1. Be Patient & Agile
Pack less than you think... and that may even be too much. Not having to go to baggage claim or worry about your bag being lost in transit can be a relief. I frequently see how people pack and they end up not using half of their items. It also just makes travel that much easier. Besides physically being agile, you want to also be emotionally agile. This means being able to foresee the some of the worst case scenarios and accept them. Many things can go wrong during your trip, from being delayed 17 hours for a flight to getting your passport stolen or getting food poising for a week. For example, on one of my trips to Italy my passport was stolen at the Milano Centrale while I was in line to get a ticket. Most 20-year-olds would break down and become overwhelmed with stress. I wasn't and there are two reasons why: my uncle taught me what to do if my passport went missing and I've learned enough from travel to keep my emotions in check. I had a copy of my passport made and presented it to the Italian embassy. Having that copy may have saved me days as the process took 8 hours and $130. If you understand that travel isn't always perfect, become patient, and take steps to prevent the worst case scenario then things will run more smoothly. These skills aren't just applicable for travel, but life in general. Travel just highlights and fosters those abilities over time.
2. Travel hack
This is probably the section that you have been waiting to read. I will show you some techniques on how to experience travel easier, cheaper, and more strategically. Time to tackle travel's biggest obstacle: cost. The cost scares people away, which then leads to having a closed mind on travel. People get stuck with the notion that it is too expensive. This is because they have not completed their homework. Travel costs can certainly add up: transportation, lodging, experiences/tours, food, the opportunity cost of not working, and souvenirs.
The biggest reason why so many people do not leave the country is because of the excessive price of airfare. On any typical day, you may see flight tickets to Europe for around $1300. To most $1300 is not affordable. Below are some techniques to help chip away at or eliminate transportation costs. By following this guide, you too can travel for close to free:
- Turn On a Private Browser: This is the simplest way to save money. Many websites collect browsing data and leverage it against you. They can hike up prices on certain dates and locations if they see a search trend. There is a simple solution, just turn on your private browser and you can save upwards of $50.
- Fly At The Right Time: Check departing flights on Tuesday/Thursday and return flights on Monday/Wednesday. Be flexible with this process and mix and match multiple day combinations. Chose the right season to travel. For examples, traveling to Europe October to March will be almost half as expensive as traveling in July. Picking the right season and day of the week can make a difference of hundreds of dollars.
- Shop Different Airlines: Keep in mind that flying into different airlines can affect the cost. For easier planning, I like to use Skyscanner or Kayak. Using one of these websites can help find the cheapest and fastest flight options.
- Don't Pay For It: Let an organization fund your transportation by joining a government agency, an international company, teaching English abroad or utilizing credit card miles. One of the easiest/cheapest ways to travel is by a process called churning. One word of advice, churning yields many benefits, but you most stay on top of paying off your debt and be responsible. Churning is the process of signing up for certain credit cards and paying them off each other to take advantage of mileage bonuses. This can be completed by simply paying your rent and food costs. If you meet the mileage requirements for a free flight, then only responsible for the taxes. Depending on the different tariffs, you can expect to pay in the range of $5 - $130 worth of taxes.
- You Don't Always Need To Fly: Whether you are staying domestic or going abroad, you will need ways getting around once you hit the ground. If you want to only need to go a few miles at a time then using Uber & Lyft may be the quickest and easiest, but my favorite is using the metro/subway lines. If the city has one, then it is the cheapest is the most fun way to navigate through a city. If you need to get from region to region and are in Italy for example, then is using the rail option called Trenitalia works great.
Hostels: I use HostelWorld when picking a hostel, it makes booking simple and only requires a small deposit that goes towards your stay.
Local Rooms: I prefer to stay with friends, but if I do not know anyone if a certain city I will look into Airbnb. If you are on a strict budget look into Couch Surfing, I have only done this once as it isn't the most trustworthy, but the one experience that I had was great and I still talk to her today.
Hotels: As a millennial that is on a budget, this is my last option and have only paid and stayed in a hotel twice. My two experiences were incredible, but it just depends if you can afford it or want to experience the local culture or not. If you have a long trip planned, I would suggest staying in a hotel the first couple of nights to eliminate jet lag and the last night to rewind. If you are going to Prague I'd suggest Hilton or if you are going to Amsterdam I'd suggest M Citizen.
C. Experiences / Tours:
Did you know that the line to get into the Vatican can take almost 3-4 hours? You can actually buy a ticket in advance and only wait 10 minutes in line. There are a few main attractions in each city that everyone is rushing to see and they do not even think about booking a ticket in advance.
If you travel to some of the more expensive countries in the world like Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Japan, etc... you will see prices for food skyrocket. Some of the cheapest meals that I saw at a sit-in restaurant were around $25 a meal, compared to about $8 in most US cities. There are two options for combating those costs: you could find a local Aldi to shop at or if you are in Europe, then bring food from a cheaper country in Eastern Europe.
E. Opportunity Costs:
Every time you travel you are giving up doing something in return. You may have hacked your way through any other trip, but you are giving up making money in the meantime. Some may have vacation time built up, but why not get paid along the way? Become a freelancer. Showcase your talents and work while you travel. It isn't as easy as it sounds, but it can be done.
Don't buy them... If this is your first time traveling and you must bring some back for family and friends then do shop around. There are many shops that sell the same identical item everywhere. Also bargain, you can always cut a few dollars off of the total by asking for it.
A budget without question will help, whether you create an excel spreadsheet, a word document, or have your own personal budgeting method. At least come up with a rough estimate before you embark on your trip. Before you start budgeting for costs that will arise while you are on your trip, there will be pre-departure costs:
*Travel Gear: $125
Cell Phone Plan: $40
Czech Republic - $50
Denmark - $80
* If you don't already have it.
**(Very important to get your currency at a local bank before you leave, you will save a lot)
Total Pre-Departure Costs: $382
Here are my personal trips to the Czech Republic & Denmark as examples of travel costs:
Duration: 5 days
Location: København, Denmark
Currency multiplier: 26% More Expensive
Food Averages: $180
Breakfast - $3
Lunch - $11
Dinner - $19
Snacks - $3
Hostel - $26
Metro - $26
Flight from Prague - $40
Walking tour - Free
Carlsberg tour - $12
Tivoli Gardens - $18
Beer - $8
Soccer Jersey - $80
5 Days in København Total: $536
Duration: 5 days
Location: Prague, Czech Republic
Currency multiplier: 44% Less Expensive
Food Average: $65
Breakfast - Free at Hostel
Lunch - $4
Dinner - $8
Snacks - $1
Hilton Hotel (3 nights) - Free with points
Hostel (3 nights) - $20
Metro - $12
Flight from Berlin - $80
Walking tour - Free
Terezin Tour - $39
Kutna Hora - $43
Apple Museum - $9
Coffee - $1
Desert - $2
Beer - $1.1
5 Day Trip in Prague Total: $325.80
• Get foreign currency at local bank
• Do your research from multiple sources
• Be calm and proactive
• Make extra copies of your passport
• Plan ahead for best and worst case scenarios
• Be comfortable the first couple of days and take measures to eliminate jet lag
• Pack half as much as you think
• Make a budget and multiply it by 25%
• Don't buy souvenirs