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Do you ever look at somebody’s Instagram feed and wonder how they afford to travel so much?
Does she have a Sugar Daddy?
I know you wonder, because people used to ask me all the time.
“Stephanie, how can you afford to travel so much on a pharmacy technician’s salary?” [insert suspicious side-eye]
Sometimes they would phrase it a bit more tactfully, but I don’t mind talking about money. Everybody uses money, so I don’t get why it’s a big secret.
But I do understand why some people keep their budget travel tips a secret. They don’t want to give away their best information.
Lucky for you, I’m a giver. (In other words, I can’t keep a secret.) So just like somebody shared this information with me, I’m here to share it with you.
So let’s talk about how I travel on a budget.
To save money on accommodations:
House sitting is my favorite way to travel on a budget!
I house sit for people while they’re traveling in exchange for a free stay in their home. Most of the house sits I’ve done include taking care of pets, but not all of them. Sometimes house sits — usually for a couple months or longer — just require you to water the plants and make sure the house doesn’t look empty.
I’m in Mexico right now on the last month of 6 months of house sitting. That means I didn’t pay for a place to stay for my whole 6 months in Mexico (except for the week in between sits when I went to San Pancho beach.)
I’m so glad someone spilled the beans to me about house sitting. I just wish I could remember who it was.
Right now I’d consider myself a full-time house sitter. I’m booked from June 2018 through April 2019 already.
Some house sitters get paid, but I don’t get paid for the majority of my sits. All I’m in it for is the free place to stay when I travel.
Plus, it’s so nice to come home to a furry friend (or 6!) when I’m out sightseeing in a new town.
I admit, house sitting was a little tougher to break into than I thought it would be. Getting the first reference is the hardest part. (You know the classic “they won’t hire me without experience, but how do I get experience if they won’t hire me” catch 22.)
I created a masterclass for people in this exact situation so that they can get started house sitting without getting ignored and frustrated.
Click here to get your invitation to House Sitter School.
Volunteer in Exchange for Free Room And Board with WorkAway
When I have a little more free time and I’m feeling more sociable, I volunteer in exchange for free room and board through WorkAway.
WorkAway is a database for people all over the world to request volunteers to come help them. In exchange, the hosts agree to give the volunteers free room and board.
WorkAway is a fantastic alternative to those expensive volunteer organizations that charge high administrative fees. Volunteering isn’t always budget friendly.
With WorkAway, you search for people you’d like to volunteer for and contact them yourself to make arrangements. The hosts only pay for your room and board; they don’t provide airfare or pay you for your work.
Much to my mom’s shock, during my grown up gap year I volunteered as a part-time nanny in exchange for free room and board in Australia’s Gold Coast. It seemed to go against my loner sensibilities.
The family had 2 school-aged boys.I got them up and ready for school in the morning, cooked their breakfast and packed their lunches. Then I drove the carpool to school.
The family let me use their second car during the day. Then in the sfternoon, I picked the kids up from school.
In exchange, I got to stay in lovely, but expensive, Australia and enjoy the Gold Coast beaches and national parks.
Plus, I grew new family members. I left them July 2016, and we still keep in touch. All thanks to WorkAway.
I also volunteered on an organic cricket farm in Cambodia, but that wasn’t an amazing experience. Cambodia’s hot, y’all. In fact, that volunteer experience is the reason I hopped over to Australia during their cooler season to get a break.
WorkAway has all types of volunteer assignments all over the world, from nanny to farm help to yoga teacher to social media consultant.
Airbnb Affiliate Program
If you’re not up on influencer lingo, you might not know the term “affiliate partner” but you probably know what it is.
Certain businesses give people a small commission for referring new customers to them. It’s just a fancy term for “refer a friend.”
Airbnb has one of the travel industry’s most popular affiliate programs.
Have you ever stayed someplace so lovely that people asked you the name of the place, then booked a stay there themselves? Well, if you were an Airbnb affiliate partner, you’d get credit with Airbnb every time a new person signed up using your special link.
It’s easy to do.
Use my affiliate link to sign up for an Airbnb account (if you don’t already have one). Then when you book and complete your first stay, I’ll get a commission. Thanks! Plus you’ll get an Airbnb coupon for a discount on your first Airbnb stay and your first Airbnb experience.
Then you tell people about your Airbnb experience and share your link. Now YOU’LL get a commission when they sign up and complete THEIR stay.
We’re not talking huge dollars, but if you get several people to start using Airbnb, you’ll be able stay in a nice place on their dime.
For example, this gorgeous Airbnb that my mom and aunt stayed in when they visited me in Ajijic, Mexico costs only $60/night!
To save money on air travel:
Shop Fare Sales
If you can be flexible, book according to airline fare sales and error fares.
I check theflightdeal.com and secretflying.com regularly to see what flights are cheapest, then book and plan my trip around that destination.
Fly To/From Alternate Airports
Flying into and out of an alternate airport can save you a lot of money also.
A flight from Philadelphia to Budapest was going to cost me approximately $600, so I flew from NYC to Belgrade, Serbia for $285 round trip instead. Then I took a bus into Budapest.
Always check airports a reasonable distance from your starting point and destination.
One of the best parts of being a Delawarean (besides Wawa on every corner) is that we have 6 airports within a 2.5 hour radius. And that keeps the flight prices reasonable. Hooray for competition!
Don’t Pay Baggage Fees
Small savings add up. Especially when you’re flying several times during one trip, like I did on my grown up gap year.
I save on baggage fees by traveling with carry-on luggage only. I traveled Europe, Asia and Australia for 1 year with only carry-on luggage (hand luggage) by using packing cubes.
They compress your clothes so that you can pack in a smaller bag.
My secret for packing light on long trips is just to pack for 5 or 6 days; don’t take your entire closet. You’ll be able to have your laundry done, and you’ll probably wear just the same couple of outfits over and over anyway.
Summary of Best Kept Secrets of Budget Travelers:
- Get free accommodation when you travel by house sitting. Click here for my video on how to get started as a house sitter.
- Volunteer in exchange for free room and board. I recommend WorkAway.info.
- Get a commission from Airbnb by becoming an affiliate. Join Airbnb with my affiliate link here.
- Follow theflightdeal.com and secretflying.com to get notified of airfare sales.
- Fly into and out of less expensive airports.
- Use packing cubes to pack carry-on luggage only. I use these.
So these are my not-so-secret ways I travel on a budget.
Hit me up in the comments. Let me know what I missed.