I quit work, packed 2 bags and haven't returned for 4 months (with 2 more to go). Here's HOW I made it happen....so that you can too!
Step 1: Save Up & Budget Wisely
Travel costs money which is often what keeps so many from doing it. Prior to my trip I wanted to ensure we would be able to afford a 6 month jaunt from reality. So I did a lot of research into getting my $$$ in an un-stressful situation prior to taking this leap. My 401k has always been contributed to, my savings account has the recommended 3-6 months of safety bucketed away, my debt was paid off (I will post later about how to achieve this)...so my next step was mapping out what I expected our trip to cost us.
When creating your budget be sure to account for all of the below:
Next, I investigated the best credit cards for travel. I started to use this card for EVERY purchase. For every part of my budget. Then I pay it back with my trip savings every other week. It allows me to rack up rewards for spending money on what I was planning to.
Once you've reached your needed $$$ and have your trip budgeted...its time to start booking...
STEP 2: Booking the Cheapest Options
If you fly at all, be sure to sign up for the airlines frequent flier programs. Even if its only been 1 flight- sign up! You will be amazed how quickly awards can accumulate, how many of these airlines are partners with each-other (and with hotels), and how many options you will have for savings by joining these programs. I made the mistake of not signing up until years after I was travelling and it has costs me a plethora of savings, upgrades, and free flights! Do it. NOW!
When booking flights I either use my Chase cards "award" search so that I can use my rewards to book free (or reduced cost) flights, Kayak, or SkyScanner to find the best choices. Do NOT jump on the lowest number! Often these great deals are with airlines that then kill you on baggage costs- so read the fine line about baggage fines (and pack as lightly/efficiently as you can!). Once you calculate these additional fees, if the cost is still the best...awesome! Also keep in mind that if 2 or 3 flights offer similar costs but one of those airlines is linked with your frequent flier group- book that flight! In the long run, its worth spending $5 more, than on an unaffiliated airline. By doing this exact thing I was able to book a flight from South Africa to USA, typically >$1200, for only $250!
To save cash on eating out, I prefer to stay in a home environment so that I can use a fridge and cook the majority of my meals. There are hotels that offer these amenities but the warmest, most genuine to an area, and cheapest is using AirBnB. By staying with people who live in the area I am provided with suggestions as to the best things to see, avoid, and best ways to get around in that neighborhood. All provided sincerely, verse the often pushy hotel slander. Although I check out search engines for hotels in the area to see if any have specials, AirBNB almost always ends up being the most affordable option. Especially if you are staying for more than a week, because weekly discounts get applied to more residences!!!
STEP 3: Getting Around on the Cheap
Once settled in a new area getting around is critical. Most of the time I google the bus and train options in that town. Google maps literally has a public transit button to push- it couldn't be simpler! Most countries have public trans that is much more reliable, cleaner, and efficient than what you find in America. The trains in Japan tell you how many minutes until the next will arrive and rolls up to the second. The buses in Germany provide frequent options to the same places so your wait time is typically ten minutes.
When public transit is sparse or the distance is further I always rely on UBER to ensure the cheapest fairs. In Europe another good app is TAXIFY. Both options provide locals who are looking for cash on the side but TAXIFY also includes local taxi companies vying for more work. I have found that even during price surges, that UBER tends to cost less than walking up to a taxi on the side of the road.
A great resource to compare costs when you are in Europe and hoping to country hop is the website www.GoEuro.com which compares the costs and time it would take via bus, train, plane to travel between countries. This is an asset that I wish I had used prior to leaving- so you are welcome in advance!
By PUTTING A BUDGET in place, saving to the budget, sticking to it, UTILIZING REWARD CARDS AND FREQUENT FLIER MILES, booking with AirBnB, using the areas PUBLIC TRANSIT and UBER....you are guaranteed to travel without the stress of money burdening you.
In fact, if you do it often enough- you will find yourself flying, sleeping, and riding for free!
So where to? What do you want to see???? What is stopping you...get going!
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