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A Guide To Traveling Abroad Without Breaking the Bank

Travel

I don't know about you but lately my timeline has been flooded with images of Parisian promenades, Southeast Asian rice fields, and clear blue Caribbean seas.


This generation is definitely on a travel wave and everybody wants to take a ride, including me.

Here's the issue: my pockets are tight. When you hear the words "international travel," your first thought is probably dollar signs on dollar signs. Traveling abroad can evoke a certain level of luxury in which your wallet is not familiar.

While I've traveled frequently in the past, the last couple of years have been slow. My biggest priority has been just paying my ridiculous NYC rent on time. But Thailand was heavy on my mind and I was NOT going to let my pitiful bank account stop me.

Where there is a will, there is a financially feasible way.

With any trip, the biggest expenses are transportation, lodging, and leisure, and there are ways to maneuver through these potential pitfalls to have the international trip of your dreams. Keep reading for a comprehensive guide of how to budget for any international trip.

Transportation

airplane on sky during golden hour Photo by Tom Barrett on Unsplash

Getting There and Back

There's a website called Rome2Rio that gives you the full play by play on the cost of going from point A to B by plane, trains, and other automobiles. It's a great starting point. Once you've narrowed down your cheapest options, you can buy your tickets right from the site.

If you're not ready to buy just yet, download Hopper on your phone. It sends you periodic notifications on the best time to buy your ticket for the cheapest fare.

Flexible on time and place? You can look up cheap airfare on Skyscanner without indicating specifics. This site is perfect for those who just need to travel and don't care when or where. I relied heavily on Skyscanner to book my round trip ticket to Bangkok for only $600.

Local Transportation

Okay, so you're in your travel destination. How do you get around without paying crazy expensive taxi fares? No matter what city I travel to, I make use of two very important modes of transportation: public transit, and my own two feet.

Let's talk about public transit. It's become increasingly popular to use those Hop On, Hop Off tourist vehicles and while I see the appeal, they are just totally unnecessary. Why spend $50 to sightsee when you can catch a local bus or subway for $2? It may seem scary but you will see more of the authentic, less touristy parts of town and you will become incredibly familiar with the city.

But the absolute BEST way to travel for cheap is to walk. Crazy idea, right? Most cities outside of the US, and especially in Europe, are very pedestrian friendly. You can spend a day strolling leisurely from one historical monument to the next. You never know what you might stumble upon. A gorgeous field of lavender, a quaint restaurant that sells regional cuisine, or a hip bar for when happy hour strikes. So if you're physically able and the weather permits, I highly recommend making it your main mode of transportation.

BONUS: I haven't done this, but bike renting is another great option.

Short-Distance Travel

Since I was traveling to several cities in a short amount of time, part of the stress was figuring out the shortest yet most cost efficient way to get there. At this stage in my life, I value price over convenience. While an hour plane ride sounds lovely, $200 does not.

My advice: take a sleeper train. I ended up finding a $20 ticket to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. Yes, it's a grueling 14 hours BUT I chose an overnight train. I left at 8pm and woke up the next morning to see the sunrise over the beautiful Thai countryside. Not a bad way to wake up.

I did however (luckily) find a $30 dollar flight from Chiang Mai to Krabi Beach through Air Asia. So cheap airfare is possible as well.

Lodging

photo of brown bench near swimming pool Photo by Sara Dubler on Unsplash

Hotels can be pricey and lack personality. For the most part, I love using AirBnB. Its popularity stems from not only the budget-friendly options but also it's "home away from home" level of comfort. But don't discount hotels, you could find some cost-efficient gems!

Since I traveled to Thailand solo, I really wanted to be around people so I opted for hostels throughout my trip. Honestly, I don't LOVE hostels. Sharing a room with 4+ strangers feels like summer camp. But it's crazy affordable. And for this particular trip, my hostels helped me find new buddies to explore the city with. And they instantly connect you with people from all over the world with really amazing stories. I also found really nice hostels with private bathrooms, high speed internet and WiFi, free breakfast, and a handful of other great accommodations.

Leisure

woman on body of water during daytime Photo by Chelsea Gates on Unsplash

This could arguably become the most expensive part of your trip but it's also the one where you have the most financial control. For vacation, I always take out cash and refrain from using my credit cards. This allows me to stay in my budget, as well as physically keep track of my spending.

Food and Drinks

If you follow my advice from housing, breakfast is already taken care of. But for lunch and dinner, you have to be careful not to overspend. Don't ball out for every meal. Be on the lookout for lunch or dinner specials and grab something light and inexpensive every now and then.

For drinks, utilize happy hours to the best of your ability but you also don't always have to buy from the bar. While I was in Krabi Beach, my new hostel friends and I grabbed a bottle of wine from a local store and just laid on the beach with our toes in the sand, watching the sunset over the sea. Way more memorable that way.

Activities

They say the best things in life are free. Depending on the city, this may be easier said than done. But before you travel, always look up a list of inexpensive or practically free activities. For large cities, Timeout is a great reference. For smaller cities, ask locals for advice. Locals know best after all.

Like I said, I went to Thailand by myself. So I wanted a more activity driven trip where I could meet other people as opposed to just lounging around alone. For this reason, TripAdvisor became my best friend. Based on the reviews of others, you can see whether an activity, excursion, or sight is worth your time and money. Thanks to TripAdvisor, I found the perfect company to book a day trip with rescued elephants and a high-speed boat tour around Phi Phi Islands.

In conclusion, traveling on a budget is more feasible than you realize. All it takes is serious financial control and proper planning. If the idea of planning your own travel totally overwhelms you and you don't mind dropping some coins, I highly recommend looking into group travel programs.

However, if you want an experience tailored to your personal interests and finances, it's best to DIY. Because of my extreme budgeting, I was able to live my best life and do this...

And do this.

And this, too.

Happy Traveling!

Featured image by Manuel Moreno on Unsplash

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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