How I Traveled to 15 Countries/4 States for Less than $6,000

7 Tips! From Never Being On a Commercial Flight to Traveling to 15 Countries/4 States for less than $6,000

By Melissa Westbrook

I meant to write this a few months ago. Better late than never! All of my trips combined costed me no more than $6,000 (including flights, food, lodging, and activities) so here are some tricks & tips on how I made that happen.

In 2016 I went to:
Countries: Belize, Guatemala, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, China, Curacao, Morocco, Ireland

States: Chicago, IL – New York City, NY – Houston, TX – Nashville, TN
Federal District: Washington, D.C.

Quick TIPS:

  1. Flight Deals

There are many flight deal accounts, however, my two main gurus are:

Secret Flying [Website | Twitter]

The Flight Deal [Website | Twitter]

Important: Error Fares vs. Deals
Error Fare: Whoever entered the price into the airline system did it wrong, so it’s super cheap. You have to get those flights in your cart immediately! You have a very short time (seconds to about 4 minutes) to figure out dates and who is going with you. I always place two in my cart and ask a travel buddy if they are free! Remember, you usually cannot change names on a ticket!

Deals: The airline is running a special. You have a little more time to think but you should have the flight in your cart ready to book in 5-10 minutes! They can go fast! YES, THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE! The time crunch is due to so many people seeing the error and booking it simultaneously. 

*Misconception:  You have to have a twitter. I do not have an account, I merely save the pages to my iPhone Safari as a bookmark and click on the links every time I feel compelled to check out deals. Which used to be every five minutes. If you have an account, one positive effect is that you could set alerts to get all their tweets directly to your phone.

  1. Thank God for Google Flights

Google Flights is a great search engine and links you directly to the website where you can purchase the flight.

Map feature is my favorite because you can see how much it costs to go from point A to point B on the dates you choose AND it shows you prices from point A to any other city in the world with the same exact dates you choose on a world map view – NIFTY, RIGHT?!

Flexible dates feature – If you click the first date, a calendar will appear. You will see another title that says ‘flexible dates’. This will allow you to use your same dates but it will also show you a matrix of days before and after your scheduled arrival/departure which helps you find some of the cheapest options within a date range. (This helps when searching for those error fares that were announced from Secret Flying and The Flight Deal)!

  1. Hostels or A Friend’s Couch

In the states, I crashed on a friend’s couch FOR FREE. They would make me a copy of their key and I could go and come as I pleased. My friends would even tour me around if I were alone.

Hostels are NOT trashy, unsafe, and scary. They are actually some of the safest places to stay in. They can range from private rooms to dorm style. Most hostels give you your own key card so you can come and go as you please and have security amenities such as luggage storage, safes, etc. Some even have free breakfast and will arrange a cheap tour for you! You can search hostels through this website, which has reviews, filters, and pictures.

Hostelworld.com [Website]

*Fact:  When I was in Morocco I stayed in the Rainbow Hostel Marrakech and it was $7.80 a night. Many hostels are cheap (relative to the country you are in). You should pay between $7-$30 a night depending on the country.

  1. Luggage Size

I am a huge believer in the carry on bag because it’s always free and you never have to wait at the baggage claim! You can bring enough clothes, shoes, and essentials. The airline is a huge determinant of the size of your carry on. Cheaper airlines overseas have decent carry on sizes. Domestic airlines that are cheap have smaller requirements. However, they are sensible and doable! The two following bags are carry-on approved for long and short trips, respectively.

My Backpacking Bag

*Cheap Airline Approved: Ryan Air, Aer Lingus, Air Asia, Tiger Air, and WOW

My Weekend Trip Bag

*Cheap Airline Approved: Spirit and Frontier.
*This was purchased at ROSS, in the bag section for $12.99.

  1. Airlines

Go on whichever company has the best deal. PERIOD.

*Must Know: Flying from one country to another in Europe or Southeast Asia is so cheap! You can fly anywhere from $6-$40 (my definition of cheap) to the next country!

If the flight leaves from another city that is not yours, chances are the flight there plus the error fare/deal are cheaper than a normal ticket.

  1. Take Cool Scenic Pictures

Of the country and not with you in it all the time! Remember your friends may have never been to these places and I’m sure they would love to see the beauty of the country just as much as you wanted to. Your face is nice, but that pyramid in the back is what makes it unique!

Cliff of Moher, Ireland

National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C.

Campfire in the Sahara Desert, Morocco

Donut from Five Daughters Bakery, Tennessee

 

  1. Number of Days Per County or City #CountryHopping

The amount of time you spend in each country or city is up to YOU! No one can tell you what is a real experience.

My game plan is to research all the touristy and non-touristy spots (hidden gems) and pick which interests me. Then do them! Once I’ve completed my list I’m ready to move to the next place. Personally, I cannot sit idle so my time in one city is between 2-4 days and it all depends on how long the to-do list is!

*Idea: Weekend Trips – Many US cities and nearby countries can be toured in a two to three-day weekend!

REMEMBER:

  1. You are traveling to experience the world and learn.
  2. Humble yourself and be optimistic when trying new things.
  3. Learn “hello”, “thank you”, and “no thank you” in the native language of the country you are visiting.
  4. Don’t have an objective to make things seem unachievable to others, share your tips. Traveling is for everyone.
  5. Backpacking is not for the faint-hearted. Luckily, God made us in his image which is not faint or weak. You can do it!
  6. There is no shame in cheap traveling!

NIFTY IDEAS:

Volunteer abroad for free accommodations if you want to travel to a country for an extended amount of time. You can work in a hostel, as an au pair, etc. You will get free stay and food. You just have to pay for your flight and activities. 

Travel Books: If you were wondering what to do with all your cool travel pictures. Use Chatbooks, Snapfish, or Blurb to create books with all your memories organized in them. You’ll finally be able to delete them off your phone!

States Map: Make a United States map out of a cool picture you take in each state.

DEDICATIONS:

To Vanessa C., Meghan C., Alexis W., Laura O., Brittany D., and Ruthie R. for allowing me and my friends to crash at your places.
To Meyonka G., Yohanna R., Nelee M., Latasha W., Melissa S., Antionie E., Alexis G., Lauren J., Eunice W., Keandra C., Desiree R., Amanda B., Shantavia C., Josh W., Wenisha A., and Sarah Z. for being my travel buddies this year.
To Shauna S. and Shay S. for being brave enough to live abroad and taking care of me when I visited you.
To Aubrey M., Cynthia F., and Mike M. for being the greatest friends and showing me around my dream city.
To Vanna N., Aerielle R., and Alexis T. for being my muses.

& To all my new international friends, may we reunite again soon!

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