“I’m so jealous, you’re so lucky. I wish I could travel but its too expensive.” I have heard many variations of this comment….on nearly a daily basis! So here is what I have to say to all of you envious people… Yes, I am very lucky to be able to experience the world, but it is the choices I made that got me here. If you truly want to travel then make the choice to do it. You will have to make sacrifices to get there but if you really want it then the sacrifices are worth the prize. I do realize that this is not possible for everyone, but for the large majority of people it is, you just have not realized it yet. That is where I come in.
Hello, my name is Amanda, I am here to give you a few tips, tricks and general information to make your upcoming journey as smooth as possible. For all of you who yern to see the world but think it is not possible for you, I am here to tell you, it is. But you will have to work for it. I have been traveling for seven months now on $9,000 (estimate) including everything from planes, trains, hostels, food, travel insurance, hot air ballooning, scuba diving and tattoos. That is $1,285 a month or $43 a day. That is cheaper than I was living at home! Stop and breath, do not freak out, I am here to walk you through it.
Before you leave on this incredible journey there are a few things you should know to help you save money and just make your life easier on the road:
*Travel rewards credit cards are in my opinion a must for any traveler. It is essentially free money! A few months before you plan to leave (the sooner the better) apply for a travel credit card and pay for your flight in free reward miles. A good rewards card will have at least 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 in three months, two miles to every dollar you spend and no foreign transaction fees and your first year free. Once you have used your free bonus miles you can cancel the card after your year, and apply for a new one or get them to drop the yearly fee (no it wont hurt your credit), all you really want is the bonus miles. Each card will differ but this is a good place to start, I use Barclaycard and CapitalOne Venture Rewards. You can pay for flights, hostels, hotels, travel insurance, nearly anything travel related. PUT EVERYTHING ON YOUR CARD….ITS FREE MONEY! But do not forget to pay your statement in full each month to avoid unwanted debt….(otherwise it is not really free money anymore, is it?)
*Opening a Charles Schwab account is another most for not only travelers but everyone. With a Charles Schwab bank account you can withdrawal money from any ATM worldwide with no ATM fees (or rather you do get charged the fee but it is reimbursed to you at the end of each statement period). There are also no foreign transaction fees as well as a high interest savings account. I cannot count how many times I hear travelers complain about $5 ATM fees. This is also great because you can avoid trading currency when moving to a new country by only withdrawing small amounts of cash when you are nearing the end of your time in there.
*Start a separate savings account specifically for travel and have an allotted amount of money directly deposited from every paycheck. And then pretend it doesn’t exist.
*Most people do not realize how much money they spend on things like buying a cup of coffee, a night out with friends, cable, Netflix or eating out; the list goes on and on. If you begin to cut these things out of your life (moderation in all things) and add the money you’re saving to the money already being direct deposited into your bank account (the one you are supposed to forget exists) you will be amazed at how fast your savings will grow. Basically every time you want a Big Mac take that $4 (or whatever it cost) and put in your travel account.
*Fundraisers are also a great way to earn money, especially around he Holliday’s. Bake sales never fail! Fundraiser are a lot of work but can really pay off in the end.
*Make a copy of your passport and any other important information you may need a trusted family member to access in case of an emergency while you are abroad. E-mail a copy of your passport to yourself as well.
*Alert your bank and credit card company’s of your travel plans and set a travel notice.
*Set any bills you may still have coming out every month to automated bill pay, its just one less thing to worry about.
-I actually have separate accounts for bills (student loans, life insurance and any other monthly bills you may have) and for travel (credit cards). I calculate what will be needed for bills and put that amount plus a few hundred extra in my “bills” bank account then everything else goes into the “travel” bank account, for all my travel expenses which will be put on my credit card to earn reward miles. This way there is no confusion on how much money you have for travel or bills.
*Get travel insurance. If you are not sure how long you plan to travel it’s okay, you can always extend your insurance later.
*Create a Workaway account for work exchange while you are away. Basicly you exchange 5 hours of work 5 days a week for free accommodation and food. It is a great way to experience the culture and people while saving money.
*Create a Couchsurfing account and stay for free on someone’s couch. This is a travel community where people around the world offer their couches to fellow travelers, a sort of pay it forward. It is a great way to meet locals and have a personal tour guide.
*Get your phone travel ready, here is a list of travel apps or websites to download or save to your home screen. There are so many useful travel apps, this is just a few to get you started:
•Workaway – Work exchange.
•Couchsurfing – Free accomadation.
•Hostel world – Book directly from the app.
•Skyscanner – Cheap flight.
•Airbnb – Cheap accommodation.
•Rome2Rio – Gives possible ways of travel from A to B and estimated cost and travel time.
•Google Translate – Great for crossing the language barrior (it is not always right but it gets the point across).
•Currency converter – Lifesaver.
•Unit converter – Not everyone uses miles and pounds.
•Eurail app – Even if you do not buy a Eurail pass this app is great, you can follow trains along their journey so you always know where you are and when to get off it also gives good country information like local food to eat and places to visit.
•Travel.state.gov – Everything you need to know about your location is here; vaccinations, visa requirements, travel notices everything. They also have a great program called S.T.E.P. where you can enter the countries you plan to travel as well as dates and emergency contact information, they will then send you any travel notices for those countries as well as be able to locate you better in case of an emergency or your emergency contact.
•Megabus – Cheap bus tickets.
*If you are traveling in Europe consider getting a Eurail Pass.
*Join travel groups online. They are great ways to connect with other travelers and ask questions.
*Last…sell what you do not need. It is just more money to travel…and you do not need it anyway! Win win!
Okay now that you are a little more prepared for takeoff here are a few general travel tips before you leave:
*This is another important one (I learned the hard way), if you don’t need it now chances are you will not need it while traveling. Places like REI (though I love them) will try to sell you everything under the sun, do not fall for it! There are a few exceptions (depending on the type of travel you plan to do):
-Hand sanitizer/T.P. (ALWAYS…read more here!)
-Multipurpose clothes (do not need to be name brand or expensive)
-Basic first aid kit (gauze Band-Aids)
-Good walking shoes
-A small bag to carry necessities while site seeing.
-Buy a good camera to document your travels.
-That’s pretty much it.
*Buy a good pack. I would suggest getting a pack that is about 50 liters, I know this seems small but you will be amazed by the small amount of this you ACTUALLY need. And if you have the extra space you WILL fill it so better to not have it, otherwise you will be carrying unnecessary weight. Your back, knees, shoulders and wallet will all thank me. (You’re welcome!)
-When buying a pack make sure it fits correctly; ask for help.
-I would suggest a pack that opens from the front (not the top) it is much easier to access your belongings.
-Make sure there are a lot of pockets.
-Buy storage cubes to organize your bag!!!!!!!!
*Having a Lifewater bottle is a lifesaver, a good way to make sure you always have clean water, and it will save you a lot of money filling up from the tap instead of buying bottles of water.
Last but certainly not least, here are a few things you should know while on the road:
*When you arrive in a country the first thing you do is find an ATM to withdraw money from your Charles Schwab account. The second thing you do is buy a croissant. (BUY THE CROISSANT!) ATMs will almost always give you big bills, it is always good to have small bills or you may end up in a situation like I did. I only had large bills after arriving in Romania and took a taxi to my hostel…the driver would not give me my change back…BUY THE CROISSANT! Always carry small bills. Always carry small bills.
*Keep your passport and an extra credit card hidden (not in your purse), just in case your purse is stolen you have a backup.
*Google maps has an awesome feature. While connected to WiFi type in your destination and Google maps will continue to work even after you are no longer connected or using data, so long as you do not close or make any changes. Heremaps is also great for directions offline.
-ALWAYS have your hostel or other destination ready to go when you are getting into a Taxi, Tuk Tuk, hitchhiking or travel of any kind. This way you will be able to follow the map to insure you are going in the right direction. You should always know where you are and where you are going.
*Have a hardcopy of the directions to your hostel just in case your phone dies.
*Hitchhiking is a great way to get from place to place, save money and make a new friend. If you are not comfortable going alone find a travel partner.
*I love camping so for me it is a good way to experience a country while saving money.
*Look for hostels that have an open kitchen so you can cook food with friends. You can also find many hostels that include FREE breakfast!
*Better to be early than miss a flight. Always get to the airport, train station or bus station early.
*Please make sure someone always knows your travel plans.
*Many hostels will provide FREE walking tours. This is a great and FREE way to see the highlights of an area.
*Dress conservatively when appropriate.
*It is always nice to have a book and journal.
*Learn the basics in the local language. It will get you far!
-How much does this cost?
*Do not be afraid to ask questions.
*And finally JUST GO! You will ave many questions and concerns. You will be scared shitless, but it is okay. You’ll learn as you go. Yes, you will make mistakes, but you will learn from them. The only thing you are going to regret is not doing it sooner!
Side note: Travel is so much cheaper under the age of 26 so the sooner the better. You will be able to get discounts everywhere you go. Youth (under 26) and Student discounts are the way to go; cheap flights, cheap Eurail passes, free or 1/2 price entry passes.
Now you are ready to travel the world. Ready. Set. Go.