If you know me or have checked my website out you may notice I travel a lot. Not just day trip traveling, but full international travel. I often get a lot of questions like "how do you afford to travel so often, especially as a college student?" As a student travel blogger, I wanted to share my tips on how I afford to travel without breaking the bank!
1. Finding deals on flights:
One of the most expensive things about international traveling is the airfare. For example, getting over to Europe is the most expensive part, but once you're actually in Europe it is so cheap to travel from country to country. Finding deals on flights can be a nightmare. You truly have to know where to look. My go to app I use is Skyscanner. This is a travel app that searches millions of flights from over 1,200 travel partners in seconds, giving you the best airfare on cheap flights to anywhere in the world. With this app, I found a flight from Chicago to Bangkok, Thailand for $390! This app searches the best deals with every airline. You can check out this website by clicking here! Skyscanner also comes with a handy mobile app that’ll alert you as soon as price for flights drop.Besides finding the right travel app to scout out amazing deals, you need to be flexible! Be flexible about dates, destinations, etc. By changing the date one or two days, you can easily find flights $100 cheaper! It also helps to travel during times when there are drastically less people traveling. Off-peak season for popular destinations like New York City or London can have a huge effect on not only airline prices but also hotels, museum entry, and tours as well.
2. Be Flexible
The next expensive part of traveling is hotels, where to stay. If you aren't flexible and cannot stay in anything less than a 5 star hotel then you might as well just skip this part. I don't have a secret for staying a 5 star hotels for cheap. The ability to be adaptable is a great strength when it comes to beating high prices. When I travel, I stay at hostels or Airbnbs. In case you aren't sure what an Airbnb is is I will explain. First Airbnb is company which operates in an online marketplace and hospitality service for people to lease or rent short-term lodging including holiday cottages, apartments, home stays, hostel beds, or hotel rooms. Airbnb requires each host to complete a profile and upload photos so that members can learn about their hosts ahead of time. After the guest completes a stay, the host and guest have the option of leaving references for each other and reviews of their stay, which are posted publicly, providing for a reputation. In other words, the hosts of Airbnb have to be verified and there is a section to read other people's reviews of the place you are looking to lodge. It is completely safe and makes traveling affordable. My friend Jaramey and I are staying in Bangkok with a view of the Grand Palace for $24 a night. While staying at an Airbnb is safe, it is not always luxurious. It is usually very simple living: a bed, a shower, wifi, a kitchen, and sometimes a washer/dryer. I don't need much when it comes to a place to stay, just a clean place to sleep and shower is all I ask for!
3. Budget, Budget, Budget!
This may sound like a no brainer when it comes to affording travel, but this is a must do! I am personally terrible at saving money. I like going out to eat so those 5 times eating at the Mexican restaurant adds up! There is about 1,000 different savings plans out there but the one I used when saving to spend 6 weeks in Europe was the 52 week savings plan. Each week you put away the amount directed and after one full year you will have $5,000 saved. I personally liked this plan because it helped me put away a little at a time and once my money was put in my savings jar, it wasn't leaving! I'll use my emergency credit card to pay for gas before I took any money out of my savings jar! It's a good way for people who can't save money to just put away a little at a time and next thing you know, you have $1,000 saved up by week 16.
4. Ditch your National Geographic Guide book and do as the locals do
I understand when you travel all you want to do is go to the places that you've seen on TV, movies, Pinterest, and even Instagram. Anything listed by big travel guides -- even those flagged as “off-the-beaten-track”-- aren’t a secret. Anything marketed toward tourists is likely to be marked up, even if it’s a designated budget spot. One of my favorite things when traveling Europe was coming across little cafes or wondering the streets and exploring a neighborhood. Not only is it cheap, but it allows you to truly immerse yourself into the culture. If you find yourself in a big city with expensive attractions (unless they're bucket list worthy) skip them. Go to a local market and see what the locals buy, people watch, and just sit back and take it in. Do what the locals do!
5. Don't buy overpriced, worthless souvenirs.
First tip when souvenir shopping is to plan ahead. Before you embark on your journey, research the traditional handiworks of your destination and seek out a place to make your purchase in advance. For example, in Holland, I bought a pair of hand held wooden clogs to represent my time visiting a cheese farm where they hand make clogs. Next tip, start a collection. Trying to find the perfect thing to buy to remember your trip is a lot of pressure. I don't want just a t-shirt to wear for a couple years then throw it in my drawer and never wear it again. If you’re a collector, you understand the urge to continually add to your assortment and the meaning it gives to your object of choice. If you haven’t started a collection yet, consider the value of combining a passion you have with the travel you do. When backpacking through 11 countries in Europe I knew I couldn't find something lavish from each country. So, I started collecting postcards. Postcards are the perfect souvenir because they are cheap and small so you don't have to lug around heavy, breakable items when traveling. Eventually, I plan to create an ever-expanding wall art of my postcards from around the world.
I have lots of travel tips/secrets to budget travel but these are just my top I wanted to share. All in all, I always say, if you really want to travel you will find a way. I am a college student who backpacked through Europe last summer. It did take me two years to put away money from my part time job, but the point is I found a way and was patient. You can do it too!