Travel Over Vacation

The month of February has been nothing but good to me. It seems that every weekend has been spent in a new city, with new people, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. But with so much traveling I keep getting asked how I can afford to travel.

The month kicked off in Madrid, the city I always find myself going to. It’s the closest and biggest city near me. Plus while traveling I have met several people who live there and now whenever I visit I have a place to stay. The following weekend I went to Italy and ended up visiting three cities in four days. Then I went to Andorra, a tiny country in between Spain and France. Finally, and this last weekend I went to Salamanca, Spain for a weekend.

IMG_6476
Skiing in Andorra for a weekend.

Granted coming back has always proven to be a difficult task, I think I have bad karma against me which but hopefully I’ve made up for it. But, the point is I’ve been traveling a lot recently and people have asked me how I afford it. I would like to clear one myth up– I am not rich. I make €700 a month and give private lessons on the side which brings me to about €1000 a month if none of them are canceled. So, below are a few tips to help others plan their trips and save money.

1) Choose Hostels
To me this one seems obvious but I know quite a few people who still tend to choose hotels. Hostels are the best options for travelers whether you are alone or with friends. They’re cheaper, you can meet other travelers, they often have walking tours so you can learn about the city, and sometimes they have a small breakfast included in the price.
When choosing a hostel always read the reviews, people are usually dead honest about their stay, which is helpful when choosing a place. When I was in Milan, I stayed at a hostel that seemed alright, but when I arrived no one really talked to each other and there were no events planned by the hostel. But when I was in Budapest the hostel I stayed at was awesome and I ended up meeting so many people from around the world. However keep in mind that you’re paying for a bed in a room full of people, so don’t expect anything luxurious.

2) Avoid Eating In Touristy Areas
I can’t stress this enough. It can be very tempting to eat in the main square or close to where all the attractions are but most of the time you can go a few blocks away and find something even better for half the price. I have found this theory to be true no matter what city I travel in. Matt Kempis wrote a book about traveling the world on $50 a day, which includes EVERYTHING. For the most part, I have been trying to follow that. In his book he explains why $50 is a good number and how it includes food, flight, places to sleep, etc.. When I was in Milan I ate at a pizza place I found online, and a medium sized pizza was five euros. That’s cheaper than what I pay for in Spain; not to mention it was better too.
If you’re staying in a place longer than a weekend, it makes sense to buy food from the grocery store and cook everything at the hostel.

3) Check BlaBlaCar
Ride-sharing is becoming more and more popular, and in Europe, BlablaCar is already super popular. It’s a great way to meet people and practice different languages. It tends to be cheaper than a bus, and of course, it’s faster. I’ve met some interesting people using this app. If you’re traveling to larger cities you tend to have more luck than traveling to a smaller city, like Soria.
So far, my favorite was this guy from Germany who gave me a ride to Berlin and we ended up bonding over our love for news, he worked as a journalist, and we both liked Migos. He was able to practice his VERY fluent English, and I tried to help him understand what a lot of rap lyrics said.

4) Flexibus
There are multiple budget busses throughout Europe but the cheapest one is Flexibus. To me they’re the best option– they have wifi, and you’re able to bring up to 3 bags with you. There are other bus options like ALSA, which I use to travel back from Madrid if I can’t find a BlaBlaCar.

5) Work Aways
If you’re traveling for an extended amount of time this is one of the better options to look into. Basically, you work with a family or an organization for a set amount of time in exchange for room and meals. You pay a yearly membership of $32 and have accesses to multiple places around the world. You can pick which country and which job that interests you, message the host, and if you match–
voila, new home.
I met a girl who was a nanny to a family Lugano, Switzerland for about a month and saved almost $500. This summer I’m planning on doing a few work-aways in a hostel to save money and explore a new city.

Other Housing Options that I know of but haven’t used yet:
CouchSurfing
WOOFers

Lastly, keep in mind there is a difference being traveling and vacationing. Vacations tend to be more expensive because you’re paying to stay in a nice resort with a private entrance etc.. Traveling, you’re doing what you can to get the most authentic experience. Typically you’re paying for a place to sleep and keep your luggage while you travel. The best advice I could give is to bring a lock, shower sandals, and a small towel. The hostels I have stayed at typically have a towel and a lock, but sometimes you have to pay for them. Which isn’t bad but it gets annoying. Bringing sandals should just be common sense because you’re sleeping in a room with up to 10 people and you’re all sharing a bathroom, they clean the bathrooms regularly but still; we don’t want athletes foot.

These are all the things I have learned while traveling, any other advice you can give me? Let me know other ways to try and travel on cheaply!

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