How to Travel When You're Cheap and Not Rich

Istanbul 2013

If I had a dirham for every time someone tells me they wish they could travel the way I do, I'd be a rich girl.
To many folks out there, traveling seems way too expensive to be possible. I won't lie, I used to think the same way. What I've learned in the short time I've been traveling is that it can be a lot cheaper than you actually think. With the right planning and lots of patience, you can afford to embark on your own adventures.

I'm no a travel expert but I'm well cheap and not rich so when I travel I have to find deals. Admittedly, I'm no where close to perfect at finding trips for next to nothing, I've managed to do some traveling without having to resort to selling my blood or other valuables.
To my credit, I spend a lot of time cross checking and calculating and converting in order to find travel opportunities within my budget.

While I do travel more than the average person, I don't think I travel that much. I'm fortunate enough that my company provides a flight allowance at the end of the school year. The amount varies by return city. Sadly New York is often a cheap destination so my allowance isn't grand. Therefore, I have to start my ticket search early in order to get a good deal and be able to keep a little of that allowance in my pocket. I'm not always successful but believe me I try.

This summer I'll be stopping in Amsterdam on the way home to NY. Purchasing a multi-city ticket has been a great way for me to be able to visit a new country without breaking the bank. The four day stopover in Amsterdam compared to the ticket to NY which included a layover anyway, only increased my ticket price by a couple hundred dollars. That's definitely worth it because an independent trip to Amsterdam would be well over that.
In the past I was able to visit Paris by adding it as a stopover on the way home.
There are tons of airlines which now offer extended layovers to passengers so that they can explore new cities.
Check out this post over on Hopper to find out how to take advantage of a free stopover.

I also try to take advantage of travel opportunities I have during December and Spring Break. Unfortunately, my company does not give a flight allowance so I'm on my own. Womp womp

These are the times I really have to put some work in. Here are just a few tips to making travel a reality for you.

  1. plan early. I'm already thinking about where I want to go in December. The earlier I can book, the cheaper the tickets usually are. Last year I bought my ticket for summer in February. When I checked later, ticket prices went up by 300 dollars. Dodged that bullet.
  2. consider Asia. For the past two Christmases I chose Asia as my travel destination. It's so cheap and you can live like a royal if you so choose. Plus, you can easily country/city hop 'cause tickets are so cheap. 
  3. book multi-city. I know I mentioned it before but I'll say it again because it really does help to maximize your travel opportunities.
  4. use your miles. I have a credit card that gives me miles. My ticket to Vietnam only cost me a one hundred and eight dollars and my miles covered the rest. I just received an email saying that I have a free trip to several destinations because of my miles. Take advantage of cards that offers travel points or can convert to travel miles. Seriously, get them miles y'll. 
  5.  airbnb. is. awesome. You can save so much money by staying in someone's home and get to meet some really great people at the same time. I used airbnb to rent a whole apartment in Paris for a week in a fantastic location for a fraction of a hotel stay. 
  6. eat on the streets. I had most of my meals on the streets in Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam. I found it to be much better and cheaper than paying too much for generic western food.
  7. drink local beer. sometimes you just need a beer. In some countries like Nepal and Vietnam, the local beer is dirt cheap and just as good if not better than the imported stuff. Freshly made beer at 16 cents a mug? Yes please and thank you. It's called Bia Hoi and you can find it Vietnam particularly in Hanoi.  

Those are just the things that have helped me. For more tips check out this awesome post from The Pin the Map Project. If you are interested in traveling, this is a great place to look for inspiration.