Believe it or not, I don’t have a vault of cash which I use to fund my travels. I don’t have a trust fund handed down to me from my parents. And I also don’t have one of those highly sought after careers that pay me big bucks and let me take vacation time whenever I please. In fact, most people don’t. For those of us that have been bitten by the travel bug, this means we belong to the club of budget travelers- That is, travelers that have to be cautious about the amount of money they spend on travel. And let me tell you, sometimes it sucks to be a budget traveler.
I feel like I’m constantly in a battle between wanting to book flights, and wanting to buy groceries for the next month. I’ll be in a store, looking at buying a new shirt and thinking “Dang, this shirt is worth like, four Belgian waffles…” or “Gosh, I could be staying the night in Honduras for the price of this fast food meal.”
For budget travelers, travel is a priority they have to insert into their lives. Sacrifices are made every day just to help that travel savings account grow. These deliberate choices make it possible to see the world, but sometimes they really suck.
If I had ALL the monies, I would stay in Ghent forever!
My beauty regime is basically nothing.
Sometimes it sucks to be a budget traveler because it means I can’t always strut my stuff the way I want to. I get my hair cut usually once a year, but sometimes I go longer than that. And I’ll restock my simple eyeliner, mascara, and eye shadow makeup set maybe once a year as well. But to be honest, I still have some makeup in my box from back in my high school days.
I am floored by these women that spend hundreds of dollars on bi-monthly hair colorings and stocks of name-brand make up. Giving up these luxuries could easily allow many people to pocket enough money for an overseas plane ticket.
I’d like to get my brows done professionally every once in a while. I’d love to maintain that sweet purple hair I had earlier this year. And there are days I would love to have a stock of shadow palettes to up my face game. But all that costs money, and as a budget traveler, I’d rather spend those dollars on experiences I can remember forever, rather than a fleeting square of colored powder.
Workin’ that purple hair and zero make up
My wardrobe is pretty simple and cheap.
It sucks to be a budget traveler because it has turned me into a super frugal clothing shopper. It literally pains me to spend more than $10 on a piece of clothing. And sometimes even that $10 feels like I’m ripping my teeth out. My closet is filled with drab, plain-colored t-shirts and jeans. I rock my cheap flip flops like nobody’s business. And I’d much rather hit up a closing sale or a resale shop than a local shopping mall.
But, because of my frugality, my wardrobe is also filled with wearable souvenirs from around the world. I own clothing from six different continents. Dresses, shirts, and scarves not only give me something to wear but hold memories that bring me back to my adventures every time I see them.
$7 T-shirt, $10 leggings, and $2 flip flops. Budget travel outfit of champions.
I mostly have to stay in cheap hostels
Being a budget traveler sucks because it means staying in hostels. I often sleep in dorm-style rooms, which means I’m sharing a sleeping space with 3-10 strangers- Strangers that snore and have night terrors, and that get sloppily wasted before loudly stumbling into the room in the wee hours of the morning. Shared bathroom spaces also mean having to get real public about my traveling tummy ailments. That’s never fun.
However, staying in shared hostels rather than hotel rooms typically means saving $50-100 per night. Paying so much less for a place to sleep means I can spend more money on delicious international foods, or entry to that attraction I read about online. In addition, hostels are great places to make friends while traveling and get insight on what to see and where to go within your destination.
My hostel room in Antigua, Guatemala, where I learned to fall asleep to the sound of thumping bass
Flights are a lot less comfortable.
It sucks to be a budget traveler because buying that cheaper plane ticket means giving up a lot of comforts. Most airlines now charge for checking your luggage, meaning you have to pack less stuff and only bring a carry-on bag in order to save money. There are also many airlines that charge for the privilege of picking your seat. This budget traveler has seen many a middle seat on long-haul flights! There are even some airlines now that won’t even serve food on long-haul flights unless you pay for the fare upgrade!
RyanAir is notorious for nickel and diming their customers
Though to be honest, flying usually makes me feel sick, so I try to sleep as much as possible during flight. You can’t really tell how cramped your legs are or how uncomfortable your flight is when you’re pretty much unconscious to the world. And, I’ve found that traveling carry-on only has so many perks I actually prefer it to checking luggage now.
I was looking at flights to Copenhagen the other day on Norwegian Airlines, and they had flights out of Boston for $275 round trip. Now, the small print is that this fee did not come with the luxuries of checked luggage, choosing your seat, or being served in-flight meals, among other things. But the next fare bracket, which included all of these, was double that price! Being a budget traveler means having to give up those small comforts, but it also means having that extra cash to do more once you reach your destination!
Gearing up for a 12 hour flight at the back of the plane…
I spend hours planning an amazing trip, only to realize I can’t afford it.
I have a bit of an obsession in that I am constantly surfing the web to find the latest and greatest travel deals. When I find one that piques my interest, I will spend hours and hours putting together a great itinerary. Once I finally piece together everything I want, I usually end up with a case of sticker shock and slump into a momentary depression.
It sucks to be a budget traveler because it means I can’t go on every trip that comes my way. I can’t up and fly to whatever place has captured my heart for the day. It means that I essentially waste time just googling and planning away, only to reflect upon my itty bitty bank account.
But there are times when those hours of searching and planning pay off. After finding cheap flights from Boston to Brussels, Belgium last spring, I was able to piece together an amazing itinerary that fell right within my budget! It is an incredible traveler’s high when this research works out, and it means you can add another budget-friendly trip to your calendar!
When travel is a main goal in your life, there is a lot you have to give up in order to affordably achieve that goal. And in all honesty, sometimes it sucks to be a budget traveler. But when it means that I get to see amazing places, meet incredible people, and nom on some fabulous foods, the sacrifices it takes to travel seem to fade into the background. I may not have the greatest hair, the fanciest clothes, the best night’s sleep, the most luxurious plane ride, or the ability to go anywhere, anytime. But what I do have is an overflowing collection of memories that make all the sacrifices totally worth it!