Traveling the world doesn’t have to be as expensive as you might think. I have had the pleasure of seeing many parts of the world at an early age, fulfilling a bucket-list that many people don’t have the time for. Most people wonder what it is I do that has afforded me these opportunities but I assure you, I am no jet-setter, I’m simply a smart traveler that knows how to cut corners. This article is for anyone who wants an inexpensive way to travel and experience the cultures of their destinations.
If you wish to jet set, stay in nice hotels and eat at nice restaurants, treating yourself to the kind of places featured on The Cool Hunter, then this article will be of little use to you. But if you’re not picky about your accommodations, how you travel and the food you eat, then this may be a good resource for you when planning your next trip. With regard to travel, accommodation and food, we aren’t going for the 5 star stellar experience here.
This is for students, bachelors, and low-income travelers that want to see the world. This way of traveling is more difficult to do if you have kids.
Lets start with the chosen destination. There are many places outside of North America that are exciting to see and inexpensive to fly to. I would recommend starting off with destinations that are not as costly, then over the years as your money situation improves, you can then experience countries that are more expensive to travel to.
From Canada I’ve traveled to the Caribbean and South America for less or about the same price as a flight within North America. When traveling from North America, airfare to these locations is relatively inexpensive. From the east coast I fly to California yearly to see my sister and I was shocked to have been able to fly to Trinidad & Tobago for less then the cost of flying to L.A!
You also want to go to places with a favorable exchange rate. The American dollar goes a long way in many countries especially the countries I mentioned above. At the time of writing this, Asia, is an area of the globe where you can get a lot more for your money. When I was in Thailand I was able to buy lunch for about $100 Bhat, which converted to $3 American. I could just go out to a restaurant and eat $3 meals all day long, getting breakfast, lunch and dinner for under $10 bucks a day. There were times when we indulged in more extravagant dinners, but because our dollar was more valuable, it hardly left a dent in our travel budget. The cost of the more extravagant dinners were equivalent to the cost of eating at Denny’s in America. With the exception of Japan, Korea and Singapore, Asia is a fairly inexpensive place to travel. The bulk of your expenses will be airfare and accommodations. Once you arrive there, day to day expenses for eating and getting around are fairly cheap.
You’ll save even more money as a group when traveling to countries with favorable exchange rates. In Thailand, we stayed in a 4 Star hotel that cost us $500 per person which included airfare both ways from Hong Kong. The group discount spread the cost among us, lowering our expenses in addition to the favorable exchange rates of Thailand.
Couch surfing and making friends with people in other countries is also a great way to significantly cut accommodation costs when you travel. Even if you don’t know anyone in your desired destination, you can offer a service in exchange for staying at someone’s house, such as cleaning, cooking, or keeping the property in order. Some people are even actively looking for people to house-sit while they travel, all you have to do is plan your trip at the perfect time that they are leaving.
When I travelled to Japan we didn’t stay at a Hotel, we stayed at the dojo of the Sensei who was training us in martial arts (we went there primarily for a martial arts trip). No beds, just sleeping bags on the floor. We ate at good restaurants here and there but for the most part we shopped at local grocery stores and cooked our own food.
If you don’t know anyone in a country you wish to go to, here is a website for couch surfers all over the world where you can meet new people and cultivate friendships with those you have something in common with. The website is for people looking for places to stay and for people willing to accommodate travelers, it’s a cool community of people from all over the world who are willing to open their doors to the right personality types. You can check it out at: couchsurfing.com
If you’re interested in house sitting, this next website will be of use. It’s run by a Canadian couple who have been traveling and house sitting for several years. They created an Ebook detailing everything you should know about house sitting around the world, you can check it out here at Hectic Travels.
House sitting jobs can last anywhere from two weeks to six months and give new meaning to the term culture-immersion. A number of websites, such as House Sitters America, The Caretaker Gazette, Mind My House, and TrustedHousesitters.com among others, provide listings for a fee ranging from $20 to $60. Creating an account on multiple websites will increase your chances of being chosen for a house sitting job.
Another popular way of cutting travel costs is to get a credit card that rewards you with travel points when you travel, with no blackout dates. Take advantage of this by making purchases for other people on your card, as well as major business expenses if you run a business with a high monthly overhead.
1. Let’s say a family member such as a brother or a sister wants a new pair of shoes, ask if he or she has the cash and then offer to put it on your card in exchange for the cash. You could offer to do the grocery shopping for your family members, put it on your card, and then have them pay you back.
2. If you’re going to dinner with friends, you can pay for the bill on your card and collect the cash from your friends.
3. Put all of your regular bills and spending on your card and pay it off immediately.
If you want to save money, I recommend that you don’t get picky with the airlines you fly. I prefer to fly Air Canada but I also regularly fly United Airlines for 2 reasons.
1. They are less expensive to fly. You get what you pay for and I wouldn’t say that their service is stellar, in fact they mess up a lot by over booking flights, but this leads us to number
2. They compensate their flyers very well for inconveniences. So far I have been offered $1,000 in travel credit by United Airlines. Often when they are overbooked they will ask for volunteers who would be willing to take the next flight in exchange for X amount of travel credit. The last time I volunteered they gave me a $600 travel credit. I had to take the next flight home which was a completely different connection route, plus it was a night flight. I took the next plane to San Fransico, slept on the floor in the SF airport until my final connecting flight was available to board in the morning. It was inconvenient but worth it for a free flight, which I was able to use it for. At that moment in time, the benefit of getting a free flight I could use in the future outweighed the cost of the delay. I fly United because they frequently overbook their flights, which increases the opportunities I can use to get free travel. It all depends on what your comfort level is, after all, it’s totally understandable why someone wouldn’t want to fly United and deal with the hassle for only a chance at an opportunity to get a free travel voucher…… I get that, I’m just throwing it out there in case that was something you want to try.
I must caution that this type of travel requires a certain level of Zen. If long lines, flight delays and less than stellar accommodation stresses you out when you travel, this may not be for you. But if you’re young, don’t have kids and up for an adventure, this can be a great way to see and experiences places you might not have been able to afford otherwise. Anyone considering these methods should assess their situation thoroughly first to see if this kind of traveling would work for their needs and tolerance level.
Many people would prefer a simpler way of traveling with better accommodations and less hassle such as resorts. Everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to the accommodation and lifestyle of the journey, but your cost-cutting adventure doesn’t have to be an overly nit-picky one. It’s important to keep in mind that one of the true joys of traveling is in experiencing the genuine nature of your destination. Staying in a resort may isolate you from that.
Just get out there, see the world, take pictures, bring back stories, create new memories!