how i travel

January 26th, 2019

how can you afford that?

my question for you is, how can you afford not to?

I don’t mean to be rude, I’m just saying, it’s time you take a trip if you haven’t in awhile!

Here are some things I do to keep my trips really cheap, or “afford” my ventures.

Remember, flexibility is key when trying to keep costs down, and it may come down to either spending your time, or your money, so if your time is more important to you, then you will probably have to spend more money. If you have more time to spare, and an open mind about where to go, you can find some great deals.

Environmentally, it is best to fly as little as possible. Use buses and trains as a way to see the countryside!

Most importantly, follow your heart.

So, for my following trip to Europe for a month; transit there, back home, and within, I did my best to keep my spending below $1,000. I’m keeping my accommodation costs down by staying with friends, which is a huge reason for this trip, besides trying to get to 30 countries by the age of 30.

I started planning by looking at airlines that I know are very inexpensive when it comes to crossing the Atlantic. My favourite cheap airlines are as follows;

Norwegian Air (the best cheapest airline!) I found NYC to Paris $169 (direct). I was considering Dublin, also very cheap to get to, but you have to fly out of Stewart. I researched all the cities I was open to going to from NYC and Chicago and this was the best deal I found. Amsterdam was another option, and so was London. I used their low-fare calendar!

The thing about this airline though is that you usually have to fly from NYC to Europe, but if you’re open to getting a cheap flight to NYC from Chicago or elsewhere around the States, via credit card miles or Spirit or something, or by even taking the Amtrak ($80 from Chicago, count on it being delayed!) it’s pretty fun to add NYC to your itinerary even if just for a day.

WOW Air (Iceland’s budget airline) This airline layovers in Reykjavik! (So, if you feel like adding an expensive trip to Iceland to your plan, that’s fun, too. I found our flight home from Stockholm to Chicago for $300, and there was a decent layover in case we wanted to go to the Blue Lagoon. I’ve flown London to Chicago on WOW and met some of the loveliest ladies and the time just flew by, just trust that it may run slightly behind schedule.. always.

TAP is Portugal’s budget airline and has a lot of really cool less known destinations. There is usually a layover in Lisbon, but I’ve never met anybody who didn’t like Lisbon.

Some of the sites that are good for helping you get ideas about what airlines to use are Kayak and Rome2Rio. I don’t buy through sites like Kayak or Expedia, because there might be cheaper options through the actual airline site, but if you’re looking to buy a flight and hotel and car, the combos offered by those sites are worth looking into.

Rome2Rio is so great because it shows all the different transit options and times and cost estimates of how to get to anywhere from anywhere! It will then just direct you to different companies, so mainly I just use it for ideas on the best ways to get from A to B and then I try to be creative.

GoEuro is also awesome because it shows you the different cost options for train, bus, and flights. I do buy directly from their app and it has worked out for me, at least for buses and trains. Flights should be bought from the airline directly.

I used GoEuro to find a night bus from Paris to Amsterdam for $30, and a train from Amsterdam to Berlin for $50, the DeutscheBahn, which does have their own site you can use. I checked with my friend in Berlin and he said this was a good price, as he almost advised me to go to Warsaw and then Berlin to save money.

Flixbus has good deals all the time and they’re decently pleasant bus rides with wifi. I do not exactly recommend the Polski bus, however. I’ll have to try another way to get to Warsaw, another day, because that was not a bus ride I could complete (we got on only to get off at the next stop before the bus left Berlin).

RyanAir and Easyjet are the budget airlines I use the most around Europe, with a flights from Berlin to Corfu costing $30-$50; Corfu to Naples, and then to Zurich, and Berlin to Vilnius.

We did pay the extra 7 euros to be able to bring 2 bags on these flights, because we don’t want to get caught up having to pay when we get there if our bags are too big. It’s hard to say how strict they will be, it completely depends on the people and the country of the airport.

I’m also taking the DeutscheBahn from Geneva to Berlin which cost about $50. And a flight from Helsinki to Stockholm for $40 because we didn’t think we had enough time to take the cruise, but I may have to go back to Stockholm just to do that.

We are taking coach buses from Vilnius to Riga to Tallin, using LuxeExpress bus, at about $20 each, and a ferry from Tallin to Helsinki that we will figure out when we get there, but shouldn’t be more than $20. (It ended up being $70). Should have bought those tickets ahead of time.

I ended up taking the Swiss rail from outside of Zurich to Geneva, a local bus to Loex, France for a weekend, back to Geneva, and then over to the Valleys, and train tickets each way were about 30-40 euros, which wasn’t bad for a last minute purchase. Leaving Zurich, my train was late, so if you get really confused, you might be on the right track, and the train might be late. It was hard for me to find anyone to help me and I ended up having to just get on a train that I thought was going in the same direction, and told the attendant on the train, and they advised me where to go from there.

The main travel apps I use when I travel are XE for currency exchanges, WhatsApp for communicating, Couchsurfing, and GoogleTrips, which organizes all of your reservations and emails and tickets for you!

I turn my iPhone on airplane mode and look for wifi, and when I have wifi, I look at my maps so that it saves for later use. You can also use citymaps2go which has downloads of city maps, there are several apps for that. My friend had service ‘everywhere’ through T-mobile, I had service when I needed to for $10 a day through Verizon. I believe I had to use it 4 different days throughout my month, because of transit issues… gotta be prepared for those the best you can and go with the flow!

I know a lot of my friends use TripAdvisor for the most fun things to do in a place, but usually I like figuring that out for myself. I prefer just stumbling upon something, or following a recommendation from a friend.

Couchsurfing is a tricky site because it has been around for quite a while, and not everybody is very active. It is best to search by who has last logged in, so I have heard, and to contact people that way. I also like to put out that I will be in a city and then willing hosts can tell me that they are available. It is important to read all the reviews and profiles thoroughly and to trust your gut when contacting someone. I’ve had mostly great experiences Couchsurfing! and only a couple kinda weird ones.

I do love Hostelworld for booking hostels! It is also v important to read the reviews and look at the location and convenience of transit depending on how you’re arriving into town.

I have to mention the companies I taught English for. They put you up, feed you, and introduce you to travellers and locals. All you have to do is converse! I did it with Diverbo in Germany and Spain, and with Angloville in Hungary. They were all great experiences and I formed some really great friends and connections!

I was recently called a travel snob, and I’m not really sure how I feel about it. I travel because I’m curious, because no one else is going to take me there unless I take myself, and because why the fuck not? Life is short. The people that I’ve met abroad have made my life so much more wonderful than I ever imagined it could be. I love my people at home, sure, and I spend a lot of time here, with them, but I cannot express how thankful I am for the encounters and relationships I’ve developed with people around the world.

Maybe I started traveling because I wanted to see the world, but now I travel because I want to see my friends and loved ones that live far away. (I’ll get a few new countries along the way if possible :)) I want to inspire others to get out of their comfort zone and do something daring because the experiences you’ll have with the people that you meet are so great. No, they’re not like being at home, which of course are great, but travel makes you appreciate both environments all the more, new and familiar. See other people and cultures for what they truly are, rather than an image you’ve seen on your screen. See yourself for what you really are, in a completely new environment! You’ll get a whole new perspective on what you like and don’t like!

I’ve been to Berlin 4 times now, Paris twice, and more than 30 countries. I don’t have an exact recipe to follow. I followed my heart. I invested in myself and my life. I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going next, or if I’ll stay in Chicago or gtfo again. I love being a librarian for the time being, and I love being able to talk about the countries I’ve been to with the kids at school. I’d love to go back to school, especially in Berlin, but we’ll see what works out.

I do a lot of my traveling solo, because I love being in transit by myself. If I miss a connection, it’s only myself I have to deal with. I did this month last summer in Europe with my best friend/roommate and we did spend most of the time together, split up for about a week, then met back up, and for the most part it all worked out really well. I am open to having travel partners, but everyone’s paths are so different, it’s difficult to find ones that collude conveniently. Whatever gets you abroad!

Yes, I do live slightly beyond my means. Also, I work very hard to make what cashflow I do have work for what I need it to. I also use credit cards (with no international fees). I try to keep enough in my savings for emergencies and to be able to pay bills if I need to while I’m abroad. Besides that though, I plan ahead and make it as cheap as possible and still completely worthwhile!

I don’t know what will happen next, and I’m okay with that, because that’s the true lesson of traveling. I am humbling myself before the world. And if I’m a snob because I talk about where I’ve been, well, then, so be it. I’ve had too many great moments not to share them. Cheers!