Whether you’re a newbie daydreaming about travel for the first time, or an experienced backpacker, one thing is certain – everyone wants to save money and travel more efficiently. I’ve been traveling for 20 years, and am still excited when I learn about new deals, new tips, new tools, and helpful websites to up my travel game. In this blog post, I have outlined several travel hacks that will do just that- improve your travel street cred, and help you to travel cheaper, and adapt to a new country faster.
Airalo – Connect with an eSIM
Arguably one of the most important tasks when you arrive to a new country is getting connected. You need Google Maps. You need Whatsapp. You need Uber. In this world of smart phones, we’re used to being connected. All. The. Time. So when you suddenly find yourself in a new country without a local sim, you can feel totally out of sorts. I know from experience. I once walked 45 minutes in jean overalls dragging my rolling suitcase under the hot Yucatan sun, sweat running from every place sweat runs from, all because I didn’t yet have a Mexican sim card. I didn’t have access to Maps, and couldn’t find my Airbnb. I had just arrived and didn’t even know where to find a sim card yet.
It’s Easy to Use Airalo
Airalo changes all that. They are an eSIM provider, which means I can have a local sim card as soon as I step off the plane. No need to search for a local sim card seller, bag in tow, hoping I don’t get ripped off.
It’s simple. Download the Airalo app, and then search for the country or region you’re heading to. Find the package that is right for you and install it. BAM. You’re connected.
Many times, the Airalo sim is a much more affordable option than a local sim. As I sit here writing this blog post from my friend’s living room just outside Seattle, Washington, I have a a United States eSIM installed in my iPhone. I paid $16 for 5gb of data for 30 days. In the years before Airalo, I was easily paying between $45-$75/mo to be connected with an American sim when visiting friends and family in the country.
Is Airalo the Best Option?
Sometimes Airalo is not the cheapest option, but it is the best option to start with. For example, an eSIM for Argentina, 6gb for 30 days, with Airalo is $26. A local eSIM with Argentina’s phone company Claro, 10gb for 30 days, can be less than $10. In this case, local is better. But you still need to take care of things before you make it in to the Claro store. In this type of circumstance, I recommend buying the cheapest Airalo option that lasts for 3 days or 7 days. That gives you instant connectivity, and a few days to get your bearings before you head into the local Claro for the more affordable option long term.
With every Airalo purchase you make, you receive Airmoney credit, which means you’ll get a discount on your next sim or top up. Use my code NICHOL5388 at checkout, and we’ll both get an instant $3 in Airmoney credit.
SafetyWing – Nomad Insurance
Traveling is exciting, but it can also be unpredictable. The best way to plan for unpredictability is to have insurance. SafetyWing is a travel medical insurance that was created by nomads for nomads. You can purchase a policy even if your trip has already started, and pause and resume coverage with flexibility. You’re covered in 185 countries and you don’t need to let them know about your itinerary in advance. It’s perfect for people like me who don’t know where they’ll be next month! Check out their website here.
When I moved to Argentina in January 2022, one of the requirements was insurance that covered Covid. For me it was a no brainer. I signed up and got SafetyWing right away. They make it so easy to start and stop your coverage when you need to. You can also choose the exact number of days you’ll need your travel medical insurance. The company was very transparent, and I never felt like I was being tricked or scammed, like so many travel medical insurance companies can do. Highly recommended.
The prices were very affordable, although, you’ll need to keep in mind that the prices can increase depending on your destination.
If you’re a travel blogger or content creator, and you’re interested in being an ambassador for SafetyWing, click here. We’ll both benefit!
WayAway – Get Cash Back From Your Trip
WayAway is a newer travel company on the scene. It is a flight aggregator, city guide tip giver, and assistant for local tours, car rentals, and hotel booking all in one. You can opt for the WayAway Plus option, which is $99/year (though they do have sales throughout the year). If you use WayAway Plus, you can get cash back on all the purchases you make through their portal. If you book a flight, cash book. Book a hotel, cash back. Rent a car, cash back. Book a tour, cash back. If you’re going to be purchasing these travel essentials anyways, you might as well get cash back. If you travel a lot, or take one big trip, you can easily make your money back.
Not to mention, WayAway plus also gives you 24hr access to a travel expert. You’ll just need to link your Facebook account and click the “I’ve got a question” button, and you’ll be directed to an expert within minutes. Ask anything about the best coffee shops in LA or the cheapest flights from point A to point B.
Click here to get 10% off of your WayAway Plus membership, or use the code NPTS.
Find the Best Flights
One of the most obvious first steps of travel is buying that flight. But come on, nobody wants to spend a lot on purchasing the flight. We all want the best deal. We want to brag to our friend’s about that super sweet price we got to London. Or that cheap weekend flight to New York. Well luckily, there are now several ways of monitoring flights to always get the best deals.
Scott’s Cheap Flights
Scott’s Cheap Flights (now called Going) is a fantastic newsletter that comes right to your email inbox, with flight deals near and far. How to use Scott’s Cheap Flights? It’s simple and easy. Just sign up and choose your home airport. Then the newsletter will be catered just to you- the best flight deals leaving from your favorite airports of choice. Getting the newsletter is totally free. However, there are also options you can pay for. With the free version, you’ll be sent both domestic and international flight deals, but you won’t get the chance to hear about mistake deals (when airlines accidentally make an incredibly cheap flight price, and it doesn’t last long).
Both the premium and elite memberships DO send you those mistake fairs, and you’ll be notified right away (unlike the free version where you’ll hear about it a day or two late). You can also try out both of these tiers for FREE for 14 days with a Scott’s Cheap Flights trial.
When searching for flights, I always check out Skyscanner first. I use both the desktop version and the Skyscanner app, which is super convenient. What I love about Skyscanner is that you can view prices for the entire month at a glance to make sure you’re flying on the cheapest day. You can also check the cheapest possible flights for everywhere in the world, if you’re not sure where to go, but just want to find a good deal.
The Hopper app is also my go-to when looking for flights (they do hotels too). What I like about the Hopper app, is that you can ‘watch’ a flight. You can even watch several at a time. Choose your destination and your desired dates, and Hopper will let you know when is the best time to buy- if you should buy now, or if you should wait because prices are predicted to go down in the future. The Hopper app informs you of the predicted price increase amount, and what is the exact date you should buy your flight before.
If you join Hopper, use my code nicholep4jh and we’ll both get $20 in hotel vouchers.
Travel Credit Cards – Benefit From Money You’re Already Spending
One of the best things you can do for yourself is get a good travel credit card. If you’re going to be spending the money anyways, you might as well benefit from it. Get free flights and discounts on certain products just for having a credit card. Both cards listed below are my preferred cards, and both have NO foreign transaction fees. So swipe away, and get those points.
SouthWest Credit Card
SouthWest is easily my preferred domestic carrier and fly with them as much as possible. For that reason, I have the Chase SouthWest credit card. I get 7,500 bonus points every year my credit card renews, which is basically one free flight. SouthWest allows you to cancel your flight up to ten minutes before take off with no penalty. You always get 2 free checked bags, and the staff is always friendly. I love this company and they make travel so easy. Click here to get 30,000 bonus points.
Chase Sapphire Credit Card
This is one of my favorite travel credit cards. If you spend $4000 in the first three months of having this card, you’ll get 60,000 points. That means free flights, free hotel stays, etc. While writing this blog post just now, I got distracted and booked 3 nights at the Double Tree Hotel in Guadalajara, paying with a combination of points and hotel credits.
Open a Wise Account – International Banking
Wise (formerly called TransferWise) is an international bank account. It allows you to open a bank account in several different currencies. Then when traveling, and you take money out of an atm, it will pull from your account with the best exchange rate at the moment. There are so many benefits. If you’re not in the US but need a US bank account to get paid, get paid into your Wise account! You can quickly and easily find your bank account details on the app and the website, which is often hidden and leads to frustrating moments with other bank accounts. You can send money to friends for FREE who also have a Wise account.
My Experience with Wise
I spent an entire year traveling with a good Brazilian friend of mine. He didn’t have a bank account in the US so we could never send each other money via Venmo or Paypal. However, he did have a US bank account with Wise, so we easily send each other money through the Wise app in less than a minute. I also used to pay my rent in Tbilisi, Georgia using Wise. I did need to pay a small fee each time as my landlord didn’t have a Wise account, but the ease of doing it this way was worth it.
How to Use Wise Details
I also love having the Wise card (it’s bright green) when I travel. You can make 2 withdrawals of up to 100 USD each month for free. After that, they charge 1.5 USD per withdrawal. There’s a 2% fee on any amount you withdraw above 100 USD. Always choose to be charged in the local currency of where you are to avoid any hidden local fees.
Click here to sign up for the Wise card and get a fee-free transfer up to £500.
Trusted HouseSitters – Live for Free
This is a fantastic website that allows you to essentially live for free while watching other people’s pets. Some stays are just a few days, some can even be a month or more. You can easily filter for duration of stay, time periods, location, etc. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the house sits are in the global north, between US, Canada, and Western Europe. Those locations are also the most expensive to travel in, so you might as well balance out your trip with free accommodation.
Click here to sign up and get 25% off your membership.
WWOOF/Helpx – Travel Exchanges
WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a worldwide movement to link visitors (WWOOFers) with organic farmers, promote a cultural and educational exchange, and build a global community conscious of ecological farming and sustainability practices. Although, it is sometimes extended just to cultural exchanges, depending on where you do it.
My Experience with WWOOF
I tried WWOOF for the first time in China in 2007, hoping to see what life was like on a farm in China. Instead, I ended up staying with a Chinese girl and her family in the province of Hubei. We stayed with her mom in the city, her cousins in the countryside, her aunt in a staff building at a middle school, and visited her grandparents in a tiny village. It wasn’t exactly the farm experience I was hoping for, but it did result in a lifelong friendship with someone from another culture. Coincidentally, as I write this, I am in Seattle where my Chinese friend lives, and we’re meeting tomorrow for breakfast. Fifteen years after first meeting in Hubei.
In New Zealand, I worked on organic farms selling produce at roadside stands, planting potatoes, trimming trees, and sharing group meals in the community room. I worked on a sheep farm at the most southern point in New Zealand. I worked on a community farm outside Christ Church. And I even stayed with an Italian family in Auckland for a month helping out with their children through Helpx. There is also WorkAway for another option in cultural exchanges.
The best part? All of this is free, or nearly free. Cultural exchanges. Everyone benefits.
Thatch Guides- Plan Your Trip (or sell it!)
Thatch is a fantastic tool for travelers and creators. You can easily build guides and itineraries for yourself when taking a trip. If it turns out to be a great guide, you might as well sell it too. Add some details and choose a price, and who knows, you can make some money while traveling. You can also keep them private for yourself if you don’t want to share.
Check out my Thatch guides here. I have both free guides and guides for sale.
If you’re going on a trip soon, download the Thatch app and see if there are any guides for where you are headed!
MAPS.ME – Be a Better Hiker
I’m a big fan of using Google Maps. Until it comes to hiking. Google Maps just don’t show all the detailed trail maps that I’m looking for when in a mountainous location. Hiking all around Bariloche, Maps.me really saved me. I felt confident about finding smaller trails, getting back, and never getting lost. Maps.me allows you to get off main trails a bit more and be adventurous and explore the area.
Maps.ME also gives a ton of details like distance and time between multiple locations.
I’ve used this app in Turkey to find trails that lead me to a lookout point above Kas; I’ve used this app to lead me to smaller trails on the outskirts of Bariloche, Argentina. I’ve used this app to get me back to Cappadoccia after a full day of adventure hiking in the middle of nowhere.
Nomad List – Research Cities
The Nomad List is a website where you can find information about living in various cities around the world. Real, solid information, submitted by other nomads who really live there. You can compare multiple cities, learn about the cost of living, find hidden gems, and even connect with other nomads. You’re able to search through several filters, including a cost of living that is $1000 or less per month, but still has great internet. You can find basic info with the free version, or you can pay to upgrade for even more info.
If you’re thinking of going for the paid version, here’s a tip: Click to sign up, but don’t finish registration. You’ll then receive an email offering you a large discount to continue your yearly membership.
I hope all of these suggestions can help you get on your way to a life of travel, or just travel better. As much as I’ve traveled in my life, I still get a bit of anxiety before going to a new destination. Preparation and filling my brain with more knowledge is what can finally calm my mind. I hope to do the same for you with these travel hacks for saving money and adapting faster.
INSURANCE: Make sure you cover yourself with travel medical insurance by SafetyWing.
FLIGHTS: Get the best flight deals with Skyscanner and set flight alerts with Hopper (use code nicholep4jh to get $20 in hotel vouchers).
TRAVEL: Get cash back on flights, hotels, and more with WayAway Plus.
STAYS: Check out hotels and apartments with Booking.com and Vrbo.
RENTAL CARS: Get the best deal on rental cars with Discover Cars.
GOING HIKING? Get a 30% discount off your yearly AllTrails+ Account.
eSIM: Get an international eSim with Airalo or eSimple.
CITY GUIDES: Save time and purchase pre-made city guides with Thatch.
CITY TOURS: Book your tour with GetYourGuide and Viator
LUGGAGE: Get the best carry-on suitcase here.
CREDIT CARD: Start earning travel points with the best travel credit card.
BUENOS AIRES GUIDE: Purchase my Buenos Aires travel companion here.
CONSULTATION: Book a 1:1 travel consultation with Nicki here.