How to Save Money while Traveling
Traveling can cost a pretty penny, that’s no lie. From flights, hotels, food to activities, it can add up to a hefty price. But what if I told you it doesn’t have to be expensive?! What if I said you can experience a new country for an affordable price?
Yup, that’s right. I’m here to give you some travel guide tips!
Tip #1: FLIGHTS.
Flights are the most expensive part of traveling. There’s no way around that. But there’s one thing you can do (or not do): Don’t procrastinate! If you’re traveling internationally, purchase your ticket at least 6 months prior to your trip. If you’re traveling domestic, purchase your ticket at least 3 months prior. (Unless you’re traveling to Hawai’i, in that case, treat it as if you’re traveling international).
Everyone knows tickets are cheapest on Tuesdays. I have once bought a ticket to S. Korea on Tuesday 4AM from Texas for less than $800 (RT) and when I checked the price at 10AM on the same day, the price rose to $900. Did you also know if you travel on Wednesdays, the tickets are usually cheaper than flying out on any other day?
Booking websites like Expedia and Priceline are pretty useful, but make sure you check the actual airline website for deals. Two prime examples are Hawaiian Airlines and WOW Air. If you’re traveling to/from Hawai’i, check out Hawaiian Airlines website, and if you’re traveling to/from Iceland, WOW Airlines has awesome deals that may or may not show up on websites like Expedia. I flew RT to Iceland on WOW Air for approximately $300 from San Francisco. 😉
Tip #2: Fly for FREE.
This may sound like an ad… But it’s not. I recently opened a travel credit card and booked few trips through this credit card. Next thing I know, I accumulated over $800 worth of travel credit in a span of 4 months. Don’t just book your tickets on regular debit card or a “non-travel” credit card. Research which travel credit cards best fit your needs and take advantage of the free shit! Everyone loves free shit. I know I do.
Tip #3: Speaking of free shit…
If you’re not signed up with Ebates, do it now. I just signed up for it and booked a trip through Ebates -> Expedia, and Ebates sent me a check for $50. It’s basically cash back from different companies.. Amazon, travel websites, Sephora, etc.
Tip #4: Hotel (or… not)
Hotels are expensive. It’s great if you or your significant other is rich and you can afford to stay at a 5 star Sheraton hotel. (That’s my goal by the way. Finding a rich husband.)
But if you haven’t met your rich husband/wife yet (like me), read on.
First thing I check: hotels. Yes, most of the time they’re expensive, but look for deals and flash deals. Sometimes you might get lucky. And it’s nice having housekeeping clean your room everyday. hahaha!
Second thing I check: Airbnb. But I’ve been traveling solo lately and staying in an Airbnb has been rather expensive.
So my third option: Hostels. Get that scary movie out of your head! Yes, I’ve seen that movie— two dudes staying in a ghetto ass hostel in Europe and gets sold to some gruesome torture factory. But that’s a movie… I’ve stayed in multiple hostels and I’m still alive. 😉 I mean, obviously check customer reviews and photos. Cleanliness is #1 for me. I loathe roaches, I hate dirt, and dirty showers are one of my biggest pet peeves. I’ve stayed in Hostelling International in Chicago and Canada and they were surprisingly comfortable, clean and definitely affordable. For about $30-40 per night, I stayed in a comfortable twin sized bed with 5 other girls. The room was spacious, bunk beds had curtains for privacy, lockers were provided for security, and everyone was courteous and respected each other. It was also pretty cool exchanging stories with one another— one girl I met just finished law school in Germany and travelled to Banff after taking her bar exam; another girl I met moved from Ohio after college and decided to travel the world.
If you’re looking for more privacy, for about $50-60 per night, you can stay in a semi private dorm with 2-3 other girls (or boys, or co-ed, whatever you prefer).
Tip #5: Free Activities
Read travel blogs on that particular country/city/town you’re traveling to, check Yelp, make friends with the locals. You never know if that local you befriended is actually a fisherman and is heading out for deep sea fishing trip in the morning. He/she just might invite you!
Yelp is a great source for hikes, snorkeling spots, beautiful beaches, pristine lakes, historic museums, and other free sightseeing activities, so don’t dismiss it thinking it’s just for restaurants.
Travel blogs are great- because they usually describe the traveler’s experience- where they visited, what they ate, what they did, and what they wish they did.
So skip out on that trip to Sea World or to that boring zoo. Experience nature in its habitat, play like the locals, and submerge yourself into the culture.
Tip #6: Food
The cost of eating at restaurants (3 meals a day) can add up pretty quickly, so I like to cook in the lodging (if you’re staying at an Airbnb/place with a kitchen). Simple meals like eggs, toast & bacon in the morning is a full, cheap breakfast that doesn’t break the bank. If you don’t have a kitchen, you can purchase non-refrigerated items like bananas, oatmeal, ramen noodles, canned tuna, etc.
Not feeling the grocery store? That’s cool. Sometimes I’m too lazy to cook eggs, so I hit up food trucks, street food, mom/pop shops, and restaurants with one dollar sign on Yelp. There are incredible mom/pop shops all over the world and you can get a delicious home cooked meal for WAY less than $10.
#1 thing I will never do— I know that dollar meal sounds pretty tempting, but AVOID McDONALDS! You can get a $1 cheeseburger from Mickey D’s ANYWHERE.. But dude, you flew all the way out to whatever country you’re in— enjoy the culture. And that means EAT THE LOCAL FOOD. You eat that $1 pho from the streets of Vietnam, and you eat that spicy rice cake from the wagon on the roadside of Korea. It will significantly improve your cultural experience to the next level. 😉
SO. There you have it. 6 tips that will save you money while traveling! So next time you second guess that trip to Greece or Thailand, just remember that traveling doesn’t have to be expensive. The life experience you gain while submerging yourself into different cultures is abso-fucking-lutely priceless. So book that ticket (on a Tuesday) in advance, and throw away the misconception of hostels. Do your research and save big bucks.
Go see the world, you globetrotter.
Carpe diem. So cliché. You hear it all the time– seize the day. Enjoy the moment. Everyone wishes to live the carpe diem lifestyle- I know I do. But recently I realized I never really seize the moment. I’m always counting down the days for something. I’m always watching the clock, waiting for time to pass. I’m always planning my next move. Where to eat after this hike, what to see after this brunch, where to go after the concert.
Few weeks ago, I decided to pamper myself to a massage+facial at a fancy spa. I arrived a little early, but that wasn’t a problem to the fancy spa– after I changed into a comfy robe and placed all of my belongings in a locker, they led me to a meditation room. As I sat on a super comfortable recliner in a dim aromatherapy room with pleasant music playing in the background, I attempted to relax. I closed my eyes and tried to clear my mind.
‘So… tomorrow I start my 3 of 3 12hr shifts. Means I need to pre-pack 3 lunches.. I’ll probably need to stop by Safeway. Ugh, I’m almost out of olive oil.. Man, I need to start working out. Should I go for a run tomorrow? Oh right, I have a dental appointment tomorrow..’
I opened my eyes. Calm music is still playing in the background and the room is now filled with flower scents. I paid for this shit. I mean, not this room in particular, but the massage+facial, and this is supposed to be the whole experience. Why can’t I just enjoy this moment instead of planning my life away?
Then it hit me.
I need to slow down and smell the roses. Literally and figuratively. Instead of focusing on my grocery list, I can focus on the scent in the room. What kind of flowers? What does this flower remind me of? Maybe I’m in an open field filled with flowers on a warm sunny day. What about this recliner chair? It’s so comfortable. I could just fall asleep here.
Even when the days are mundane: a boring day at work, bland lunch, uneventful drive home, nothing on TV, preparing for the next day’s work. I want to learn to find the happiness in the most uninteresting day.
So I came up with a theory to finding happiness:
First! Let go of the past. Regrets are the worst. You can’t change the past and you worry about something you’ve done or not done for no reason, it only ends up stressing you out. So you’re spending your day stressed out about something you can’t change.
Second. Have a limit on your future. I can plan and plan my life away. But if I’m spending the whole day thinking about the future, I’ll never actively do anything today to make that future a reality.
Third. Embrace today. Be present. Study your environment, the people around you, every noise, every scent. Remember people’s smiles and laughters. Know that you belong in that space, in that moment.
There you go- that’s my theory. I’m going to live this theory and I’ll let you know how that works out. Wish me luck. 😉
Embracing the Change
2016 was my year of realization. I was floating around, toying with ideas about my future– all of which involved nursing, Graduate School and Nurse Practitioner. I wasn’t thrilled while formulating different plans, which involved possibly moving to California to work in a #1 Trauma Center or applying to the UH NP Grad Program and working part-time at any hospital in Hawaii.
With all of these mundane thoughts crammed into my brain, I flew to Croatia for my best friend’s wedding and then traveled through Iceland with friends. I don’t know if it was all the love in the air, being reunited with old friends, feeling completely at home with my best friends, or all the booze (so drunk), but I was in La La Land. I knew I had to travel more. I returned home from my vacation and began making a list. A travel bucket list, if you will. Then I made a plan. The dates of which I will visit these travel spots. Here’s what I have so far:
February 2017: Maui
May 2017: Banff, Canada
September 2017: New Zealand
And somewhere in between that I foresee Lanai and Molokai… And possibly Kauai. I mean, hey I live in Hawaii, I have to visit all the islands!
In the midst of making lists and travel plans, I had a realization. I can write about my travels. I can share my experiences and photographs with people. I can share tips and where to go and what not to do in a foreign country. I can start a travel blog.
THIS. Right here, is exciting. Those mundane thoughts of NP school and #1 Trauma Centers quickly dissolved and my brain was suddenly filled with words, stories, experiences I wanted to share with the world. My first blog post about Iceland poured out of me like one of the majestic Icelandic waterfalls (see what I did there? 😉 ). It was so easy and captivating. I knew right then and there, I must write more.
As I transition out of the military and into the civilian life, I realize there are several doors of possibility in front of me. I can take a photography course and actually attend the classes without fear of getting called into work (Army nurses are on call 24/7. I know, sucky). I have the choice to apply for a job in a foreign country. I have the choice of attending Graduate school in England or Australia for something other than nursing. I can get a Master’s in Journalism! The possibilities are endless.
I have a lot to think about. But for now, I do know that 2017 is going to be the year of traveling, writing and discovering. I’ve got my bags packed and I am ready for this journey.
Let’s be real here. How do you work full time and travel?
I’ve read so many articles about people quitting their jobs and traveling full time– but how?
Okay, so let’s figure this out. Now here are some qualities that may be pertinent to this lifestyle: minimalist, laid-back, flexible, extrovert, debt-free.
Here are the qualities I mirror from the above list: …..
Yeah, yeah, I like stuff. I like having my own apartment, I like my L-shaped couch, my modern/sleek dining set, my LCD TV. I like having a stable place to call home, a familiar and comfortable place to unwind.
And let’s face it- I’m not laid-back. I really try to be, I REALLY do. Especially after moving to Hawai’i, I’ve definitely learned to dial it back a bit and let my hair down (half-way), but I’ve come to accept this about myself. I like to be in control, I am a planner, type A personality, I make lists and checklists about those lists. I have a calendar and two planners— why?! I don’t know. I get pleasure from marking “checks” after completing the day’s tasks. Isn’t it satisfying? It’s like your day is fully accomplished.
I’m an introvert. Sometimes I have to give myself a pep-talk before walking into an acquaintance’s party. Hahaha, I know, what a loser. It’s not that I’d rather stay home. I love being outdoors, don’t get me wrong. But starting small talks with strangers? Making new friends? Yeah, I’m not so good at that.
Lastly, debt-free. Let’s all laugh together: HA HA HA. Oh, come on. I spent 5 years in college obtaining my degree in nursing and my RN license. Of course I’m in debt. Don’t worry- I’ll pay it off eventually. That’s why I have a full time job! 🙂
So I’m not going to quit my job, but I’m going to continue to travel the world. And that’s okay!
My next travel destination is Maui for my 30th in February. Yes, 3 months away… this is a slow start. Be patient with me, it’s going to be worth it. I promise.
Collect Moments- Not Things
Few months ago, I was at work contemplating the trip to Iceland (spoiler alert: Iceland happened in September). My friend suggested we visit Iceland after my best friend’s wedding in Croatia. My initial thought was, “YES! I’ve always wanted to go!”. But as I began to plan the trip, reality set in. Flights from Hawaii to Iceland was expensive, requesting additional days off work deemed impossible and lodging/transportation/food/other expenses added up quickly. I thought, ‘well, is it really a good time to visit Iceland now? Maybe I can go another time when I am more financially stable. Maybe once I accrue more vacation days from work, I can go then.’
That was the moment my friend/co-worker Karyna said these exact words which changed my perspectives on everything:
“Spend your money on experiences. Go to Iceland.”
When I look back on my life, it’s not the things that bring a smile to my face. It’s not the new phone I purchased last year or a shopping cart full of cute clothes from Forever 21 or the Prius I bought few years ago. I smile thinking about the time I felt infinite while standing on top of the tallest sand dune in White Sands National Park in New Mexico. I smile thinking about the time I photographed a local fisherman in Puerto Rico as he proudly held up his catch of the day and flashed the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. I smile thinking about the time my friend Rachel and I chased Jameson with lime juice in a cheap hostel in downtown Chicago because we wanted to go out but we had no money to buy drinks at bars (hahaha #VacationingAsACollegeStudent).
After realizing the root of my happiness, I knew no amount of things will ever outweigh the memories I would collect during my travels. This was a no brainer: I packed my bags for Croatia AND Iceland. I can tell you now- 1 month after the trip, it was one of the best decisions of my life.
Now that I’ve rearranged my priorities, my previously stagnant travel bucket list is becoming a reality. It’s the reality I will embrace with open arms.
This is it
This is the beginning of the rest of my life.
I feel like I’m starting over. It’s scary, but it’s also really exciting. Since I was little (I mean, elementary school little) I’ve always been told what to do, what to wear, where to go: piano classes, math tutoring, swim classes- it was never ending. I never had time just stop and think. As I grew older, I got used to that lifestyle. I joined all kinds of extracurricular activities in high school- tennis, drama club, yearbook, student council. I kept busy and it only continued throughout college. Army ROTC, nursing school… Classes, Army trainings, study, repeat.
Now here I am, 29 years old, separating from the Army after 4 years in college and 6 years of active duty.
As I am preparing for my journey into the civilian life for the first time, I stopped to think. Think about what life really means. Everyone in my life (including my mother) asks me the same questions: do you have a boyfriend yet? Are you getting married? Do you want to have children? In the other spectrum: Are you going to grad school to further your nursing career? Do you want to become a Nurse Practitioner?
I guess you can say these are very valid questions for a 29 year old in today’s society. You’re expected to get married, have children, further your career, advance your education.. But is this the life for everyone?
Is this the life for me?
I have been living my life non-stop, without room to breathe, constantly busy with college, nursing school, ROTC, Army life, hospital life. But now everything is changing.
I am finally breathing. I can slow down. I have time to think. Think about happiness, think about life, think about the world.
I started this blog without a clue of how to run a blog, how to take pictures, how to travel– I mean, I’ve barely traveled. But I am certain of one thing: I am happy. Starting this travel blog is exhilarating. I cannot wait to book all of my future travels and share the experiences with you. For the first time in my life, I feel pure joy. And dammit, if that isn’t happiness, I don’t know what is.
So maybe one day I will meet someone and maybe one day I will want to start a family. But right now, THIS is the life for me. Traveling, photography, and writing.
I’m going to live my life the way I see fit, and you should too. Stop and think: what brings you happiness?
Do what makes you happy. It feels like coming up for a breath of fresh air and there’s nothing quite like it.