Tips On How To Travel More…

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones that you did…”

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I have been to 160+ cities in 8 countries. That’s only %8 of the world though, so I’m nowhere near being finished. You may think frequent travelers have a huge bank account and no job. I’m sure that’s true in a lot of cases, but certainly not in mine. For starters, having a job that requires you to travel certainly helps, but I traveled all over the place way before I had my current, travel-required job, and way before I had any money. Here are the behaviors that have always helped me travel every couple months…

 {Prioritize Your Monthly Spending}

Do you want cable tv or a plane ticket to Europe? Do you need to spend a couple hundred dollars every month eating dinners out or do you want to pet monkeys in Thailand? Figure out what your priorities are when it comes to your monthly budget. In high school, college, and my first couple years out of college, I rarely had over $100 in my bank account at any given time. It’s because any money not being spent on rent, food, and gas was going mostly to travel. To me, going to a place I’ve never been before was way more exciting than dropping a bunch of money on bar tabs or trips to the mall for more clothes.

Tip: Look at your bank account and add up what you spent last month on cable t.v., dinners out, shopping, etc; anything that’s not a necessity. Chances are it totals up to a few hundred dollars. It may be a bunch of small, insignificant purchases when you’re making them, but when you add them all up, you could have paid for a good chunk of a trip instead. If you’re longing to travel and can never seem to come up with the money for plane tickets, hotels or tour tickets, then get rid of some of your monthly excess spending. You’d be surprised how easy it is to pay for a trip when you’ve haven’t had a cable bill in almost a decade and only go out to eat about once per month.

{Be Loyal. Get Points. Travel More!}

You may not travel enough to rack up frequent flier miles, but you can definitely use the same debit/credit card all the time to rack up points for free travel! Most airlines and hotels have their own credit card which will give you miles/points for every dollar you spend, and usually several more when you’re spending when their specific company. (My United Club card gives me twice the miles spent on United flights and %50 bonus miles for everything else. My Marriott card gives me 5x the points when I use it on hotel stays with them). Most of the personal trips I take now are almost entirely paid for in loyalty program points/miles. I spend money on small flights so that I can get bigger (and more expensive) flights paid for in miles. Even before I was traveling for work, I always flew the same airline, no matter what. And before I had a select airline, I used the same credit card for everything to get points.

Tip: As long as you don’t have credit card debt and a spending problem, use a high point-earning credit card for all your monthly bills: health insurance, car insurance, phone bill, internet, groceries, gas, etc. Then pay your bill immediately. I use my airline’s credit card for all these things and I pay it off every other week. There is no limit to how many times I can make a payment and making it often ensures that 1) the balance gets paid off on time and 2) spending doesn’t get out of hand just because I don’t see my checking account balance changing. You’d be surprised at how quickly the points add up! Just be careful with this one: If you get carried away, credit card debt will have you traveling even less. Also, check the fine print with some credit cards. A $500 annual fee can offset the benefits of the points!

{Don’t Waste Money on the Hotel}

When I was in high school, we’d find the crappiest, cheapest hotels we could when we were on road trips. When I was in college, I camped with friends. When I traveled alone,  I stayed in hostels. Although camping is my favorite, it doesn’t work in large cities or cold climates. I preferred hostels the most; They were usually around $15-20 per night and you could meet a bunch of really cool people while you were there. Back then, I did this out of neccesity. I couldn’t afford a $100/night room when I only had that much in bank account. I realized later that it’s stupid to spend a ton of money on hotels… as you’re only in them to sleep and bathe. When you’re traveling you need to be out of the room and exploring! I’ve stayed in 5 star hotels, but just because there are expensive paintings on the walls and valet parking doesn’t mean your trip is any richer. Also, the more expensive the hotel, the more you pay for “extras” like wifi, parking, breakfast, etc. If you want to make your dollar go further, search for something different.

Tip 1) Taking the red-eye flight or an overnight train will save you a night in a hotel. You may not sleep as well, but if you’re doing it on the front or back end of a trip, it’ll save you lots!

Tip 2) Search hotels that offer free breakfast, parking, and wifi, and are located in a decently safe part of town. Other than that, don’t be picky! The more high-maintenance you are, the fewer days you can afford to travel. Staying in the fanciest hotels will take a ton out of your travel budget, so skip the high star rating.  Air BNB is great, but legally tricky in some cities so make sure it’s valid before you go. If you want to save more, or traveling alone, Hosteling International was a company I used frequently in college. They have numerous locations all over the world and great security! Also, check your ego! Years ago, one of my best lodging finds was the Motel 6 on Hwy 101 in Santa Barbara. It was around $60, allowed dogs so I could bring Tango, AND had the most amazing view of the Pacific. Having the extra money to spend on wine tastings and fabulous food was way more fun.

{You Don’t Have to Travel Far… to Travel}

One of the things that shaped my love of travel was the annual weekend girls trip my mom, aunts, cousins and I used to do. We’d pile in the rental van, pick a city a few hours away and just go there to see what there was to see. There was never a plan, but we always had a blast. We’d grab all the tourist pamphlets at the local diner and then set off for the day, exploring the state parks, touring historical mansions, or searching for trains that never existed because somebody read the wrong city’s info (side eye, Aunt Mary). We explored all over Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, etc. It’s incredibly important to travel to other countries, but if that’s not in your budget just yet, go seek out your neighboring areas.

If you live in the States, a plane ticket to Asia or Australia can be super pricey, but don’t think you have to spend $2,000 on airfare to experience a different culture, especially when you can experience a whole new environment just a few states over. I haven’t been to every state in the U.S. but I can tell you that Florida is completely different than Utah, which is completely different than Colorado, which is completely different than Oregon, and so on. If you’ve got a reliable car, you can road trip to some pretty incredible landscapes, meet some seriously interesting people, and go on some life changing adventures: backpacking through the wilderness in West Virginia, rock climbing outside of Las Vegas, museum hopping in D.C., mountain biking in Oregon, sea kayaking off the coast of California, taking in a show in NYC, or hiking on trails that parallel the Mississippi river.

Tip: If you’re looking for adventure inside the country, find an outdoors magazine and flip to the back few pages. It’ll be lined with advertisements from many states highlighting what there is to see and do there. If you’ve already been to all your neighboring states, pick a state far away from yours and then go to it. It’s amazing how many people I know here in Louisville that have never been west of St. Louis and north of Columbus.  Grab a good buddy (a low maintenance one), or your family and hit the open road! There’s a lot to see in North America!

{Be Social When You Travel}

Traveling brings people together. I met a guy from Chicago while I was in an airport in Spain. We chatted for the entire 9 hour flight back to the states. When I traveled to Chicago a couple months later I had a buddy to look up! I’d already been to Chicago before, but he was able to show me cool attractions and restaurants I hadn’t heard of, plus give me helpful train info. Getting intel about a city from somebody who actually lives there is incredibly helpful!  The more places you go, the more opportunities you have to make connections.  The more connections you have, the more places you learn about and will possibly travel to in the future! I’ll admit, sometimes it’s nice to stay in my hotel for the night and watch a movie, but I always have more fun when I meet and connect with other people.

Tip: Signing up for a guided tour group through the city, or a guided adventure trip like white water rafting, rappelling or rock climbing is a great way to have a safe, fun day and also meet people from all over. If anybody in the crew is really interesting, friend them on Facebook or swap email addresses to keep in touch. You never know when you might be in their neck of the woods and want a restaurant recommendation or a couch to crash on.

{Be Comfortable with Traveling Alone}

This is the big one. I think the thing that holds most people back from seeing the world is the absence of a travel partner and fear of the unknown. I get that. It’s much more fun to experience different cities, countries and adventures with somebody special. But if you’re dying to get out there and see the world, sometimes you just have to take that first step… by yourself. I went alone to Athens, Greece for two weeks when I was 19 years old and know how incredibly daunting it can be.  I can certainly understand not wanting to go for fear of just not knowing what to expect,  but the more trips I take alone, the more I find it’s not that big of a deal. Plus, I can do whatever I want. I don’t have to care if somebody in my group doesn’t care for history and I want to walk the entire Freedom Trail through Boston. I’ll go by myself! (I did.) I don’t care if nobody else wants to hit up the contemporary dance performance at the art museum in Chicago, I think it sounds awesome! (I went alone.) I no longer feel weird about going solo to dinners or museums.  Hold your head high, check your directions before you leave, and be off!

Tip: Start small! Go to dinner by yourself. Go to the movies by yourself. Then bump up to a day trip to a city or town within driving distance. Check out the local tourism agency and then go explore what there is to explore. You can bump up to an overnight or weekend trip when you feel ready. Traveling internationally alone is completely doable, just do your homework beforehand: have a plan, leave your flight and hotel information with friends or family and let them know when to expect and where. This way, you’re backed up a little should something go wrong.

‘nother tip: If you’re female, be aware of your surroundings and just be smart: don’t talk on your phone while walking alone as you’re less aware of your surroundings. I usually don’t carry a purse when I’m cruising around in bigger cities and I take cabs when I’m going somewhere at night, etc. When traveling internationally, I always send my mom or my manfriend my confirmations and hotel flight information before I leave town. And I call when I’m on the way home. ; )

“… So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the tradewinds in your sail.

Explore. Dream. Discover.”

IMG_1635Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand

IMG_2167Rome, Italy

IMG_2034Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

100_1009Santa Barbara, California

IMG_1926 - Version 2 Athens, Greece

IMG_0907Deep water soloing in Krabi, Thailand

IMG_1358Road trip from Kentucky to Wyoming

IMG_1904Climbing in Mykonos, Greece.

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