By Bri Simpson.
Photos by Demarco Valentine
One of the greatest gifts I can give my inner artist is the opportunity to travel. Sure nice brushes come in handy and funds to expand my business are appreciated. However, none of these things matter if I do not grow as a person.
This is what traveling does.
It allows you disconnect from your everyday, to plunge into a new and/or different environment, and become a version of yourself that may not otherwise flourish in your regular environment. Exploring a new city, state, or country allows you to be a hands on student of the world. As nice as this sounds, the first thought for many when "travel more" is mentioned is:
"How do I pay for this?"
Fair enough. It is a bit overwhelming thinking about transportation, lodging, food, and how much spending cash you may need. But, there are many tools available to plan an affordable trip now more than ever. Now, speaking as a single, employed person, I have found some tricks and hacks that allow me to travel and not put me into a deep hole of debt.
Traveling/planning a trip is usually broken down into four categories:
Transportation, Stay/Lodging , Food, and on hand cash & funds.
Start with the most expensive thing first, and work your way down paying for the others. Maybe buy your flight on one paycheck, and then in a few weeks, secure your stay. Paying in little chunks not only eases your stress, but it's nice to see a trip come together.
If you're flying:
I buy my flights off of Expedia.com. It's just convenient. I sign up for email alerts for flights I'm looking at (Skyscanner.com). When I get an alert that the flight I'm interested in has a price drop, I go book it (thank you credit card). The earlier you book your flight, the cheaper it is. I tend to book my flights at least a month-month and a half in advance of the trip I'm planning. I try not to pay no more than $350 round trips. That's my preferred price cap. There are also airlines now similar to Megabus that offer cheap flights (Frontier is one. This is good for backpack trips because they have baggage fees. But their flights can be as cheap as $29 for specificied days)
I have a higher tolerance for long rides than others. I just pack snacks, get a good music playlist, and hibernate for a few hours. If you are like me, megabus can be as cheap as $1-15 for a one way to cities(If you buy a ticket a month or so in advance.) If you waited too long to buy a flight, this can be a nice backup to consider, but it will most definitely add to your travel time. Wanderu is a website/app that lists multiple bus options (megabus, greyhound, and local transits, as well as trains) and let's you choose which one is the most convenient/affordable.
I use these apps more when I'm out of town. I like to be among the people when I travel, so I take city transit when I'm there. But if I need to get somewhere faster, quickshare rides make getting around just as easy. Plus, you can chat with your driver and ask them about things to do locally.
**I don't stay in hotels if I can avoid them. Instead, I use airbnb and hostels.**
Hostels, not like the horror movie, are what I describe as adult dorms. The rooms tend to be shared bunk beds, same sex or mixed genders. Depending on the place, there could be private rooms available for a slightly higher fee. If the point of traveling is to be out and about, hostels are a great option. They tend to be $25-$40 a night. When on a budget this is great.
Hostels usually have 24 hour check in, access to a full kitchen/complimentary breakfast, some amenities (linen, game room, computer access, things like that), and the people tend to be young/international travelers. My roommate in New York was Chinese and we communicated through text message translations. You wouldn't get that from being cooped up in your hotel room.
Airbnb is another cheap alternative. Great for groups and solo travel. Solo its cool to find a host who will show you local things to enjoy, even better when they hang out with you. Airbnb offers shared rooms with the host, private guest rooms, as well as whole property rentals. With the map tool, you can find the perfect place close to attractions that you want to be around the most. I've rented private guest rooms from the lowest being $39/night.
I like to eat. Not stuff your face kind of eat, but I genuinely see cooking or culinary as another art form. I always make it a point to eat out somewhere nice when I am out on a trip. And then the rest of the days I try not to spend more than $20 on food for all meals. This means eating light and planning ahead. When choosing a place to stay, I try to either find a place where they offer breakfast or have a kitchen & fridge access. This helps tremendously because you can store leftovers.
4.) Spending money:
As far as spending money goes, it's really up to what you want to do. I like going to museums, so I always have enough for that. I also like to shop. Usually I set aside a paycheck for larger trips and save up about $200 or so for smaller, weekend trips as on hand cash. You also want to make sure you have available funds just in case of an emergency, (like you lose your bank/credit card or your account gets flagged, or your'e somewhere that only accepts cash) especially if you are traveling solo. Lord willing you won't have to use it, but it's nice to take that precaution.
**Bonus tip**: Check Groupon for activities as well as city tour packages, for discounts and free admission days. In New York MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) is free on fridays, the Bronx zoo is free on tuesdays. live tapings for shows like Jimmy Fallon is also free (you just have to sign up on the website in advance.)
So get out there and start traveling! Take that beach get away you keep daydreaming about. Take that trip to the Midwest. Have your cabin retreat. Life should inspire you and what's more inspiring that seeing this big 'ol beautiful world, one trip at a time.
Bri Simpson is a Creative assassin for AB+L Radio. Check out her website for more of her work
Demarco Valentine is a freelance photographer & international giraffe fight referee for ABL Radio. You can see more of his work on IG @demarcov.