Travel: tips, tricks and why I do it. Part II – HOW

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUpdated 9/21/16

How badly do you want it? I won’t preach, and I won’t deny that there are extenuating circumstances that may prevent individuals from setting aside funds for travel. And when I say travel (n.) I mean — going to another place for the sake of the place itself, for getting to know the place vs. vacationing (n.) — going to a place for the sake of yourself, relaxation, escape. The former already assumes a sacrifice, a potential sacrifice of comfort for the satisfaction of being, of experiencing, and of immersing yourself. In simpler terms, I travel to travel — to meet people, to eat their food, sleep where they sleep and learn how they live (as much as possible), versus to take part in their most luxurious offerings, catered to outsiders, often curated by outsiders themselves. Sometimes, the two overlap, of course, but assuming a life of travel vs. one of vacationing cuts down your costs in half + already. It’s all about the mentality.

For me — this means limiting my daily habits to cater to the greater, consistent goal of traveling as much as time permits. People have other vices.

Here’s how I do it:  

1231. Flights: 

I just recently began to involve myself with a points-credit card, which enables me to ultimately earn miles (equated to free travel miles on a plane) for my daily expenses. I.E. I’m still searching for options, but when I decide on one, I will update this.

In the meantime, what I’ve been doing is focusing on cheap flights — I’m healthy enough (at least for now) to endure long and uncomfortable flights if I have to. So 1-3 layovers for me is worth the trip, if it saves me serious money. And oftentimes, I don’t care where I’m going — flexibility is key.

Resources for finding cheap flights:

Flight Search Engines:
  • Skyscanner
  • Momondo
  • Kayak
  • Google Flights
  • Matrix Software: the site looks like it’s from the 1980s, but trust me, it’s good in its ways of helping you search for the most affordable options irrelevant of time and location; it’s used by many travel companies
Special Websites: — for when you don’t care about where you’re going, but you know you’re ready to leave 
  • Flight Deal
  • Secret Flying 
  • Entrusters: haven’t tried it, but apparently you can fly for free if you ship items for people around the world. It’s on my bucket list.
  • Travel Pirates
  • Groupon
  • Living Social
  • Concorde.io – I have yet to use it, but according to the founder on CNT: “I built this tool for people who are impulse flyers with flexible schedules. As one user recently put it, I am building a tool for the person who “…[wants to] know if I could suddenly get to Poland for $350”
Airlines: 
  • Air Asia — for cheap flights to and in between Asia
  • WoW Air — for cheap flights between Boston, Washington DC + Europe
  • Norwegian Air — for cheap flights between the US + Europe
Random tips on flights:
  • Check foreign versions of website i.e. expedia.fr vs. expedia.com
  • Clear history/cache — airlines keep your data and recent search history saved, often increasing prices just for you based on that
  • Call / pick up phone for better deals
  • Search for smaller airports in the same city, sometimes it’s cheaper to fly to/from there
  • Skiplagged — for finding cheap last minute flights
  • Purchase as close to a holiday as possible for a better deal
  • Cheap places to travel to by month: Travel and Leisure
  • If you travel on a budget airline, keep your luggage to about one carryon to avoid defraying your savings by extensive luggage costs
  •  Before booking your flight- make sure you have the necessary visa(s) you need; otherwise, if you can’t get it in time, you may end up losing your money! Sometimes with proof of upcoming flight you may get them expedited.
  •  To that end, make sure you have the necessary vaccinations needed (if in the US, according to the CDC).
housing
2. Housing: 
  • Hostels, of course, if you’re a student and/or budget traveler
  • New! – TalkTalkBNB– I just found out about this network whereby hosts/travelers meet, with a similar concept to CS VV, but with the intention of learning new languages from each other. I have yet to test it, but it’s definitely in my plans!
  • Couchsurfing.com — my personal favorite — for being hosted by or meeting up with locals (free, but it’s nice to bring a relevant gift to your host)
  • I just learned about Servas, also free and similar to CouchSurfing, but with a much more extensive application process whereby volunteers interview you for membership; stay is usually restricted to 1-2 nights
  • Airbnb.com — hotel alternative, where you can rent rooms, entire homes, and even bungalows or tree houses, among other options during your stay
  • My Twin Place — for Homeswapping
  • WWOOFING — for housing in exchange for your paid and/or volunteer work around the world
3. Random Tips: 
  • Let your banks/phone companies know a few days before your departure that you will be leaving to avoid disruptions in either service
  • For best exchange rates: my experience is that the best is to get cash out from an ATM once you get there and not get currency inadvance for each country; also, when asked to pay in your home currency or in theirs, it’s always best to go with theirs for the best rates
  • Take out the ‘deodorant’ in a deodorant bar and stuff it with cash/ credit cards or other valuables…I just learned this from attending the Women’s Travel Fest in March — Annie Griffiths, National Geographic’s first female photographer does this
  • Especially if you’re traveling extensively, make sure that you have the necessary medication prescriptions pre-approved for that time with your insurance — sometimes this may take weeks due to extensive paperwork and proof of travel
  • Check airport terminal of departure, as well as updates on flights as close to the night before or the day of to avoid wasting time in case your flights do get cancelled or terminals change
  • Check the currency the day of travel to know where your currency stands agains that of the destination
  • When done traveling then make sure to claim miles or rewards points from the respective airline, if it’s not done so automatically
  • Be aware of the country’s dialing code and of any relevant emergency numbers – keep a note of it on your phone!
  • Wikipedia, WikiTravel or do a simple Google search (for me on the plane or at airport) to have a fresh outlook on the history and culture / what to do in the country (if you’re being spontaneous) right before landing
  • Don’t board the plane right away if you’re not in business class because you’ll have to wait —  they will mostly always call your name if you’re late/if the plane is waiting for you
  • Always check to see the power outlet of the country / if you’ll need one of these universal converters
  • I like to lay down on the tray table of the airplane, when other positions are unbareable, but maybe clean it first since apparently it harbors more bacteria than your toilet
  • Sit near first class lounge for free wifi
  • When done traveling then make sure to claim miles or rewards points from the respective airline, if it’s not done so automatically
Passport: 
  • If you need a last minute passport (in the US), just show up at a local government agency! Don’t fall for local scams. Also, for some reason, they’re not allowed to tell you on the phone that they accept walk-ins, but my experience is that walk-ins are taken care of faster than those with an appointment.
Packing:
  • Roll your clothing like this for space saving in your bags/suitcases – Video + Video <— this one is just WOW; a girl packs 100 pieces of clothing into a carryon
  • Bring a water container, so you don’t have to pay for water – most places like Starbucks etc. will refill it for free— bring a filter for non-potable water (you’d be surprised how much you spend on water!)
  • Wear neutrals that can be washed/ mixed and matched and worn on different occasions to save room
  • Layers are your best friend!
  • Less is more! – Don’t bring emergency items like an umbrella, if you know that you can purchase them cheaply in the location (should you even need them), especially if the weather does not suggest rain.
Apps: 
  • Google Maps – works offline now, so you can use the application in the country of destination; it’s like a modern-day compass ?
  • Download necessary maps + translators before getting to destination, just in case you don’t have wifi when you land

Road Trip resources:

For Renting an RV: Cruise America
Maps and other resources:
Additional Resources: 

 

Where I’ve been so far according to TripAdvisor: where i've been

PPS; It’s not super accurate, since I’ve never been to Australia/ it confused some other cities for being there

*I will continue to update this blog post

 

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