May 23rd, 2018
"Hey, I saw you were in Miami last month! Weren't you in Europe this summer? How do you afford to travel so much??"
This is probably my least favorite travel-related question that I get asked all the time. Actually, no. My least favorite travel-related question is "you're from California?? Why are you here?" Because I want to see the whole world, okay?! California is dope, but so is Barcelona, Budapest, New York City, etc., etc., etc.
The reason the "how do you afford travel" question bothers me is that when people ask me that, I always feel like I'm being judged, like people just assume I'm rich or a trust fund baby or something. I'm 25, my parents don't help me financially, I live in an apartment in San Francisco that I share with more roommates than you can count on one hand, and I work. A lot.
In short, the answer to "how do you afford to travel?" is: work, be resourceful, and make traveling a priority.
In long, here are five specific ways you can do those things. (Yes, I know "in long" is not actually a thing.)
1. Think carefully about what you spend your money on - and save, save, save
I know it sounds basic, but let me break it down. In life in general, you can’t just do everything that sounds fun - you have to choose. So, if you’re hoping to spend a few days in Cabo San Lucas in the spring, but you’re also in the habit of going out to brunch every weekend, the next time your friends want to meet at your favorite brunch spot, suggest grabbing a coffee and a bagel instead. Or make eggs and toast at home and meet them for a hike later.
If you’re saving up for something, every time you’re about to drop a substantial amount of money on something that doesn’t go towards your travel goal, think: "Would I rather spend $25 on brunch right now, or save it to go towards Cabo?”
When you think about it like that, the answer is usually pretty clear.
In the past couple of years, I’ve probably done the most traveling I’ve ever done in my life. The past couple of years is also when I became a huge fan of potluck dinners. During my last year of college, one of my good friends and I got together every week to cook together at either her house or mine. We’d pick simple dishes - tofu stir fry, pasta with zucchini and tomato sauce, nachos - and each person would buy half of the ingredients. Oh, and we’d also always have wine.
Drinking wine while cooking with my friend - and then watching Netflix while we ate what we made - became my favorite part of the week. We’d usually pick something that involved ingredients one of us already had - “I have half a block of tofu left over from Monday, wanna do stir fry again?” - and we don’t mind cheap wine, so I’d frequently end up spending like $4 for dinner and wine with a friend once a week - and we almost always had leftovers.
Speaking of wine, buying drinks out at bars is another great way to spend a lot of money that could otherwise go towards a plane ticket.
If you’re like me and like to get your buzz on without breaking the bank, do what I do and either only hit bars during happy hour, and/or grab a few drinks before you head out. I live in San Francisco, and at most bars not during happy hour, a beer costs roughly $6, and a mixed drink costs upwards of $10. Whereas, at the grocery store, an entire bottle of liquor costs upwards of $12, which is also the cost for a cheap 12-pack of beer. If you grab two or three friends and head to the supermarket to split something equally before you hit the bars, not only will you spend less money, but you’ll probably end up getting more bang for your buck.
3. Work, work, work, work, work
I hope you read that in a Rihanna voice.
Obviously getting a job is the number one way to afford anything. But, there’s also a bunch of odd jobs you can do through the magical power of the Internet, sometimes even while you travel.
Do you write? Edit? Draw comic strips? Have a voice that’s great for voiceovers? Market your skills on Fiverr.com, where people will literally pay you to do things you’re good at. Gigs start at - you guessed it - $5, and the company takes a small cut, but the more you do it, the more reviews you will have, and the more you will be able to charge.
If you can’t do any of these things, but you live in or are traveling to some parts of the U.S. or in London, check out TaskRabbit. People post the “tasks” they want done - mow the lawn, put together a desk, even help plan their kid’s birthday party - and you apply to the ones you like. If they like you, boom, you got the job.
Also, call me old-fashioned, but Craigslist can actually be a good resource for finding odd jobs in 70 different countries all over the world. I’ve found several profitable writing gigs and even my first internship in the “writing” portion of the “gigs” section.
Just please remember to exercise caution, don’t go to anyone’s house, don’t give out your credit card information to anyone, don’t get into a van with a strange dude who says he has candy, etc. etc. etc.
4. Always be on the hunt for travel deals
Personally, I prefer hostels over hotels because they’re cheap and a great way to meet other travelers, and I like red-eye flights, because then I save money I would otherwise have to spend on accomodation. However, if you need a solid eight hours of sleep every night and/or you can’t sleep on a plane, I see how these things wouldn’t be ideal. However, they are two major ways to save some cash while traveling. But! So are the following:
Use SkyScanner or Google Flights to determine the cheapest way to get from Point A to Point B. If your schedule is flexible, both search engines recommend the cheapest time of the year, month, and even week to go to your destination. I once spent an entire day trying to find the cheapest way to get from Colombia to Spain, and the flight I settled on was roughly $500 cheaper than the first flight I saw - and included a stop in an additional city. Win-win.
SkyScanner also allows you to set a “price alert.” Go into SkyScanner, and search for a flight out of whichever airport is closest to you - you can also just type in your city if the airport isn’t important - and into Cabo around the month you think you’re most likely to go. Then click “set price alert.” Whenever that price rises or falls, Skyscanner will let you know immediately via email or Facebook Messenger, whichever one you chose. If the flight suddenly drops by $40, get on it.
When it comes to booking accommodation, I’m a huge fan of Hostelworld. You can filter the hostels by price, room type, amenities, and rating. Remember to always read other peoples' reviews of the property before booking!
Because a hostel room is typically shared with upwards of 5 other strangers in bunk beds, a hostel bed shouldn’t cost more than $30/night tops. If you’re heading somewhere in peak season and a hostel room is more than that, you can get AirBnb credit by sending a friend who hasn’t used it before a code to give them some money off their first stay. When they use the code, you’ll get some money off your next stay, too.
5. Save dat money
Lil Dicky, anyone? No?
This is probably the most basic of them all, which doesn’t make it any less valid. If you’re saving up for a plane ticket, or rent, or tuition, or anything for that matter, it is a really good idea to put a certain amount of money from every paycheck into a savings account that you’ll make sure you only use for that one thing. Say you make $7.25 an hour and you work 40 hours a week. If you were saving up for a trip, and you put 10 percent of your paycheck into a savings account every week, and you were frugal with your money in general, once taxes get taken out, you’d have saved up roughly $655.98 in six months. That’s enough for a round-trip plane ticket to almost anywhere.
Did I miss your favorite money-saving travel tip? My bad. Let me know by dropping a comment on my blog or my Instagram.
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