Frequently when I talk to people about travel they have misconceptions that you can only travel with a huge budget or that just the air fare will cost thousands. Not true! I went to four countries in Europe after finding a $220 round trip ticket to Oslo and spent less than $2000 on everything. I could have done the trip for less. Friends always ask how I can afford to travel so here are my tips:
Use resources for finding cheap tickets. My favorites are skyscanner.com and the email list from scottscheapflights.com. The only catch is that you usually have to be willing to commit to a flight fairly quickly as they often sell out fast. Scott said in the email for the flight I booked to Oslo that he thought the fares would last a few days so I put in a vacation request the next day and was booking it the following evening. A friend recently booked a very cheap round trip to Hawaii using these sites.
For flights in Europe fly Ryanair if you can! Point-to-point flights in Europe are extremely cheap, I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than $120 for a flight, but I’ve bought more than one ticket that was $20 or less on Ryanair. I had no idea what to expect the first time I flew Ryanair and was caught off guard when flight attendants started selling products and lottery tickets on board – I honestly thought I had stumbled into an infomercial. That’s half the fun!
Airbnb (affiliate link) is typically really economical abroad. I shared an apartment that was $60/night in Lisbon, located right in the historic district, complete with a full kitchen and laundry. Hostels are also cheap but I recommend if you’re booking hostels to also book a night or two in a single room so you can catch up on some rest and quiet if you want. Hostels can also be a great way to meet other travelers, here’s how to find the right hostel for you.
Another option for accomodations is to try house-sitting or save money with a home exchange. Remember in the movie The Holiday when Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet spontaneously decide to switch houses? People really do that! Plus the services verify you’re talking to a real person so I’ve only ever heard of good experiences.
Take advantage of backpacker-friendly countries. In Australia and New Zealand there are several companies with hop-on/hop-off buses that allow you to get around easily and make your own schedule. They’re also a built in way of meeting other travelers. Additionally, consider visiting a more budget-friendly destination. There are many affordable countries to visit in Europe.
I was able to save up thousands of dollars to spend several months in Australia and New Zealand while bartending. I kept a lot of my cash tips and put them in a coffee can, using my hourly and credit card tips for living expenses. I started keeping cash after someone told me she used to keep a coffee can for $5 bills and anytime she got a $5 she would save it (other denominations she spent) – needless to say, it added up quickly. As a ski instructor I also kept my cash tips to save for future travel. There are also many jobs that allow you to travel. I also maintain a few savings accounts in addition to my checking account at the bank. One account contains a sum I’ve saved for whatever I need in the future: a deposit on a mortgage, moving across the country expenses, emergencies, etc. Another account contains money I’m saving for future travel. At the end of the month when I’ve paid bills I transfer what I can to my travel account and I do not touch my emergencies account. If I’ve overspent I will pull from my travel savings but I usually find I’m adding to it each month since my monthly expenses are usually rent, groceries and fuel.