The Problem with “Easy Travel Hacks”

Travel Hack

We are 100% on board with “travel hacks” but the term itself tends to be thrown around a little too haphazardly nowadays. We’ve all heard someone exclaim that it’s so easy to travel on a budget. Welcome to real-talk with “4Paws” my friend. Pull up a chair. Stay awhile.

Venice BeachI just read an article from a well-known traveler where he describes trekking through Europe on a handful of dollars a day. His recommendations range from “couchsurfing” to “housesitting.” The icing on the cake is his budget friendly suggestion for replenishing your bank account while traveling. Or should I say, “It’s so easy to teach English abroad!”

Put on your realism-hat folks. If you’re a young, single man, then perhaps couchsurfing is indeed an easy travel hack. As a female traveling with a partner and dog, couchsurfing certainly isn’t a viable option. Can you picture two young women arriving at their future crash pad late at night armed with nothing but high hopes that no one takes advantage while asleep? Dare I say it, but women need to be realistic and travel with hard-core common sense. I’m afraid couchsurfing doesn’t make the cut.

Housesitting with no recommendations or reviews? You have a better chance of winning the lottery than being picked by a stranger to watch their multimillion dollar summer home. Go ahead and start sending queries to old housemates, friends, landlords, heck — even your parents. But building a stellar housesitting profile takes time and patience. What I’m trying to say is, unless you have experience house / pet sitting, don’t put all your eggs in one basket and expect a free place to crash.

As for the gainful employment argument, I cannot help but roll my eyes deep into the back of my head. As we’ve discovered, your chances of landing a job teaching English while abroad is slim to none unless you have a degree, TESOL or TOFL certification, and want a legal job. Sure, you can work under the table, but that brings unwelcome risks too. Like not being paid for your work because your employer doesn’t feel like it. If you’re hoping to teach English in Europe in particular, I’ve got sad news for you. 99% of the time, you will be asked if you can legally work in the EU. Unless you’re already a resident or hold dual-citizenship, no one wants to sponsor you or provide free working papers. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, sad American friend.

There’s nothing “easy” at all about longterm travel. It takes time, patience and a ton of dedicated research. Yes, it is possible to find great airfare and overnight accommodations, but be armed with a strong will to search the ends of the interwebs until you find exactly what you’re looking for.

IMG_4866Our realistic travel recommendations:

  1. Google the heck out of every airline. Use Kayak. Cross reference with CheapoAir. Try Googe’s ITA Matrix.
  2. Clear your history, cache and cookies each time you run a search. Sometimes, even searching on different browsers can make a difference.
  3. Check out Hotwire for mystery hotel deals. We’ve snagged 5 star hotels around the US for a fraction of the cost.
  4. Utilize point and loyalty programs. Points.com manages all your loyalty points across a multitude of platforms so you don’t have to constantly search for separate accounts.
  5. AirBnB is still a great bet for long term stays. We don’t recommend this site for short term stays simply because the service fees (like cleaning services and booking fees collected by the company) tend to add up. Sometimes, a hotel room is actually cheaper than an AirBnB sublet after you add taxes, deposits, and cleaning charges. Heaven forbid you need to cancel your trip too. Most hotels won’t charge your card if you cancel at least 24 hours before your arrival. AirBnB cancellation policies range from full refund to half of your money back, to no refund at all.
  6. Travel using cash. If you’re traveling overseas, most major banks charge (on average) $5 per ATM withdrawal and tack on an extra 3% for charges made with your debit or credit card. Plus, if you travel using cash, there’s no debt to pay off at the end of the trip. Yes, technically you spent money, but there’s something nice about not seeing your personal funds ebb and flow so drastically after travel. Maybe it’s a psychological thing, but we love this particular “hack.”
  7. Wherever you go, make sure a trusted friend or confident knows, especially if you’re traveling alone.
  8. Download “Talkatone.” No need to buy a cheap local phone or SIM card anymore. Download this free app to get your own working US number. With Talkatone, you can receive phone calls and send/receive texts for free over WiFi. Making outbound calls will cost you roughly $1/hour. This is a great way to save both money and cell phone minutes without ditching your phone.
  9. Make sure you always have a map of the city you’re in (this may seem obvious) and if you’re utilizing the city’s metro system, make sure you know when the last train runs. We have a “great” story about being stranded on the outskirts of Beijing after the metro unexpectedly closed before midnight. Not our best moment.
  10. Have a good cry. You will get frustrated. Keep searching.
  11. If you do find yourself in a monetary bind, don’t discount seeking employment with companies like Time ETC, Zirtual, eLance, oDesk, TranscribeMe, etc. These sites provide FT and PT remote work, but you must do your due diligence beforehand and provide a stellar resumé with strong administrative work experience. You must also be willing to put in the work hours required. You can also search for various remote positions on sites like WeWork and FlexJobs.

Happy googling friends! Budget travel is possible, just don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t come “easy.”

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2 responses to “The Problem with “Easy Travel Hacks”

    • Hi Becky, thanks for the comment (and the laugh)! You’re definitely not alone!

      Since we wrote this article, I’ve come across an additional budget-friendly, must have app! CityMaps2Go is an amazing app that allows you to download maps in virtually any city. You don’t need WiFi to use it, nor does it use data on your phone (if traveling internationally). Plus, it tracks your location in real time. You can even search hot spots from other users, restaurants, bars, points of interest, etc. The pro version is $4.99 but the the light version is free! We’re using it as we speak in Spain 🙂

      Happy traveling!

      Liked by 1 person

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