One question I always get when I tell people of the places I have been is “how on earth did you afford that?” which is a pretty fair question. At almost 23 years old I have visited a total of 13 countries(some multiple times) and I am currently living abroad in the United Kingdom while completing my master’s degree. Now, I am not without debt from school and I have not always made the best decisions financially, but I have never regretted money spent on travel.
My biggest piece of advice to anyone that wants to travel, whether it be 2 or 22 hours away, is to make it a priority. If you always put your plans on hold, then you are never going to take that big trip. You have to take the plunge and put travel at the top of your to do list. Whatever your greatest obstacle is, find a way around it, whether that means picking up an extra shift at work or taking online surveys to make the extra money, it will be worth it when you take that trip.Once you make it your first priority, here’s my thoughts on how to pay for it:
Travel Rewards Programs
One of the best ways to help make travel affordable is travel rewards programs through a credit card. Now, I have two airline rewards cards and I use the rewards in different ways. I have the Delta Skymiles Card from American Express, which I use primarily for my international travel as Delta’s partnerships make it easy to travel all over the place. My second card is the JetBlue card, also from American Express, which I use for domestic travel especially since JetBlue has a great flight network up and down the east coast where I live. The key to having a credit card like this is to only use it for expenses you would have anyway and to pay it off regularly, and by doing that you can earn plenty of miles towards flights without getting into trouble with a lot of debt. The best part is that both cards give you a bonus just for signing up and that bonus is usually equivalent to enough miles for a round-trip domestic flight. I most recently redeemed my Delta skymiles to cover my one-way flight from Florida back to the UK for school and those were all miles I earned from both spending on my card and consistently flying with Delta.
Make Travel your Job
There are many ways you can make travelling into a career and if you aren’t big on the idea of a 9-5 job and you want to travel long-term, then this is the best approach. Many people find creative ways to work while travelling as yoga instructors and SCUBA Diving teachers, but keep in mind that those require the upfront investment in certification. Another popular way to make travel your job is through Teaching English Abroad. I have friends currently teaching English in Japan and South Korea, and I am currently in the process of applying to teach in Spain next year, so you have plenty of options of places to go. Most jobs pay between $800-$1500 a month but depending on the country it may be more. Teaching abroad can be done through organized programs like the JET program in Japan or the Auxiliares program in Spain, or you can obtain a TESL(teaching English as a Second Language) certification either through an online or in-person class and you can work as a freelancer. You aren’t likely to get rich teaching abroad, but you will make enough to live comfortably and travel some in your spare time, plus you will be paid to live in a beautiful foreign country while working decent hours.
Study in a Foreign Country
While in undergrad, I studied abroad on 3 different programs and all of them were less expensive than it would have been for me to travel to those countries for that amount of time and the best part was: I could use the financial aid I received from school. In addition, there are a ton of scholarships out there for students that want study abroad, especially students from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds. An alternative to studying abroad is to attend school full time in a foreign country. By moving to the UK for my Master’s degree, I am actually saving money because I will get my degree in one year instead of 2 and tuition is about the same cost per year as in the states meaning I am effectively paying half price for my degree AND I can still take advantage of the US Federal loan program to help finance my education. On top of that, there are several countries in Europe where it is even less expensive to study in, particularly Germany. By going university abroad you get to live abroad while saving money. Its a win-win situation!
Make Extra Money whenever you can
Even in school, I was always working a part-time job and tutoring on the side through Wyzant plus I made sure I worked nearly full-time during the summers as a camp counselor for the Duke TIP Summer Studies program. All of these jobs meant that I had extra money to play with and I often chose travel over saving it, but I would rather keep my memories of visiting a friend in Spain over thanksgiving in exchange for a lower bank balance. In my post, Great Ways to Earn Money from Anywhere, I also detail some of the various ways I make additional money online each month, but my favorite method is through Swagbucks which is a site that you earn points redeemable for gift cards or cash through PayPal. You can earn points for taking surveys, searching the internet, watching videos and shopping online so its great because sometimes you earn points without having to think about it. I usually earn between $25-$50 a month through Swagbucks, which adds up faster than you think to help pay for weekend trips and even longer trips.
Obviously these are only a few ways that you can make money to travel far and wide and there are plenty of other tips that can help, from stalking airfare prices to buying cruises on sale. Essentially, if you want to travel badly enough you will find a way to afford it!
From one misguided millennial to the world, these are my thoughts of the day!