Want To Make This Summer Memorable? Here Are 8 Fun And Economic Ways To Explore The World

Do you ever just scroll through travel inspo photos on IG or Pinterest? Why wait to explore yourself? It’s the peak season for wanderlust (though, for some, it’s always the season)!

By Anna Hugoboom5 min read

Finally, it seems that the world is back to normal for travelers, and vacation has never looked better. Though touring the globe can pick your pocketbook, it doesn’t have to be super pricey to be fun and enriching. Adventure is out there, and the practical travel hacks to go with it!

Traveling can actually be comparable to your domestic living expenses, especially if you choose certain routes for long-term travel periods. Although 4- or 5-star resorts are very enjoyable, they may not be in your budget right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find pleasant stays for your trip in beautiful locations. Maybe you’re a super adventurous person who’d rather save on accommodations to spend more on memorable experiences and activities, or you can find a happy balance between both. As an avid adventuress with chronic travel fever, I’ve learned all the travel hacks over the years, and believe me, it pays off knowing tips and tricks in advance!

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Street Smarts

First of all, just some words of advice from another gal who loves to travel: If you travel anytime but especially when going solo, always use your street smarts like you would in any city. Don’t put yourself in stupid situations or vulnerable positions, like walking in dark alleys or sketchy neighborhoods, especially at night. Use a travel pouch for your passport/ID and money, and wear a crossbody purse on the front of your body. Don’t put your wallet or phone in your back pocket, and keep your hands in your side pockets when in crowds if you have anything in them. Always have a safe place to stay lined up ahead of time (kind of obvious, but you’d be surprised). Definitely don’t share a taxi or hop a ride with a stranger (like in the movie Taken) or tell anyone you just met where you’re staying. Now, don’t be paranoid and ruin your fun – definitely make friends with good people – just be wisely cautious. 

Taking self-defense classes is a very smart and practical move, especially before you travel solo (just how it is, sorry to say). I took a Krav Maga crash course before I traveled abroad the first time, and I’m so glad I did. I grew more confident in strange locations, learned to be smarter and think fast on my feet. I even avoided a potential mugging situation at a train station. 

1. Travel Rewards CC

The first and top travel hack: Use a travel rewards credit card to build points toward free flights. It’s totally worth it! You earn points for each dollar you spend, which you can put toward flights. You’re spending the money anyway, so you might as well get some return on it. There’s usually an annual card fee, but the basic level cards are either free for the first year and then around $70 dollars per year, depending on the airline, but you’re getting multiple free trips out of the thousands of points you get automatically, so it evens out. You actually save more in free flights than the fee costs. If you're responsible about paying off your card, you’ll not only boost your credit score, but you'll get free trips out of this deal.

Don’t let the words “a/another credit card” scare you away from taking advantage of travel rewards. Some people have “cash-no-credit” ingrained in their minds from parents who know all too well about the dangers of credit debt. But this is a different generation, and we know more about how to wisely use credit cards. Put all your expenses on your travel rewards card(s), especially bills or a car payment, and just budget your spending like you would with a debit card to avoid piling up credit card debt. Don’t buy what you can’t afford and pay off your purchases right after you buy it, or plan for a day of the week to check your balance and pay the amount. 

I’ve bought multiple free flights every year with my travel rewards points. I simply always paid the card off right away, which boosted my credit score big time in the process. For domestic flights, I bought the Southwest travel rewards card three years ago. Most cards are free with no fee for the first year and give around 40,000 points (70,000 for higher-tiered cards) after spending around $1,000 in the first several months, equaling to about three to four free flights! I always recommend it to friends. Get a referral link from a friend who has a travel rewards card so you both get bonus points (and once you have yours, you can send referral links to friends who want to sign up, and you’ll gain extra points).

2. Transport Apps

You can use Skyscanner and Hopper to find general deals on flights, but since those are third-person platforms, when it comes to actual booking, go directly to the airline. For flights to Europe, depending on where your arrival and departure cities are, I’ve found the best deals on Norse Atlantic Airways, British Airways, and TAP Air Portugal. Get the Delta rewards card for Delta flights (I did and got 70,000 free points in the first three months).

For trains (oh, the amazing train system in Europe), buses, and even flights, you can download Trainline and Omio. The Greyhound bus system in the U.S. is solid, as well as the Brightline for eastern Florida. And do I even need to mention Pinterest? In case you didn’t know, there are all the travel ideas and tips and more on that fabulous app. Once you pick a destination and buy your flights, do some homework about that area and look up places to go and the most efficient ways to get there. 

3. Where To Stay

If you can stay in an upscale hotel, then great. But if it’s not in your budget, stay in a religious guesthouse (always safe and clean) or town inns. If you’re traveling solo and wanting to do hostels, staying in a mixed dorm is not advisable or guaranteed as safe, but there are often single rooms available (though some cheaper rooms might have a shared bathroom). Some Airbnb stays might be cozy, but watch for whopping cleaning fees and extra taxes thrown in. Sometimes they add up more than the cost of a room at a hotel or inn. has international travel stays and sometimes has discount deals on their stays. I’ve found rooms at some hotels, town inns, and even guesthouses that are cute, clean, and surprisingly affordable. Googling the safety stats for that area before you book is advised.

4. Glamping

Upscale camping, also known as "glamping," can be so much fun and a memorable experience, especially if you’re traveling with a bestie. What Forbes called a new kind of luxury travel, glamping can be simple or bougie, whichever you feel like. You can rent camping equipment or travel to a location with glamping setups provided, like yurt tents, treehouses, cabins, and pods. If they’re very glamorous in unique locations, these can be comparable to a hotel expense because of the experience, but the ambiance is hard to beat. Visit GlampingHub and for European and U.S. options.

Another option is renting an RV "glamper" and driving that baby wherever you want to go. You usually have to pay a fee to park in a designated location if you’re visiting a popular destination or tourist area, but often you can just go and stay wherever you want! This is a great option if you’re looking to take some personal time on a solo trip or tour multiple states, but the gas does add up so it’s also a good idea to split with a couple friends for a group trip (and it’s such a blast).

5. Travel Exchanges

Check out apps for work exchanges and free housesitting stays. Trusted Housesitters is great for short-term stays. You basically just housesit for someone while they’re gone traveling and usually care for their pet(s); in exchange, you get a free stay during your vacation! It's almost like an Airbnb without the cleaning fees. In some locations, you might need a car, but renting a car abroad, say in Europe or the U.K., can often be much cheaper than renting a car in the U.S. 

Worldpackers provides work exchanges throughout the world, time off for personal travel, and usually at least some meals included, and the app is very easy to navigate. Travel solo or you could drag a bestie along with you for the ride, and you’ll be sure to make friends on your way!

6. Volunteer

Volunteer at tourist locations as a tour guide. You’ll be sure to learn a lot of history and fun facts about the area; plus, you can always have time off to explore and take day trips. Some options for working abroad can be found on Greenheart Travel and Transitions Abroad, as well as local places where you stay. You can often deduct the travel expense of your flight cost from your taxes if the majority of your trip is volunteering for a charitable/non-profit organization. I volunteered for nine days in the French town of Lourdes in the Pyrenees mountains, helping with handicapped travelers. I met families there who made it their annual, tax-deductible vacation in the mountains! And if you’re wanting to do a gap/service period and feeling very adventurous and generous with your time, you can even volunteer with the Peace Corps

7. Au-Pair Connections

Sign up as a summer travel nanny/au-pair through Definitely Skype or FaceTime with the family in advance, work out all the details (accommodation, covering travel fees or not, time off or not), and make sure they’ve done a background check just to be on the safe side. If it all checks out, this could be a great way to get some immersion in a culture and learn some of the language! Or maybe someone you know has a connection overseas (preferable), or if you meet someone traveling in the states, maybe they could be your friend abroad. 

I was an au-pair for three months in France during a gap year before college for a French family. I tutored English and learned French, helped with the toddler, and was able to travel with the family. I later became friends with a Spanish woman and also a French girl during their travels to the states, and I was able to visit them in Spain and France again and join on their family vacations. 

8. Dining 

Travel eats don’t have to be super expensive to be tasty. Maybe you looked up a fun place you want to check out, or you found a place to get a cute insta-worthy pic for the ‘gram, or you heard of an amazing restaurant you’re simply dying to try, but don't splurge on all of those places at once. Instead, save a couple of your meals per week for a more special dining experience, and the rest of the time, take advantage of local markets and picnic. Eating on a stone bridge or on a wrought-iron park bench can be more whimsical than some indoor spots anyway. A crusty, fresh baguette with brie and a view of The Eiffel Tower? Yes, please! 

Closing Thoughts

If you have the time and enough funds to take a trip, go for it while you can! Traveling on your own or with friends builds so much character and confidence. And with a little planning, you can see the world on a budget while creating memories to last a lifetime.

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