Before Your Trip
- Set aside a certain percentage of each paycheck you receive and use this as your travel fund. If you are finding that this isn’t enough, reduce the amount of times you go out for coffee, lunch, dinner or drinks. You would be surprised at how much that daily Starbucks coffee adds up. Personally, when I was saving for my round the world trip, I took it to the extreme and didn’t go out for two and a half years. I’m not saying you have to do that, but it helped me save a lot!! The key is to make travel your priority.
- If you have a low budget and want to travel for awhile, travel to Asia! Asia is the cheapest continent and it’s very easy to travel for an extended period of time there. South America and Eastern Europe are also quite cheap. Australia, New Zealand and Western Europe are the most expensive places to travel, but that reason alone shouldn’t keep you from traveling to these places.
- Make a few copies of your passport and keep one with you, give one to your parents (or someone at home) and email a copy to yourself. This is very important if you are ever in the unfortunate situation of losing your passport.
- Find a piece of luggage that suits your needs. If you will be traveling in Asia or South America or off the beaten path in general, it is probably not the best idea to bring a wheeled suitcase. You will often be walking on dirt roads, etc. and a backpack would be a much better option for you. With a backpack, you’ll never have to worry about a wheel breaking (this has happened to me many times)! I can personally highly recommend the Tortuga Backpack – it is carry-on sized but fits a lot, so you’ll never have to pay baggage fees. Do your research before you choose the best backpack or suitcase for you, each one has something different to offer and you want to be as comfortable and organized as possible when traveling.
- Apply for a credit card with no foreign transaction fees and preferably one that also offers you great travel rewards, like the Barclaycard Arrival & Capital One Venture. If you are interested in learning more about the benefits and features of the Barclaycard, Credit Card Insider has an extensive review here. I was able to get over $1,000 in free flights just for redeeming points on these credit cards! Side note: I pay the balance off every month to avoid paying any interest.
- Apply for a debit card that won’t charge you ATM fees like the Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account. These fees really add up, especially if you don’t like carrying much cash around at one time (which you never should). You can use any ATM in the world and they will refund you all ATM fees.
- Make sure you contact your bank and your credit card companies before you travel to let them know what countries you will be traveling to. This is important so fraud isn’t suspected. If it is, your card will be blocked and you won’t be able to use it until you contact them.
During Your Trip
- Spend money on what matters to you. Personally, I try not to spend much money on alcohol when I am traveling because A) it is expensive and B) I don’t travel to drink, I travel to actually do and see things and meet new people. I don’t want to be out late and then hungover the next morning… I like to get up fairly early when I travel and enjoy what the day has to offer. I’d much rather spend my money on a good, local meal or an activity.
- Couchsurf if it fits your personality. Couchsurfing isn’t for everyone, but it can be an amazing, unique way to travel. If you have common sense, have a bit of time to do research before your trip and like spending time with locals while you are traveling, you really should consider couchsurfing. It’s free, but don’t look at it as free accommodation. If you are the type of traveler who likes to stay out and stay busy all day (which I sometimes am!), you should stick with hostels. In exchange for offering their free couch, hosts on couchsurfing expect you to spend some time with them during your stay. I have had many couchsurfing hosts and have done a range of activities with them from having a lovely dinner with their group of friends, going out dancing, sightseeing together (I got to see Rome on the back of a scooter!), to cooking together. It’s a great way to see a city or town from a local’s perspective and also a great way to meet new people.
- If couchsurfing is not for you, stay in hostels. If you’ve never stayed in a hostel before, don’t be afraid. I’ve had great experiences in hostels and have even extended my stay in many of them! Do your research and reads lots of reviews on websites like Hostelworld or booking.com. If you aren’t sure about a place you can always book for one night, see how it goes and (if it’s not high season) book additional nights if you are happy there. Definitely know what you are looking for: do you want a party hostel or a quiet hostel? If you decide to stay at a party hostel, you may not get to sleep until much later than you would in a quieter hostel.
- Pace yourself. If you’re on an extended trip, you need down time just like you do when you are home working full-time. If you are traveling too fast or cramming in too many activities, you will get run down and you may feel ready to go home. Make sure you take time out of most of your days to relax and just simply enjoy your surroundings, whether that means sitting on a beach somewhere, sleeping in every once in awhile, meeting a friend for a coffee or reading in a park.
Some do’s and don’ts:
- DO travel alone… if you want to travel and can’t find a travel partner, even if you are apprehensive! I promise solo travel is extremely rewarding and I truly prefer to travel alone. It is not scary and you can do what you want, when you want and you never have to compromise.
- DON’T only hang out with your travel partner… if you are traveling with a friend or friends! Traveling is great for so many reasons but my favorite thing about traveling is it is so easy to meet people. If you glued to your travel partner’s side at all times, you may miss the opportunity to meet your new best friend!
- DO some research before you travel but DON’T plan every little detail! Leave some room to be spontaneous. Personally, I am a “planner” in my every day life but usually don’t plan my travels ahead of time. Before I leave, I have a general idea of where I want to go, what I want to see and what I want to do and I always research proper etiquette and a few basic words of the native language, but I never plan details. Go with the flow when you are traveling whenever possible, it is usually very rewarding!
- DON’T be too shy to say hello to a fellow traveler! For example, if you are traveling alone and staying in a hostel, remember that everyone is in the same boat as you!
- DO take photos while traveling but DON’T take photos of every little thing – live in the moment! And DON’T become social media obsessed, otherwise you’ll find you spent too much time documenting your travels when you should have been enjoying your travels while you were there.
- DON’T bring 8 pairs of shoes with you! You honestly won’t wear those stilettos more than once while traveling (if at all). When I travel I only bring: a pair of hiking shoes OR sneakers (not both), a pair of sandals (in my case, usually hiking sandals), a pair of black flats for nights out and a pair of Flipsters folding flip-flops to act as shower shoes in hostels.
- DO remember that you can do laundry while you are on the road. There is no need to bring your entire wardrobe.
- DO purchase travel insurance. This is very important because you never know when an emergency could arise. I can personally recommend World Nomads.
- DO eat at crowded places when traveling in places in Asia or South America. Locals don’t want to eat food that will make them sick just as much as you don’t want to, so this is a good way of judging where is safe to eat.
Lastly, check out Credit Card Insider – this is a great resource to learn about using credit cards abroad and finding a card with no foreign transaction fees, chip technology, travel points, etc. All of this info can be found on their extensive travel section.