Traveling was never really a tangible idea for me. However, in my sophomore year of college that all changed when I was awarded the opportunity to study abroad in Europe for a semester. Coming from a low-income family, I was extremely hesitant at first. I heard that Europe was not cheap and I wouldn't be able to make money the same way I did in New York. The thought of being unemployed while in school built up a pool of anxiety in the pit of my stomach. Despite the drawbacks, I felt that I would regret it if I passed up an opportunity of this magnitude. So I took a leap of faith...packed my bags and made my way to Prague with the modest savings I had left in my bank account.
I had a whirlwind of amazing experiences in Prague. I knew that it would not be the last stop on my journey of exploring new countries. Sooner or later, I learned that with the right budgeting, my meager savings ($3,000 for 4 months!!) was actually allowing me to live a comfortable life, full of constant traveling. To my surprise, I was able to eat out about three times a week, and travel almost every weekend. The accessibility and affordability of transportation in Europe make it quite easy to venture off to a new country every few days. I managed to travel to places I never imagined seeing like Vienna, Hungary, Slovakia, Paris, Holland, Italy, Spain, Poland, and Germany. Throughout this time, I discovered that traveling was not as taboo as I once thought and could actually be quite cheap if I planned strategically.
My amazing experience in Prague lead me to make traveling my number one priority. When I returned to the U.S, I began brainstorming all the places I wanted to visit but never thought in a million years that I would have the chance to. I realized that if I made traveling happen while unemployed on a small savings, I could definitely make it happen even more so now that I have a part-time job. Because the cost of living was much more expensive in NYC than Prague, my dream of continuously traveling did not come without a few sacrifices. Instead of buying food everyday, I started meal prepping which saved me hundreds of dollars. Rather than galavanting my way to the clubs and bars with expensive liquor and $20 cover charges over the weekends, I opted for working weekends and/or netflix and chilling in my bed instead (free99). Also, I cut out any type of new luxury purchases. Meaning..no new clothes, shoes, accessories, and basically anything that I didn’t really need! It sounds ridiculous but sometimes you have to be happy with less in order to achieve more.
Since my study abroad days, I´ve managed to travel during every school break. I am now 22 years old and I´ve been to 30 countries and 6
8 cities. Because of the constant inquiry regarding how I am able to travel so often, I decided to create “TravelWithKaira”. It is a social media platform that showcases my travels around the world. Additionally, on my site I provide a service in which I help people plan the most affordable trip. I want to share with the world and especially younger people of color with lower incomes that traveling is possible!
Below are also some tips I can suggest for those who would also like to know how to travel on a budget!
10 tips for traveling on a budget:
1. Start by defining your travel priorities. Understand that if you're looking for a 5 star experience, you will probably need to do some saving up before you splurge. However, if your main priorities are to experience a different culture, learn more about history, or even just take a few days to relax, you can likely accomplish such goals on a cheap budget. Once you define exactly what you want out of your travels, you can focus on how to best achieve it.
2. Book with budget friendly airlines. Surely they are less comfortable and will have you wishing you bought the entire row for yourself for the duration of your flight. However, low cost airlines like Norwegian Airlines, Ryanair, Easyjet etc. will save you hundreds of dollars and in some cases, are even cheaper than rail and bus passes, especially if you're traveling throughout Europe.
3. Stay far away from touristy restaurants! If you really want to eat out, go down a few blocks and eat where the locals do. The food is always cheaper and usually much more authentic as well.
4. Go to a country where the dollar is strong. You’ll be able to get a bigger bang for your buck and be a bit more free with your spending.
5. Stick to B&Bs, hostels, low cost airbnbs or if you're super adventurous -- couch surfing! While they're not as luxurious as hotels, these accommodations are WAY cheaper (and free for couch surfing) than hotels and the atmosphere is much more relaxed and open minded. Also, besides getting good advice on certain locations to visit by the staff, you can sometimes even book tours and activities at hostels or B&Bs so you'll also save time in planning your trip!
6. Walk everywhere! Make sure to pack them Nikes because walking is the best way to save some money and take in a new destination. Learning and using your destination's public transit system is also another budget game-changer. But the point is: don't overpay someone to chauffeur you around when the cheaper options will actually enrich both your experience and budget.
7. PACK EVERYTHING INTO A CARRY ON BAG! I know some of you may not like that idea but the truth is you'll save so much money by skipping checked-bag fees. If you can't fit everything you need on a carry on bag, you need to reevaluate what you think you need for your trip. Most accommodations have washing & drying machines so definitely make sure to not overpack more clothes than you need. I know you want to make sure you're bringing everything you need but it's best to be as minimalist as possible when traveling.
8. Fly on a weekday! It's cheaper to fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday than it is to fly any other day of the week.
9. Choose packing a lunch/snacking as opposed to dining out every single time you feel hungry. Meals add up quickly so save the dining out to once a day and stick to packing your own meals and snacks.
BTW: Try to go for your "nice" meal at lunch instead of dinner. Many restaurants will offer similar dishes for a cheaper price around lunch hours.
10. Travel during off season! You'll find that most related expenses will be cheaper—including large purchases like plane tickets or activity packages.
You can check out Kaira on her expeditions and keep up to date with more traveling tips by following her IG ~ TravelwithKaira