Many don’t travel abroad because they think they can’t afford it. Let me tell you that travel abroad on the cheap can be a reality for everyone. There really is a way to do it for almost every budget. You don’t have to be rich to travel, we certainly aren’t. If we can do it, chances are that you can too from time to time.
Make Travel Your Priority
How bad do you want to travel? If it is important than make it a high priority. Focus on having more money set aside for travel because if travel is not a priority you will certainly spend the money elsewhere. You can eat out at home, go shopping or purchase the latest iPhone or you can start saving for your own travel adventure instead of reading what everyone else is doing.
Collect Free Miles
One of the most important tools for traveling on the cheap is to get yourself a credit card where you collect flyer miles. I know, but stay with me. Personally, we use the Captial One Venture card for most of our purchases. We purchase almost everything with this card with a few exceptions that we will explain next.
With our Venture card, we earn 2% on everything. Groceries, flight reservations, fuel, doctor visits……everything. However this is crucially important, PAY YOUR BILL IN FULL EVERY MONTH and ON TIME. The interest rate is steep if you do not. It can wipe out your earnings in a heartbeat. Set yourself reminders, just be sure to do this. If you can focus on earning flyer miles as a priority, this is our favorite card.
There is also a similar card from Barclay, the Arrival card, and Chase, the Sapphire card. The Venture card can be a little easier to get, same with the Arrival card. There is also a nice size bonus on the front end if you qualify after 3 months. It earned us $500, yes dollars to use towards travel.
When it comes time to secure your travel plans, just pay for your hotel, flight, train, etc, with your Venture card or card of your choice and earn your 2%. Then when the bill arrives, log into your account once you have accumulated enough miles and you can use those miles to pay all or part of the costs. It’s really that simple. Kind of like using an eraser.
Sign up for travel rewards from every airline you fly on. Many airlines come under a single umbrella and you collect in one place from several different airlines. We just got 2 one way tickets for free, using a specific airlines flyer miles.
Other Options For Saving Travel Money
There are a few options that we use to pay for our travel on the cheap. Discover Card pays 5% back in CASH! The catch is that they focus on a category for 3 months and then switch. So you have to pay a little bit of attention. At the time of this writing, we will earn 5% on restaurants through July, August & September. The previous quarter was groceries, the one before that was gasoline and the 4th quarter last year as people begin to shop for the holidays was Amazon purchases. We are HUGE Amazon shoppers.
Because we are such huge Amazon shoppers we recently got an Amazon card. It pays 5% on everything we purchase from Amazon. Not bad! We are gonna buy anyway, so might as well squirrel away some Acorns.
Speaking of Acorns. Have you heard of Acorn? Love this one too. You know how some people collect their change in a jar? That’s a great way to save money, but personally I almost never pay cash anymore, so I never have any change to put in a jar. Thus, Acorn.
Acorn does a similar thing as saving change in a jar only it rounds all of your CC, debit or even bills you pay to the next dollar and stores/invests the money for you in various investments. You can be extremely conservative or you can reach big, just depends on your comfort threshold. So, say you get a coffee at Starbucks & the total is $2.68. Acorn then rounds up to the nearest dollar and puts .32 into your investment account.
Acorn is approved by most CC companies and banks and has a 4-star rating or better depending on who you ask. You can attach it to your checking account even. When paying for something online, it will round up your spare change. Great way to set up a nest egg for your travel plans or your future.
One last thing about Acorn…..when you shop certain merchants, they will invest into your Acorn account for you. Some as high as 10%.
Same applies to hotels. Sign up for their reward programs. We had a beautiful night in Portugal’s wine that was absolutely free!
Where To Stay
If you are young, a conventional hostel may work for you. As baby boomers, sharing a bunk is no longer in our wheelhouse. BUT, hostels have changed. When in Barcelona last fall, we stayed in a hostel. Barcelona is a bit on the pricey side. Nice rooms in great neighborhoods can run as much as $300+ a night That’s not in our travel budget. The hostel provided us a private room with a private bath, a small balcony, and AC in a great neighborhood. We paid $130 a night. That’s quite a bit more than we like to pay per night, but we were just there for a couple of days, so it was worth it. There was a last minute switch in plans which cost us, but otherwise, we would have had a really nice room in a hostel for $100 a night.
We usually stay in an Airbnb. When traveling abroad we rarely pay more than $100 a night. You can find them in great neighborhoods, in the center of all the fun. You can get a washer/dryer which also means you can travel light. I refuse to sit in a laundromat while on vacation. Depending on what you need or want I have seen accommodations as low as $38 a night. So far we have had nothing but excellent experiences using Airbnb.
If an Airbnd is not available and we need to book a hotel we always use Expedia or Booking.com. You will find good prices and you can earn points for free stays.
My sister in law travels alone quite a bit and she couch surfs often. She has met some amazing people who just enjoy meeting people.
If you eat out, that can and will eat a very large hole in your budget really fast. So when staying in an Airbnb, cook in. You can get a weeks worth of groceries for the price of dinner for 2.
Work While Traveling
Teach English or any other foreign language from wherever you are in the world. Wait tables, be a deckhand, babysit. Lots of little odds and ends that you can do to earn some cash.
We haven’t done this but absolutely plan on giving this a try very soon. We are planning on a month in Portugal & if we can snag one of these that would be great. You might want to look into Trusted Housesitters
We start planning our trips abroad a minimum of 4 months ahead of time. We use the Hopper app to keep an eye on flight fares. They will notify you when is a good time to buy your tickets. I also watch preferred airlines. Booking any less than 45 days before your departure is gonna cost you extra.
If you don’t mind not earning points or possibly not being able to choose your seats at the time of booking, we have scored some incredible deals on flights on Expedia. When arriving early at the airport we have always gotten really good seats anyways, even those reserved seats like the exits. We have always gotten seats together at the least. More often than not these days we use our Venture card flyer miles in part to be sure to get the seats we want, especially if it’s a long haul.
Our Favorite Destinations
Our least expensive vacation was to Thailand and Cambodia. We stayed in gorgeous hotels, all for less than $100 or less. Portugal was also really affordable especially if you eat like the locals or cook in your Airbnb. Travel doesn’t have to break the bank and with some care, you to can afford to travel abroad on the cheap.