A few months ago, I was introduced to Scott’s Cheap Flights: a newsletter that you can sign up for completely free of charge that notifies you when an airline makes a mistake or offers a substantial sale. Scott, the founder, searches for cheap flights all day, every day – and he’s dang good at it. When you sign up for the service you not only get emails with the deals but also with instructions on how to book. For more regular emails with even better deals, you can sign up for the premium annual membership for only $39. My membership fee completely paid for itself and then some after 7 friends & I purchased round-trip tickets to Bali for $552 each, saving us all over $500 - yowza.
Hostels are the best thing since Kid President. You can download the application Hostelworld to research top rated hostels and even book your stay. This saved me so much time and money to do it all over my phone and I completely trusted where I was staying because they were approved by Hostelworld. All of the places I stayed were completely furnished with clean sheets, power, lockers, showers, and wifi. I was honestly blown away at how nice it was and how comfortable I felt. When I stayed anywhere for days at time, I would book through Airbnb. The place I stayed in Bali was only $14 a night and it came with A/C and wifi – my only requirements.
The last three weeks of my time in Uganda, I stayed with a family who runs a non-profit out of Entebbe. I had the most incredible time with them learning about all that they're doing, participating in it, and helping them get content to share through photos, video & graphics. There's more opportunities out there than you'd think, so ask around.
Traveling around in country is so affordable it’s unreal. In Thailand, I traveled from Ko Samui to Phuket for less than $30. It might’ve taken a ferry, bus, van, sketchy motorcycle ride & 6+ hours but it was so worth it. I didn’t start planning my trip around Southeast Asia until I was over there, and I’m so glad I did that because I would’ve ended up paying so much more with online fees. The best way to get around is to Google routes, take public transportation and be flexible – common sense is nice too. I obviously didn’t want to miss the bus from Don Sak to Surat Thani or the van ride from Surat Thani to Phuket, so I had to take an earlier ferry. Working backwards in time seems like common sense, but don’t forget what vacation brain can do to you.
Once I got to Phuket, I booked my flight to Indonesia. Keep in mind, flights around SEA are very affordable compared to domestic flights in the US. I could’ve flown from Ko Samui to Indonesia, but I would’ve paid triple the cost from that small airport. Because I took the $30 route to Phuket, I ended up paying just over $100 to get to Bali. Once I got there, I took an Uber to my Airbnb. Yes, apps like Uber and Lyft are available in more countries than you’d think – even Africa! My Airbnb host was really hospitable and let me use one of their mopeds for my entire stay at less than $5 per day. I won’t lie, I was nervous that I’d get lost especially with no service or wifi on the roads. Thankfully there’s also an app for that: maps.me. I would mark my home spot and destination (usually the beach) and put in one headphone to navigate the small, confusing roads on the island.
I’m sure 99% of you already know this, but make sure to always book your return or 'onward' flight before even thinking about leaving any country. I had two weeks left in SEA when I booked my flight from Thailand to Indonesia. I thought I was being smart by waiting until Hopper notified me of the lowest return fare, but jokes on me; when I was checking in, the attendant asked for my return ticket info that I didn't have. I ended up having to book my return flight on my phone at the front counter. For almost an exact play-by-play from another traveler, read this. Apparently, you can’t be too much of a free bird these days – woah is me!