That’s right my friends! This year I was able to travel to 6 countries, 3 continents, and do it all without going bankrupt or piling on credit card debt. I am very strategic in how I plan trips, how much I spend, and where I go. In this post, I’ll outline for you how to travel with a full-time job to so many places. I promise, it’s possible!
Please note that this post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link, I receive a small commission at no cost to you. I only recommend things that I truly use to save money throughout this post!
First, a little about my and my lifestyle…
Yes I make an average teacher’s salary while living in DC (one of the most expensive cities in the United States to live in). Yes I have student debt, yes I have a car payment, yes I have rent to pay and live alone. I am not a millionaire and I am not living large in DC. I want to say this because I’m a fairly average middle class 20 something with some debt and bills to pay each month and a steady job. I don’t have rich parents or money I inherited from someone. I find ways to make it work and stretch my money. Steady income is something I do have and am lucky for that!
But don’t you have summers off because you’re a teacher? That makes it easier right?
Actually, no, I work at a year round school. I have a month off (which is a lot I admit it) but I don’t have three months to go backpacking each summer. I also have time off when everyone has time off because of my teacher schedule so it ends up actually being some of the most expensive times of year to travel. To make the most of your time off, create three-day weekend for trips, take your vacation when there is already a holiday you have off or you can work remotely.
What countries did you visit this year?
Now that I’ve got those out of the way, here is how I make it happen.
- I cannot emphasize this enough, get a travel credit card. I’ve been able to purchase so many flights, car rentals, and hotels through my credit card rewards. I have a card through Wells Fargo and through Chase that both offer cash rewards with 2X points on travel, food, gas, and the like. I pay this card off each month and use the points to travel.
- I have the Southwest Chase card and it’s great. Earn enough points and you get a companion pass for someone to always fly with you for free. Best part of having the card! When you sign up you get 40,000 bonus points. Find out details here.
- I babysit part-time to pay for my travels. I try to take enough jobs a week to make an extra $100 a week. This usually averages out to one weekend job or two week night jobs. They are pretty simple where I spend most of the time sitting on the couch after the kids have gone to sleep but provides me extra income for traveling.
- I also keep a budget for travel specifically and use bonuses at work to pay for travels. I did a fellowship with an organization and received $2000 – Zambia here I come! I got an award at work for $750, time to go to Denver!
I’m currently working on an entire post about how I find the cheapest tickets, but long story short, I pick places that are on sale.
- I pick spots that are an excellent deal and fit my price range. I have $600 for a plane ticket? I search for possible deals around the world (I’ve seen flights all over for this price by the way!). I’ve been to Peru, Greece, and Paris all on my $600 budget for the trip. It’s possible to visit incredible, bucket list spots for less than average. If there is a place you are just set on visiting, it can be more difficult to visit on a budget or a lot of different places in one year.
- Flexibility and planning are huge factors in being able to visit so many places. Use flight calendars on travel websites to look at the cheapest dates and maps on sites to find the cheapest destinations. Search on Google for, “average flight price in X” to see what a decent price is. Don’t overpay for a flight, it’s the biggest cost for international travel!
- Stretch your money by looking at flights with long layovers most people would see as inconvenient. Make it another destination! These flights are often way cheaper because of long layovers or inconvenient stops. Yes inconvenient, but if you can save $300, it can be worth the extra two hours in travel time.
Multiple Continents and Cities
Yes, that’s right I’ve visited three continents this year, four if you count North America (but I live here hehe). I’ve been to Europe, Africa, and Asia this year.
- Layovers are my friend. I was able to visit Dubai before heading to Zambia and Botswana. I visited Turkey and Greece on the same trip because of a long layover as well. I chose flights with long layovers so I could have an extra destination. Plus, as I mentioned, it is often cheaper to have long layovers in cities.
- I basically only book flights when they are less than $600 dollars. Most people will pay $1000 to get to France. I visited Greece, France, and Turkey for that price on two different trips… I look for good deals and research like crazy! I’ve seen flights to Asia for this price too, but just haven’t been able to make it work yet with my time off!
- I will also say AirBnB is your friend when you are on a budget. You can find places that are super cute and affordable that are nicer than hotels if you research and book ahead of time! I’ve never stayed in a hostel (not that I am against them) but it is possible to stay nice places without paying an arm and a leg by looking beyond hotels.
- Not into AirBnB? Look for local boutique hotels instead. They tend to have lower rates, exceptional service, and give you tips for saving. We stayed at the cutest boutique hotels while in Greece that I would absolutely recommend.
Create a network
- Traveling is way easier when you know others who want to travel with you. You have a buddy to do awesome things with and also someone to split the price of everything with too.
- Most of my travel has not been alone. I have a lot of friends who love traveling and I am lucky enough to be able to explore the world with them! When I find a good deal, I send it out to my friends asking who wants to go. I have always been able to find at least one person (if not more) to come with! The hotel that was $60 a night suddenly goes down to being $20 a night when you’re with friends.
Join Every Travel Rewards Program You Can
Seriously, do it! Even if you don’t travel all the time, do it! I earned enough points this year on American and on Southwest to purchase a free flight on both. I have earned free hotel stays as a member of Hotels.com because every 10th night is free. I always join because then you know when things are on sale and you earn toward free things. Many rewards programs don’t expire so even if you aren’t a frequent traveler, you can eventually earn free flights/stays.
My favorite rewards programs:
- AirBnB – share a code with your friends. For every person you refer, you get $25, they get $40.
- Hotels.com – for every 10 nights you stay, you get a night free
- Southwest Airlines – your points never expire and you get an average of 1200 points per flight.
- Expedia – You get points for flights, hotels, rental cars, activities, and more! You can easily get a lot of points from one single trip and they have good deals. However, I do not recommend them for international flights – read about my horrible story here.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to making travel possible, but hopefully with these tips, you are able to find ways to afford more and understand a bit of how to travel with a full-time job. Have any tips or tricks? I’d love to hear how you make travel affordable and possible if you work full-time!