Do you wonder how normal people like me can afford to travel so much?
I’m a first generation college graduate. I probably went to the same high school as you or your friend or your kids. We have probably walked by each other while grocery shopping at H-E-B or sat next to each other while dining at the Pearl. I might have served you BBQ when I worked at Bill Millers or checked you in at the Eilan hotel a few years ago. I’ve learned it’s a very very small world.
I’m nothing out of the ordinary! Just a girl with big dreams.
And somehow, my curiousity and passions have taken me to 30+ countries in the last 6 years!
My travels have been a mixture of volunteer abroad, study abroad, solo travel, and traveling with friends, family, or my partner. While they are all different types of trips, they have one thing in common. They open my eyes to the world through a different lens and I come home with new knowledge, treasured memories and a refreshed perspective.
I constantly get asked how I can afford to travel so much. I’m by no means a trust fund baby or daddy’s girl. It’s actually been my responsibility to finance every trip I’ve taken by myself, or while in school, with the help of an external source such as a grant or scholarship. (Please contact me if you’re student thinking of studying abroad and we can talk more!).
Yes I understand travel can be expensive. This means that in order to travel as much as I do, I’ve learned a few things in the past years to travel smart.
And my purpose now is to inspire YOU to travel and explore.
This is why I decided to be a travel blogger. This is why I provide travel consulting services to help you plan your next trip. This is why I’m sharing with you my travel hacks and tips to show you ways that you can afford to travel too!
I traveled to Australia this year paying only $300 out of pocket.
This one is the biggest money saver of them all. Travel reward credit cards can my best friend when it comes to traveling. I’m sure you’ve heard of them, but do you actually realize what benefits they can provide?
I’ll list my order of preference for you:
I use my Chase card for my every day purchases. In addition to my sign up bonus points, I accrue additional points with other purchases. The points then convert to miles through Chase Rewards for various airlines and hotel loyalty programs.
For my roundtrip from San Antonio, Texas to Sydney, Australia last March, I used 60,000 Chase points + $300 for the difference in balance to book my flight. Those flights are typically $1,200. Do you see why I love redeeming my travel card rewards?
My referral link offer includes the following benefits:
- 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards® – No black out dates.
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide.
- 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs – meaning I can transfer my miles to other programs if I find a flight through the direct website that requires a lesser amount of miles for booking.
- $0 for the first year, $95 annual fee the following year.
This card gives you the same benefits as above, in addition to the points below. My favorite benefits about this card is the savings on the baggage fee and the $100 credit towards your global entry application. This means that it covers the cost of the program, and you benefit from TSA pre-check and way shorter immigration lines at international airports. It’s really a win win for you – just note that the card miles are specific to United flights only.
My referral link offer includes the following benefits:
- 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit.
- 25% back on United inflight purchases.
- First checked bag for free (a savings of up to $120 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket.
- Priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary.
I actually already canceled this card because it is only beneficial for US and Mexico flights, however in 2017, I booked 5 one-way flights using only the 60,000 sign up bonus miles for US travel from San Antonio to Tennessee, Chicago and Dallas. If you’re looking to travel in the US to visit friends or explore a new city, this may be the card for you. You can find awesome reward bookings through Southwest Wanna Getaway rates and maximize the benefits of this card. The annual fee pays itself off.
- 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.
- 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest Rewards® and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases.
- 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
- 3,000 anniversary points each year.
- $69 annual fee applied to your first billing statement.
*Please note these cards are subject to credit approval and it is your responsibility to understand how opening/closing a credit card account affects your credit score. The benefits are subject to change at the company’s disposal – I’ll direct you to the fine print to review when applying for your card.
We spent a month in Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Isla Mujeres and our average cost for accommodation was $30 per night.
For those that are not familiar with Airbnb – this is a place where you can rent out someone else’s house or apartment for a select number of nights. You can view photos, general location and reviews prior to booking. The hosts are almost always very friendly and responsive, happy to provide you local tips.
In our case, we travel with Brodie (our furry Australian shepherd and Corgi mix), so we always rented out the entire house and contacted the hosts to make sure they were pet friendly. We had a couple of them offer to pick us up from the airport and they loved Brodie! Our home had AC, Wifi, and were centric to the city with either a 5-10 min. walk or 5-10 min. taxi ride to the beach.
Spending $30 per night as opposed to hotel rates is a HUGE money saver. Specially in top destinations like Cancun. Of course, rates vary per city and amenities differ from home to home, so please review the posting carefully prior to booking.
Sign up for a new account using this link and receive a free credit up to $55 towards your first stay.
If you need any help finding an Airbnb for a city, let me know, I’ll be happy to help you find a good location and a good fit for you.
I save at least the cost of 1-2 meals every time I fly using these three tactics:
1. If you’re booking a flight for 2+ people, airlines like to charge you for picking your seats. It makes it sound like it’s absolutely necessary so you can sit together – however that’s not always the case.
9/10 times, you can choose to “Skip Seat Selection” and complete your reservation without having to pay additional fees. As long as the booking is done under one reservation – airlines will automatically place you in seats adjacent to each other, WITHOUT having to pay for it. If, for whatever reason, they do not – then it’s a simple ask when you check-in to the airport to change your seats so you can sit together.
2. Depending on location, I travel with a LifeStraw or Camelback water bottle. No need to pay $5-8 for bottled water at the airport or upon arrival to your hotel as long as you remember to fill up your bottle upon arrival.
3. Upon arrival to a new city, I almost never pay for a taxi to my hotel or airbnb. You’ll find that most airports are outside of the city center, anywhere from 15 minutes up to an hour away. In almost every city, there is a metro/bus/train available that will take you directly from the airport to the city center, at a much more economical fare. If you have the time and if it is not a late flight, I recommend using the local transport to the city center and THEN finding a taxi to your accommodation.
I also use Lyft/Uber, just in case it’s a reasonable and convenient fare. Sometimes ride share services are not available in the cities you visit or you may not have data on your phone, hence the tip above. However, it is always worth checking first.
- Use my Lyft promo code “TRAVELGURU” for new rider credit.
- Use my Uber promo code “salmam3053ue“ for new rider credit.
For long term travel – at least one month away from home:
1. If your vehicle won’t be driven for at least 30 days while you’re traveling, did you know that you can save money on your car insurance? I change my standard coverage plan to a “storage plan” each time I leave home for more than one month. This leaves the comprehensive coverage on my vehicle which covers theft, vandalism, flood, fire or other covered perils, but it removes the other components that I don’t need since I’m not driving it. I save at least $80/month for making this change to my policy. I think Geico is great and I’m not a paid green gecko saying it!
*Please note that if you’re financing your vehicle, your lien holder may also require collision coverage.
Cell Phone Service
2. You have a few options when using your cell phone while abroad:
- Use your phone company’s international plan – rates apply and vary by carrier.
- Place your phone on airplane mode and connect using only wifi when traveling.
- Take an unlocked phone with you and buy a local sim card for data.
- Call your carrier and place your phone on a “seasonal standby plan” or “vacation hold” – this saves you the cost of your monthly plan and reduces it to a lower monthly fee to keep your line active, ready to connect again upon your return. I save up to $50 per month when I place my phone on standby mode through Sprint.
If you find this helpful and use my travel hacks and tips, please leave me a review or a comment below with other tips you want to share! I hope this blog post shows you some new ways that you can make it affordable for yourself to travel.
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Signed after announcing my travel guru giveaway winner,
Salma Travel Guru
I use my own experiences to be your travel guru.
Contact me to save you money & plan your next trip!