I’ve learned a lot about travel over the last year. I have learned where to find the best travel resources, developed my own list of top travel apps, earned free flights using travel reward credit cards (thank you, Southwest!), and experienced the post-travel blues.
After I returned from Italy, I found myself constantly thinking about where I would go next. I purchased Lonely Planet guidebooks, scoured the blogosphere for ideas, entered every travel contest I could find, and even sent emails filled with potential travel dates and desired locations to friends (Iceland, anyone?). Through all of this research I believe the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that while travel can easily become quite the expense, there are many ways to make it more affordable.
1. Get a Job!
The visa I am applying for allows me the opportunity to gain employment while traveling. This is my first step in making my career break affordable. I plan to have a few jobs over the course of my year that will allow me to make money along the way. While I value travel, I do not want my experiences to leave me broke.
There are tons of other ways to make money while traveling such as Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), becoming a flight attendant or dive instructor, joining a yacht crew or cruise staff, working as a summer camp counselor or Au Pair, and even becoming a tour guide. Here are two blogs with info about each of these options and more, should you be interested.
The Abroad Guide: “Ten Jobs That Pay You to Travel”
The Blonde Abroad: “Ten Ways to Travel the World and Get Paid”
2. Book Cheap or Free Flights!
As I mentioned above, I have earned free flights using my Southwest Credit Card, FOUR FREE FLIGHTS to be exact. Now, each of these were domestic, round-trip flights, but they were exactly what I wanted for this year. How did I manage this? I made sure to earn the initial bonus reward of 50,000 points for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months and then charged everything to my card. Although this card carries an annual fee, it was waived the first year and has been more than paid for with my free flights.
I recently started looking into new credit card options with bigger and better rewards to put toward my upcoming international travel needs. There is an overwhelming amount of information available online about travel hacking and how to make rewards points and airline miles work for you — I’m not even sure I totally understand it all yet. My favorite site is called The Points Guy because he breaks down the many details in ways that are (mostly) easier to comprehend. Check out his post on the benefits every airline credit card should have here.
3. Find a Free Place to Stay!
I can’t promise that I will take advantage of all of these options, but I would still like to share them with you here. I have read many positive things about each, although some of them sound especially terrifying.
Couch Surfing – A network of like-minded people who are willing to provide a free couch or even bed with a fellow traveler. The only exchange is that you extend the same courtesy (when you have a place to share).
House-Sitting – Homeowners post ads to find someone to house-sit while they are away. The only cost here is that, as a house-sitter, you are likely responsible for taking care of the family pet. Lonely Planet has an excellent article about How to House-Sit Around the World.
Work Away – Find temporary work that offers a free place to stay (and often meals) in exchange for help around the house or family farm.
4. Find Cheap Transportation!
There aren’t a ton of ideas around this topic but I will say that I recently stumbled upon the business of car relocating and was intrigued. The basic idea here is a car rental agency needs to relocate one of their cars from City A to City B and will “hire” someone to do it for them. While the agency won’t pay you to do this, they will make the rental fee super cheap, maybe $10 a day, so long as you get the car back to them in the reasonably allotted time. Some agencies will even provide gas stipends! I have more to learn here but it could be an excellent option for traveling the great country of Australia!
I feel good about many of these options and expect that I will make many amends to them as well. Have you tried any of these options? Would love any tips or suggestions you can share!