Affordable travel, some think it’s a myth. I think one of the biggest misconceptions about travel is that it’s expensive. Travel CAN be expensive, but it can also be very affordable, even cheap depending on what you’re willing to do without. I’ve done both, I’ve traveled to expensive destinations and spent loads of money and I’ve visited super affordable countries where the US Dollar carries a lot of weight. There are ways to see the world and not go broke and I’m going to share a few of my secrets with you. So, grab a pen and paper because class is in session!
If budget is your biggest obstacle, I would definitely recommend researching trips and tours that offer a payment plan. Having a payment plan made it possible for me to stay on top of my bills and enjoy life’s little luxuries while paying for the trip of a lifetime. Which is the reason why I try to make payment plans an option for all of the events I host. Including Fat Camp this August and our first official Group Trip to India with Intrepid in October. There are things that make traveling while fat a little more complicated. My trips will address those issues head on and work to minimize weight stigma during travel.
The Eiffel Tower at Night
My first solo and international trip was to Europe. Because as a California Girl, Mexico doesn’t count. Europe was on the top of my bucket list. And although I’d wanted to get a Eurorail pass and go explore, momma wasn’t having it! She thought it would be safer for me to go on a group tour for my first jaunt out of the country. So I started looking into group tours that visited the countries I’d dream of seeing. I wanted to see the sights, but also meet cool people who I could party with.
Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland
Contiki handled nearly everything, from transportation to accommodation. There was even one meal per day included, so I knew I wouldn’t go hungry. The Contiki tours are run and attended by young people in their 20’s and early 30’s and have a bit of a party reputation. Which was exactly what I was looking for at the time.
The Palace of Westminster in London, England
The only thing I needed to figure out was my transportation to and from Europe. My cousin had done an exchange program in Paris and told me about STA Travel and how I could do a payment plan through them. I was skeptical because I’d graduated YEEEAAARS ago, but I checked the site and she was right. With their Book Now Pay Later Program, I could put down a deposit and then make payments. The MOST incredible thing I learned after calling them, was that I could book my flight and tour through STA and make payments on the entire trip. As long as everything was paid up within two weeks of my flight, I was good to go.
Venus de Milo in The Louvre
This news made it easier to create an itinerary that had the best of both worlds. Some solo travel and some time with the group. I flew into Paris a few days before the tour started and booked a hostel on my own. Then I flew to London to meet the group. After ten days of traveling by bus to nine different countries, I ended up in London. I stayed at Generator Hostel London for four days before heading back to the States.
Work, Work, Work, Work, Work
I’m lucky to have jobs that I love. I say jobs because I have about four of them. One of the secrets of life that I learned pretty early on is if you love your job you rarely feel like your working. Most of my jobs are remote, so I can do them from anywhere in the world. Living expenses are often cut when living outside of the U.S. and quality of life can increase. Which makes affordable travel much more of a reality. While I work often and long hours my jobs give me the freedom of being location independent. Let me break them down for you.
Freelance Writer- I don’t make money from this blog. The only way to do that is through advertisements and affiliate links. There are no ads on this blog and very few affiliate links. I do however get paid to write for other outlets. I also have a few clients that hire me to write blog posts on their websites. This blog is a look into my world, but it’s also a resume of sorts. Potential clients and media outlets look to my blog first to get an idea of who I am and my “voice” as a writer.
Working from a cafe in Cambodia
Summer Camp Office Manager- For the last the last five summers I’ve been the Office Manager at a Summer Camp for kids. Growing up I loved going to summer camp, so working at one brings back those feelings of nostalgia. As the office manager, I deal mostly with the parents, but I do get to interact with the kids as well. There’s nothing better than seeing kids gain courage and confidence in our magical camp bubble. As staff members, we get to join some of the camp activities and on days off we get to explore the local sites. I’ve met some of my best friends working at camp. Friends that I’ve traveled with, grown with and like the campers, friends that I hope return each summer so we can do it all again. Financially, working a seasonal summer job is great because I can do that and maintain my writing jobs. I also get paid in one lump sum for camp. So I use that money to book flights and secure accommodation. I then use the funds from my other jobs for day to day living expenses.
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Public Speaking- I feel honored that people care enough about my thoughts and the things I have to say regarding diversity and inclusion in travel that they PAY ME to talk about it! This has only been happening for two years, so I’m not letting it get to my head. It’s really special to be able to share your thought, dreams and goals with other like-minded people and getting paid for that experience is nothing I even dreamed of. It’s probably one of my favorite ways to make a coin, because I get to meet and interact with so many different types of people.
Skimp & Save
Most people think that affordable travel is a result of saving, but avid travelers know that the most important thing is prioritization. I would MUCH rather be able to travel abroad than have a car. What good is having a car if I’m not in the country often enough to drive it? Not to mention paying the monthly insurance. So I don’t have a car. Up until recently I had an apartment in Atlanta that I called home. After every trip, I would look forward to crawling into my nice Tempurpedic Bed and taking long hot baths in my jacuzzi bathtub. The catch was, I was paying rent even though I wasn’t there for the majority of the year. So it was basically a very expensive storage space.
Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand
I don’t shop as often as I used to. Since I travel full-time all of the things I own are traveling with me and I just don’t have space for it. Not only that, I would prefer to use that money on an excursion instead of an accessory. Rather than going to the spa and salon I do my own hair and nails. I take public transportation instead of calling an Uber. I travel during the week versus the weekend because the flights are less expensive. These are just a few of the ways I skimp and save that allow me to travel often and long-term.
Beachside Tuk Tuk in Krabi, Thailand
I don’t consider myself a backpacker, but there are certain things that I just can do without. For example, I prefer to stay in hostels over hotels. Not only are they perfect for affordable travel, but you can often get a private room in a hostel for less than a room at a hotel. There are also common areas where you can meet and mingle with other guests. So if you’re traveling solo you can always make friends. In Southeast Asia, there are many hostel options. You can easily find a bed in a shared dorm for less than $5 per night. I, on the other hand, prefer to look in the $10-$15 range for shared dorms. These are usually nicer, cleaner and often offer breakfast. I also live in the hostel review sections. Spending hours reading them to get a better idea of the place before I book. I want to know if it’s safe, were there were any bug sightings, how the wifi is and if it’s close to public transit or the city center. Saving a coin is important but I’d much rather know that where I lay my head at night is safe and clean.
The entryway of Chao Hostel in Bangkok, Thailand
I recently tried Workaway for the first time and it’s one of my favorite affordable travel resources. In exchange for five hours of work a day five days a week. I was given accommodations and meals in a fishing village in Bali. Initially I was nervous and anxious about living and working with new people in a new country. But I couldn’t have asked for a better Workaway experience. I ended staying longer than my contract date and traveling with my host. To this day we are still friends and will travel together again this year. I’ve also just agreed to my second Workaway project later this year.
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Are you willing to do the work to make your travel dreams a reality? Were you surprised by any of my advice? How do you afford to travel? Share your thoughts on affordable travel below in the comments.