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I’m going to be frank with you: this is NOT one of those articles about extreme budgeting. It is truly inspirational that people can do so much with so little, but if the average woman of color is anything like me, then she probably thinks about travel as being something afforded to the wealthy or to those who decide to embrace the nomad travel outlook. I know I don’t fall into either category, so these stories offer me only inspiration. What makes these stories inspirational to me is that, if they can do so much with so little, then I can do a lot more with my average spending! So be advised, this is not going to teach you how to travel full-time with $17,000/year or even livecomfortably without using money at all, but it will help you travel on a modest budget.
Let’s start from the beginning.
What if I don’t have any start-up money?
No worries. Everyone has something that they spend excess money on, whether it is clothes, food, transportation, etc. At least once a month/week (depending on how active your spending is), pass up on something. Carpool to your friend’s house, put back that shirt that you think you have nothing to wear with, and write a grocery list so you will buy exactly what you need and leave. If you really need extra help with that, take only a set amount of money/credit with you so you can’t afford to go over. You can always take more of an extreme couponer approach or cancel your premium subscriptions, but saving doesn’t always have to inconvenience us so much.
TIP: Outside of these, give up something that you want to give up for health reasons. If you stop buying those as much or at all (cigarettes, snacks, sodas, etc), not only will you be healthier, but you can pocket that extra change. Also, see below for more ways to make budgeting a little simpler.
What international documents do I need?
If you haven’t left your country before, you will need a passport. Passports are somewhat pricy (at least in the States), but the earlier you apply for one, the cheaper it will be. If you already have a trip planned, the passport is the first step so you don’t have to expedite the process and pay an additional fee. (You may also have to applyfor a visa, depending on which country you intend to visit.)
TIP: The passport in itself is expensive, so apply early, and go get your passport photos from a photo booth, not from a place selling passport photos. You will save a few dollars here, especially if you are required to get several photos.
Where do I want to go?
Now that you’ve gotten that paperwork processed, it’s time to figure out where you want to go. See our Asian country trip quiz to help get you started. Once you’ve figured it out, do some research on when their off-season is, and if the off-season is still comfortable travel whether for you. For instance, in Italy, off-season is from November to March (with the exception of major holiday weeks), but this also encompasses Italy’s winter dates, which can be less than pleasant. However, in Thailand, off-season is July to November, as this is their monsoon season. It is still safe to travel to both of these places during these times, but just make sure you do your homework on what the weather is like exactly during these times so you can choose your dates accordingly.
TIP: Tickets are the cheapest during off-seasons, and are even cheaper if you buy them well in advance. Also, if you plan far in advance, you can locatecheap flights.
Where will I stay?
After your ticket, you need to figure out your accommodation. Just as with flights, the earlier you reserve a room the better. Options range from sleeping on someone else’s couch, stay in someone’splace with or without them there, staying in a hostel/guesthouse, or staying in a 1-5 star hotel. Out of the four, my preference is for the latter. Although I know people who have successfully stayed at the other options numerous times, I am a little suspicious of those for both hygiene and security purposes. Besides, why stay there when you can stay in a 3-5 star hotel for areasonable price within your budget?
TIP: Set a lodging budget FIRST. Then determine how much time you will be in the room and what you MUST have in your room to determine what type of lodging to book.
What will I do there?
If you don’t want to shell out any money for a travel book, check out a popular website that ranks and providesinformation on tourist attractions, bookmark a few of them, and see where they are in comparison to where you are staying (as well as the travel time/costs to get to/from them). If possible, try and choose some of the inexpensive things to do throughout your trip. You can attend concerts, museums, etc for FREE in some places. Just do your homework.
TIP: Read the REVIEWS of these tourist attractions. Something you may have waited your entire life to see can be a total letdown and something that never crossed your mind can be the highlight of your trip.
What do I pack?
For the most part, that varies per traveler and destination. Just check the airline’s baggage regulations (including weight, dimensions, and quantity) and the location’s weather report. Outside of that, be sure to grab your passport, extra passport photos, another form of ID, itineraries (flight and sightseeing), and cash in your home currency as well as the local.
TIP: HAVE FUN! Safe travels!
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