How I Afford to Travel (It’s Easier Than You Think!)
When it comes to travel, most people think you need gobs of money before you ever book a ticket. I’m here to tell you that isn’t the case and saving for that trip is a lot easier than you think! Not just saving, but making travel more affordable in general. I’m getting ready to spend 3 months in Asia. You might think this would have cost a small fortune.
It didn’t. In fact, most of it will be free!
WHAT? Alright, cool yourself, I’ll share my secrets.
OMG that word! You keep reading it everywhere! What the hell does it mean? Really, all it means is that you have an awesome credit card that you use to rack up points for free flights/hotels/etc. The best one, or at least the one that I have, is the Chase Sapphire. With this handy card, not only are there no foreign transaction fees, but I get 2 points for every dollar spent on travel or dining.
That’s great, but what about everything else? How do you rack up those travel points? Simple. I use it for everything. I get one point for everything else. You can use this card every time you grocery shop, get gas, stop by the Target, shop online, buy movie tickets, etc. Everything you would normally charge to your debit, charge on your card. That’s at least one point per dollar. Not including the welcome bonus you get if you use my link, which is 50k points! (Amazing btw!)
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NOW! Here is the catch! You MUST pay this card off every month. This is not my endorsement for going into debt. You treat it just like a prepaid card or debit. Set it up to automatically pay the full amount when it’s due and you’ll never worry about it. You’ll just pretend you were using your debit card the whole time.
The points will flow in. Honestly. That’s how I’m only spending a few hundred for flights. That’s it. A few hundred. Every other flight was completely covered. Yes, it’ll take me a while to earn those points back, but this trip is a fraction of the cost.
But what I’ve yet to tell you is why Chase Sapphire is the best travel card. The points are actually 1point=1mile. None of this, oh it’s equal to .43 miles or some shit. Not only that, but you can transfer those points to other airline clubs on a 1-for-1 deal. Delta fan? Boom, move your points directly (not a fraction), the exact number, to your delta skymiles to use. They can be used on other miles programs too. Not only that, but you can use the money to reimburse other travel expenses like hotels and trains as well. These little points are golden nuggets, paying for any travel cost you have.
This is my other secret for free travel, not just affordable travel, but free! What the hell is a work exchange? I’ll tell you dear one. It’s simply the exchange of work for accommodation and possibly meals. Yes, you heard right. For a max of 5hr a day, you can not only live for FREE with a local, but you may get your meals provided as well. Meals AND Housing?? Yeah, those are the biggest costs with travel apart from the plane ticket aren’t they? And you could get them free.
Now this isn’t the method if you just want to lounge all day. This is a method to use if you want to travel like me, absorbing the culture, thinking ethically and sustainably, and truly helping someone out. If you want to live like the locals, become fully immersed, and have a connection to the bustling new world you’re visiting, this will be a huge opportunity.
What kind of work you ask? Quite the variety, honestly. If you’re handy or great at farming, the options are completely endless. Your friend here is not. Therefore I have to seek out other work exchanges. These could include teaching English, helping with house chores, babysitting, tending to pets, and other tasks.
For example, let’s take my trip to Asia. I’ll spend 2 weeks with a family in Taiwan who run a Spanish-Taiwanese fusion restaurant and B&B, where I’ll help with a variety of related tasks. Then I’ll spend 2 weeks at a hostel helping with reception and guests. Next up is Thailand for 2 weeks, where I’ll be loosely teaching English to children in a remote village while doing any other related charity work they seek. Then off to Shenzhen, China for another 2 weeks where I’ll be staying with a small family and teaching English to their daughter and children of the kindergarten they run. And lastly, I’ll be spending a month in Yangshuo, China at a resort on the Li River, helping with reception, photography, social media, and possibly teaching English to the staff.
No, the jobs aren’t thrilling. But you know what is? Experiencing a real family-run restaurant in Taiwan, that serves Spanish-Taiwanese fusion no less! Living in a hostel at least once. Staying in a little house in a remote village in Thailand and seeing how the locals live. Experiencing a busy bustling city like Shenzhen, only to later retire to the country and absorb the beauty of China. THAT is a trip to remember, instead of a string of hotels and tour guides you get mixed up when telling stories upon your return.
Did I mention it’s free? If you’re considering traveling alone, this is brilliant as you won’t be truly alone. You’ll have the freedom of solo travel, without the loneliness of it. And can it hurt to have a local show you around if you want? To show them their lifestyle? I think not.
I’m very excited to test out this method of travel. The reviews are great and people have constantly reported good experiences. For now, it’s the only way to travel while I’m poor. And it may be the best way to get yourself traveling as well. There are many companies you can try out for a work/culture exchange. The company I’m currently using is Workaway. The fee is nominal, the site is incredibly helpful, and they have a huge list of hosts.
This one should be obvious. But saving was huge in this. Truthfully, with the first two steps I haven’t touched much into my savings save for the China Visa ($300 with services) and the bit from our flights. But I still have savings for future trips. And I intend to use it.
So how did I save and how much? While my husband and I worked full-time, we were putting $1k away every month. Sound crazy? Not really. We don’t have kids, but we do have two dogs. We live in a cheapo apartment and share one car. We give ourselves a $50/month allowance to curb play money spending as much as we can without depriving ourselves. Can’t save that much? Start smaller? What can you give up? What can you sell?
To travel means to have different priorities. It means not getting the bigger TV, and instead putting that money into savings for travel. It’s about experiences instead of material possessions. It’s about living somewhere smaller or not as nice so you truly value your trips. Cancel the Hulu if you have Netflix (or vise versa), go down to one car and make it work, plan your meals for the week to curb excess spending, cut back on the alcoholic drinks. There is a way to save even when you don’t realize it. Priorities.
But honestly, with the first two tricks, you shouldn’t have to save up a ton of money. If you want to get traveling asap, these are the ways. It might take you a year to accumulate enough points and to save a little bit, but that’s it. Then how long you travel is up to you.
How do you afford to travel? Have other tips to share? Let us know!