If traveling were free, you’d never see me again.
I see that quote a lot, and I appreciate the sentiment, but really, it seems a little lazy. I used to identify with that quote until I actually got up and did some research on different ways to travel/live abroad for cheap! Before I found out some great ways to travel for cheap amounts of money, I just assumed that only the rich could afford extravagant vacations (aka “travel”) on a regular basis. Sure, that may be true if your only desire to travel includes flying first class and staying in luxurious hotels, but if you’re open to new and different experiences, read on!
Look into STUDYING ABROAD! I didn’t do this in high school or college and I really wish I would have. Most universities have exchange programs with schools in other countries. You can go for either a semester or a full year. If you’re unsure whether or not your school offers such a program, look on your school’s website or talk to an administrator. You can also visit studyabroad.com to check out other means of going overseas. There, you’ll find different options depending on your education level and what you want to do overseas. Some of these programs cost a bit of money however, so look into your school’s options before visiting that site if you want something included in your tuition and will include housing.
If you want to do some traveling during holiday breaks or weekends, consider traveling within the U.S. (or your home country)! Not every trip has to be overseas. There are some pretty great things to do/see in the United States as well! Scroll down to find ways to get cheap flights/accommodation.
Work Holiday Visa
So maybe you’ve graduated high school (or college) and want a break from school before returning or settling down for a “real” job (whatever that means). You want to live or travel abroad but you’re not really sure what you want to do. If you are between the ages of 18 – 35, consider obtaining a Working Holiday Visa from Australia. Australia is a relatively safe country that is already full of English speakers, so why not? Yay no language barriers! You can also look into options for New Zealand here, but the Working Holiday Visa from Australia is a bit easier to obtain. As long as you have no dependent children accompanying you and are in relatively good health within the age limits, you should qualify! You’ll be going overseas to work, so this isn’t exactly a vacation, just a means to travel and earn money abroad.
Another option to live abroad is to consider Au Pairing. Au Pairing involves you looking over a foreign couple’s child(ren) for a set amount of time (maximum of one year). There are a number of different methods to go about this, but I’ve heard good things about aupairworld.com. There, you’ll be able to set up a profile and browse families looking for au pairs. In a sense, this is sort of like online dating. A family will contact you if they like your profile and think you’re a good fit. You can then message them back and ask any relevant questions. If it’s a good fit, you can begin the visa paperwork to au pair abroad (depending on what country your host family lives in, you’ll have to look into your specific consulate for the au pair visa). You basically fill out the long-term stay visa and get an au pair placement agreement letter from your host family (for an example of requirements for an au pair visa, click here). You’ll end up living with your host family (yay, free housing!) usually in a private room, though some families have guest houses they let their au pair stay in (lucky!). You’ll get paid, usually a small amount each week, in exchange for light housekeeping, maybe some cooking, and obviously childcare. You can negotiate prices, time off, and chores with your family online before applying for the visa.
A great résumé builder can also include volunteering abroad. There are a lot of different means to go about volunteering. While some programs may require you to pay for the program (like CIEE), there are many different options out there! Grassrootsvolunteering.com has a lot of cool options you can look into for volunteering abroad, some paid and others free.
Consider getting your TEFL certificate. The Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate opens up a lot of opportunities for travel/working abroad. There are a ton of online places to get your TEFL certificate, so if you are really interested, look into the program you’d like before getting TEFL certified so you can see the program requirements. If this sounds interesting to you, click here to see where to begin. Most TEFL certifications require you to do at least 100 or so hours of online work, but there are some that do less (however a lot of programs won’t accept those TEFLs). If you’re interested in teaching English in Asia or Central/South America, this is a great means to live there and earn a decent salary!
Tuition Free Schooling
Apply to school in Europe, or somewhere with free tuition! Check out this post to find a list of countries that allow you to study (in English) for NO (or low cost) tuition. Some of the countries you’ll find are Germany, Finland, Sweden, Norway, & more! It’s important to note that most of these schools only offer undergrad degrees for no/low-cost tuition. If you’re looking into your masters/PhD, there will probably be a higher cost (Germany still has low-cost masters programs, however).
Now that you’ve completed college, you’re wondering what the hell you’re going to do with your life. Join the corporate 9-5 world and start climbing that ladder? Get married and start a family? Or take some time off to enjoy your 20s? Decisions, decisions! If you do decide you want to travel, here are some cool options for post-grads.
Teach English with a Bachelor’s Degree
Teach English as a second language. Once you have at least a bachelor’s degree, the doors open up for options to teach English abroad! Have you checked out my post on ways to teach English in Spain? If Spain doesn’t interest you, how about France, Germany, Italy, or Switzerland? What about Japan or Thailand or China? All of these programs require you to have at least a bachelor’s degree while some may also require a TEFL certificate.
Work for an International Company
Join a company with international offices. Maybe you want the best of both worlds! Join the corporate world while living/traveling abroad! Check out this list for some ideas of companies that have international placements for employees. Here is another list from 2015. Some notable chains to work for are hotels that have overseas branches, large tech companies like Google or Microsoft, or even retail stores like H&M or Belcorp! Now, for some of these companies, you’ll have to work in a local branch for a few years before you’re able to transfer overseas. If you’re interested in a job overseas right from the get go, check out Eurojobs. It can be hard to get companies to sponsor your visa, however, so you might be better off working for a local company with overseas branches.
Move to Germany
Try living in Germany! As I mentioned above, Germany offers free tuition for undergraduate degrees, and some of the degrees are actually in English! Obviously, if you speak German fluently, there are a lot more institutions you can check out. This guy has a great post from 2012 about the different ways Americans can live in Germany. Apparently, it’s a lot easier to sponsor yourself on an artist/self-employment/language visa than other European countries!
Join discounted travel groups for young people! I’ve seen a lot of posts on Groupon for discounted traveling. That can be a great way for you and your partner/friends to afford a less expensive vacation! You can find hotels in Las Vegas for less than $20, rent entire houses for half off, find all inclusive vacations from 30-50% off! If you’re really interested in saving money on vacation stays, I recommend checking it out! If you’re wanting a vacation but can’t seem to find anyone to go with, check out EF College Break. They offer discounted group travel for individuals between the ages of 18 – 28. The vacations obviously cost money, but they’re more affordable than trying to plan an itinerary by yourself (unless you’re crazy savvy with travel sites). But how cool is it to meet some adventurous peers and have an awesome vacation?! They also guarantee the lowest price, so even if you do manage to find the guided tours/flights/accommodations for cheaper, they’ll match your price (according to their website).
If you’re interested in finding cheaper airline tickets, you can certainly check out sites like Kayak that compare a ton of different major airline sites at once. I’ve used Kayak before and have been relatively happy with it. To get some really great deals, however, there are better options!
One site that has the potential to save you tons is Skiplagged. The way it works is basically as follows: sometimes airlines offer discounted or promotional deals when they want you to fly to certain destinations. This is usually because of competition within the airline industry. In that case, you may be able to actually fly cheaper from New York to Los Angeles than from New York to say Houston, even if the initial flight to Los Angles has a stopover in Houston. Skiplagged searches all of these deals and tries to find discounts by letting you off at your layover destination rather than your final destination (since your layover is actually your final destination). There are some caveats, however. You obviously cannot have checked bags (since they’ll go to the final destination, not your layover), but carry-ons are fine. You shouldn’t add this to your frequent flyer program (you’ll get penalized for skipping your end flights). There is some risk involved – for example, if the weather was terrible in Houston, the airline might redirect the layover to Salt Lake City, in which case you’ll miss your stop which would suck! You also have to book round trip tickets as two separate one-way tickets to get the deals. This can be a great way to save [sometimes] up to 80% on flights, but in the end, you need to decide if it’s worth it.
Another great site I like to use for flight deals is Skyscanner. They search major airlines, but for whatever reason, I’ve had better luck on their site than other flight deal sites (like Kayak). For example, when I was searching flights from Montana to Spain, Kayak found flights (one way) for about $1,200 whereas Skyscanner found flights for about $750 – obviously a huge difference there! You can also save routes before purchasing the flights and Skyscanner will send you a notification of any price drops. Unlike Skiplagged, there aren’t any caveats to using Skyscanner; it’s just a great site for finding discounts!
Secret Flying/Error Fares
I’ve never personally used this, but Secret Flying is a cool website that allows you to save huge on certain flights. You can browse specific destinations, or you can use the site to find cheap deals in your home country! This site is a bit better used if you want to just go on a random vacation, rather than specific Point A to Point B. It seems to find all around cheap flights, mostly using Error Fare flights. This is when an airline accidentally enters pricing in incorrectly. Sometimes it is human error (like missing a “0”) and other times it happens from currency conversion issues. Whatever the cause, it allows you to book insanely cheap flights! Check that Error Fare Link for some of the hottest deals available today! Might be a great way to spontaneously take a vacation while saving tons of money!
If you are specifically looking into visiting Europe, European Destinations has some pretty great deals! These are booked as packaged deals with accommodation and flights (in most cases). This isn’t going to be insanely cheap like the other flight deals, but it is a cool way to get the whole vacation package for a discount.
Google Flights sometimes also has pretty great, low-priced flights. It’s nice because you can see the different prices on the different days in their calendar! If you have a bit of flexibility, you can get the best price available around that time.
One of the most expensive parts of traveling is finding affordable places to stay. My personal recommendation to finding cheap accommodation is to make friends with people who live abroad! If they have a spare bedroom, I’ve found most people are happy to host you for a short (free) stay. This is a little more complicated if you’re trying to travel with your family or a lot of people. If that’s the case, check out some of these options for more affordable places to stay.
Find your Facebook Group
Join travel groups on Facebook! Assuming you’re on Facebook, this is a great way to meet fellow travelers and make friends with them (see note above, re: make friends with people who live abroad). My favorite Facebook group is Girls LOVE Travel. You have to be logged in to view that page, and unfortunately it’s for girls only (sorry, boys). There are over 40k girls in this group who LOVE to talk about travel, so it can be a great way to meet fellow gal travelers #gLt 🙂 If you’re into backpacking, check out Couch Surfing Backpackers. A lot of these individuals look here for fellow backpackers to let them stay for cheap/free. If you enjoy traveling but still work a 9-5, Travel Talk is a cool group! This is a group for mostly part-time travelers. This should go without saying, but make sure you stay safe if you do decide to stay with someone you met online!
For cheap/free accommodation around the world, check out Couch Surfing. This site allows you to create a profile and stay with/host people who are looking to travel or meet new people! The basic site version is free, but if you pay $20/year, you can become “verified” and more people will be willing to stay with you (as a host) or let you stay with them (as a couch surfer). When you think about it, that isn’t a bad deal seeing as how a hotel would cost 5x or more amount for one night!
Another great way to travel for discounted rates is to use Air BnB. This popular site allows home owners to rent out a room or their entire house! They like to advertise that you can “live like a local” rather than a tourist and they have hosts in over 190 countries to date. You can stay in all sorts of places, even actor Aaron Paul’s home! Prices can range from very affordable, to very expensive. Thankfully there are plenty of options available for every budget.
Have you ever seen The Holiday movie? If not, the basic premise is that two women decide to swap houses, one in England and the other from the U.S. during Christmas. If that idea sounds appealing to you, you’re in luck! House swapping is a real thing! Check out Home Exchange to get an idea of the available houses you can swap with. Now, to join that site, there is a $150 membership fee to list your home/exchange with other members. While that seems kind of high, keep in mind that that price is pretty typical of one or two nights in a hotel. If you’re serious about swapping homes, then this is a great option for affordable places to stay. You can always try their 14 day free trial before becoming a member! There are, of course, other sites you can join for house swapping, but Home Exchange seems to be the most popular.
One of the most popular things to do in Europe is to stay in hostels. Hostels are similar to cheap hotels or dorms in college. Hostel World is the most popular platform to search for cheap hostels; they even have an app you can download! The rooms typically vary from $15/night if you stay in a common dormitory style room (with others) – $50/night if you want a private room. The private rooms are usually fairly small and don’t usually have a private bathroom or kitchen, but they’re still smaller than a standard hotel room.
Rent with a Local Host
If you want to truly immerse yourself in a new location you can always try renting a room from a local. This can be a great way to meet individuals from the area you’re visiting/vacationing. It’s a sort of in-between with Couch Surfing and Air BnB. Think Air BnB, but your host family is with you and it’s typically cheaper. The most popular website for booking rooms is Homestay. It’s more expensive than Couch Surfing, but the rooms can be a bit nicer (and you for sure get a bedroom). You can find rooms from $20 – $60+ depending on what city you’re looking into. Type in the city you’re interested in, and you can view the locations on a map and see their pricing. Who knows, maybe you’ll even make a new friend!
Well there you have it! Some of my tips on how to save money while traveling! There are tons of ways to get out there and see the world while on a budget. Do you have any other tips on how to save money? Any ways you think I should have included in this list? Travel on, readers!