Quite frequently I find myself trying to re-navigate the age-old question of “how the hell are you able to travel so much?” In celebration of officially booking our plane tickets to Costa Rica last night, I figured I’d take a stab at answering.
The initial idea that most people have is that either me or my kin are sitting on a small fortune. HA! My bank account is becoming submerged in cobwebs. My family, though extremely wealthy in love and support, is insufficient in terms of finances. So how do these lower class citizens that struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis find ways to never stop going on holiday? Let’s break it down:
- Travel together. Splitting the funds makes a world of difference.
- AVOID HOTELS!!!! Seriously. SERIOUSLY. Hotels will drain the wallet. I’ve stayed at numerous hostels (which usually serve inclusive meals, by the way) in many different countries and never once have I felt uneasy or in harm’s way. (Screw that movie. My first hostel experience was nerve-wrecking due to watching this beforehand.) One of my closest friends constantly uses (and swears by) couchsurfing. It’s an app/website that allows people to find locals in different areas that are willing to open up their homes for tourists to stay…for FREE. And for my absolute favorite method ever- RENT A HOUSE! Let these websites become your new go-to when searching for rentals: HomeAway, AirBNB, Homestay. These sites are extra great to use because not only are they usually extremely cheap, but it’s a nice way to fully indulge yourself into a new place to gain that local experience. I always tell people that if you have traveled somewhere and didn’t get the chance to spend time with the locals and observe their way of life, it’s almost as if you never went there to begin with.
- Rent a car. Sure, being chauffeured around a foreign city via taxi is nice, but that comes at a hefty price and sometimes they’ll intentionally make that price even heftier. For example, my husband is Greek and a couple years back we went out to Greece to visit some relatives. We took a taxi to the Parthenon and the driver, not aware that some people in the car knew their way around, tried extra hard to go the LONG way through town. Granted, said relatives handled that situation, but if it were just Alex and myself, we wouldn’t have known any better– and we would have lost a ton of money. Don’t let language barriers deter you. Most rental companies can add on translating GPS for only a few extra dollars per day.
- Be flexible. When your schedule is open, it’s really easy to find cheap flights. Doing red eye flights and adding more layovers, for example, makes the prices drop a ton. It’s no surprise that certain months are just all around cheaper. FLEXIBILITY IS KEY.
- Search multiple airports. For example, Norfolk (ORF) is our closest hub, but EVERY single time I travel, I look there, Newport News, Richmond and DC. The price differences range drastically.
- Depart on weird days. Most people do the weekend to weekend thing because it just seems more sensible in a way, but Fridays and Sundays are the MOST expensive days of the week to travel. Instead, try Tuesdays or Wednesdays- those are the cheapest.
- DON’T BE AFRAID OF UNCOMMON AIRLINES. One of my biggest well-kept travel secrets is WOW airlines. They’re an airline out of Iceland that ports in a few places around the US. For my locals, the closest to us would be DC, which may sound like a god awful 3 hour drive just to go to an airport, BUT WHEN YOU CAN GET ROUNDTRIP TICKETS TO EUROPE FOR 200 DOLLARS, it doesn’t sound too shabby. This is not a joke, guys. That’s a real thing.
- Pack lightly. Unfortunately, most airlines have started to charge for any checked luggage which is a total bummer, but if you can squeeze all your necessities into a carry-on, you’ll fly right by that extra fee. This is actually one thing I have yet to be able to accomplish. I’m not even that heavy of a packer, but my camera equipment is usually all that will fit in my carry-on. You win some, you lose some.
- For my fellow credit-card-suckers, most airlines offer their own. The more you use them, the more points you gain. Points= money for airline tickets. If you’re responsible enough to open up an account, put all of your bills on your credit card, pay that off and then BAM! Transportation to paradise is free.
- Buy groceries. I know that eating out at that authentic restaurant is ideal, and by all means, try to do that at least once, but I find that most of my travel money goes towards food. It’s easy to get sucked in. Especially if the area has street vendors, but have some restraint if possible.
- VOLUNTEER. I love throwing this idea out to people because most aren’t even aware that it’s possible. Have you ever heard of WWOOF? For a small membership fee, you gain access to lists of TONS of different farms in various countries around the world that will offer you a free place to stay (usually with food) in exchange for help on their farms. Maybe farming isn’t really your thing? No need to worry because Green Heart Travel offers a crazy long list of volunteer work options all around the globe. Exact same concept- free stay and food in exchange for labor. The neat thing that Green Heart offers is the option to WORK abroad, rather than volunteer. This means that you can pick your country, your job, and your length of stay and while you’re there, you have an actual job. So, yeah, these folks not only give you a place to stay now, but they’re also paying you. For example, if you wanted to go to New Zealand and work on a farm you would work a few hours Monday-Friday. The evenings and weekends are yours to do whatever you please with the money that YOU MAKE FROM HELPING THEM. When I graduated high school, I went on this huge study-abroad-backpacking-type of trip. It lasted a month. We went to four different countries. While we were in Ireland, we actually did this program. We stayed in different local family homes and we helped cut sod (they dry this out and use it for firewood) on their farm. Although I wish that younger Nando had appreciated it more back then, it’s an experience that I will never forget. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
STOP. MAKING. EXCUSES. Travel isn’t a privilege reserved only for the rich. I know it sounds silly to say, but y’all, if I can do it, you can do it. THIS IS THE SAME CHICK THAT OVERDRAFTS HER ACCOUNT FOR GAS EVERY NOW AND THEN. It’s possible!!! You just have to be brave and make that leap. It’s funny because I feel that ever since I created this blog, there’s been a lull in my travel excursions, but to give you a better understanding of our upcoming trip: we’ve been planning this March 2017 vacation since March of 2016- that’s an entire year of setting the smallest amounts of money aside. Our rental property (which I’ll share with you guys in the upcoming weeks) was a grand for the week– split amongst six people. That’s the nightly rate of a hotel for the duration of my vacation. Roundtrip tickets out of our Norfolk airport go for as low as $300, depending on how far out you book them.
I understand that life gets in the way and that it isn’t always easy to drop things for even a few days to get a break and collect your sanity, but a life without travel just can’t possibly be a life at all. That’s not an idea that I can grasp. This world that we inhabit is VAST and it has so much to offer. The experiences that you gain will stay with you forever. They will enlighten you. They will shape you. The people that you meet along the way will become lifelong friends- ones that you can’t even imagine that you went so long without. The energy, the adventure- all of it will open a door to a new life- a new you. And just when you think that you couldn’t discover anything new about yourself, you do. You are forever changed in the most indescribable way.
This is what being alive really feels like and you never knew until now.
May you all take those chances in life. They truly are worth it.