Travel — we all want to do it and we want to do it now. Who doesn’t want to be relaxing at a small bistro with a glass of wine and looking over the Italian countryside or zip-lining through the Costa Rican rain forest? This woman does! However, the reality is that we have bills and bills and more bills and sometimes the idea of paying for awesome adventures can seem a bit overwhelming. Trust me, I’ve been there. I’m under 30 years of age, making (way) less than $40K a year and I don’t have a second income. It’s just me paying all my bills. But despite my age and income, I’ve managed to travel extensively on my own and I’ve done it in a few amazing ways.
I’ve decided to put together a list of 10 unique ways to fund travel adventures to help other women who wish to explore the world but just aren’t sure how to do it. Have I used all of these methods? No, but I’ve used most of them and they’ve been of great help to me and my checkbook. So check them out and get to exploring. It’s a big, bright world out there and you are absolutely capable of seeing it.
Clean house and make cash
Do you have two extra iPods, the first version of a Kindle book, or a digital camera you don’t ever use? Do you only wear half the clothes in your closet? Clean house and make cash for your next vacation. Sell old clothes, phones, or furniture items on eBay or Craigslist. Take unwanted clothes to a second-hand store that will pay in cash or sell them to an online store like thredup.com for a cash out through PayPal. Pawn shops pay for electronics, jewelry, and household items. Amazon also has a trade-in program too! Expect a big travel paycheck after selling those things you no longer need.
Put your skills to good use
Are you a talented writer, photographer, artist, video editor, or web-designer? Did you know that these talents can pay for vacations? Freelancing is a great market for making extra money that can go toward trips. For example, freelance writers can make $25/hour on projects. Freelance jobs can be found on any major job search site, like LinkedIn or Monster, on Craigslist, or by spreading the word through a network of friends. Research to learn how much your talent is worth and find part-time gigs that will pay your way to a long-weekend trip.
Universities and jobs will provide free trips
For the average employee or college student, funding one’s travel can be difficult, especially when over 25 million Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Conferences and seminars, whether academic or professional, are being held weekly around the world. Most academic institutions will award students and instructors travel money to use toward presenting at academic conferences. Institutions could pay around $250-$1,500 per year (and sometimes more and sometimes less). Present for two hours at a conference being held in a city that you’ve always wanted to visit and make a vacation out of it. As for professional conferences and seminars, many employers will pay all or most all expenses for attending these seminars if they are provided a good reason for why it would benefit the company and your position.
You don’t need a skill to get paid
Maybe you’re not talented at writing, taking pictures, or designing a website. Never fear because it doesn’t take specialized skills to walk a dog, house-sit, mow a lawn, babysit one night a week, or put up Christmas lights. Odd jobs pay and sometimes significantly. Babysitting, for instance, pays about $15/hour while one can charge around $20/hour to walk dogs. Leave flyers in the mailboxes of different neighborhoods or post your number or e-mail on a web bulletin board. This is a very reliable way to fund one’s travels and should not interfere with a main job or take up a lot of your time.
Credit cards that pay you to travel
Travel hacking is the process of charging bills and expenses on travel credit cards to gain miles and points. With those miles and points you can purchase free airplane tickets and book free hotel rooms. Most travel credit card programs are willing to give 40,000-50,000 miles/points (equals one plane ticket) for spending about $3,000 in the first three months. This should be easy to do by paying monthly bills. As a student, you can hit this goal by paying your school tuition (and then pay the credit card off before the interest hits). Check out nerdwallet.com for the most up-to-date information on travel credit cards. This option is not for shop-a-holics, those in serious debt, or people with very bad credit.
I was able to pay for two different 10-day solo trips to Spain and Ireland through travel credit cards. This is my favorite way to pay for my adventures! If you’d like more information on credit card hacking, check out my kindle ebook, Traveling Without the Costs (in the Simplest of Terms). It explains it in a easy guide that you can reference all year long.
Rent your space
Airbnb.com allows people to rent apartments, houses, and rooms in cities all over the world at a cheaper price than hotels. What makes this site more amazing is that it allows individuals to rent out their spare rooms, apartments, or houses to people on vacations. Depending on location, how much you charge, and the amenities that are offered, renting out your space as a vacation rental could draw in hundreds of dollars a month. In regards to safety, Airbnb provides reviews of renters and gives hosts the ability to approve and deny renters. Plus, Airbnb.com covers the spaces of hosts for up to $1 million. Have a spare room? Do you stay at your boyfriend’s house most days anyways? Try renting your space as a vacation rental on Airbnb.com to fund your next trip.
If you’d rather not go through Airbnb.com, there’s also HomeAway, another property rental site. Or just get a roommate, cut your bills in half, and save more money!
Here’s an awesome referral link to get you started: www.airbnb.com/c/atemblador
Budget, budget, budget
The best and most logical way to fund your travels is to create a financial budget. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, two-thirds of Americans do not create a budget and therefore aren’t aware of how much they spend each month. Many people do not realize how much money they waste on items they don’t really need. By budgeting, you might discover that you actually have the finances to travel around the world. All it takes is a little bit of work, prioritization, and self-restraint, and you can be a world traveler in no time.
Tax returns can pay off in big ways
For parents, students, or low-income individuals, tax season can be very rewarding. If you don’t need to pay off any significant bills, using tax returns to travel is a great idea. Be sure to use any possible credits to receive the highest return possible. These credits include child & dependent credits, the lifetime learning credit, savers tax credit, or adoption credits. Those with a low yearly income (below $30,000) are eligible to receive more credits and thus a possible higher tax return.
Fellowships, Grants, and Residencies
Certain businesses, academic institutions, the government, and organizations reward thousands of dollars in grants and fellowships every year that could go toward travel funds. Fellowship and grant programs vary widely: some might offer funding to teach on an island in the Bahamas, learn a new language, create an art portfolio that focuses on national parks, fund medical research, search for a new insect in the Amazon, or write a novel. There is a lot of money ready to be given to you to do a project that you love and if that project involves traveling the world to complete, then you have found a great way to pay for your travels!
Fulbright fellowships are one of the most commonly-known fellowships and might be a great place to begin. Local libraries are a great resource for books that list fellowships and grants by category and most of these books are updated yearly.
Residency programs or artist-in-residence programs are very similar to fellowships and grants. Many organizations will pay individuals to live in different parts of the world to complete a “residency.” Residencies can last anywhere from weeks to a few years, but most are 6 months to a year. These residencies can vary from medical residencies in which doctors gain experience in their medical field to artistic residencies where writers live in a community for a year creating their next novel or poetry collection to be published at the end of the residency.
Crowdfunding is exactly as it sounds: a large group of people that fund something. Surprisingly, a lot of people use crowdfunding sites, like Kickstarter and Gofundme.com, to raise money for their travels. With social media, it is easy to post a link on Twitter or Facebook that allows others to donate money to fund travel expenses. Certain crowdfunding sites like bonfirefunds.com will even give these donors something in return, like a t-shirt designed by you, once a pre-set fundraising goal has been reached.