People always ask me, ‘how do you afford to travel all the time? Are you a drug dealer? Are you a trust fund baby?’
Much the same as diet is just as important as exercise in losing weight (and let’s not forget the role genetics have to play), so too is saving smart AND travelling smart. A lot of people are good at saving before their trip, but tend to spend more than they had planned to while they’re on their trip.
I have been living in Austin for the past three or so months, working my butt off during SXSW and really pushing my Australian accent to get some good tips, and now I’m off on my three-month CaliEuroSummer Adventure to Dallas, Southern California and Europe. Here is my itinerary and some tips for how you can make your travel dollar go further.
- Dallas: two days. The reason I’m going to Dallas first is because I paid $100 flying from Dallas (a big airport hub) to San Diego instead of $250 from Austin (a smaller airport). Plus, my bus ticket for the four-hour Megabus journey from Austin to Dallas only cost me $10…AND I get to see a new city! It’ll be Memorial Day weekend when I’m in Dallas, so I’m sure there’ll be some cool things going on.
Look at the alternatives. If you’re in LA, look at flying out of Long Beach or Orange County instead of LAX. If you’re going from Munich to Venice, why not take the overnight train instead of flying? That’s what I did in 2013. And you save on a night’s accommodation!
- Southern California: one week. I’ve heard only great things about San Diego and it was one of three places I was choosing from to live for this year (the others being Austin and San Francisco). I’ll be spending three days in an Airbnb there with my best friend from Austin, Jarrod, then heading up to the Redlands/Palm Springs/Joshua Tree area for a long weekend with two wonderful customers I had at my restaurant in April, Kristin and Claire, who invited me to come and stay with them. Then I will have a sunset picnic with some friends in LA on my last night before flying out to Europe.
Although Airbnb has cannibalised and commercialised the more community-minded Couchsurfing project to a degree, when I’m travelling with a good friend, I prefer to share costs and stay in a ‘home’ rather than in an eight-bed dorm room at a hostel. It means you have more privacy and safety, and more quality time with your friend. Just watch out for those sneaky cleaning and service fees.
- Stockholm: one week. My brother and sister-in-law, Ben and Ash, have been living in Stockholm since September 2013 and just had their first child, Will, in February, so a visit to see them was at the top of my list for the European leg of my trip. I was in Stockholm the exact same week a year ago and we saw the royal family in the Sveriges nationaldag (National Day of Sweden) Parade on June 6. Stockholm is a beautiful city with lots of green spaces and waterways. It’s a great first stop in Europe as it’s calm, allowing you to rest and get over any jetlag (minus the fact that the sun is up from 6am until 3am every day in June!).
Travel to see places, but travel to see people too. It’s the experiences that count, not the photos or #hashtags. Staying with family and friends reduces your accommodation costs and allows for more at-home meals and indoor entertainment.
- Geneva: two days. I’ve never been to Switzerland before but I’m always up for a free stopover! That’s how I’ve gotten to spend time in Beijing, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur on my journeys between Australia and Europe. It would’ve cost me the same to fly direct from Stockholm to Madrid on Norwegian as to break it up into two flights on SWISS from Stockholm to Geneva, then Geneva to Madrid. Plus, I have Star Alliance Gold status, so I get lounge access, priority boarding and an extra piece of luggage for free on all Star Alliance flights. More on frequent flyer programs in a later post.
One of my favourite flight search engines is Google Flights because you can enter up to five destinations in the search box. For example, if you wanted to find the cheapest destination out of Jakarta, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Manila, you could put in all five and choose the one with the lowest price. That’s what I did for Geneva, Berlin, Barcelona, London and Paris on my way from Stockholm to Madrid.
- Madrid: eight weeks. Madrid is my second home and this will be my sixth summer there. Every year, I work five weeks in a summer camp, earning euros and giving some structure to my stay. My camp this year is in the centre of Madrid, and I will be working Monday to Friday 9am to 2pm. That means there will be a lot of opportunities for siestas, afternoons at the pool and party time. I love summers in Madrid where it averages 32°C/90°F in the summer with two rainy days each in July and August.
Work whilst you travel. To supplement my travels last year, I worked reception for two months at the top-rated hostel in San Francisco in return for free accommodation in the most expensive city in the US for housing. Searching the top-rated hostels on TripAdvisor and yelp and contacting them directly is a great way to get started. Non-hostelling opportunities can be found at workaway.info and WWOOF.
- Palma de Mallorca: four days. I try to explore a new destination in Spain every time I go back, and this year’s post-camp relax will be in Mallorca. From the photos my friends have taken, it looks amazing and in August Mallorca will be popping!
For this four-day trip, I know I’ll only need hand luggage, which is included in my 10kg Ryanair allowance. Make sure to purchase any checked baggage not included in your fare at the time of booking (or at least before you get to the airport). My parents got a nasty €100 surprise on a Ryanair flight from Rome to Málaga in 2010 and have sworn ‘never again’! Save those pennies for other travel experiences.
I’m not quite sure what’s happening after Spain. I have a few weeks to get back to the US, so I’m playing around on Google Flights to see where I can go on my way home. Could be Morocco. Could be Norway. Could be Iceland. Who knows? That’ll be revealed in another post.
In the meantime, save those pennies, whether you’re on the road, or planning to get on the road again soon…
7 thoughts on “HOW I SAVED $6,000 WORKING FOR THREE MONTHS TO TRAVEL FOR THREE MONTHS”
love the prose and your passion for travel! i will be staying tuned. ~josh
Thanks for the nice words Josh! Many more posts to come 🙂
I love all of the great tips in here, dude! Every single one of them is so key to saving travel money. I’d like to hear more specifics on how you save for travel in everyday life – ie. any special budgeting tips you have. That’s always the hardest part for me.
Thanks Emily! I will have a blog post coming up on how to save for travel in everyday life. Look out for it in the next couple of months. Two of my favorites are being a vegetarian (eating meat costs more) and buying the majority of my clothes from thrift stores instead of new. More to come…
Matty I love your blog, and your outlook on travel. So many people seem to think of reasons why they can’t make travel work for them, and you go out and make it happen with zero excuses.
Wish I could be spending my summer in Madrid with you. Those were the days!
Thanks Linsday! I wish you were coming back to Madrid too! I think what people need is a ‘travel coach’, someone to teach them how to do it. Keep posted…