Many are squeamish at the idea of applying for credit cards, and I can’t say I entirely blame them. For some people, it’s a crutch which often has to be used when paychecks are late. However, using debit cards and cash your whole life would be denying deals that can offer returns of 5-20% back on money spent. Take the Citibank American Airlines Visa, which gives first-time cardholders 30,000 miles (good for a one-way trip to Europe!) for spending $1,000 in the first three months. Even hotel credit cards like the Hyatt Signature Visa gives newbies two nights at ANY of their five-star properties after you charge enough - if you choose to redeem this at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, you’ll get a room worth over 1000 Euros/night for free. Hotels, flights, and cash back programs are a must for the practical traveler with good credit.
2. Look at Flight Deals
Sometimes it’s not worth cashing in the points when the airfare is so amazing. Granted, low prices for air travel has become a bit of a catch-22, with American Airlines, United, and others now giving miles based on the cost of the ticket rather than distance traveled, a situation that royally screws everyone but the ultra-mega-deluxe-platinum-elite-priority loyalty members. Still, if you’re not concerned about building up your points and just looking for a good deal across the ocean, check out The Flight Deal and Skyscanner.
3. Know your Destination
Let’s face it: although there’s such a thing as budget travel in Tokyo, London, Singapore, and New York, it’s not exactly the easiest to navigate. Anyone traveling to western Europe or the US knows they’ll need emergency cash if something should fall through- a missed flight with ridiculous fees; a city with hotels topping $200; even just getting around with public transportation can add up. Whereas in certain countries, you’d be in the minority if you spend more than a few dollars a day on food: Thailand, Laos, China, Tanzania. It’s much easier to stress when ten dollars is the difference between a private room and sleeping on the street, as opposed to 10% of your savings for the entire trip.
4. Couch Surf
Unlike Airbnb, which still charges for accommodation and is subject to last-minute cancellation with little penalties, Couchsurfing offers something unique for the budget traveler; not only a place to stay but insight into another culture in the form of a friendly host. Imagine you’re traveling solo to Sofia, Bulgaria. It’s your first time out of the country, the first time on a plane, and the first time not being immersed in English; by providing a medium for cultural exchange, Couchsurfing gives you access to locals and expats who would appreciate your company, and the opportunity to pay it forward for international travelers visiting your area seeking advice.
5. Find Local Adventures
Regardless of whether you’re an American, Canadian, European, African, Aussie, or Kiwi, I can guarantee you haven’t seen every nook and cranny of your country. If you know you’re in the mood for a beach vacation, where you’ll do little else but lounge on the sand, go for a swim, and relax with drinks every evening, you don’t have to fly all the way to Bali or Hawaii. Chances are your country offers some form of respite you may never have discovered - and never will, unless you’re willing to look. Instead of “buying the ticket, taking the ride”, just venture slightly outside of your bubble if you want a break in routine. Try a new restaurant. Climb a mountain you see on the horizon every day but don’t think much about. Host an international potluck and learn about different cuisines.
Marketers positioning travel as a luxury to Americans was one of the most successful campaigns of the 20th century. Granted, before commercial airliners became prolific in the 60s, travel truly was expensive: tens of thousands of dollars for the flight alone – adjusted for inflation – not to mention arranging reliable accommodations. In those days, there were no quick internet searches for last-minute deals. In this day and age with wanderlust at an all time high, we’ve managed to make international travel accessible to millions. Not only are flights cheap, but the sharing economy has allowed sites like Airbnb and Couchsurfing to substantially reduce the financial burden of hotels.
My relationship with traveling is approaching its ten-year anniversary as of this month. Throughout the years, I’ve learned some valuable tips so here are some of the techniques I’ve picked up to cure your wanderlust without breaking your wallet.
These tips can help newbie travelers suffering from wanderlust but reticent about taking that first flight become veterans in no time. In the end, it comes down to two simple questions, “do I really want to travel?” and “what can I do to make it happen?” Now get to venturing Adventurers!