Traveling the world on a dime sounds easy until you actually start to compare the dimes you have to flight and hotel prices. Glitch fares don’t pop up the way they used to (who remembers the great Etihad glitch of 2014?), and jetting off around the holidays, depending on the destination, could mean there are no deals at all.
We’re all about finding ways to maximize our coins, without sacrificing our comfort or experience, and this is a struggle that Rondel Holder, Founder of Soul Society 101, knows all too well. After visiting over 60 countries, Rondel might appear to many as someone with a baller budget, but that’s far from the truth. “I’m not rich, and I’m also not a backpack traveler who stays in slum accommodations to afford traveling. I’m somewhere in between – a guy with a day job who loves to travel,” he says.
Yet despite being just “a guy with a day job,” he manages to visit 6-7 countries per year and save over $4,000 annually in the process. If you’re like us, you’re probably looking at your screen like “How Sway?” According to Rondel, the answers are easier than we may think. “You’ve got to make your travel work for you! I’ve mastered how to get free and discounted round trip flights, free and discounted hotel stays, and how to make the most of my money abroad,” he shares.
So what’s the trick to seeing some world without spending all of your hard-earned cash or going into debt? No, it’s not becoming a travel influencer. We caught up with Rondel and got him to share a few tips from his new course The Ultimate Guide to Travel on a Budget, so grab a pen and take some notes, because he’s about to teach us how to travel smarter and farther in 2020.
One of the easiest tips to apply for traveling on a budget is traveling offseason. In order to effectively do this, you have to first understand the seasonality of different destinations. An easy rule of thumb is that generally, people like to be warm. So for regions that experience different seasons, their summer will usually be peak season, and therefore the time where it’s most expensive to travel there. Exceptions to this rule are of course regions where winter is the main attraction like ski resort areas, and times of the year with big festivals and carnivals happen to be during offseason
HOW IT WORKED FOR ME: I had a lovely trip to southern Italy at the end of March. Places like Positano, Amalfi, and Capri in the region where people typically go for the beach typically don’t warm up until May, therefore we bought flights for hundreds of dollars below peak season prices. We ended up having unseasonably warm weather when we were there and were able to take full advantage of the trip!
PRO TIP: Remember that the southern hemisphere has winter when the northern hemisphere has summer. So peak season for places like South Africa and Argentina are December – February when they are warm.
Travel Reward Cards
This was a game-changer for me. Immediately STOP swiping your debit card and basic credit cards and swap them in for credit cards with travel rewards. A lot of us have sworn off credit cards altogether and need a kumbaya moment because of bad relationships we’ve had or our parents have had with poor credit habits. Of course, I encourage good financial habits and only charging what you have the cash to pay for at the end of the month. But there are many travel reward credit cards that you can use for your everyday purchases where you earn a point for every dollar charged on everyday purchases and two points for every dollar charged on travel and dining out. Take a glance at your monthly budget. Chances are if you used one of these cards with travel rewards, you could end up with a free vacation at the end of the year.
HOW IT WORKED FOR ME: I’ve used my travel reward cards consistently for all purchases, big and small, since 2016, and have earned at least 2 round trip flights every to destinations like France, Bermuda and Jamaica, and 4 nights free at a hotel in Amsterdam. I most recently earned 8 nights free at a beach-adjacent hotel in Grenada.
PRO TIP: Most travel reward credit cards have a sign-on bonus such as, “charge $4,000 in the first three months and receive a bonus 60,000 points.” 60,000 points typically translates to a free roundtrip flight to many destinations in the Caribbean, Europe, South America. Imagine earning a free trip in just three months!
Living La Vida Local
Living like a local can come to life in many different ways. Everything from alternative lodging like home rentals instead of hotels, to going off the beaten path away from tourist areas when traveling for more reasonable prices and authentic experiences. Generally, the further you go away from tourist traps, the more affordable things will be. Most times the prices we pay for everyday experiences and products are laughable to locals.
HOW IT WORKED FOR ME: Martha’s Vineyard and Johannesburg, South Africa are two of my favorite destinations to travel to with family. Traveling in large groups and staying in hotels can not only be expensive but also difficult logistically. Renting houses in both locations has saved my family group thousands of dollars. And the same could be said for many other destinations around the world.
PRO TIP: If you really want to live like a budgeting local, find college towns while traveling. College towns are known for accommodating the budgets of broke college students and often times have the same quality local experiences as other areas you may be spending double the dollar on.