How to Travel When You’re Poor, Part 2: Tips and Tricks

Okay. We established in Part 1 that yes, you definitely do want to travel, and that you definitely can do it. I want to tell you all of the things that made it easier for me to do it, in case you’re in or around the same boat financially (hahahaha we can’t afford to be in OR around a boat). Here are my disclaimers:

1. While my optimism ranges from cautious (my normal day-to-day state) to actually just pessimism (on any topic remotely related to successful romantic relationships), I’ve recently learned that in regard to travel, it’s entered a brand new zone, which is irrationally, deliriously pure–should I quit my job go to a foreign country for two months with basically no forethought? Normal Nicole says no no you stupid idiot, you should not. Travel Nicole¬†on the other hand was too busy gleefully spending Normal Nicole’s money on a plane ticket to hear the question. Take all my advice with a grain of salt. Two grains. Mostly salt, with a grain of advice.

2. I’m going to reference apps and brands of stuff occasionally, but this is not any sort of monetarily induced endorsement. I imagine that the folks representing the different things I link to in this post are not like angry that someone of my caliber is promoting them, but not enthused exactly either. Like that one friend that shows up at the bar who always gets a little too drunk and no one expressly dislikes them, but no one is really excited to see them either, but they’re so excited to see YOU, and then no one else talks to you for the rest of the night, but they still sort of smile at you in passing. You’ve become tolerable, but sort of someone to avoid by proxy.

Budgeting–This Part Sucks, But Then You’re Done

In Part 1, you picked where you were going. Well done! Now it’s time to figure out how much money you need to do the damn thing. Here’s the approximate order I went in, which I think might be wrong for “good” planning, so it was most definitely done by Travel Nicole:

  1. How much is the plane/train/boat/gas money to get where you’re going?
  2. Where will you sleep? How much will that be? Can you do that for free?
  3. Will you starve to death? How much money will it take to not starve to death?
  4. Transportation while you’re there–will you need it? How much is it?
  5. Realistically, what can you pack so that you don’t have to buy it, and what do you ACTUALLY need to have?
  6. Booze money.
  7. What if there’s an emergency?
  8. Oh fuck, you still have other monthly bills too

8 things is alot of things, but it’s actually only two things a day if you take 4 days to do it. That’s math for you.

The Breakdown of That Awful List

Transportation to Your Destination

  1. It’s pretty easy to look up the cheapest method of transportation. If you’re trying to go to Ireland from the US, I can tell you that WOW Air is cheap af, and you can get a sweet long layover in Iceland (which is how I ended up spending a day in Reykjavik before I cried my way through a night in Keflavik Airport by my lonesome #goodvibesonly). Do just a little bit of homework here. Try to flex your travel dates to fly at times that aren’t super popular. My flight from Chicago to Ireland went like this:

Flew out of O’Hare at 11:30pm Monday night. Landed in Iceland 6ish hours later. 19 hour layover in Iceland. Flew out of Keflavik at 7:30ish the next morning, landed in Ireland about 3 hours later. I was absolutely wrecked after that, and honestly I still barely know what time it is, but my round-trip flight cost me a little under $500USD.

Room, Board, Emergencies

2/3/7. Where to stay, how to eat, and what to do in an emergency are things that I solved all together. Here’s the best thing I can tell you: just volunteer. If you want to have a really glamorous trip, this might not be the best option for you. If that’s the case, may God go with you on your journey to a better suited blog. I chose to sign up with WWOOF, an organization that matches volunteers with hosts all over the world with the primary focus being organic farming. WorkAway and helpx are two other organizations that include different types of opportunities, like childcare or working in a hostel. Think honestly about what you have to offer, and then offer that thing. There’s a nominal fee for these–I’m pretty sure it was $30 for a year long membership with WOOF. WHICH INCLUDES INSURANCE SO THAT IF THERE’S AN EMERGENCY I HAVE HELP. I also have gotten accommodation and meals in exchange for getting to learn and do organic farming, which almost doesn’t seem fair, because I’m getting the good end of everything. I’ll write a more detailed post about the WWOOF process as I’ve known it soon!

Transportation and Incidentals Once You Arrive

4/6. If your room and board is taken care of, you’ve just gotten rid of the highest expenses of traveling. Which means that new things take that spot, and for me that was transportation around Ireland once I got there, and play money–mostly for going out for drinks or food or buying the odd item I might need or want.

Again here, this amount will vary depending on where you are, and how you plan to get around. On foot? Free. Public transportation? Easy to find online–just search “public transportation in (name of place you’re going).”

Two potentially helpful notes here: If you’re going to be travelling in one city a lot, there are usually cards that you pre-load with money that give you cheaper fares than paying for each ride on the spot. In Dublin, you have Leap cards, which work on the local buses, the Dart, and the Luas (which are little local trains). It’s worth it to look into these, because it actually does save you money. The other thing is if you’re taking a longer bus/train ride to see something new, it is SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper to buy a roundtrip (also called a return) ticket than to buy two one-way tickets on the fly. I was dumb and made this mistake once, and I still regret it.

Incidentals is harder to advise on, because I don’t know you or what you like or dislike or might need or not need or ANYTHING really. I can tell you that I got tired of trying to figure it out for myself too, and just figured I could probably live with $200 a month for fun money, and if I couldn’t then that was a whole second problem that I’d have to tackle, and did I really want to have to do that? No, I didn’t think so. I will say that I wish I had bumped this up to $300 a month, but also I’ve gone out with new friends kind of gratuitously, and I go new places just about every weekend (which means I’m away from the free room/board), so you can get away with $200 with some self-control probably.

So, I sort of lumped all this together, and figured about $600 for two months would do it. Just to recap, we’re at around $500 for the plane, $0 for accommodation/main meals, and around $600 for incidentals/travel within Ireland, so $1100.

What to Bring So You Don’t Have to Buy It

Bring less of literally everything you have, and then fill the newly empty spaces in your luggage with socks, and you’re done.

I kid.

Bring toiletries. Even the stupid little bottles you’re allowed to have in your carry-on bag (which is the only bag you should be bringing, see forthcoming post about how much you don’t need to pack because this will also save you $) will get you a couple weeks of shampoo/conditioner, and months of face lotion. Bring a toothbrush, because they’re cheaper in the US, not by much, but every single thing matters. Buy toothpaste there so you don’t have to go through hassle at the airport because it might be some sort of nefarious device. If you’re a menstruating person, consider a Diva Cup, because then you don’t have to bring or buy any other period things. Bring sunglasses.

Basically, bring things that are maybe more expensive, and that are convenient to get through airport security. Really think about what you actually need to not feel disgusting, and then get rid of everything else. Practice using just the things you pack in the couple weeks before you leave, because that’ll give you an idea!

Recurring Monthly Bills

Actually the hardest part to sort out. Here’s what I did, and I’m not saying it’s great, but I am saying I did it:

I canceled things I didn’t technically need (bye Netflix I miss you). If you aren’t home to drive your car, you don’t have to carry insurance on your car. See if you can shift the payment schedule so that you don’t have to pay while you’re gone. If not, you can cancel that policy (remember you’ll have to reinstate it and probably pay a fee to do so). Do you need electricity if you aren’t home? You do not. I literally am just not paying it presently, because I remember from my exceedingly poor undergrad years that you usually get 90 days to square up your utility bills. Sublet your apartment. Just do that. I didn’t do that, I borrowed money, and that was stupid as shit. I’m playing real fast and loose with my monthly bills, because that stress is worth it to me to get to travel for two months. YOU NEED TO THINK ABOUT THIS, PROBABLY FOR ALOT LONGER THAN I DID, BECAUSE I’M GOING TO BE FUCKED WHEN I GET HOME AND HAVE NO INSURANCE OR EVEN ANY ELECTRICITY TO NOTICE HOW MUCH NETFLIX I DON’T HAVE.

The bottom line on this one is that the Do I HAVE to Pay This Exactly On Time dance is tricky as hell, and doesn’t feel great. But it can be done. There will be bills you do have to pay exactly on time. But maybe not as many as you think. For me, those broke down to my student loan payment, and my phone bill.

Now You Know What You Need–Time to Save!

Stop having fun, and get an Acorns account. This is how you save the amount of money you actually need, which is not that much. I know I’m promising alot of future posts, but I’ll do a more in depth one about saving too, because you’re tired of reading and overwhelmed by now.

This is the worst part of everything. Do you know how I dealt with it?

I saved enough for the plane ticket, and then Travel Nicole BOUGHT THE PLANE TICKET and left Normal Nicole with the rest to figure out. But knowing I had that ticket to leave in 4 months made me figure the rest out faster, and better, and it was a magical beacon driving me forward towards a really great scary amazing thing.

Beacons don’t drive, the beckon, huh? Whatever. I’m in Ireland, I can mix metaphors as much as I want.