One of the biggest misconceptions is that travel is 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!
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. There are a lot of group tour options, but I’d heard great things about Contiki.
The Eiffel Tower at Night
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 tours were run and attended by young people in their 20’s and early 30’s and it has a bit of a party reputation, which was exactly what I was looking for. There were also lots of add-on options but even if I stuck with the general plan, I knew I’d have an incredible time.
Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland
The only thing I would need 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 Contiki 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.
The Palace of Westminster in London, England
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.
Venus de Milo in The Louvre
If budget is your biggest obstacle, I would definitely recommend researching Contiki Tours then contacting STA Travel to see if you can create a payment plan. Having a payment plan made it possible for me to stay on top of my bills and enjoying life’s little luxuries while paying for the trip of a lifetime.
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. I work often and I work long hours, but my jobs give me the freedom of being location independent. Let me break them down for you.
Fashion Stylist- I’m a Senior Fashion Stylist for an online fashion retailer. In laymen’s terms, that means I get paid to help people look and feel cute. My degree is in fashion and I’ve worked in the industry for over ten years. So don’t get it twisted, this isn’t something that I just fell into. This is what I planned as a career and being able to do it remotely is an added perk.
Working from a cafe in Cambodia
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.
Summer Camp Office Manager- For the last the last three years 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 styling and 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.
Skimp & Save
Most people think that the only way to afford travel is to save, 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 this year, 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 fulltime 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. Instead of eating at sit-down restaurants here in Thailand, I usually grab some street food or inexpensive takeaway and dine at home. I take public transportation instead of calling a cab. I travel during the week versus the weekend because those flights are usually more expensive. These are just a few of the ways that I skimp and save that allow me to travel often and longterm.
Beachside Tuk Tuk in Krabi, Thailand
I don’t consider myself a backpacker, and there are certain things that I just can’t do without. For example, I prefer to stay in hostels over hotels. Not only are they more affordable, 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
So, 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 below in the comments.