How I Afford to Travel
So, this question is always being asked of me. Sometimes, I know it is being asked from a place of curiosity. Often times though, this question leaves me feeling some type of way!
I started traveling frequently in 2008 when I gave myself a graduating gift to Guatemala for a 2 months language immersion. That trip opened my mind to the possibility of making travelling a priority. Because I made traveling a priority, I am able to afford it. So, no, I’m not a sugar baby, my father is not an oil typhoon and I am not wealthy yet. Below are 10 things I do to afford traveling or save while traveling:
- Budget – I have a budget that tracks my money. I know where my money goes so I am able to restrain myself from unnecessary spending which means more money in my Travel Fund Account. This means, you wouldn’t catch me at the mall buying stuff I don’t need.
- Travel Fund – Every month, I transfer money to my separate travel fund account. Usually if I have money left from other expenses, I transfer it to my travel fund as well.
- Layovers – I make the best use of my layovers. Here is what I mean, this summer, I decided to fly home to Nigeria with Egypt Air because I know they would have a layover in Cairo, Egypt. I extended my layover to a week for $15 extra – winning, because now I’m able to see Egypt and as well as going home to Nigeria. Another time, my flight from London, UK to Dar es Salam, Tanzania was with Air Seychelles which had a few hours layover in UAE and Seychelles. After I got my ticket on Kayak, I emailed Air Seychelles to extend my layover in UAE for 5 days and Seychelles for 5 days as well. They did this without an additional charge. Same situation with Air Marco this past December. I wanted to visit Senegal and Air Marco had the cheapest flight with a layover in Morocco. I extended the layover off course. That way, you are able to see multiple countries in one trip.
- Maximizing your time in the region. When I travel in the summer, I usually use this opportunity to visit multiple countries in close proximity. I figure, it would be cheaper for me to visit those countries while I was close by than for me to make it an entire separate trip. So, when I visited Senegal in December, I used that opportunity to visit The Gambia. This side trip added an extra USD $300 for transportation from Senegal to The Gambia. Still cheaper if I would have had to fly from the U.S to The Gambia. Same as last summer, added Denmark as a side trip when I visited Sweden. I should have added Norway as well but time constraint. I got to see Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda as side trips from Tanzania. Also a few pacific countries as side trips from Indonesia.
- Selecting Accommodation – my choice of accommodation had changed significantly since I started traveling. I usually mix up my options.
- Couchsurfing – in my early and mid-20s, I used Couchsurfing extensively. For those of you that don’t know what it is, it is a platform that allows you to sleep in the homes of locals or people living in the country you are visiting for free. I had a great time when I used Couchsurfing, it allowed me to build a network of friends across various countries. Now I no longer use this platform to stay in people’s houses partly because I’m slightly bougie now and I get real moody quite often, so I only use it to meet up with people. Which still helps me save people because locals know where to take you.
- Hostel – I mixed staying at dorm rooms in hostels with Couchsurfing in my early and mid-20s. Those two were my primary means of accommodation. It was great while it lasted. I usually stayed in all female dorm when I could and I chose hostels with AMAZING reviews on hostelworld.com. I still stay in hostels nowadays but I have upgraded myself to private rooms with bathroom en-suite, mostly for the same reasons I no longer use Couchsurfing to stay in people’s houses.
- Airbnb – this is what I primary use now. Depending on my mood, I might rent out the entire apartment but most frequently, I rent a room. I don’t have to interact with the host if I don’t want to.
- Hotels – I rarely use this. When I do, I prefer Holiday Inn or Hilton. However, on longer trips, I always treat myself to staying at Hilton or Sheraton at the middle and end of my trip.
- House of a friend or friend of a friend – I was more open to this in the past. I stayed with my friend’s mom in Cocha, Bolivia once. Her son, my friend from grad school was traveling in Europe. She treated me like her daughter :). Now, I hesitant now especially when the friend has kids or are married. I simply don’t feel comfortable and I want my vacation to be as comfortable as it can be.
- Organized tours vs. doing it yourself – I used to completely go on sightseeing adventures by myself, it was way cheaper. Nowadays, I mix it up but I lean more to hiring a car and driver/guide because I don’t feel like navigating stuff by myself. Either ways, I research and select what I can afford.
- Gifts/Souvenirs – I rarely buy gifts for people. When I do, it’s usually $5 max earrings or magnets. My philosophy is if you want gifts go to those places yourself or buy from Amazon (there’s usually a China made version of it anyways). Bottom line, I’m not buying you a gift #sorrynotsorry. This money goes to experiencing the country instead. I limit souvenirs buying, usually because I have no space to put them in anyways – I’m #TeamCarryOn for life. Plus, I move a lot and have had to give those souvenirs away. So, I rarely buy now.
- Credit Card/Debit Card – I have a Charles Schwab account which lets me withdraw money from any ATM with no fees at all. I also have a Chase Sapphire credit card that accumulate lots of points that I can redeem for travel. I am still new to acquiring the knowledge to better maximize those types of cards. All I know is for 41,000 points I was able to purchase a roundtrip ticket from Dallas to Boston and book two hotel nights at the Hilton.
- Flights – while I try to stay loyal to Star Alliance or OneWorld sky teams, I wouldn’t blink twice before buying a ticket that is significantly lower than airlines within my loyalty programs. I use Skyscanner, Kayak and Google Flights mostly to search for tickets. I have gotten lazy over the years in ensuring that I am paying the absolutely lowest fare to get to my destination. In addition, I have no problem volunteering my seat for vouchers. That’s more funds for travel to me.
- Travel Advise – this can cost you money. I don’t take advise from people who don’t travel or people who haven’t been to the particular destination that I’m going to. I don’t particularly care about what the cousin of your best friend’s sister experienced in destination x.
These are the 10 things I can think of now. What other ways do you save for travel on while travelling? Please share your two cents…
Until next time!