If you know me well or you've been following my wacky adventures, then you know I love a win-win travel situation. I documented a lot of my tricks and tips during my book and music tour last year, and while I was in Spain and London this year.
How does a gal travel on a modest income?
I love the "sharing economy" that has cropped up over the past few years. I feel single income earners like myself are getting to connect and participate because of it.
If you have the itch to get out of town, the biggest things to tackle are flights, local travel, food and nightly accommodations.
In the U.S. I use JetBlue and I make the most of their Amex TrueBlue card (here's their points program FAQ). If you shop online with their ShopBlue portal, and use the card , you can rack up points fast. There are a ton of affiliates that work with JetBlue too, so you can do things like hook up your energy bill to give you points, or use services like RocketMiles.com to pile on points during each trip you take.
Also check out Skyscanner. You can set a date range and several destinations or departure points, and it links you to the lowest fares available across a broad range of carriers. The details can be shown on a calendar or in a list. It's like the modern day equivalent of "close your eyes and put your finger on the map" ...except it also tells you what's cheapest... and your eyes are open? And they have an app. OK. Bad comparison, but you get what I mean.
Getting Around Town:
I've been a member of Zipcar for a long time, and in San Diego, I got a chance to try Car2Go which has finally spread to NYC! These are car sharing services, where you rent hourly. The experience is quite smooth and customer service is usually spot on. You get the freedom of a car, minus the hassle of paying for gas, insurance or in some cases, EZPass.
Staycation & Vacation Housing:
This is where the magic of a sharing economy comes in... there are solutions for every type of person... from cozy homebodies to souls stricken with wanderlust.
At home, the lovingly dubbed "staycation" can be super fun... especially if you have a short time off, or perhaps you have furry friends who'd favor some home time over jet setting.
Perhaps you want to fly, but Fido wants to stay put: A housesitter or petsitter might be more affordable than you think. Check out HouseCarers.com - they connect people needing sitters with travelers looking to save money on a place to stay.
Maybe you have a social streak and a tight budget: you can stay at home and host travelers from all over the world. Hosting with Airbnb, you provide a more "hotel-style" service, for which you can charge a nightly or weekly fee, and actually make money!
Use a free service like Couchsurfing.org to bring an international experience right into your own home. Many in the CS community are willing to share language, cooking, and tutoring skills as part of their stay... I still stay in touch with CS people I met in Spain, London and Brooklyn.
For travel away from home, I have my favorite standby solution: Airbnb has been awesome for booking smaller unique Bed & Breakfast experiences in private homes or apartments. I've used it in several countries, and it's always been cheaper than a hotel. It's also very personalized. Many people include wifi, use of pools, TVs, kitchens, outdoor spaces.
My favorite thing, I swear, is wandering around open air markets. But it's also a way to get my grubby little mitts on some good food. There are often samples to try, the most reliably local items, and I inevitably meet people who can recommend inexpensive local restaurants, or at least a good recipe...which I can cook in the kitchen of that sweet Airbnb... right?
To find farmers markets, I go to the most obvious place that no one thinks to look: The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. They have a complete list of markets. Easy.
Also, have you checked out Groupon? Lots of local restaurants will post up buy-one-get-one deals or half off deals. I like it because it forces me to try food and locations I definitely wouldn't think of on my own.
So there you have it...
This was just a quick overview on how to make travel, pets, good eats and adventure part of your life, no matter what your budget.