels - How does $15 dollars a night sound to you? I'd say that sounds pretty good fellow ramen eater! Though this price comes with a slight catch, that being you will have to sleep on a bunk bed in a room with a few random strangers, I'd say it is well worth it for that price tag! This also forces you out of your comfort zone in the best way possible. It's basically like being in summer camp in a super cool location of your choice. Most people are looking to make new friends and all you need to do is say yes my friends! Say yes!
Couchsurfing - You may say, no way! That sounds super sketch and I ain't no hippie. Well guess what? It isn't and you don't have to be. While I would err on the side of caution, just like in any travel situation, this can be a super amazing way to befriend locals, see a city from a non-tourist perspective and the best perk of all...IT IS FREE PEOPLE. You aren't exchanging dollars, you are exchanging culture and friendship. I know that sounds like a hippie thing, but sometimes hippie things are awesome. Also, you don't even have to stay on a literal couch! Some people have entire rooms that they will let you stay in. Yep. All for you. Seriously, just check it out.
Workaway - This is pretty much what it sounds like. You work...away in a far off land in exchange for a place to stay! This ranges from helping hosts with language skills, working in hostels, working on a farm, boat or painting a house. There are so many different people who are willing to open their homes to you in exchange for a few hours of work, 5 days a week. So cool. Ever wanted to work on a vineyard in Tuscany? well you can. Live on a sailboat in Croatia? you can do that. Help out at an Elephant park in South Africa? just a message away. Best of all, you don't have to pay them money! Happy dance time for you! You do have to pay a fee of $29 to create an account on the website, but that ain't no thang but a very overpriced chicken wing. I know, bad metaphor....
4) Take Public Transport
Okay, you made it to your exotic city with backpack in tow, and you need to get to that super affordable accommodation you booked. Well...how do you get there? There will be tons of convenient taxis and private forms of transportation just waiting to take you to wherever you need to go the moment you step out of the airport.
While this seems tempting if you did not research your options ahead of time, this can sometimes be SO MUCH MORE than you have to pay. Like, so so much more. Please please please look ahead of time and see if there is a bus or a train or a shuttle that can drop you off close to where you are staying. Also, look at the times that they run and where to go to get picked up. This doesn't only apply to getting to and from the airport, but also around the city you are staying in. Is it a city that is easy to walk around? Yay! Super affordable. Great public transport? Yay! Super affordable. terrible public transport and everything is super spread out...expect to just give away all your money (*cough *cough L.A. *cough....) it adds up fast. Trust me.
5) Where to Eat
Your stomach is growling and you are stuck in a super touristy part of town.... That's just bad planning. DO NOT FALL INTO TOURIST TRAPS. You are better than this. The food sucks, it is super overpriced and you do not get to experience the local cuisine. This is where the internet can come in handy again. Don't know where to go eat? look up the cool, cheap place to go in town. Better yet, ask a local. I love sharing places to go eat in my home town, and most people you will find are that way all over the world. *Gasp* you may even make a new friend.
Street food and markets are your friend. Get some local fruit to eat for breakfast and a snack. Lunch? some delicious local street food is usually pretty affordable. You can totally go to nice restaurants, in fact, I recommend it! But do it sparingly so that you don't break the bank.
So hopefully you find these tips helpful when planning your travels. Moral of the story, with enough research and patience, you can totally afford that amazing vacation you have been dreaming about!
Have some tips that I missed in this post? Please share them in the comments below!