A few months ago I asked the world of social media, “If you could do ANYTHING right now, what would you do?” I got an overwhelming response of people wishing they could travel. And I constantly get asked how Chris and I travel so much at a young age. Really, the answer is simple: travel is a priority to us. Some people buy four wheelers, some choose to get the latest iPhone, some people buy a $4 coffee everyday, and some people spend their money going on trips. I can remember vividly my dad telling me as a high school girl that I can do anything in the world, but I cannot do everything. And that is just it! No, we are not “lucky”. Yes, we both work hard and save our money, but really, it is just because that is how we choose to spend our time and money. So for all those who do not think travel is a realistic opportunity to them– You are wrong! And I hope this post helps you see how achievable it is, if you are willing to prioritize it.
The first time I went to Spain I was two years old. My brave mama packed up our luggage and hopped on a plane with me, a two year old, my brother who was eight, and my sister who was six, to visit family. Meanwhile my pops stayed back in AZ to work and joined us a couple weeks later. We made this trip about every few summers, with some other countries thrown in the mix. I know this was an incredible amount of work (and fear) for my mom and dad to travel so far with all three of us kids, but their efforts were not in vain. In fact, the sacrifices made for us to travel has instilled a deep desire of wanderlust into my being. I thank my parents for gifting my siblings and me with these experiences, and for never leaving us behind, although we definitely complicated and slowed their vacations down. Luckily I have found someone who loves to be in airports just as much as I do, and Chris and I hope to continue our travels throughout the stages of our lives (including when babies start arriving!). With that being said, here is a list of travel tips and tricks I have accumulated for the past 22 years of traveling.
How to travel when you’re young and on a budget:
Norwegian Airlines has been our best friend when it comes to cheap flights in Europe! (XL Airways is another we have used). They can have round-trip flights to Europe for as low as $300 if you are diligent and look often. A friend told me about the website called Sky Scanner that has helped us in the past, and Google Flights is now a thing too. So what I am saying is finding the cheapest flight available should not be an issue in this day and age if you are persistent. Norwegian aircrafts are beautiful and huge, with individual screens. The plane does not feel “cheap” by any means. They do however charge extra for luggage (I’ll touch on that later) and for food and water.. So be prepared! Bring empty water bottles to fill up once you have passed security, and bring snacks! Many people think that because you cannot bring liquids that you cannot bring food either. That is false, I always have a carry on that is half way full of non perishable food items (you can eat these snacks throughout the trip as well to save on spending). Last thing, they only fly out of certain airports like LA and NYC, so if time and geographics permit, you can drive to these airports, but if not you can usually find a cheap flight to the nearest big airport.
2. Travel with people! If you travel in a small group you can split everything. I’ll admit traveling with others can be difficult because you get put in intimate settings where you are forced to be open minded about the agenda, but it saves so much money. There is a HUGE misconception between traveling and vacationing. We do take a relaxing vacation every once in awhile, but usually it is stressful and sweaty and educational and so, so, so worth it. We use airbnb.com instead of hotels when we can, and if you get one place and split it with a group, that cuts the price in half of what you would pay if you were to stay there alone. Also, stop at local grocery stores and get things to eat for breakfast and lunch. We try to only eat out about once a day.
Make compromises! You are not going to travel like a celebrity if you are on a budget, and thats ok! Decide before the trip what are priorities and what can be compromised, and then enjoy the ride, including all the bumps along the way.
3. Make connections whenever and wherever you can. I am the kind of person who makes a friend for life. Once you are my friend, I will try to do my part to be your friend for the rest of forever. So when I make friends from other parts of the world, it gives me an excuse to travel to see them! When you know someone in the city you are visiting, it makes it easier to know what is worth spending money on, and what is better to go the inexpensive route. And if they are a really good friend, then they might let you stay with them for free 😉 Join some travel groups on Facebook and let them know where you are going (but do not give any addresses out– there are creepers out there). People can be much more generous than you think! Someone may have an Airbnb they will let you use while you’re there, or a couch you can sleep on, or even suggestions on where to eat– take any help you can get, graciously.
4. Use public transportation to get around while you’re at your destination. While in Europe or NYC or anywhere with a metro, take advantage of it! It is way more cost effective to get a week pass on the subway than to take Ubers everywhere.
How to travel light:
Given my love of clothing, people are always shocked to find out that Chris and I are really light travelers. For a long trip, we each bring a carry on bag and then share one suitcase. This makes traveling cheaper because most airlines charge for extra luggage, and it is so much easier. Trust me, there is nothing more exhausting then getting off a 11 hour flight and then having to walk two miles without a map to find your airbnb with a ton of luggage. Collaborate with whoever you are traveling with and make sure you are not all bringing the exact same things. Bring one bottle of shampoo and share, etc. I try to pack 5 or so clothing items that I can mix and match to switch it up throughout the trip and only things that are really light in fabric so it can easily be rolled up and doesn’t take up much luggage space. Only bring one pair of walking shoes, and one pair that goes with the season (sandals for beach, boots for snow, that sorta thing). If you HAVE to bring anything more, really think it over, and then see if you can fit it in your carry on.
2. Since you are traveling light, you will have to do laundry at some point. Bring an empty bottle of *powder* laundry detergent and either do laundry at your airbnb or if you’re ok with roughing it, do it in the sink!
3. Do not buy tons of souvenirs. In my experience, this is hard to do for those who do not travel often, because they think it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. And this is especially difficult if your peeps at home expect you to bring them something back. In my honest opinion, souvenir items are cheap and not authentic at all. Instead, spend that money on good food or experiences while you’re there. Those will bring the most value (and your pictures of course), and then you won’t have to lug around all those trinkets for the rest of your travels. If someone is expecting something back, send them a postcard! It is much more personable than a plastic miniature Eiffel Tower. BUT like I said, that is just my take on the topic.
How to prepare for a big trip:
Everything previously mentioned is of course part of your preparation for a trip, but there are so many little things you can do to make traveling much more seamless. Most of these tips I have learned from my mother who is incredibly good at traveling and party planning. Get a folder with clear sheets in it to store all of your documents in. Print out EVERYTHING! We do not realize how dependent we are to the internet until it is not at our finger tips anymore. Google Map the distance and directions from the airport to wherever you are staying, and print it out. This will help you be familiar with your surroundings and will also prevent taxis from ripping you off. Speaking of taxis, you should even get an estimate online for how much that taxi ride should cost– and print it out! Make sure you have all reservations and confirmations printed and placed in one of the sheets. Have the addresses and phone numbers of anyone you may know in that country or city for convenience and emergency purposes. Photocopy your passports and keep one copy in the folder, and email another copy to someone at home (mom, dad, bff) who can access it just in case you misplace your passport, or have another sort of emergency.
This all seems overwhelming, but it is worth it. By stressing and planning a bit before you take off, the trip will be much more relaxed when the time comes. And once you successfully plan and take your first trip, it becomes addicting and you will be a pro in no time! Please comment if you have specific questions about anything else– I am an open book and I’d love to help more people travel. It is one of the only things in life that is truly worth spending money on!
“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float; to gain all while you give; to roam the roads of lands remote; to travel is to live.” ― Hans Christian Andersen