Updated: Apr 23
That’s right, my friends! This year I was able to travel to six countries, three continents, and all without spending a ton and working toward my 30 by 30 goal. Keep reading because I promise it’s possible.
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.
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First, a little about me 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, and yes, I have rent to pay and live alone. I am not a millionaire or 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. I don’t have wealthy parents or money I inherited from someone. I find ways to make it work and stretch my money. A 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), but I don’t have three months to go backpacking each summer. I have time off when everyone has time off because of my schedule as a teacher, 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 a three-day weekend for trips, take your vacation days 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 that offers cash rewards with 2X points on travel, food, gas, and the like. I pay the 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—the 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 to make an extra $100 a week. This usually averages out to one weekend job or two weeknight jobs every week. 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 travel.
I also keep a budget specifically for travel and use bonuses at work to pay for my adventures. 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 always find the cheapest tickets, but long story short, I pick locations 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 can 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. It’s possible to visit incredible, bucket list spots for less than average prices—just be flexible. If there is a place you are just set on visiting, it can be more challenging 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 destinations. Search on Google, “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 that most people would see as inconvenient. Turn it into 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 for a day 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 add an extra destination. Plus, as I mentioned, it is often cheaper to choose trips with long layovers.
I basically only book flights when they are less than $600. Most people would pay $1000 to fly to France. I visited Greece, France, and Turkey, for that price on two different trips. Look for good deals and research like crazy! I’ve seen flights to Asia for this price, too, but I 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 to stay that are super cute, affordable, and 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 in nice, comfortable places without paying an arm and a leg if you look beyond hotels.
Not into Airbnb? Look for local boutique hotels instead. They tend to have lower rates, offer exceptional service, and become your local resource for money-saving tips. We stayed at the cutest boutique hotels while in Greece that I would absolutely recommend.
Create a network
Traveling is way easier when you have 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! A hotel that was $60 a night suddenly goes down to $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 travel points this year on American and on Southwest to purchase free flights on both. I have received free hotel stays as a member of Hotels.com because every tenth night is free. I always join them because then I know when things are on sale, and I can earn free things. Many rewards programs don’t expire, so even if you aren’t a frequent traveler, you will eventually earn free flights/stays.
My favorite rewards programs:
Airbnb — share your code with friends. For every person you refer, you get $25, they get $40!
Hotels.com — for every ten 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 quickly earn 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 can 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 while working full-time!