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To follow the three-part series on answering difficult emails from students, we thought we’d do another series – only on a much more enjoyable topic: travel hacking. I thought I’d share here a few of the ways I personally implement travel hacking to travel more often and for longer periods of time.

This primarily involves cutting costs in other areas of life. Some of the points we’ll cover might be tough to implement at first, but when the reward is more travel and exploration, it’s more than worth it.

This first article focuses on the travel hacking mindset. The next two will cover different areas and parts of travel hacking, and how to implement them. Let’s get started with travel hacking for online teachers part 1!

Consider getting rid of your car

Over the past two years, I’ve become quite the fan of Mr. Money Mustache. He preaches much common sense when it comes to money management. The more of his stuff I read, the more I’m baffled when I look back at certain parts of my life.

Why was I so loose with money? Especially during the times of my life when I was the most broke?   One of MMM’s biggest and most frequent points of concern is the automobile.

Particularly, the fascination of western culture with driving big, shiny, expensive hunks of metal around everywhere when it’s much cheaper and better to ride a bike, drive a used car, or take public transit. His basic rule of thumb is that one should never spend more than $10,000 on a car, and never buy one new.

One car per household, used sparingly, is ok.   When the opportunity came to get the Blue Book value for a car I had that was giving me nothing but problems and becoming a money pit, I took it (at least Subaru’s are decent at holding value).

One of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I used some the money to pay off the credit card debt I had racked up keeping that car on the road, and put the rest in savings.

Cut out extras when going out, and basically just stay in more often

Fortunately, this is something I’ve always been pretty good at, for the most part. I’ve never been a soda drinker. When at a restaurant, I’m either drinking alcohol or water. I never order dessert. Ever.

I’m not much for gas station snacks or other impulse buys at the grocery store that are meant to weasel that extra dollar or two.  

I partially credit my time bootstrapping a business with my wife for this frugality. I learned to skip the bag of chips and the Gatorade at the convenience store because that money needed to go into the business.  

This practice is intact today. Part of it is a result of being married and in my thirties. Laura and I buy most of our food at the market. We love cooking at home. When we do go out to dinner, we try to go somewhere where we can use a coupon or other type of discount.

We also live in Mexico, where the cost of living is cheaper than in the US or western Europe.   Being married means we’re not out at bars all that much. Getting married was – and this is meant with all due humor –  the final nail in the nightlife coffin.

Rethink how you travel

For many, travel is associated with spending excessive amounts of money. This is another misconception that being a digital nomad taught me how to disprove.

When you travel frequently, you learn how to minimize costs and the truth is that the digital nomads of the world are traveling for less money than they spend at home.

Particularly in places like Southeast Asia, which I’ve become particularly fond of, it’s possible to sleep, eat, and drink for far cheaper than in U.S. cities.   But even when traveling to more expensive destinations, all it really takes is some out-of-the box thinking.

This of a example recent trip to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, for a wedding illustrates my point.   The wedding took place at an all-inclusive resort. A night at this place costs about $110 per person. Per night! The itinerary recommended includes five nights at the resort.

That would run us about $1100, not including airfare or ground transportation. For less than a week of travel. To stay in a cookie cutter room, eat Sysco-quality food, and experience absolutely zero local culture.

That, my friends, is nothing short of insane.

Upon receiving the itinerary, we quickly called a family meeting. This course of action was unacceptable, and revisions were in order. We brainstormed and came up with a plan.

We spent about seven minutes perusing AirBNB and settled on a one bedroom house, a mere ten-minute bike ride up the beach from the resort. As a bonus, the bikes are included in the house rental.

The house costs $80 per night. Total cost for five nights: $400. We learned, however, that in order to attend the wedding at the resort, we would have to by a day pass or stay at least one night at the resort.

A day pass costs $75 per person. We decided to book a room for only the night of the wedding. This would have cost us about $220. But, fortunately, I had a free night on my Hotels.com account.

We booked the room through my account instead of through the travel agency responsible for planning the wedding, and used the night credit value of $150. Total cost for the night? $70.

We’ll be sure to milk that buffet and open bar.  We paid for the flights with credit card miles (which we’ll talk about in the next article). They cost us each a mere $32 for the unavoidable fuel surcharge. Moral of the story? Think outside the box. Don’t ever follow a recommended itinerary.

There’s always a better way.

Optimize your travel points

I mentioned above that our flights on the Mexico City trip cost us only $32 each. I also flew back to the U.S. from Southeast Asia once for a total of $75. How?

Credit card rewards points, the centerpiece of travel hacking.

I imagine you’ve heard a bit about frequent flier miles and credit card points. I encourage anyone not already using this incredible cheat of the system to look at my friend Travis Sherry’s website, Extra Pack of Peanuts. He’ll have you flying across the world for next to nothing.

How to get started travel hacking: Save money!

Another Mustache-ian trait that I’ve slowly gotten better at. I recently signed up with the Qapital app, which can be programmed to transfer money into a savings account based on a number of triggers.

I’ve got a trigger set up that rounds up to the nearest $2 every time I spend on my debit card, which is proving to save money pretty quickly. I’ve got another set up as a recurring weekly transfer into my savings account.

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