We tell you to shut up and go, but we’ve held out on telling you something very important. How how we’ve shut up and went for five plus years with minimal resources. As a gift to you, we’re putting together the one, easy-to-read, no fluffy bullsh*t, comprehensive blog with all of the actual information and links you need to travel cheaply based on everything we know about cheap travel.
Let’s get started.
How we book our flights:
There are a million ways to book your flight, some sites pop up even without you wanting them to. So which top three do we actually consult before booking anything?
We’ve been such superfans of Skyscanner that we’ve even convinced them to work with us. This is your tried-and-true cheap flight search engine that almost always gives you the cheapest options. If you want to support lil ol’ Damon and Jo, head on over to our booking page that’s completely powered by Skyscanner.
We also use the Skyscanner app (available for android and iOs) to keep up with the latest flights while on the go. Setting up price alerts is also a lifesaver when you’re not trying to be that guy checking their phones every two minutes to see if your flight is $10 cheaper – they’ll do it for you.
Why we love this:
They have a “Flexible” feature where you can type in your home airport, and in the destination box you simply select “everywhere.” You can pick your ideal dates, or even select a full month, or better yet, the cheapest month out of the year to fly. Once you hit “search,” you’ll get the cheapest destinations taking the stress out of having to pick where to go next.
Pro tip: Always search for your flights with a private browser to make sure you’re getting the fairest price. Some sites place trackable cookies on your open browser, which allows them to show you the most expensive flight you recently viewed. Also, if you own both a PC and a Mac, try searching on both to see if your prices are different, you’d be surprised at what you can find.
Ironically, both the college graduate, and the dropout are avidly searching studentuniverse.com for their next flights. Why? Because you’ll still be able to book cheaper flights if you’re under 26 years old. Take advantage of this especially if you’re a student or work for a university with a .edu email address. The ticket prices are ridiculously cheaper, as they should be if you’re paying $50,000 a year for your education.
Why we love this:
Finally, students get a break. The under 26 policy also makes us feel like they’re on board with the rest of Europe’s motto to help out during the tumultuous early 20s. Those older than 26 are still able to book on the site so they really don’t discriminate.
Jetradar is probably the site that goes the most under the radar. It’s a random website we came across that truly blew us away with their cheap prices. But there’s a twist: you’ll see tickets that don’t even seem real because they’re so under priced, but you’ll most likely have to deal with a long layover. The search engine will give you options with 21+ hour layovers which could be worth that $200 save. Sometimes you’ll have to sleep on an airport bench to save, we’re definitely no strangers to that.
Why we love this:
It’s the cheapest way to get somewhere, and if you plan your layover correctly, you can even see a “new place,” if only for a few hours. Be sure to do the math, and check to see if the airport you’ll be stranded at closes because surprisingly, some close after 11PM. *Flashes back to curling up outside an Italian airport until 6AM when they reopened.*
How we book our accommodation:
First of all, let’s get this straight: hostels are not scary like the movie branded all hostels to be. They’re actually a really interesting, young, and fun accommodation option that’s ideal for anyone traveling solo who wants to meet people. We loved the culture of hostels so much that we both worked as front desk agents in North America’s largest hostel – Hostelling International NY. The room set ups go anywhere from a 4-6 bed dorm to a 20 bed dorm. You can choose all male, all female, co-ed. Some hostels even offer a private room so you can partake in the vibe of a hostel without waking up to snoring.
Why we love this:
Hostels start anywhere from $10 a bed per night making it the cheapest way for someone to travel and stay somewhere without breaking the bank. They’re usually very centrally located making it cheaper for you to get around. There’s a community of interesting global people, and even the front desk agents are unique for working at a hostel, so get to know them *best job we’ve ever had.*
Pro tip: Lockers are provided (bring your own lock, towel, and flip flops, as sometimes these are extras). Free events usually happen every night to get the guests mingling and all you have to do is sign up. We’ve made some solid friends from pub crawls, and club nights in hostels all over the world.
Upscale hostels: The Freehand, Generator, St. Christopher’s Inn
Depending on which city you’re going to, Airbnbs can be the cheapest option for a private space. You’ll also usually be staying in a more residential neighborhood, and get to experience what it’d be like living there as a local, which we also love. If you’re traveling in a group of three or more, an Airbnb is almost always cheaper and better than staying in a hostel due to the fact you can choose to have your own private space. For long-term rentals, this is probably your best option as well. Take advantage of the fact some hosts will give you a discount for staying a full week, or a full month.
Why we love this:
You feel way more local, and way less touristy by staying at an Airbnb. It’s a good blend between a hostel and hotel, especially in price. You get your privacy, or you get to feel like you have a roommate (by selecting the private room option, but living with someone who’s local). Another perk: living with a kitchen makes you feel like you’re a civil human being, rather than someone who has to order food, or go to the grocery store for every meal. Another reason we love them is that if you have an issue with your place, you can always tweet at Airbnb’s support account and they’ll step in to help immediately. You can also book anything from an igloo, to an airstream on Airbnb.
Pro tip: While reviews are important, message a host even without reviews to see if their communication makes you feel a little better. Some of the best places we’ve stayed in had no reviews! Make sure you review the location on Google maps to see how far you’ll be from transportation. Because these aren’t actual touristic accommodation options, you could run into being stranded deep in the burbs with no way to get to what you’re in the destination to see!
If you’re a little bougier, and need to sleep within the comfort of a hotel’s silky white sheets, don’t worry, we have something for you too. Hotel Tonight is an app for your smartphone that actually turned us into part-time hotel goers. We’d never think we’d be the types, because we weren’t, until we discovered the “Geo Rate” option on this app which gives you insane discounts on boutique hotels wherever you currently are. I’ve stayed steps away from South Beach for like $70 where it usually costs $140 and up. If you’re splitting that price with someone, it could easily end up being cheaper than an Airbnb.
Why we love this:
You’re rewarded for last minute booking rather than being shamed. You’ll get to experience a hotel without paying that five star price. Hotels often offer free shuttles from the airport to their facilities free of charge which saves you hassle and money.
Pro tip: Let’s say you’re flying to NYC from LA today, and your flight reservation is in your email. Creepily enough, Hotel Tonight will see you’ll be in that destination that evening, and will give you the geo rates even if you’re not physically in the destination yet, so you can book before landing, taking some of the stress away.
Couchsurfing is exactly what it sounds like: you “surf,” aka crash on strangers’ couches completely for free in exchange for a good review if the experience was enjoyable. You join, make a profile, and start messaging people to see if they can host you or even just want to get coffee with you. The sites been around for years and has some pretty unique people, making it one of the best places to even make international friends. I once became friends with a guy who messaged me wanting to get coffee. We never got coffee, that is until two years later. Now I consider him one of those life-long friends, all from an unassuming message on this site asking to get coffee. Damon and I have also stayed at a random man’s house in D.C. and filmed a video about it.
Why we love this:
It’s totally free, and encourages the fact that human beings are genuinely willing to help a traveler in need of a place to crash for the night. There are couchsurfing events sometimes to unite the community. Once you let someone stay with you, odds are they’ll be more likely to let you stay with them when you’re in their hometown.
Sure Damon and Jo, love all that, but I won’t be able to sustain a life abroad without making some income while I’m over there. I gotta werk werk werk werk werk.
Here are some of our favorite options for jobs abroad:
- Au Pair: taking care of children is all the rage in Europe, especially if you come with English skills. While this isn’t the best job to learn a language (as the parents will most likely want you to only speak your native tongue to teach their kids), it’s a job that gives you a place to stay, and sometimes some spending money.
- HelpX.Net: A membership-based website where you can apply to work in exchange for room and board.
- Wwoofing: Work specifically on farms, or in outdoor settings in exchange for room and board
- Housesitting: We recommend Trusted House Sitters, but there are other sites that will give you listings of people who literally need you to babysit their house, or pet, or both. When you housesit, you usually get to live in their home free of charge.
- Working at Hostels: Just because you’re not citizen of whatever country you’re going to doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to random hostels (preferably ones with good reviews) via email to see if they allow volunteers to work at the front desk, bar, or at events in exchange for free accommodation. Damon’s done it, and here’s his blog about it.
- Teaching English: wherever you’re going, do a quick Google search to see if there are language schools that could use a native English speakers help.
- Become an iTalki teacher
Full-Time Jobs that Let You Travel:
For those of you who want to live a travel lifestyle without living a financially unstable one, here are some ideas of career paths to take.
- Become a flight attendant
- Become a study abroad advisor, abroad
- Be a full-time English teacher abroad
- Work for a travel management company
- Work for a marketing agency that represents travel DMOs (destinations)
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Our favorite travel card has to be the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. There are no international transaction fees, and you earn 2 points for every $1 you spend on restaurant dining, and travel. All the points you get accumulate into this massive pot that you can trade in for either travel, or shopping at any of the partner stores. The annual fee is only $95, making it one of the cheapest and best international travel cards. Added perk: this card covers your auto rental insurance!
Airline Credit Cards
Ever been in flight and hear the flight attendants talk about applying for a credit card and wonder why even bother? We were confused too, until I started spending money on a CitiBank American Airlines card and simply by making purchases became an elite member of their frequent flyer points program. Now, I get perks like free bags for me and up to four people, and priority boarding. Look into your favorite airlines, and if they’ve teamed up with a bank on a credit card. Odds are, you’ll save tons of money (if you pay your credit card bill on time that is).
Pro tip: Some credit cards offer Global Entry application fee waiver, which means you’ll automatically save the $100 on applying for this program which also includes TSA Pre-check. This allows you to breeze through security in the airport with your shoes on, and laptop snug in your bag. While the application process literally takes an hour filling out personal information you’ve probably forgotten, and the wait for an appointment could be up to three months, it’s worth it in the end.
Dealing with Cash
If you need Euros or British Pounds, your bank branch might actually have them in store. Or, you can request them, and that’s usually a cheap way to go about getting local currency. If you forget like I often do, arrive in the new country and withdraw all the money you think you’ll need for the entire trip at once. The money will come out in local currency at a decent exchange rate. You’ll be hit with a foreign transaction fee, and a “not your bank” ATM withdrawal fee (usually $5), so make sure you’re avoiding doing this often.
Pro tip: Download the xe.com app to convert all of your currency and ensure you’re getting the best exchange rate possible if you’re going to a kiosk.
Frequent Flyer Miles:
If you’ve always been confused about the difference between frequent flyer miles and credit card points, you’re not the only one. They make it as confusing as possible for you to not get as many perks as you deserve. Let us help you.
Frequent flyer mile programs are offered by almost every airline. It’s their attempt of gathering more data from you, while encouraging you to be loyal to them. Some airlines are massive, while others are smaller, so they’ve formed three main airline alliances.
- Star Alliance.
You can simply google “”insert airline” frequent flyer program,” and you’ll be taken to their landing page for signing up to their free frequent flyer program. You put in your information, and you’re given a spammy number that you need to put into every reservation you book with that airline, or one of their alliance partners. Before you know it, this free number will be getting you things like free baggage, upgrades, and priority boarding. It’ll have you wondering why the heck you didn’t sign up earlier.
How do you keep track of a million ridiculous and spammy looking numbers? You download this app called Award Wallet. While it doesn’t actually work a lot of the times, you’ll be able to keep all of your frequent flyer miles in one place. When the app does work, it tells you if your miles expire, and when, as well as how many you’ve accumulated. Airlines have been buckling down on who they’re letting have access to their clients’ information, so in the end, I just use it as a place to store my numbers so I’m not sifting through hundreds of emails at the check-in counter.
Pro tip: Once you reach a certain number of miles, you become a “silver, gold, platinum” client, but you need to keep flying at the level it takes to maintain that status, or you lose it. You can plug in your frequent flyer number even if you’re not the one who paid for the flight, that’s when you’re really winning.
Now you’ve booked your flight, you’ve got a place to stay, found a cute little part-time job, have credit cards to swipe, and have started racking up the frequent flyer miles. How do you call home to tell everyone about how successful you feel?
Unlock your phone
This is ideal before you leave for your trip. You can simply google “unlock my “insert phone name,”” and see what services are available. We’ve also bought unlocked iPhones from Groupon before that came ready to go. The reason you want your phone unlocked is so that when you’re abroad you can buy a local sim card, and your phone works as if it’s meant for that service provider.
Get an international phone plan
The best plan for international trips is honestly Tmobile’s Simple Choice plan. At $70/month, it covers unlimited data and texting in 115 countries. Our phones work the same in LA as they do in Thailand, that’s insane.
Pro tip: While in flight on any American Airlines flight where WiFi is an option, Tmobile customers get free wifi for the first hour, and free social media afterwards if you just login again.
Skype for emergencies
As a last resort, if you’re like me and your phone and wallet have just been stolen, Skype offers free 1800 calls even overseas. Otherwise, you can buy calling credits for any other number.
Pro tip: In general for communication, download Whatsapp, Viber, Imo, Facebook messenger, which all allow you free WiFi/Data calls without getting charged per minute like cell phone providers charge.