I can’t explain the adrenaline rush I experienced while airborne, 15 minutes away from landing in Tokyo. It was the first time I had been outside of the US by myself and the first time in my life that I would be away from home for more than a few months.That was five and a half years ago. Since then I’ve lived in four countries and learned two languages. I’m addicted to travel, and for good reason. We hear about it all the time: travel opens your mind, how experiences make you happier than materialistic possessions do, etc. But many people think it’s expensive to travel. They think that travel involves high airfare costs, overpriced hotels and lots of taxis. It doesn’t have to be like that.
Did you know that it’s actually cheaper to travel the world than to live in the US or Europe? Here are some practical ways you can afford to travel right now:
1. Use Matrix Flight Search
Matrix by ITA Software is probably the best website to find cheap airline tickets. You can play around with dates, one way tickets, multi-city tickets, etc to see the cheapest options.
2. Have good credit? Get a miles card
There are plenty of awesome cards that can help you rack up miles. Right now, I recommend the British Airways Visa Signature card. You’ll get 50,000 Avios miles as a sign-up bonus after spending $2,000 over 3 months. You can use these miles on British Airways or OneWorld partner flights (American Airlines is a partner).
What does 50,000 points get you? Well, for example, New York to Miami costs 7500 points. Just for signing up for this card you can get 6 free flights to Miami.
The travel “hacking” community is big on utilizing rewards programs for free flights, hotels or experiences.
3. Stay at hostels
Hostels are amazing places where travelers from around the world can stay for cheap. Most hostels have lots of inexpensive (or free) tours, meetups, barbecues and so much more. I always have a fantastic time at hostels.
The best all-around experience I had at a hostel was at Oasis Backpackers Palace in Seville, Spain. Not only was everything clean, beds were comfortable and lockers were big, but there was a small swimming pool and bar on the roof, lots of free tours and various activities everyday. The price? About 20 euros per night.
The most comfortable and relaxing hostel I ever stayed at was Freehand Miami. Although it didn’t really have a backpackers vibe because it was a hotel and hostel, the luxury of this place surprised me. The beds were huge, there was a large swimming pool and bar outside, an attached restaurant, free continental breakfast and great overall attention to detail. The price? $30 per night on weekdays.
Hostels are safe and provide lockers for your valuables.
4. If you love meeting people and interesting experiences, stay for free using CouchSurfing
CouchSurfing is a community where hosts offer rooms, beds or their couches to travelers for free. In exchange, all you have to do is share your culture and be a nice guest.
Hosts are usually very welcoming and are more than happy to show you around their city and take you to events. its a wonderful social network that facilitates intercultural interaction and is a great place to make friends.
CouchSurfing is safe — just make sure to check reviews.
5. Get a place through AirBnb
AirBnb is a good way to rent a room, apartment or even a house for your trip.
6. Try Uber, Lyft or SideCar
These taxi services usually provide your first ride for free. It’s easy to find a code for it.
7. Use public transportation
Second to walking, public transportation is an excellent way to experience the local culture and get around cheaply.