Newbie: Where do i begin?
When people think travel, they think expensive. You don’t have to max out your credit cards just to find a place to visit. Today, people in their early 20’s have been traveling all over the world and honestly it isn’t that hard. To find those good deals, you do have to do a little bit of research.
PEAK SEASONS + LOW SEASONS
The key is to know when to go. Yes - flight deals and glitches are nice, but sometimes you can go for months without finding them. So here is a more logical way: think seasons. Peak season usually starts after mid May for most travels above the western hemisphere since it is the beginning of the summer. Trips to countries in the southern hemisphere get a little cheaper in May as the weather gets cooler (especially Central and South America). The number one factor that effects peak season: weather. You can sacrifice a sunny day or two depending on the area and types of activities you’re up for if you want to save money.
Europe: Early Spring (February to April) and the Fall (except for Germany during October because of Oktoberfest) tend to be in “low season”. Weather is a bit cool. Lowest fares you can find into Europe are typically Oslo and Dublin. From there you can take regional flights for less than $100. Other fairly priced cities are Berlin, London and Lisbon.
South and Central America: Spring/Summer time (which is their Fall and Winter) tend to be in “low season”. For the countries below the equator, their seasons are flipped. You can find flights from Atlanta or Miami to Panama for as low as $300-$400.
Quick tips on saving (for domestic and international trips)
- Take the train or bus if flights are too expensive. If you have enough time and people, road trip! Rent a bike in the city or use the metro to get around instead of cabbing it.
- Bring more people. This cuts costs on gas for road trips and hotel. The more people, the less you pay.
- Eat less. Simple. Don’t OD at expensive restaurants and eat all day just because you are in a new city. Grab some snacks from the grocery store (and maybe some booze) and keep it in your purse or book bag. Eat at local mom and pop shops. That’s how you get the best authentic food anyway!
- Couch surf. Find a friend or someone you know in the city you are visiting to stay with (or pay a few bucks). Hotel costs can get expensive. If you are in a sorority/fraternity, reach out to a few chapters with houses and see if they have some extra room. If you are in Europe, hostels are pretty clean! Don’t be afraid to try them out. All you need is a place to sleep. Can’t go wrong with AirBnB either.
- Book flights on Tuesday/Wednesday – ticket prices tend to drop these days since there is low activity in flight searches. Also try to fly out on a weekday; it makes a huge difference from a Friday flight. Thursday evening, Friday and Monday flights tend to be more expensive because people who travel for work typically fly on these dates. Airlines jack up the prices since they know companies will pay for the flight regardless.
CONSIDERATIONS WHEN PICKING A DESTINATION
Comfort. The absolutely most critical thing you must think about when traveling is how comfortable you are when you are in a different environment. Some people easily adapt to change more than others. If you want to take baby steps, the factors that are next listed are important to consider. If you are already a risk taker, they might not matter as much but still read over. THIS IS IMPORTANT. It can totally ruin your trip if you are not comfortable with your surroundings because there is so much to learn. I recommend using travel groups on your first trip or traveling with people who has traveled before.
Language Barrier. Especially if you are going solo or traveling with people without using a travel group or program, you might want to start in a region with little language barriers. Places that speak English (England or Australia) or countries where many people do speak English (Netherlands or Germany) are your best start. Always bring a language dictionary with you and learn important key phrases. It's important to try so you do not come off offensive to other cultures.
Budget. Understand how much money you have to spend or you are willing to spend. Europe flights are cheaper than Pacific side flights BUT most European countries are more expensive with food and hotel than they are with some of those in Asia. So budget wisely for the location you are going to. Check out sites like Travel Zoo, Groupon, or Living Social for some great deals.
Length. It's hard going to Europe with only a short vacation break. If you are looking for a less than a week trip, stay close to home. You do not want to spend so much money flying somewhere when you do not have enough time.
Understanding. Be open-minded. There is nothing worse than traveling and expecting another country to be just like home. Mannerisms, lifestyle, and societal acceptance can sometimes be completely different especially if it is not a Westernized country. Keep that in mind. Read up on the different cultural influences on the country you are visiting before leaving. If you do not think you are ready to face some of the cultural differences in the Middle East or Africa, don't go yet! Travel elsewhere until you start learning and getting use to the ways of traveling and meeting other people. Be comfortable in what you are doing.
Besides it being fun, traveling is an experience that will change your whole way of thinking. You build perspective.
- Being comfortable outside of my comfort zone. Growing up with family members who didn’t speak English and who looked different from me was tough. I lacked confidence as a child in speaking other languages only because people took extra notice when I did because I looked different. I quickly learned to build faith in who I am and what I am capable of. Moving every 10 – 24 months made be quickly learn to be comfortable in foreign places and adapt to unfamiliar environments.
- Endless opportunities. The world is way too big to experience living in only one country. There are opportunities everywhere to expand personally and professionally. The network you can build across borders is priceless. Whether it’s work, school, or a hobby, try creating a new life in another country.
- Budgeting my finances. My first few solo trips were expensive. The art of budgeting takes time, patience, and research. I learned to book trips during low seasons and humbly reminded myself that a 4 star hotel is not needed to enjoy a new place.
- Patience. Being lost in a place where you do not speak the language is overwhelming. You will find yourself getting real creative in order to communicate.
- Respecting culture, people, and religion. Don’t let the negativity in the media develop your idea of who people are. Traveling made me want to learn more about the people in the countries I’ve visited. Experiencing other ways of living creates a sense of humbleness.
- Love. My heart grew fond of what I have learned about our world. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Because it makes us who we are as people.