In my short 22 years of life, I have been very blessed to see some incredible places. I have traveled to over half of the U.S. States and plan on getting them all before I have children. I have swam in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and my feet have touched land over 14,000 feet in the air at Mount Evans in Colorado. I have had walked the streets of downtown in L.A, Chicago, Nashville, Denver, and St. Louis. I have helped a community in Jamaica. This is only the beginning. This May, I will be going to New York City for the first time, which has always been a dream of mine. At the end of this summer, I will be driving out east in the U.S., where I have not yet been.
Being a young traveler requires a lot of trial and error. Every trip and excursion is a journey in itself with the planning, saving, and the actual traveling. I have learned some valuable lessons along the way and am sharing them with you today. My hope is that I will inspire the other young travelers out there to get out and SEE THE WORLD. Here are the 10 best lessons I have learned along the way.
1.) Traveling is not just for the “rich”
First of all before we dive into anything else, I want to address this myth. If you think I am by any means rich, you are in for a lesson, my friend. The truth is, I’m pretty poor. I have been a student my whole life. I just graduated with my BA and am starting grad school shortly. Right now, I make $10 as a nanny. Yup, that’s right. 10 bucks. And on top of that, I have a car payment, car insurance, a cell phone bill, and other bills. And still, I am paying about $900 with total costs to go to NYC next month. How can I afford it? I make traveling a priority and budget wisely. With each paycheck, I set aside money. I’ve been setting aside $80 with each paycheck for the past few months. It adds up quickly. Am I able to go to the mall every month and buy a new wardrobe? No. It’s all about choices. Is traveling worth it for you? It is for me.
2.) Don’t “wing it”…plan wisely
I have to hand it to my boyfriend. I am incredibly lucky because he is an expert at planning and shares the same passion as me. Although he is our “navigator” when we go on trips, I still have learned a lot from him along the way. One of the biggest lessons we learned together was not to just “wing” a trip. Our first road trip we took together was to Nashville, Tennessee two years ago. We thought the trip would be more fun if we just made it up as we went along. We booked our hotel ahead of time, but that’s about it. When we got to Nashville, we spent about 90% of our time asking each other, “What do you want to do?” and laying on the hotel bed looking up things to do. Another dumb thing we did was go on this trip 3 weeks before I turned 21. I couldn’t even get into any Nashville bars…and Nashville is famous for its historic downtown. I’m glad we went because it was a learning experience, but still, I would definitely recommend being a smarter planner.
3.) Find things to do that don’t cost money
A lot of things we have done on our trips haven’t cost a dime. These usually end up being the best vacations, too. Take advantage of the natural beauty that this world has to offer. Spend a day at the beach. Drive up the Rockies. If you are already paying for a place to stay and transportation, it is always nice to find things to do that don’t cost money. This post gives some other great tips about saving money while you are traveling.
4.) Go cheap on the hotels…but not too cheap
When you are traveling, chances are that you will not spend much time on your hotel. That being said, you don’t need to splurge on a fancy schmancy place. Most of our trips we are gone the whole day anyways and only use our hotel to sleep and shower in. However, make sure you are still being safe and fork out enough money to not be in a totally sketchy location. When we stayed in Colorado, we found a deal where we could spend 4 nights for about $40 a night. It ended up being the sketchiest and scariest place I ever stayed in. Luckily, we brought sleeping bags and slept in those instead of using our bed sheets. We had to check on our vehicle every few hours to make sure nobody broke in it. Don’t totally abandon your safety for a good deal. You don’t have to stay in a 5-star, but make sure you feel safe. It’s always a good idea to check the reviews and see what other people have to say about the place before you choose to book it.
5.) Check out packaged deals
It’s much cheaper to get a packaged trip deal than solely to go through airlines and hotels separately. Expedia has been a lifesaver. We have found some of the cheapest hotel and flight packages through this website. Tripadvisor is great also, but we have found more success through Expedia. An example of a deal we have gotten: When we go to New York City in May, we found a package for 4 nights hotel in Times Square (prime location!) and round-trip included for $585 a person. Not bad at all!!! Finding deals like this makes it affordable to go on trips.
6.) Go out of your comfort zone
If you love big cities, don’t just visit big cities. Get out there and see the Grand Canyon. See the mountains. See something different and go out of your comfort zone. What was the greatest thing I ever did out of my comfort zone? When we traveled to Colorado, we drove up Mount Evans, which is the highest paved road in North America. I was sitting in the passenger seat while Trevor was driving, and we slowly inched up the mountain. My death was literally three feet on the other side of the vehicle. It was the most nerve-wracking and amazing experience. I’m glad I did it. It was an awesome memory that I will never forget.
7.) Keep a travel journal
This is something I wish I would have done. I only wrote in a journal when I went on a mission trip to Jamaica because our group leader told us too. I have documented all of my trips with wonderful pictures, but I wish I would have written my thoughts about my trip. My advice to you: Keep a traveling journal. Buy one with enough pages where it will last year for years. Bring it with you to every trip, even if you’re only road tripping to the next state. Write down what you saw, what you ate, and your feelings. How COOL would that be if the same journal went all around the country with you?!
8.) Be a smart packer
This is one that took A LOT of trial and error. I’m about to cram a lot of useful information into this bit, so listen up! First of all, roll your clothes instead of folding them in your suitcase. Secondly, always bring along plastic grocery bags for dirty clothes and wet bathing suits. Also store your liquid makeup, lotion, shampoo and conditioner in a plastic bag as well. I can’t tell you how many times my lotion bottle opened and my clothes were greased with product…not fun. Thirdly, pack necklaces in empty pill bottles and phone chargers in old glasses cases. Trust me- you don’t want a huge, tangled up mess inside that suitcase. I also like to put my shoes in plastic shower caps so they don’t get the rest of my clothes dirty. Lastly, keep essentials in your carry-on bag. Luckily, I have never lost my luggage (yet!) but I have been told to keep a pair of underwear, clothes and absolute essentials in your carry on JUST IN CASE the unforgiveable happens.
9.) Invest in a decent camera
Again, this is something that I haven’t done yet; just a hard lesson learned. (Refer to lesson #1 where I explain how I’m poor). BUT, I WILL purchase a decent camera THIS YEAR!! My iPhone just isn’t cutting it for pictures anymore. If you are deeply in love with traveling, then you know the importance of capturing your memories. Invest in a camera and take some amazing pictures along. The quality of your images will be well worth the cost.
10.) Be smart about dining out
Dining out will get ya. Sure, you should plan on spending money on decent meals. But you don’t have to go out to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Most of the time on our trips, we buy a cheap breakfast, skip lunch, and splurge on dinner. I have found that my money goes the quickest on food. Bring more money than you plan on for your food budget, and plan on which meals you will eat out. Also, it’s not a bad idea to go grocery shopping when you get to your destination. Packing some apples, granola bars, and PB & J sandwiches can go a long ways to save money.
Would you have any other tips to recommend? Follow my travels on Instagram! Happy travels!