The reason for writing this post is the many questions I get “how can you travel so much with a student budget?” Well, I am definitely not rich nor I have a sugar daddy so here I am going to compile all of the things I know to travel for cheap,
This is BY FAR the biggest expense of any trip, especially an international trip. Well, there are SEVERAL ways to do this:
- Miles, miles, miles!: If you know me, you know I am a credit card junkie. I know a lot of people that don’t like using credit cards and see them as evil. In fact, a lot of “money saving tips” tell you to separate a certain cash budget in different envelopes and to just spend cash so that you don’t spend more than you have. Well, believe me, I hate debt as much as you do and I try to stay out of it as much as I can. Being a student and still having to pay for student loans makes it a little hard for me to be 100% out of debt (especially when I am about to get into a school debt again once I start my Masters program) but apart from school loans and a car loan and a home mortgage, there is no reason for you to get into debt to buy a new tv or other things that you can go without (in fact, I don’t even own a tv! and I just watch tv online) But even when we try to save as much as we can, we always have regular expenses like utilities, gas, food, etc. For all of those expenses, I use my CREDIT CARD because I get points for every time I use it!
Reader beware: I am NOT recommending that you go on a shopping spree to rack up miles! Spend what you have and pay off your credit card at the end of the month! In fact, as a rule of thumb, you should always live by the 70-20-10 rule: 70% of your income for your needs (mortgage, car, utilities, gas, food…), 20% for your wants (movies, dinning out, traveling…) and 10% for your savings (you should always have at least two months of your monthly salary saved up). What I am recommending is that you are smart about your purchases and get credit for what you need to buy anyway by using the right credit cards and paying them off at the end of the month.
There are several credit cards that you can use for this purpose. What I usually do is change credit cards every year or so. One of the many wonderful things about credit cards in the United States is that they are very competitive and the customer is the boss! So, you can get a really good credit card with really good rewards and then when the year is up and you actually have to pay the yearly fee, just call and say you want to cancel because you don’t want to pay the fee, 90% of the time, they’ll give you another complimentary fee free year just so that you stay with them. I have done this SEVERAL times, and if they say no, just cancel anyway and switch credit cards! Now, I know you are probably thinking about your credit… .
Here’s a really good explanation about how credit works when using mile cards:
Here’s the deal: when you apply for a new credit card there is an inquiry on your account. New credit inquiries usually drop your score by a few points, but new inquiries only make up about 10% of your overall credit score, which means the drop is small. As a general rule, if your credit score is above 700, then you’re in very good position and have nothing to worry about when it comes to this initial drop. If you want to play it safe, then a credit score above 720 is even better.
Here’s the good news: a new credit card can increase your credit score because it will likely help your credit utilization ratio.
Here’s an example of how credit utilization ratio works. Let’s say that right now you are spending $3,000 per month and your total credit limit is $10,000. In this case, your credit utilization ratio is 30% ($3,000/$10,000).
Then, let’s say that you sign up for a new credit card and your overall credit limit increases to $15,000. Now your credit utilization ratio drops to 20% ($3,000/$15,000).
A lower credit utilization ratio helps your credit score because it shows that you are responsible and that you are more likely to stay within your spending limits.
If you use that same website above, you can also sign up for a free weekly email that tells you the biggest deals on credit cards with the most miles.
- Befriend a friend or a friend of a friend who works in any airline.If you know someone who works in an airline, they get a lot of stand-by vouchers. This means that you pay a small fee compared to what you would actually pay if you were paying full price, and you get to fly stand-by. Many times, the planes are not completely full, so you pretty much pack your bags, show up at the airport, do the check-in and wait until the very last call, if there are seats available in the plane, you get in. This also means that you might pack your bags for nothing because there might not be a seat available, but you can also check the calendar to see how many seats are available and how many stand-by people are on the waiting list, so if you plan it right, it’s totally doable. Also, there are usually seats available in First-Class! So many times that you fly stand by you’ll be lucky enough to fly First-class! (and let me tell you, flying First-Class is pretty cool!). Last year I went from SLC to Paris and came back from Rome to SLC for just $600 because I flew stand by and on my way to Paris I got to fly in first class! (P/S: Since my flight itinerary has a gap between Paris and Rome, the actual ticket would have actually costed me a lot more because I would have had to pay a one way to Paris and a one way from Rome. Plus, this was in the middle of july, so I literally saved myself AT LEAST $2,000!!!!! And in case you are wondering, on my way to Paris, I didn’t have to wait, I got in the plane the first try. On my way back from Rome, I couldn’t get in the plane the first day so I got an extra day in Rome, then I got in the second day with no problem – GRANTED IT WAS JULY!).
- Sign up for airline newsletters.Sometimes when they can’t sell all of their tickets, they get really good deals, like flying to South America for only $300!!! But these deals only last for about a week and the only way you can find out about it is if you are checking the airline website EVERY DAY (which nobody has time for that) or if you get their newsletter.
- Search the airline in different countries.You can save money by buying your tickets on a FOREIGN EXPEDIA website. It is a no brainer that different countries have different sales so if you don’t like the price you are getting on an american website, just check another website. Obviously, the price is going to be in a foreign currency so you would have to use a foreign converter calculator and make sure you have a credit card that doesn’t charge you for foreign transactions or that the charge that you get for using your credit card in a foreign transaction is worth the save. The way to find the foreign links is by scrolling to the bottom of expedia.comand click on the different flags. Or you can just google the website
China: www.elong.com —> I dont’ speak chinese, but you can click on the upper right link and it will translate the page in English =)
etc, etc, etc.
- Use the different websites to search for cheaper travel.This is my least preferred option and I rarely use it because I can usually always get a cheaper ticket by using one of the options above (my favorite and most used options are option 1 and 2) but if worse comes to worst and you have to actually scroll all the way down to option number 5, remember to NOT travel during the weekends because it’s more expensive. The middle of the week is always cheaper, red-eye flights are usually cheaper, and flights with long layovers are cheaper as well. For international flights, don’t book your trip too far in advance (unless you are using miles, then do it ASAP because the longer you wait the more miles they will charge you), 11 to 12 weeks in advance gives you a good fare. For domestic flights, around 7 weeks in advance is a good time.
Here are some useful websites:
Call your travel agent. They usually have good deals as well.
A PLACE TO SLEEP
- Couchsurfing.Get over yourself and sign up for www.couchsurfing.com.My mom is still very skeptical about this website and doesn’t like it when I use it because she feels like I’m not being safe. But we have to learn how to connect with people! Obviously, you need to be careful and safe, but the world is filled with genuinely good people! Here’s how the website works… you sign up for a free account, you fill out your profile and then when you meet people on the website IN PERSON (like going to a local get together or when someone stays over at your house or when you stay over at someone’s house) they leave a referral for you. That referral can be positive, negative or neutral depending on their experience with you. You should usually start getting referrals by going to local gatherings because hardly anyone accepts you to come over to their house unless you have a few positive referrals already on your profile (because everyone wants to be safe). The good thing is that if someone writes a negative referral on someone’s website, nobody can erase that referral other than the person who wrote it there. So if you see someone’s profile who has 50 positive referrals and no negative or neutral referrals, ODDS ARE IN YOUR FAVOR THAT THIS PERSON ROCKS THE CATS PAJAMAS AND IS A PERSON THAT YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY MEET! So, just play it smart, play it safe, but open yourself up to meeting new people. Before I found out abuot couchsurfing, I used to stay in hostels or super cheap hotels,but now that I know about couchsurfing, I don’t want to use any other way to travel! Being with the locals and experiencing the culture of where you are traveling FIRST HAND seriously is the best! Plus it’s a free stay in exchange for sharing your culture with the person you are staying with!
- WWOOF.I would not do this because it requires a little bit of a commitment to travel and stay in the same place for a while and doing a job that I am not a fan of. But it works for some people. Same kind of website like couchsurfing, except your stay is “free” in exchange of some labor, mostly farm labor. So you stay for like a week at someone’s house. They give you a free bed to sleep in and free food during that week but you work in their farm during your stay period. The amount of hours you work per day varies, depending on each person and that’s something that you set up before saying yes. For some people it works, for me it doesn’t, but you can use it as a resource.
- The streets!So I can’t remember if I told my mom about this, she would probably freak, but a couple of years ago, I was backpacking around Europe with a dear friend of mine who happens to be a guy. Now, this is a problem for couchsurfing because they usually don’t let you stay in their house if your traveling party consists of a boy and a girl. Some people let you stay but it’s harder to find someone. Mostly because having a couple stay over is different than having one person stay. And even though we weren’t a couple, we are just really good friends, they didn’t believe that we weren’t a couple and many still felt uncomfortable letting a boy and a girl stay in their house. So first we started in France (I was already living there and he came to visit) so that wasn’t a problem because he just stayed with me. Then we went to Italy and even though we tried for months and months to get someone from couchsurfing to host us, nobody would host us both together, so we contacted a bishop from the LDS church (we are both members of the LDS church) and he hooked us up with a WONDERFUL LDS family that let us crash their place for 2 nights and then they contacted us with two AWESOME single adults in the middle of Rome that let us stay in their place for one night. It was AWESOME! Then we went to Greece and, again, couchsurfing for a male and female was really hard so we found a super cheap hostel for one night (or two nights, can’t remember) and enjoyed Greece. Then we went to our final destination, PARIS! And, we had the same couchsurfing problem, and all of the hostels were really expensive and we were poor and didn’t want to spend any money in a hostel or waste any more time finding a couchsurfing host so we just enjoyed the rest of the day in Paris and when night came around, we went to a train stop and slept there. Little did we know that train stations in Paris close at midnight, so we were kicked out at midnight… what did we do? We went to La Seine (that river close to the Eiffel tower) and slept there… on the street! hahaha I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT! It was a really fun experience. But it was kind of cold so at 5am we woke up and went to the nearest train station, got in to the first train and slept on the train by riding it to the very last stop, then staying on the same train and riding it back to the city to enjoy the rest of the day =) that afternoon my friend left and that night I found a GREAT host in Paris for me and I stayed with her for 3 days. So…. worst comes to worst, if you are in a city, sleep in a centric place (it’s safer), if you are in the beach, sleep in the beach!!!!!!!! =)
- Hostels.I don’t like this one because not only it involves paying, but it’s also kind of like a hotel because you don’t get to meet a lot of people. I like it better when you can live with the locals. But if you have no other option, just find the cheapest hostel and stay there. Try to find a big hostel so that you can meet a lot of other travelers who are staying in the hostel as well. This is a really good website to find hostels: www.hostelworld.comand there is also an app that you can download on your phone.
FOOD AND EXPENSES
- Avoid restaurants.My parents don’t agree with my way of travel because they think I’m really stingy and perhaps they are right but the truth of the matter is that I have a student budget, I don’t have a lot of money to spare and I love to travel A WHOLE LOT, so by saving on as much as I can, I can not only travel at least once a year, but I can stay longer and visit a lot more places. So if that means that some people call me stingy, then SO BE IT! I usually never eat at restaurants (in fact, I can’t think of the last time I ate at a restaurant). They are expensive and many times over priced. Eat food from street vendors, it’s usually a lot better and you can truly savor the local food. Plus, if locals eat it, YOU CAN EAT IT TOO! You won’t get poisoned, maybe you’ll get diarrhea because your body may not be used to eating that kind of food, but you definitely won’t die from it, so just go with it and ENJOY IT! It’s actually super good!
- Make trips to a local supermarket.Depending on where you are staying, you will be able to cook there, so if you can cook, buy stuff at the store and cook it. If you don’t have a place to cook, just buy simple stuff at the regular super market that doesn’t require cooking. You’ll save a lot of money.
- Have two meals a day. Instead of having the regular 3 or 4 meals a day that you usually have when you are at home, separate your meals so that you can eat a BRUNCH and a DINNER and that’s it. I usually take MATE with me (an argentine tea drink) and I can drink it all the time and that helps with your apetite. You can also have some kind of fruit as breakfast, then a big meal as BRUNCH at around 11am and that will usually hold you until 5 or 6pm when you can have a big dinner and you are set. This is better than paying for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Getting lots of cheap snacks from a regular super market like fruit or chips and DRINKING LOTS OF WATER help a lot too.
- Teach English!Do you have a TEFL certificate? Well, you should get one! You can get one online like I did or you can actually go to a program ABROAD, get it there and then they automatically place you at that location for you to teach English as a Second Language while GETTING PAID! Plus you’ll have the certificate to use forever after that! Here is a website I use to find teaching jobs abroad—> http://www.eslcafe.com/ you have a lot of lesson plans there and resources, a blog where TEFL teachers exchange experiences and ideas AND, you have a job link. Just click on the JOBS tab on top and find whatever job fits your needs. Or you can also post your resume and have people contact you.
- Find a seasonal job or volunteer.There are a lot of seasonal jobs that you can do over the summer or whenever you have free time (the scheduling options are endless! Short term or long term) and that can help you travel wherever you want and actually work for a bit to sustain your travels. Or you can also do volunteer work. Many volunteer opportunities don’t give you a money allowance but they usually take care of your room and board. There are lots of great websites you can use to find job info or volunteer opportunities:
Au Pair jobs! many websites on google but here’s one –> www.aupair.com
You can find more job opportunities on google by typing “paid summer abroad jobs” or keywords like that. So far, I’ve used Dave’s ESL cafe and backdoorjobs and it’s worked out great for me!
Good luck in your adventures and tell me more tips if you know any or tell me about your adventures!!! =)