As a school social worker, it’s not a secret that I’m not rollin’ in the dough. Sure, I make a good living- after all, I can afford to take two month long trips… but that’s not without being a savvy travel shopper. Oh, also I side hustle… hard. I take on extra duties for extra pay at work, I host on Airbnb, I’m crafty and make things to sell, I sell stuff I don’t need on Poshmark, Let Go and Offer Up… of course I get excited for my tax return and besides all that I save… and save… and save… My mom always said, “If you want it badly enough, you’ll work for it.”
To say I love planning travel is an understatement. I have secret Pinterest boards filled with places I’d love to go, shelves full of travel books I get at discount stores, binders full of pages secretly ripped from magazines in waiting rooms, articles tagged on “How to travel cheaply for longer” and a google document itinerary of my trips to note when free museum days are. My bookmark bar has links to deals on trips and more. I love travel blogs. I love travel articles. I love “The Points Guy” and “Nomadic Matt”. I love “Solo Travel Society” and “Legal Nomad”. They all offer a unique view on the travel game and I just love it… trying to squeeze the most out of a trip for the least amount of money.
For example, this trip that I’m headed out on this summer, I spent $120 round trip on my flight to Europe. How? Miles. Lots and lots of mileage card miles. 60,000 to be exact. One thing that I didn’t realize when I started “travel hacking” (as the people in the blog world call it) is that there are little bits and pieces you still have to pay for- like taxes on flights- even when you use miles. I also didn’t realize that nearly every Saver Flight to Europe or Africa on American Airlines hubs through London… which causes you to get hit with nearly $260 worth of taxes and fees, despite your “free” ticket. So. I always, ALWAYS check out Google Flights, Orbitz, Expedia and other airline sites first before I decide to use my precious miles. I know there are people out there who put valuations on miles (like each mile is worth 2 cents or something like that) but I pretty much put a valuation on “What am I willing to pay and part with?” For me, if the flight costs close to $1000 round trip, then my miles are worth it. If I use my miles and am still paying $500-$600 on taxes, it’s not necessarily worth it. I’m not the type of travel hacker who cashes in miles for a first class ticket. To me, it’s not worth it. I’ll take my 30,000 mile economy ticket for free and then have another 25,000 miles to use on something else. But everyone has their threshold and comfort level.
There are amazing travel hackers out there who get credit cards with $450 annual fees- no thanks, not this gal. Although it’s probably a great deal with Uber credits and lounge passes… I just am not there financially yet to be able to justify that expense per year.
Another way I afford to travel is thinking outside the “Hotel Mindset”. When I went to Africa, I wrote a whole blog post on why, in my 30s, I choose to stay in hostels. (Click here to read). When you’re single, and a hotel room is not being split 2 ways, I’d get to travel for about 75% less time if I limited myself to hotel rooms- and sometimes the budget hotels are gross… but a high end hostel is immaculate and welcoming. Think about it. If a hotel room is $100/night and you are traveling for 60 days, that’s $6000 just on accommodation. Whereas in a hostel, if you average $20/night for 60 days, that’s just $1200 for accommodation, a savings of $4800! Don’t believe me that hostels can be nice? Check out hostels.com or hostelworld.com and do some browsing. Some hostels even offer private rooms (for a bit more). As I plan my trip up the Balkan Peninsula this summer, I’m seeing hostel rooms for anywhere between $10-$45/night depending on the country. I’ll give some good updates along the way.
Finally, food glorious food. I just don’t think there is a better way to experience a culture than to wander through the streets trying all the local flavors. Booking a hostel/hotel/Airbnb that includes breakfast (or has a kitchen) is key in the world of budget traveling. No one needs a full buffet breakfast to start out their day of traveling- meats, cheeses, pastries, hardboiled eggs. Perfect base for a day of exploring. More on food later.
Affording travel just means making choices in your day-to-day life. Sure I want those kick ass shoes. Sure I want that awesome couch for my living room. But you know what I want more? To see the white washed buildings in Santorini. I want to see the pyramids and marvel at how they were created. I want to run my toes through white sand and soak up sun in the Ionian Islands. But that’s just me. So bring on the hustle. If it gets me to the other side of the world, bring it.