I’ll save us some time and cut to the chase because who needs an intro when the title of your blog post reads: the $300 trip of a lifetime. And this, my friends, is not just any $300 trip of a lifetime but rather a trip that defied all budget traveling averages, forecasts, and predictions. A trip that led to 14 different countries in 37 days costing only $300 in transportation and accommodation fees. A trip that was jam packed with adventure, fun, and incredible people. A trip with long crammed days without a clue of where we would stay at night. A trip spent with sleepless nights on people’s couches, airport sidewalks, and hostels without air conditioning. A trip mixed with luck, good planning, and some improvisational flexibility. A trip that changed my life.
For the past five months, I have been”studying” in Brno, Czech Republic and traveling almost every free weekend available. Prior to coming overseas, my bucket list consisted of only three countries because, I, like so many others, assumed that traveling “cheaply” came with a hefty cost. But after five months of living abroad, I crossed sixteen countries, over forty cities, and two continents off of my bucket list while spending less in five months than I did in one semester at home. But those details are for another blog post.
Yet, as the end of my semester started creeping near, I still craved one last big hoorah before leaving back to the States. Therefore, I decided to put my new and improved budget traveling skills to the test. Due to predominantly exploring Central and Eastern Europe over the past few months, I decided it was time to expand my horizons to the West.
But before you get too excited, I must preface by saying my traveling techniques were very unconventional and my luck far exceeded my expectations. And, to be honest, I’m not sure if I will ever get this lucky again unless I find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
Nonetheless, here is my itinerary. If you scroll past my detailed schedule, you can see the different methods and techniques I utilized to pay the least amount possible.
May 19th- Flew out of Bratislava (cheapest airport)to Athens
May 21st- took a ferry to Mykonos
May 24th- Flew back to Athens and then flew back to Bratislava
Brno, Czech Republic and Cesky Krumlov
I took a bus back from Bratislava to Brno and stayed in my apartment until my big trip. On the 27th, I hitched a ride with some friends to visit Cesky Krumlov.
May 31st-June 2nd
May 31st- Flew from Bratislava to Paris and was greeted by our wonderful couchsurfing host, Pierro (bottom right pic)
June 2nd- Flew from Paris into Barcelona and arrived at our AirBnB private room a little outside of downtown
June 3rd- We spent the night at the Barcelona airport (found ourselves a little kiosk box with outlets to snuggle up in)
June 4th- flew from Barcelona to Ibiza
June 4th- Flew from Barcelona to Ibiza
Met up with some friends who were gracious enough to house us.. No pills were popped, no expensive clubs were entered, but man did we have a good time
June 6th- Flew from Ibiza to Madrid
June 6th- Arrived in Madrid
Felt a little under the weather the first half of the trip but after going to a pharmacy and I was back in action. One of my close friends surprised me and showed us around the city.
June 8th- Flew from Madrid to Marrakesh
June 8th-June 10th
June 8th- We arrived in Marrakesh
Unfortunately, when we originally planned to go to Marrakesh, we became mesmerized by the insanely cheap prices and failed to realize that we would only have a little more than 24 hours there. We arrived late on the 8th and left early on the 10th. But hey, there’s always next time.
June 10th- Departed for Rome
June 10th-June 15th
June 10th- Arrived in the Rome Airport where I was greeted by Italian Customs telling me I was to be sent back to Marrakesh.. After 3 hours of questioning and awkward translation, I finally was able to leave but that’s a different story for another blog post
The rest of my time in Rome was divine. I made my 22nd birthday wish in the Trevi Fountain, ate pounds of gelato, and explored the ancient ruins.
June 14th- Spent the night in the Rome airport or should I say outside of the Rome airport. At midnight, everyone was kicked out until 4:30 AM. Even though we were freezing and exhausted, we made friends, laughed at the situation, and learned from our mistake. Who said cheap traveling doesn’t come with a price?
SECOND HALF OF TRIP–> $0
And from the 15th-23rd, I spent $0 on accommodation and transportation.. I said goodbye to my other traveling partners and hitched a ride from Brno down to Croatia and back up to Munich with a few stops along the way.
This is when my luck was in full force. I had a friend contact me after seeing some pictures from a trip to Croatia I took earlier in the semester. She told me she was coming over and if I helped organize a trip to cities I’ve been, give them tours, research accommodation, take them places to eat, and pick the best cities that I would only have to pay for my food..Am I lucky or what?
(all of the transportation was with a rental car)
June 15- drove from Brno to Vienna and arrived in the evening
June 16th- departed for Budapest
June 16th- arrived in Budapest late at night and walked along the river
June 17th- spent all day in Budapest and departed for Plitvice National Park at night
Plitvice National Park
June 17- arrived in Plitvice late at night
June 18- woke up early to hike Plitvice.. hiked for 5 hours and left around 2PM
Zadar with day trips to Split, Telascia National Parl, & Krka National Park
June 18- arrived in Zadar in the evening
June 19- went to Telascia National Park all day
June 20- woke up early and went to Krka National Park then to Split for the full day
June 21- left early for Ljubljana
June 21st- arrived in Ljubljana around 10AM
June 22nd- left early for Salzburg
Salzburg then Munich
June 22nd- I spent all afternoon in Salzburg and drove to Munich and stayed by the airport
June 23rd- I flew from Munich to London on a buddy pass with a connection in Brussels
June 23rd- I had a 22 hour layover in Brussels and was a little exhausted from the travel so did not get to do and see all that much
June 24th- left for my connecting flight in London
Home sweet home I finally go back to America. I flew back on a buddy pass and this cost is not incurred in the total amount.
So how did I do it?!? Let’s start by analyzing my transportation methods. Like I said before, my luck reached new heights and I cannot guarantee that the prices for my transportation are attainable for everyone. With that being said, if you’re diligent enough and patient enough, you’ll find the deals.
I planned my trip when RyanAir was having a KILLER sale. For three hours, my friend and I played around on Skyscanner putting in different dates and destinations analyzing which flights, days, and places would be the cheapest. On Skyscanner, there is a feature where you can search from a specific destination to “everywhere” and the website will generate the cheapest cities you can fly into on that specific date.
Prior to planning, we both discussed our absolutes-I wanted to go to Paris and Marrakesh and she wanted to go to Barcelona and Rome. Other than that, we were flexible and willing to go anywhere which made for easy planning.
As most of you know, RyanAir’s amazingly cheap flights can come with a cost. Once you land in your destination, the happiness you felt when you booked a $15 flight across Europe diminishes once you realize it costs $35 to take a train into town. But don’t worry my friends, there is always a way around it.
Before a flight, I always go on Rome2Rio. I type in the airport and then the address that I am going to. Rome2Rio will then evaluate the cheapest means of getting from point A to point B and display the options with the time and prices. Typically, if the destination is less than two miles, I walk (pack light). If it’s more, I look to see how cheap a bus is and then a train.
If worse comes to worst, I go on BlaBlaCar and analyze the price range. More often than not, blablacar.com is the cheapest for the further away airports. BlaBlaCar is technically an uber for bigger trips. People who are perhaps traveling home from work or school, list the amount of seats available in their car with prices.
In addition to my transportation costs, my accommodation is what enabled me to save the most amount of money. I hitched a ride with someone who had rented a car for the rest of my trip. If you are embarking on a journey with a big group of people, splitting a rental car could be the cheapest and most efficient means of transportation subjective to the specific trip.
Throughout the most recent months, I racked up AirBnB points. How? I sent a ton of requests to friends without the app, they would receive $20 off their first stay, and in return, I would get $20. Therefore, I was able to stay at a few airbnb’s on my trip for a crazy cheap price.
I can’t say enough about CouchSurfing. Though the concept might sound weird or creepy at the surface level, Couchsurfing is much more than a free place to stay. More often than not, your host will give you a free tour of the city, provide insight on the local hangouts/attractions, and supply you with an all around more intimate cultural immersion.
Yep, airport grounds galore. If a flight left before noon, chances were, you would find me sleeping in the airport. Some chairs were comfortable. Some chairs were hard. But nothing was worse than getting kicked out of the Rome (FCO) airport at midnight. But hey, I made friends and it made for a funny story. Read my blog post- nights in the airport for advice on how to make the most of your experience.
This website provides you with a guide of the best/worst airports in the world and what amenities they offer.
This is the part where my luck exceeded my expectations. Due to my study abroad, I had friends all over to stay with. That’s the beauty of an international study program.
So, I’m sure some of you think my title is misleading or led you astray. But true traveling is utilizing your resources. Sometimes you get luckier than others. But if you keep an open mind, a flexible schedule, and a friendly personality, then cheap opportunities will present themselves wherever you go.