By Eric Bennett
Two years ago I finally decided I needed to see more of the world and began to dedicate my efforts to be able to experience the places that interest me most. Since then I have accumulated over 8 months of straight traveling, been to more than 20 different countries, and have gone back to many of them several times. Here is how I’ve made it happen.
Finding Cheap Flights:
When I started looking at flight prices, the inconvenient truth was revealed, I simply wasn’t earning enough money to be able to afford to fly everywhere I wanted to go! A flight to another continent can easily cost $1000-$3000 dollars! I thought about my problem for several weeks. Later on I heard about people working for airlines that could fly for free through their travel benefits. I decided this was the way I would make it work. I applied for a part time position at JetBlue Airways working from home and got hired a month or so later. This has allowed me to travel at an extremely low cost and to be able to have an extremely flexible travel style. I can decide to go somewhere and leave the next day because I don’t have to plan ahead in order to get cheap prices. Every airline hires tons of employees, for full time and part time positions. A lot of these positions offer extremely flexible hours and also the ability to work from home. Even though a lot of my travel now is paid for by the companies that hire me, I still have kept this flexible, part time job on the side so that I can always travel on my own time whenever I feel like.
If you can’t or do not want to get a job for an airline, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are out of luck. There are ways to get super good deals on flights. While working for an airline, I have learned that prices are almost always the cheapest right when the tickets are first available, about 6 months before the travel date. The way that airfares usually work is a system that sells the tickets in groups, each group having a different airfare. Usually the first group of let’s say 10 or so tickets, is the least expensive, and then the prices go up as each group of tickets sells out. If you can plan your trip at least 4 months in advance, you can almost always get a killer deal. A lot of people seem to have the idea that if you buy your ticket late at night or at the last minute before the date, you can get a screamin deal, but that’s not really how it works. Sometimes you can see instances like that but it’s not really something you should count on, almost always the prices just go up and up as it gets closer to the departure date. Plus, if you purchase a ticket and the price ends up going down later, a lot of airlines offer you the chance to honor the lower fare and they will reimburse you the difference in price that is has gone down.
While traveling all over the world, I have met tons of Europeans and Australians that have been everywhere without spending a lot of money. If you plan it right, once you get somewhere, you can get to other countries very easily and cheap by ground transport or local airlines that offer flights for under $100. Like Asia and Europe for example. You might be forking out a couple G’s to get there, but once you are there, you can travel for months and see tons of other countries on a very small budget. This is why you should try to plan longer trips instead of weekend getaways or a short escape from work so that the money you invest on the flights has a greater return.
Adventure > Comfort:
An inevitable way to save money is by making sacrifices. What a lot of people don’t realize is everything that goes on behind the camera. Last year I went on a trip by myself to the arctic circle. I knew it would be cold but I could’nt afford to buy “arctic” gear. I showed up to a wet, windy, and below zero Iceland, wearing nothing but jeans, a sweatshirt, and vans. I was constantly wet and shivering but I was warm enough, and it was an awesome trip that I will never forget. People see a photo taken by someone in a place they want to go and they assume they are wearing some $500 dollar winter jacket and some overpriced boots. They get the idea that they need all this special clothing and gear, don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have, but most of the time it’s not necessary. Here are a list of 3 sacrifices I am constantly making so that I can see the places that I love!
Food & Water: You think of some country in Europe that you want to visit and you start imagining things like restaurants, hotels, and rental cars, things that can cost you several hundreds of dollars a day. You can pack your own food like granola bars and top ramen and cook it in friend’s houses, over a campfire, or in hostel kitchens for free. You can buy bread for cheap in almost any country and it will fill you up. What I always do to save a ton of money, is carry a water filter, since in a lot of countries you can’t drink the tap water anyways. This saves you from pointlessly buying lots of bottled water each day and you can stay filled up on an endless supply of liquids which will help you feel satisfied and healthy.
Lodging: I have never stayed in a hostel that cost more than $30/night and I have stayed at some that were just $1 a night or even free! If you have a sleeping bag with you a lot of times they will give you a discount for not having to wash the sheets after you. When staying in hostels it’s cheaper to stay in a dorm with other travelers instead of a private room but this is not as creepy or gross as it sounds. I have never had a bad experience staying in a dorm. All these people are adventurous, young, and awesome people just like you! It is a great way to be able to socialize, gain valuable information about where you are traveling, and even be able to team up in order to split cab fares, not travel alone, and help eachother out. A lot of people are worried about their stuff getting stolen while in dorms but I have never had anything taken from me that way. Keep track and take care of your stuff but don’t get too paranoid. I also pack a small 2 man tent and camp whenever possible. A lot of foreign countries allow free wilderness camping or if you simply ask someone they will allow you to camp overnight on their property. Camping is not only cheap, but it offers you the most genuine and authentic experience you can get, sleeping right on the edge of the sea or on the tops of mountains.
Transport: Instead of renting a car, unless it’s absolutely necessary, use local transportation! It’s really easy and every other backpacker that is staying in your hostel is doing it! Ask for help, everyone will be happy to give you directions. You can also walk a lot of places when in big cities or towns, it just takes a little more effort. Hitchhiking is also something that I have done which has gotten me around tons of places for free and has given me some awesome friends! Use good judgement of course but don’t rule it out completely, there are a lot of good people in this world. If you are willing to make some sacrifices of comfort you can make a trip work on any budget.
Money: Unfortunately, traveling isn’t free, and you will always need some kind of money, obviously the more the better, although traveling with less money forces you to experience certain things and rely on people more than you normally would, which I see as a plus. Of course you should work and save up, but sometimes it just isn’t enough. A few months ago I was about to head to Nepal. I had just a week before I was supposed to take off and had like $20 to my name. I knew Nepal was cheap but there was no way I would get by hiking for a whole month on just 20 bucks. In that week I sold some old crap I had in my room, rented my place out for the month I would be gone, and cancelled my health insurance and all of my online subscriptions (spotify, neflix, etc.). By the end of the week I had over $1000 to spend while on my trip, which ended up being way more than I needed!
Open Your Mouth:
The last time I went to Europe I flew into Ireland with just under $1000. I was friendly with all the locals and other travelers and I was able to hitchhike all over Ireland, Scotland, France, Switzerland and Iceland. On my first day in Iceland I even met a couple of guys on the bus from the airport into the city that were renting a car the next day and they offered to take me along. I enjoyed a completely free rental car to road trip all over the country for the next 10 days. These dudes also became some awesome friends who I plan on meeting up with on future trips! On that note, I also met up with a friend in Switzerland that I had met and talked with for just a couple hours while traveling earlier that year in Southeast Asia. She gave me places to stay, fed me, and took me hiking all over the swiss alps, which would have cost me a fortune. While you are traveling you have the ability to meet lots of awesome people who are mostly generous and willing to help you out if you ever visit them in their home country! Take advantage of this! It is also so much better going somewhere where you already know someone and can meet up with them! Almost 80% of the places I visit are because I have been invited to that country by someone that lives there. To put it short, you can travel anywhere, on any budget, as long as you are willing to do anything to make it work.