When I announced that I’d be leaving my job to travel full-time the responses were mixed and varied ranging from the high five to the wistful I wish I could, to disbelief (How will you afford it?), to downright fear and trepidation for my safety.
Travel Can Be Affordable
No, I do not have a wealthy sugar daddy nor did I come into some money with the death of a relative (my family is as average as they come – nothing to find in wills here).
Which leads me to my main point – that travel is not as expensive as most people think. Or more accurately, traveling is within the reach of most, just with the right sacrifices and perhaps a modified perspective.
At the end of the day, the main goal of travel (at least for most) is the experience. So staying in a five-star all-inclusive resort and hitting every club on Conde Nast‘s list of must-visit-night-clubs for whatever city you’re in aren’t necessarily measures of a trip well spent. If it is for you, no judgment. You do you. But for the majority of us, we want travel to be more, and the good news is that it absolutely can be!
Travel is Accessible
There’s a whole world outside of North America and Western Europe (no, I’m not throwing shade; simply stating the obvious). And many of these countries are not only affordable, but also have immigration laws that make visa access relatively easy, or simply a non-issue.
Furthermore, if you have a US visa that opens up a world of possibilities for travel, even outside/beyond the US. Having a US visa (or passport) makes most of the world accessible and takes some of the headache out of traveling. There are countries (like the UAE) that are more likely to grant you their visa if you are a US visa holder (it’s listed under the conditions along with income/proof of funds and employment). Australia asks for evidence of visas for other countries as well when making their decision whether or not to grant a visitor’s visa.
Visa Applications are not as daunting as you think (exclude the US here)
While I’m on this topic I do want to point out that getting visas for many countries is not a daunting process. For most Jamaicans, we hear visa and immediately the word conjures up images of standing in long lines waiting to hear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from an employee at the US embassy. The Japanese and Thai consulates don’t generally have lines (or exorbitant fees for that matter). My single entry Thai visa was US$40, processed in 2 days. I can’t remember the exact amount my Japanese visa cost but it was less than JM$5,000 and was ready the following day (they generally issue on a Friday and my appointment was Thursday). And you will find this to be the case with many other countries. In fact, several countries (like Australia and UAE) handle their entire process online. That’s right. No pesky appointments!
I hear your rebuttal – But what about the airfare? Most of these places are far! These are fair concerns, but I assure you, it’s not always as pricey as you think.
Travel-Hacking Websites (and applications) Can Be Useful
Skyscanner and Momondo have become two of my favorite travel apps/websites. I often use them to search for travel deals and figure out what destination to go to next based on the cheapest fares (that and visa-free or visa on arrival access).
CheapOair and Hopper are two other alternatives that I’ve used in the past but I keep reverting to Skyscanner and Momondo.
If you’re planning a vacation trip you will quite likely have the benefit of time. This can work in your favour when looking at ticket options. Do a bit of research to confirm when is low season for the destination you have in mind and look into possible routes. Airlines from time to time have deals on fares with short notice. Just remember that most if not all these fares will quite likely originate in the US from major cities like Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK), or Miami (MIA).
Accommodation is generally right up there with airfare in terms of expenses that will kill your budget. However, If you can give up the need for a luxury vacation, Airbnb is a great option for accommodation. I have booked apartments on Airbnb for less than $50 per night and have found really nice hotels in South East Asia for $20 per night using booking.com. Not hostels. Actual hotels, and in some instances apartments.
Though, to be honest, hostels aren’t all that bad. I had my very first taste of a hostel in 2015 in Chicago and it was a rather nice one – the Chicago Getaway Hostel. Just keep your options open.
Food is a sneaky not-so-little expense that functions much like creeper alcohol. One minute you have it under control and the next you’re downing expensive cocktails in some bar with strangers you met who simply insist, just a few more rounds. Of course, how much food costs will depend on where you choose to visit. But, generally speaking, watch out for alcohol intake as that tends to be expensive and blows money quickly.
Parting Gift: Extra Tips
If you’re booking a hotel on a budget, book hotels with breakfast included. Dine out for lunch at nicer restaurants as lunch menus tend to be cheaper than dinner.
Booking an apartment gives you the freedom to cook and save a bit on food (but only if you enjoy cooking and won’t feel burdened by it).
What’s your idea of an ideal vacation? What would it take for you to seriously consider making it happen? Let’s discuss it in the comments section.
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