Family Vagabond Adventure – A Roof Over Your Head – Ch. 5 Cont.

Hotels/Motels

FVBHotelMaybe you have a little bigger budget, or maybe you’ve racked up a ton of rewards points and hotels are more your style? It is possible to live fulltime in hotels and motels around the world, with the cost of a night’s stay varying widely across the globe. Some areas, and brands, may cost you more per month than your current rent or mortgage, while other areas of the globe would be significantly less. It all depends on where you plan to travel.

Last year we spent a number of nights in cheap motels, bridging the gaps between housesits. As I stated in the earlier chapters, we primarily used the Priceline mobile app and more importantly, we used the Priceline Express Deals. I would say, on average, our nightly stays were around $45 per night. So, $45 x 30 night = $1,350 per month. That’s actually $450 less per month than my monthly rent and utilities in Lititz, PA. Not a terrible savings.

If you’re going to go this route I suggest sticking to a brand, set up a rewards account with the brand and I would use the brand credit card for all stays and food purchases on property. This will keep a steady flow of points flowing into your coffers. Many brands, like Marriott, have properties of varying tiers, meaning they have a lower, less expensive brand and then the higher end properties that will cost you more points per night for a stay. For instance, a night at a Courtyard is typically around 15,000 points, while a stay at a full service Marriott would cost closer to 35,000 points per night.

If you’re concerned about how your travels impacts the environment, then book your hotel stays through Trip Zero. Trip Zero will calculate the carbon footprint of your travels and when you book your stay through their website, they will off set your carbon creation by investing in reforestation projects, methane offset projects and renewable energy projects on your behalf, free of charge. That’s right, it won’t cost you a cent and you can feel good knowing you’ve reduced your travels impact on the globe. They use the Expedia network, so you will find the same prices you would find on other hotel booking sites.

Air B&B

66I love disruptive technology and services and Air B&B, like Uber, is one of the biggest disruptive services of the last 20 years. Air B&B allows home owners to become hotel owners, whether they want to rent out a room in their house or rent out the whole thing. I’ve seen Airstream’s rented out in backyards. I’ve seen houses with skateboard parks. Micro houses to mansions, Air B&B has changed the game.

The website is easy to navigate and allows you to filter for the amenities you’re looking for in a great vacation stay. The price slider allows you to stay within your budget and the scheduler makes it easy to see if the property is available during your time frame.

In complete transparency, we never used Air B&B once. We tried to use it in Portland, OR in the first 2 weeks of our road trip, but we didn’t have much luck. The above mentioned Airstream was in the backyard of a cat owner’s house, they were fearful of our bulldog and the skate park house was suddenly unavailable during our time frame, even though the scheduler said it was available. The next few times that we tried to use Air B&B, we had trouble finding a reasonable rate. On a budget, it’s hard to beat cheap hotels, but if you’re looking for a unique experience, Air B&B can probably fill that want.

Corporate Housing – Extended Stays

Usually easy to find, but sometimes a little on the pricey side. Focused on Corporate travelers, needing a furnished place to stay for extended periods of time, these property owners know that a Corporation is most likely footing the bill, so they can jack up the price some over a traditional hotel stay. There are websites completely focused on this sector of the traveling population. Firms that will help you find corporate housing are in abundance, but it is possible to find them without much help and I certainly would not pay anyone to find me corporate housing.

We’ve seen many corporate housing listings on Craigslist, some of them extremely reasonable, though you should probably take a look at the place for yourself before entering into an agreement. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
We never actually acted on any of the corporate housing listing on Craigslist or anywhere else for that matter. What I know about it comes from the planning portion of our trip. We spot checked cities all over the US for possible spots to stay to save money. It helps, I guess mentally, to have a couple cities in your pocket that you know you could stay for less when no house sits are available.

One brand that we are very familiar with, that caters to the corporate traveler, but is usually a good deal, is Extended Stay. We spent many nights in this brand and in fact found it many times on the Priceline, Express Deals page. They’re especially nice because they come will a kitchen, which really cuts down on the food budget. It’s always cheaper to hit a grocery store, then hit restaurants night after night, so having a kitchen is bonus points. The sleeping arraignments very from property to property, but usually you will get a Queen Size bed with either a pull out couch or a pull our chair. We actually travel with a Twin Size air mattress, which makes either arraignment above work for a family of 4. You won’t get daily housekeeping services in these brands, without paying for it, but you will get a free breakfast, which we would factor into our stay decisions. Not having to pay for a meal a day, can save a lot of the course of a year.

Couchsurf

travelingchimps.comCan’t say I have ever tried this. I think it would be a little tough to show up at someone’s house with a wife, 2 kids and a bulldog, but I love the idea and if I was a lone traveler, I would absolutely give this a try. The way it works is, you register on websites, like couchsurfing.com, you can host folks on your couch or find a couch for your travels all over the world. Fairly simple and cheap, like free cheap. Great way to see the world on a shoe string budget and or bring travelers through your home to inspire your own travels.

Now I’ve heard some horror stories over the years about couchsurfers being murdered, but back up to the Safety chapter, this is far and few between and really you are just as likely, in fact probably more likely to be killed walking across the street to your hosting couch then by your host.

New to couchsurfing? Most major cities have weekly meet ups that give you an opportunity to ask questions about hosting and traveling. Set up your profile today and give it a try, it’s free to set up a profile and you never know what kind of adventure it could bring to your doorstep?

WWOOF – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms
Have a green thumb? Or would you like to learn more about organic farming? Then this might be a creative way to put a roof over your head and some food in your belly. The way it works is, you trade your labor on organic farms, all over the world, usually around 4-6 hours of work for a nightly accommodation and food.

IMG_4012You can find opportunities on wwoof.net, then join the corresponding WWOOF organization for that country or area. I would say this is the negative piece, if you wanted to use WWOOFing to travel around the world, you would end up having to join a bunch of different organizations, which cuts into your travel budget, but may not be a terrible investment, especially if you spend a little longer time at each farm.

So, you get to travel the world, meet people, and learn a trade you could use for yourself or one day start your own organic farm. Sounds pretty good to me.

More of Chapter 5 next week!!!

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Episode 2 – Learn the Art of Full Time Travel

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Learn the Art of Full Time TravelLearn the Art of Full Time Travel in episode 2 of the Traveling Chimps Podcast. Using Family Vagabond Adventure, Learn the Art of Full Time Travel as a guide, I talk travel budgets, frequent flyer/loyalty programs as well as credit cards.

Each week I’ll release the next chapter of the book along with a supporting podcast, covering that chapters topics and highlights. Comments and questions are encouraged, so please comment and ask below. I’ll answer any questions either on the podcast or directly to you via email.

Link to the Second Chapter:

Family Vagabond Adventure, Learn the Art of Full Time Travel – Chapter 2

 Amazon Travel Accessory of the Week:

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Bankrate – to compare banks, it’s also a great way to find auto loans and credit cards.

Charles Schwab – international transaction fees reimbursed.

Mint – App available on Android and iPhone, Sync up all your accounts in one place and manage your budget, but setting up categorizes.

Priceline – Use the Express Deals for last minute cheap motels.

Nomadic Matt – Picking a travel credit card.

Zero to Travel – Credit card hacking podcast

Follow along on our adventure at Facebook http://www.facebook.com/travelingchimps Twitter https://twitter.com/TravelingChimps and YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/user/travelingchimps and now on Pinterest at: https://www.pinterest.com/travelingchimps/

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Family Vagabond Adventure, Learn the Art of Full Time Travel – Chapter 2

Budget

Learn the Art of Full Time Travel

Red Wood Forest – California

Budgets are a personal thing. Some travelers may be independently rich, retired on Social Security, or completely broke with just a backpack full of everything they own. The good thing is there is a way to travel and see the world on limited budgets and certainly with unlimited budgets. I can’t say that I ever really had a chance to travel at the luxury level, so I probably won’t speak too much about it, however I have had the fortune of being a business traveler for many years. I learned a lot about travel and travel rewards programs that I will share in the coming chapters of this book.

I would classify my family’s road trip around the U.S. as a moderate travel budget. We spent the bulk of our nights living for free as housesitters, and nights between housesits we either stayed with friends or stayed in cheap motels, usually around $40 per night on average. We stayed for as little as $10 a night at a casino in Nevada and as much as $100 in the oil rich section of Texas, between El Paso and Dallas. All the contracted oil field workers have driven up the price of lodging in this neck of the U.S. Though I will say, that was the only place we couldn’t find a place for under $60 in 38 states.
We would keep our meals low budget by hitting grocery stores/farmers markets and keeping a box of food under my wife’s feet. If you’re going to travel with kids, you’ve got to have a bunch of food on hand or things can get real grumpy, real quick.

Most Americans have very little savings and live paycheck to paycheck, making traditional travel and vacations tough to fund, without going further into debt. The focus of this book isn’t to travel like you are on vacation, spending money like it’s going out of style and trying to get your money’s worth in a short amount of time, but rather to travel moderately, smartly and in which a way that can be sustained for weeks, months and years. The shoe string and moderate budgets are probably the most common budgets, and this includes retired folks on a fixed income. I’m focusing on this demographic because that’s what I know. Luxury Travel I don’t really know, other than some extravagant business travel at times and I’m sure there are plenty of blogs and books out there with folks that really know this market, I’m not one of them.

Learn the Art of Full Time Travel

Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco, CA

First of all when making the decision to jump into full time travel, don’t do a Pros/Cons list. It’s easy to make these list and easy to find a million excuses not to jump in. Focus on these lists, and you will never leave the house. Plus you’ll find out pretty quickly that all of the things you thought you know will go out the window in the first week or so. Including your preplanned routes, etc. More on that to come.

Now for the “real” first thing you should do, write out your current monthly expenses. Don’t be scared by your list of expenses, the next exercise will show you the true potential of traveling full time. Now subtract out all of the expenses you will no longer need to pay once you eliminate the rent or mortgage, the cost of rent or mortgage, utilities (Water, Gas Electric, and Waste), land line, internet service, cable television. My savings was around $2,000 per month. My worst case scenario would be to not have a house sit for a month. In this case I would need a cheap motel each night for a month, meaning I would need ~$1,500. Still $500 less than my rented townhouse. Not bad and should probably ease your fears a little, right?

Any remaining items on your list you will need to cover each month, using savings, retirement, social security and continued income. This could include, cell phone, Wi-Fi hot spot, health insurance, life insurance, car/RV payment, auto insurance, school loans, credit card payments, fuel and food. You may not have all of these, just listing out the possibilities. You may find substantial savings in some of these categories depending on where you plan to travel. For instance buying local health insurance in most counties is much less than U.S. health insurance. Also, you may be able to use some of the money you are saving each month to pay down student loans and credit card debt. Hopefully many of you don’t have this debt, but chances are most of us do, I know I do.

Learn the Art of Full Time Travel

Sea Lions on the Pacific Coast Highway – California

You now have a monthly budget to follow so you’ll now need a way to manage it. I actually kept my local PA bank, but make sure your bank offers online banking. I can’t imagine that there are any banks these days that don’t offer online banking, but make sure. It’s tough depositing a check in PA from Guatemala! Use bankrate.com to compare banks, it’s also a great way to find auto loans and credit cards.

If you’re planning to travel internationally, make sure you understand your banks fee structure on international transactions. Your bank may charge you per transaction on any purchase made outside the country. It may be a small fee, but over time it can add up to big bucks. For U.S. readers, and I realize that not all of you are, you may want to consider a Charles Schwab account, which refunds any international transaction fees to you, saving a lot of money over time. For readers from other countries, do a little digging, I’m sure there must be a similar offering in your home country.

We utilize an app called Mint, which is available on Android and iPhone, and tracks all of your bank and credit card accounts in one spot. You can set up budgets by category, making it easier for you to track how you are doing against your new budget. Your banking transactions load into the app and are auto categorized, though you have the ability to re-categorize any transaction as you see fit. More on other travel hack tools and apps to follow.

I hope that you have found through this budget exercise that you really do have options and I hope that you have found some savings that have inspired you to make the plunge into full time travel and homelessness by design. I can’t speak for all of you, since we all have different cost of livings, debt levels and geographic variation, but we found that eliminating a good chunk of our monthly expenses and hitting the road full time was doable, exhilarating and over all a cost savings.

Frequent Traveler Programs, stick to brands (flight, car, lodging)

Learn the Art of Full Time Travel

Pacific Coast Highway between San Fran and LA

What I learned from my business travel days, is that brand loyalty has its benefits, especially when you’re not footing the bill. I would consistently use the airline, American Airlines, the same hotel brand, Marriott and the same rental car company, Hertz. However; this loyalty was based on my company paying the bills, nowadays, you will find me on Frontier Airline, Choice Brand Hotels and Dollar Car Rental or using sites like skiplagged.com, that allows you to book flights using your connecting flight as your final destination, it’s a little bite risky if the weather is bad, you could end up getting diverted to your booked final destination via another connecting location and you probably don’t want to check a bag, unless you can talk the ticketing agent into checking your bag to your connecting location.

The benefit of brand loyalty is the rewards programs, and as you escalate a brands program, usually in a Silver, Gold, Platinum format, you unlock additional benefits and savings as well as the rate at which you collect points. For instance at Marriott, anyone above the Gold level receives free internet service in their room, as well as access to the Concierge Club, where you can typically get free breakfast and in some cases free dinner. The benefit of loyalty with the airline is, the ability to check bags for free, board the plane ahead of the crowds, and access exit row seats during online check in. Also, free upgrades to first class, become more frequent as you work your way up through the program.

An additional note about Frequent Travel Programs, you may be offered free magazine subscriptions for unused points, very common with Delta Airlines program and some programs, like Marriott, may send you a catalog of goods that can be purchased with your points. They offer televisions, spa packages and golf clubs to name a few examples. Not a terrible use of points in some cases. Can’t say I ever bought anything from the catalog, but I was able to book a very nice room, for a week, at the Marriott Vacation Club at the Marriott World Hotel in Orlando, FL just outside the gate of Disney, saving my family a ton of cash. The price you pay for spending most weeks away from my family, not so sure that’s the best trade off?

Make the most of your purchases, credit cards

Learn the Art of Full Time Travel

Swiss Family Robinson – Disneyland – California

Most brand loyalty programs, like the Marriott and American Airlines rewards programs, have their own credit cards, which allows you to earn more reward points with your daily purchases, that can be traded for free hotel stays or airline tickets. Many of the business travelers I knew, would pay for meals outside of the hotel with their Rewards Credit Card and then charge meals to their room when eating inside the hotel. Nice little trick to rack up additional points on your meal purchases. A similar approach can be used with Airline Reward Credit Cards. Use these cards for daily purchases and earn frequent flyer miles that can be traded in for free flights. Sometimes using the Airline Rewards Card to purchase flights will come with the benefit of lower cost or additional point generation to be used on future frequent flier trip bookings.

There are folks that spend a tremendous amount of time learning the ins and outs of credit card and points programs to maximize their benefits and in many cases travel for free most of the year. The forums at Nomadic Matt and Zero to Travel Podcast have sections dedicated to this topic. Rolling Stone recently did a piece on a gentleman, who has been manipulating the airline industry points system since the age of 16 years old. He now spends most of his time traveling around the globe from airport to airport, though it kind of sounds like he rarely leaves the airports. I recently read a similar story about a girl who lives on a train, traversing the US constantly. People have creative ways to put a roof over their heads. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Find a way that works for you and ride it till the wheels fall off.

Here’s the link to the corresponding podcast: Episode 2 – Learn the Art of Full Time Travel

Follow along on our adventure at Facebook http://www.facebook.com/travelingchimps Twitter https://twitter.com/TravelingChimps YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/user/travelingchimps and now on Pinterest at: https://www.pinterest.com/travelingchimps/

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