At the end of January, I hosted a Creative Live session on budget travel. Creative Live is an online education site that hosts multiday educational courses on a variety of topics. They offer really good courses and get phenomenal, world-class teachers. Over 10,000 people watched my two-day course, and Creative Live said I had one of the most active chat rooms ever in their business vertical. (How cool!) Because of all your awesome activity and questions, I couldn’t answer everyone’s during the time we had, and I missed a lot of questions.
A few weeks ago, Creative Live sent me the entire chat log with every question I didn’t answer. There were a lot of good questions (some that come up very regularly in email) and I believe everyone can benefit from the answers, so I wanted to post them here. Below were the most frequently asked and relevant questions. Without further ado, enjoy!
Wanderer1232: How does Matt make $1,800 the last two months in Southeast Asia? Can he give examples of where his money goes? That seems unimaginable!
In Southeast Asia, it’s very easy. You can travel for as little as $20 a day. Local meals cost only a couple of dollars, hostels are $3-5 per night, and private rooms less than $10. Buses are only a few dollars. It’s very doable, especially if you don’t consume a lot of alcohol. Most people average about $30 a day, which is $900 a month. You can see prices and suggested budgets in this post.
Edwin: How are you able to keep track of all the expenses? Is there a way to do this?
I built an app for this. It’s called TripSaver. Here’s the link for iOS and for Android. It allows you to track and manage your expenses for each of your trips. It’s a simple and easy to use app. Try it out.
Suri_a: I love to travel, and trying new dishes from all over the world is a major part of that. My question is: is it possible to travel on a small budget ($40-60/day) and still be able to savor every bit of a culture’s cuisine when most restaurants would easily run you about $10-20 for a single meal?
Of course! I never eat expensive on the road. Here are a few articles on eating on the road that can show you how to do this:
Joeyyy: The cost of LIVING while you’re in your destination can be cut down, but what about the cost from FLYING (especially if you’re from the US). Travel hacking seems to take too much planning (and money). Any tips?
I have lots of tips. Read this article on how to find a cheap flight. That’s going to be the best starting point as it’s a very in-depth article on the subject!
Guest19424: Is there a good method for buying cheaper one-way tickets? I know round-trip is always cheaper, but for what I’d like to do, I want to take some one-way flights. Any tips on that?
Unfortunately, for flights originating out of the US, one-ways are always illogically more expensive. In airline thinking, they assume people who buy one-way tickets are business travelers and, since they can afford more, this makes the ticket higher. It’s a ridiculous way of thinking. However, around the rest of the world, tickets are (logically) generally about half the price of a round-trip ticket.
GypsyPunk82: Do you know any alliances or airlines where you can book a RTW ticket for more than a year?
All RTW flights are only bookable for a year as airlines only plan schedules one year in advance.
RodrigoSpain: Is there an alliance for European travelers? Which one?
Alliances are global. You can sign up for any frequent flier program you want, even if the airline is not based in your home country or even your continent! Programs are open to people worldwide. There’s no “right” alliance. It’s all a matter of personal preference. Stay loyal to the alliance of the airline you fly the most. I like Oneworld because I prefer to fly American Airlines over United or Delta in the US, so since I get most of my miles there, staying with Oneworld makes sense. Join the alliance of the airline you fly the most.
Susyc: Does being an Elite Member help in obtaining tickets at a lower price?
No, it doesn’t but it gives you perks: international lounges, upgrades, faster check-in and boarding, and more miles when you fly.
StephenP: Is there a website that lists the best budget airlines for each country?
Jeskam: I am traveling to Greece in April, and I’d like to go to Italy after, but I already purchased my airline ticket! I called to see what the fee would be to change and it’s $450! Do you have any advice on extending your trip once you’ve already purchased your airline ticket?
Buy a new ticket or pay the fee. There’s no way to get around airline fees, unless you are a super elite flier with that airline. They are what they are. Sometimes it is cheaper to buy a new ticket than change your old one.
EricaW: If you have a layover in the US for international travel, is two hours enough time, or is it better to have more padding in case the first leg of the flight is delayed?
Yes, two hours is fine.
Nieff: With all of this flight searching, is it necessary to delete your search history and cookies from day to day? I have found that the prices keep going up day after day yet if I use another computer the same day prices are lower. Why is that?
There is some evidence to suggest airlines and booking sites do change their prices based on if you are logged into your frequent flier account or if you have been coming back to a site a lot to check the prices of one route. If I’m going to be doing a lot of searching over a couple of days, I’ll clear out my cookies or use Google Chrome’s “incognito” option. There’s no proof that this happens all the time, but sites definitely track consumer behavior through online cookies, so better to be safe than sorry.
Veena_: What is your take on booking through a travel agent as far as getting deals on flights, accommodation, etc.?
Travel agents can be useful for certain types of trips (weddings, cruises, honeymoons, large groups) but for the most part, you can get good deals by booking on your own.
Semper_Reperiens: What are important things to consider when looking at travel insurance options?
Check out this article for an in-depth review of travel insurance. It has information about the things I think are important in good insurance and how to find a good company.
ExpatMom: What about long-term travel insurance, like if you’re going to be overseas for more than a year? I tried to buy insurance but it’s only good for under 365 days.
You can normally renew policies online. I use World Nomads, and once the 365 days are up, I just renew or get a new policy online. Simple and easy.
Backpacks and packing tips
KTrong: Do you use the same pack for long-term travel (over one year)?
Yes, I do. I use an REI Mars backpack. I’ve used the same type of backpack since I started traveling. I love it. It suits all my needs. You can find out more about backpacks and how to pick the right one with this post.
Lee_nickname: If your hostel or train station does not have baggage storage, where have you left your pack for a day of sightseeing?
I’ve never encountered a hostel, guesthouse, or hotel that didn’t have baggage storage.
Bea: Do you travel with guidebooks? The Kindle versions are not as good as the paperbacks but going to multiple countries makes traveling with them really bulky.
Not often. It depends on the destination but when I do, I always carry paper guidebooks. I actually don’t like reading on a Kindle.
Tamara: Is there an app or website for managing your points?
TravelJunkie: What app shows exchange rate updates?
Lucille2: We currently don’t have a ‘smartphone’ (late adapters). Is it pretty necessary to have one to travel efficiently now (to use online maps, find the best/nearest places to stay, etc.)? Would an iPad be a good alternative?
Smartphones definitely help but you don’t really need one. I wouldn’t say they are a must at all. Travelers got by for generations without them. An old-fashioned guidebook and map can work just fine. But, yes, an iPad would be just as good if you had one of those.
Lancemahn: Does Matt use his iPhone in Thailand? What service does he use? How does he do it?
Yes, I use my iPhone all over the world. I have T-Mobile, as they have free international data and text messages. For non-US residents, getting local SIM cards would be the easiest.
Summer_inEurope: I want to bring a nice camera, and debate getting a new cell phone for their better camera potential. If I lock up my backpack, will it be all right?
You’ll be fine! I carry a lot of equipment and it’s always locked up. I never worry about it.
Finding work abroad
BriannaBtravel: How can we make money while traveling (besides teaching English)?
There are a lot of ways to do that. Check out this post on the types of jobs you can get.
Ryan: Do you have any companies you’d recommend for getting jobs overseas? Or do you get most of the jobs once you’re in-country?
It’s usually easiest to get jobs when you get to a country. You can pre-sign up for volunteer opportunities, a lot of schools will hire you for teaching jobs before you arrive, and au pair sites will hire you beforehand, but for the most part, the best way to find most jobs travelers can get is to simply go to your destination and look around. Being there allows you to go in person for an interview right away.
Nieff: How does one go about legally working overseas (in the EU) without dual citizenship?
You’ll need to get a working holiday visa or have a company sponsor your employment.
Nieff: Can one teach short-term (for about one month)? If so, what’s the best site for a getting a short-term gig?
Not really. Most jobs will only take you if you can commit to them for long periods of time. No one wants to hire a teacher for a couple of weeks. If you only want very short-term work, try doing freelance work on Craigslist. Someone might need an English tutor. That would be the best way.
Older, family, and student travel
DorisDanger: What about now that I’m in my mid 40s. I may be middle-aged, but the wanderlust hasn’t gone away! However, so many budget travel tips are for those 20 years younger. Any advice?
I don’t believe any of the tips for budget travel are age specific. You can use them all if you really wanted. While not all the tips on this site might be applicable to all ages and travelers, the vast majority can be used by any travelers. This article on how older travelers can apply the tips on this website might be of interest to you.
MasonMcD: Any advice for people with kids?
I don’t, but I had a guest writer come on and write about traveling with children. You might find that article helpful.
JeffM: Matt, do you have any advice for traveling with a dog?
I don’t, but check out the website DogJaunt.com. They have a lot of good information.
Edwin: What can college students do to start traveling more without having a high-paying job?
Rabbit: How does not having a degree impact travel? Do you know anyone that has taken online courses to get a degree while traveling?
Not having a degree abroad doesn’t make an impact on your travels. No one is asking for your BA when you check into a hostel. I have met a few people doing online classes while they travel. It’s very doable.
Health and safety
Edwin: How do you stay healthy and fit while traveling?
Eat right, work out, sleep, drink less. Here are two blog posts on the subject:
Steph_Romero: Are vaccinations necessary to travel the world?
Yes. Consult a doctor before you go.
Deadpool2014: Is there a chance of getting sick after eating food from street vendors?
You can get sick from eating anywhere: food vendor, restaurant, grocery store. The risk is probably less with street food stalls because the food is bought fresh daily and used that day. Nothing sits around. I would look for places that are busy and have children at them too. If it’s safe enough for the locals to take their kids there, it’s safe enough for you.
Gulliver: Matt, I’m heading to Nicaragua this year. Based on your experience there, is it safe to take a cab around? I need to get to Granada, and everyone I’ve talked to said I have to hire a driver.
Based on my experience, it was very safe. I never felt unsafe there. That being said, petty crime does happen and it’s important to keep an eye on things. I wouldn’t go out at night with a lot of money or expensive stuff. But all my local friends took and recommended cabs.
Semper_Reperiens: I’ve been warned about the dangers of human trafficking in Europe. Is this an issue?
Not when you have Liam Neeson with you! No, but seriously, this is not something travelers are really going to face.
Travelgirl: Has Matt or any of his friends run into trouble with not having the new PIN and chip technology on the credit cards that are popular in Europe and other places in the world now?
Chip-and-PIN cards are preferred but not always necessary in Europe and other Western countries. Hostels, restaurants, and attractions still can swipe your card. It’s the ticket machines at train stations that really require chip-and-PIN cards. If you don’t have one of those cards, you’ll need to go up to the counter and purchase your tickets. A lot of Denmark also no longer takes swipe credit cards. In short, if you can get a chip-and-PIN card, get one. If you can’t, it’s not the end of the world.
Summer_inEurope: Is the “Investor Account” the Charles Schwab? Can anyone get one?
Yes, that account is the best one. You can find out more about avoiding bank fees on this post.
Travel credit cards
Megan: I’ve never had a credit card or taken out a loan (besides student loans). Any advice on which card would be best for a beginner?
That’s a complicated question based on your own personal situation and needs. I wrote this article on picking the perfect credit card that can help you as well as this book on travel hacking, which goes into detail on using cards for reward travel.
Semper_Reperiens: I’ve heard that cards that give you rewards points require a great credit score. Is this true?
Not all cards. There are many credit cards for those with poor credit. The Chase Freedom card is a good for building credit, as well as the Slate card.
Merritt: Don’t you have to spend a lot of money in the first year on those cards to get the reward miles?
Yes, cards require a minimum spending amount but there are ways to “fake” your spending so you don’t actually spend money. It just requires moving money around for a bit. It’s legal but time consuming — but it works and is something travel hackers do all the time to meet the spending requirement. I wrote about it extensively in my book on how to be a travel hacker.
Stacey: Has Matt noticed any effects on his credit rating since he is signing up for all of these cards?
I have a credit score of 792. Travel hacking has only helped it! The more unused credit you have, the better your score.
TheBardFromBallarat: What’s the easiest US credit card for a foreigner to get?
Without a US resident card or citizenship, you can’t get a US-based credit card. Note: To clarify my original response, you really need a US address and social security number, which you can get through a few types of visas. Apologies for the lack of detail.
AngieHMatt: Can you gift mileage points or rewards to another family member?
Yes, you can, but there are usually restrictions on the amount you can send and fees involved. It varies from airline to airline.
TravelDiva: I am Canadian…it’s hard to get points the way Americans can. Any tips?
Visit the website Canadian Kilometers. He has the best tips and advice for Canadians.
Simone_Anne: Why should I try to amass flight rewards points on credit cards over using a credit card that gives me cash back?
It really depends on what you want and need from a card. What’s more important to you? Check out this article on picking the right credit card to see how I go through the process.
Questions about my travels
Sebastien: What was your best memory from abroad experience, and for what reason?
The month I lived on the island of Ko Lipe in Thailand remains the highlight of all of my travels. All the stars aligned and it was perfect. There was a small group of us there, not many tourists, we got to know the locals very well — it was simply paradise. I will always remember that month fondly. We were carefree. It was my version of The Beach.
NomadicJosh: What were some of your favorite countries to visit, and what were some of your least favorite countries to visit? Any you recommend avoiding?
Favorite: Thailand, Australia, Costa Rica, Japan, Sweden, France, New Zealand, and Ireland, to name a few!
Least Favorite: Vietnam
Countries to avoid: the ones at war! Other than that, go where you want and don’t listen to anyone else!
TravelDiva: Does Matt have any regrets from his travels? Any choices he made that he would change or do differently if given another chance?
I am filled with a lifetime of small regrets, but every decision I’ve made has led me to where I am today. If I changed any of that, where I am today would be different. Sometimes I think “I’d do that differently now,” but if given the chance, would I? Probably not. I like where I have ended up.
And, finally, if you are interested in checking out the course, you can always go visit here to learn more. There’s over 12 hours of tips.