Many of us have probably heard of ways to cut travel costs like using Couchsurfing for a place to stay or walking everywhere instead of taking taxis. Those tips are great for those looking to save some cash while traveling, but when you are trying to travel long-term you'll want to get even more creative to keep your budget under control. Here are three unique ways to travel long-term without going broke:
Sharing exactly how I stretched my tiny budget of $1,400 over six months in 11 European countries would really help those trying to figure out how much to save in order to work + travel.
It's no secret that I'm a huge promoter of a work + travel lifestyle, as that is how I've paid for all of my international travels in Europe and Asia over the past 2+ years.
So when I tell you that working as a travel guide in Italy for six months allowed me to see 11 countries and not go broke, that's not much of a surprise.
However, with a minimal stipend as compensation, you might be surprised that my $1,400 starting budget was able to last that long.
There have been multiple times I’ve moved somewhere where I didn’t know anyone. College, where I knew just a few people. My first post-college summer job in Washington, DC and New York. My travel job in Florence, Italy. Taking a leap of faith again - without a job, or knowing anyone - by moving to Phoenix after returning from Europe.
It can be scary and intimidating. But sometimes in life, you realize that the things you want to do don’t coincide with your current location.
The "real world" doesn't totally suck, but it is something you're stuck in since graduating college for the rest of your life. Long gone are Thirsty Thursdays, being in the energetic student section at sports games, and not yet having a ton of responsibility.
While some corporate "real world" jobs could offer 1-2 weeks vacation per year, there are a number of alternative jobs out there that still provide valuable experience and far more travel opportunities!
There's nothing wrong with that - I believe you should do what makes you happy. If working at your job doesn't make you happy, work somewhere else! Or find a way to quit and travel.
...But what if you like your job? And still want to travel?
Before I graduated college, I was beyond afraid of committing to a full-time job in fear that it would make me "stuck" and prevent me from seeing the world. I ended up moving to Italy for about six months to work abroad. I had an great time traveling around Europe. But then I returned home and was on the hunt for a full-time job.
Now that I actually have a full-time job, I'm realizing that a full-time commitment isn't as scary as I thought it would be. And I actually really like my job. That's not something you come across very often - a travel blogger who actually is okay with working 8-5! (For now, at least). Even though I'm not traveling constantly, I work in a rewarding position that allows me to fulfill one of my many passions in life: working with students in higher education.
But I still ache to travel everywhere. That's where holidays and vacation time come in. In a few weeks I'm going to New York for a quick 3-day trip. This summer I'll be in China for most of July. Shorter trips to see friends and family around the US are scattered throughout the year as well.
Traveling with a full-time job is doable. Here are a few ways:
1. Actually use your vacation days
Apparently 40% of Americans don't use all their vacation time. Knowing that most Americans get about 5-10 vacation days per year in entry-level positions, that makes me want to cry. Using your vacation days lowers levels of stress, making for an overall happier life filled with new experiences - or even just a relaxing couple of days off.
So, please, use your vacation days. Not just to fulfill your aching desire to travel, but for your health and sanity.
2. Travel on holidays
From a budget traveler's perspective, traveling on a holiday would be "taboo" in most cases since the price of flights, hotels, etc. tend to spike during holiday times. However, a holiday off work is a precious day off, and, if used wisely, doesn't have to be too expensive.
3. Schedule vacation days around work holidays
Since many work holidays fall on Mondays or Fridays, you've already got a 3-day weekend. Build that 3-day weekend into your trip schedule to maximize your time. This allows you to use less vacation days for one trip...meaning you can put those toward another trip later in the year.
4. Go somewhere nearby for a weekend getaway
Road trip somewhere close. Maybe you're traveling west to the beaches or to a winery a few hours away. Maybe you live close to New York and can just hop on a bus to get there. Maybe you live in Europe and a few hours on a train will show you to a new country.
5. Take red-eye flights
I'm slightly dreading the red-eye flight I'm taking to New York in few weeks. Melatonin for the flight and a large iced coffee upon landing should do the trick, though. It beats spending a majority of a day in transport since my time over there is short.
6. Extend your work trip through the weekend
Ask your boss if your flights can be flexible. For example, if your work trip is Wednesday - Friday see if you can return on Sunday. You might be able to stay at the hotel through the weekend - out of your own cost, of course - or find an alternative place to stay.
7. Use unpaid vacation days (wisely)
If your job doesn't offer paid vacation time, or you are over your maximum amount, see if you can look into taking unpaid vacation. You'll need to make sure you budget accordingly and assure you can still cover your rent and other expenses when your paycheck dips.
8. Work remotely
If you are able to work remotely with your job, you might be able to extend a trip with another week or so (or even longer) in a destination. Keep in mind that you still need to actually be working. Though you still have your off-hours to explore wherever you're at!
My most frequently asked question is how I got my job doing tour guiding and marketing for a travel company in Europe after college. Basically I sent my resume to the company, had a Skype interview, and got the job. Just like any job.
However, my experience and skills from college helped set my resume apart so that I was one of the few that was given an interview.
The job was a mix of many things: leading weekend trips to different cities in Europe for college study abroad students, digital marketing, sales, and events.
I'm going to outline helpful work experience for the jobs I've had that have allowed me to travel, some soft skills you should mention in a cover letter and interview, and what my resume looked like when I applied to these jobs.
International Tour Guiding and Marketing
Helpful experience to have for this type of job:
- Study abroad or international travel experience
- Public speaking
- Social media (helpful to have experience doing this for businesses)
- Event planning, operations and hosting
- Customer service
- Video editing
- Basic foreign language skills (if the people \where you're living speak a different language)
Soft skills to mention (provide examples from your experience to back these up):
- Passion for travel
- Strong leader
- Willingness to understand/accept other cultures
- Easy-going, flexible
- Able to make snap decisions
- Sense of humor (especially when things go wrong)
- Like to have fun
Faculty Advisor for International Conferences
I've also gotten to do some traveling by working for a different company at leadership conferences. First I was in DC/NYC for a summer, and the following year was in Europe for a couple weeks, and this upcoming summer will be doing another one in China for a couple weeks. The job entailed leading a group of 20-25 international high school students and facilitating curriculum on leadership and international relations.
Helpful experience for this type of job:
- Experience leading groups
- Work/school experience in the area of the conference's theme
- Teaching, counseling, and/or coaching
- Public speaking
- Have worked with students
- Enjoy bonding games and icebreakers
- Able to make snap decisions
- Staying calm in stressful situations
- Being able to maintain high energy (LONG days)
- Friendly personality
- Role model (you follow the same set of rules the students do)
- Always thinking with a "team" mindset
- Promoting inclusivity and a team spirit among your group
When I originally applied to these jobs out of college, my resume included:
- Bachelor's degree in Public Relations with minors in Promotions and Journalism
- Studied abroad in Florence, Italy
- Public Relations Intern (7 months)
- Study Abroad Ambassador (2 years)
- Copy Editor for college yearbook (2 years)
- Social Media & Newsletter Editor for my school's chapter of PRSSA (1 year)
- Freshman Orientation Leader (3 years)
- Zumba instructor (1.5 years)
- College dance team member (4 years)
- Junior high dance team coach (1 year)
While I have a degree in PR, you don't necessarily need to be studying that to get one of those jobs. Some potential majors for wanting to go into something similarly related could include: communication, photojournalism, international relations, hospitality, international business, any foreign language, or tourism.
The more important thing is describing your previous experience and relating it to how you're qualified and will excel at the job at hand.
Have you worked abroad? Add your tips in the comments below!