The Frugal Funemployed’s Guide to Cheap Travel
Not-so-secret fact about me: I LOVE to travel. I live to travel. Any opportunity I get to hop in a car or on a plane, I’m taking it and high-tailing it out of town. (Though I will say, it’s a bit harder now that I have my sweet little Chewie waiting at home.)
The most common misconception people make when it comes to my travels is that my trips are a byproduct of the lavish life I live with the over abundance of money I make. My little brother has nicknamed me “Kardashian,” and people constantly slide in my DMs saying they wish they could afford to live this life.
Can I tell you a secret? My pockets aren’t that deep. I actually don’t consider them deep at all. I’m not exempt from the financial struggles that come with being self-employed; most of the money I make goes to paying my team, business insurance, health insurance, taxes (*wall slide*), and investing in my actual business development. I look forward to the days where I’m living in a complete surplus, so I’d never dare lie to you and make you believe that you’re somehow doing something wrong along your Funemployed journey because you can’t jet set early on.
So I’m popping in here to share a few of the frugal travel tips that make traveling a fulfilling journey that’s also pretty gentle on my pockets.
1. Long layovers are your friend. As much as I love a good direct flight, I’ve learned to appreciate the opportunities long layovers provide. I mean, you basically get two (or three) cities for the price of one!
When I traveled to St. Lucia for a friend’s wedding, I noticed that both the departing and returning flights required layovers in Miami and Toronto. No matter how short, there was no way around the layovers. So, I figured I’d maximize my time and stretch my dollar. We were scheduled to arrive in St. Lucia on Wednesday, so I booked my flight to Miami for Tuesday and selected the overnight layover. I coordinated with a friend who lived in the city, and we went to dinner, explored downtown, and even went dancing. The next morning, I went to the airport and met the rest of the wedding group in time for our connecting flight to St. Lucia.
For the flight back, my best friend and I selected the overnight layover in Toronto. We got beds in a hostel for $45, went to dinner, and explored the city before our 7:30am flight. See? 3 cities for the price of one.
When booking flights, scroll down the results page and see which long layover options they have. Chances are, those flights will also be the cheapest, since very few people are LOOKING to spend money on long layovers.
2. Hotel alternatives. As great as hotels are, they can get pricey, and I can think of a million things I’d rather spend my vacay dollars on than a $150+ a night a hotel room. Hostels and AirBnBs are your friends. A good hostel—like this one we stayed at in Toronto— has locations around the world and offer activities for visitors like open mic nights, game nights, tours, and member benefits. And for around $45 a night, who can beat it? If you’re not into sharing rooms with strangers, they offer private rooms for you or your group. AirBnB is my next favorite option; you get that home away from home feel, and oftentimes for a fraction of the cost of a hotel room. If you're feeling REALLY adventurous, Couchsurfing is the next best option, which is the most rewarding, in my opinion. Your host actually spends time with you, shows you around their city, and in our case, during our backpacking trip, they even cooked meals for us. Oh, did I mention it's free?
3. Utilize your loose connections. The best part of having friends and family scattered throughout the country is that more often than not, you have a guaranteed host while traveling. This means you can save on lodging while also having a built-in a tour guide to explore the city with you. When my best friend and I did a 14-stop cross-country tour back in 2014, we reached out to all the friends and family we could think of. We shared what we were doing, and asked who would be available and willing to host us. As a result, we spent $0 on lodging...hotel, hostel, Airbnb or otherwise. 100% of our lodging was covered.
Unless you’re the type of person who only reaches out when you need something (but of course you aren’t), most people would be delighted to have you, show you a great time, and be a major part of your travel journey. Plus, you get the awesome opportunity to nurture a relationship with someone who’s long distance. Win-win.
4. Never stop making money. The one thing that keeps me going is that I can work from anywhere. As long as I have my computer, I’m all set to respond to emails, do client work, and correspond with my team. But even if you have a service based business, such as photography (my favorite example), you can still hustle and earn while you travel.
This past weekend, my friends and I went to Summit21 conference in Atlanta. We had an amazing time connecting, networking, and getting inspired. My friend Tiffany, in the midst of her getting tips on how to expand her business, was also focused on seizing the opportunity to earn money while away from home. Because she used to live in Atlanta, she had a network of friends and former clients, whom she reached out to. She said she’d be in Atlanta for x amount of days, and was accepting photo shoot appointments. As a result, she was able to book some work and make money even while on a trip. See? There are always opportunities to earn some money back while traveling.
Truly believing that there IS a way to live the life you want is pretty radical. We’re taught that certain things are simply forever out of reach, no matter how bad we want it. I don’t buy it. I traveled when I had a 9-5, and I’m traveling even more without it. Its all about learning HOW to make it possible. But it IS possible.
It’s your life; live it how you want.