how i travel: tips for traveling on a shoestring!

How to travel

As an expansion of a post I wrote last year for Babble, I wanted to share my travel philosophy here on Frolic! I don't have a big budget for fancy vacations and incessant jet setting but I've figured out a way of traveling that works for me. 

Admittedly, I don't have the complications of kids and pets to worry about and I do have a flexible job. These freedoms make it a bit easier, but don't in and of themselves make it possible . Here's how I make it work:

Pink bike berlin

Stay Awhile. Plane tickets are expensive these days. For me spending around a grand on a plane ticket, means I want to stay for around a month to get the most out of the ticket cost.  I also love the freedom that comes with having time to settle in some place.

– Root Yourself in One Place. I pick one city and I pretty much stay there. Traveling itself is costly, so I try to keep the actual traveling (planes, trains, rental cars, hotel stays, eating out) to a minimum. It saves pennies and it makes for an authentic, cultural experience. I am interested in doing as the locals do. So I work, I visit coffee shops, ride public transportation, explore and walk. I see sights, but they don't dictate my schedule.

– Rent Your Home. I sub-let my home so I don't have to worry about rent while I am away. In the past I've used Airbnb where 90% of the experiences were great! One experience, however did burn me a little so since then I've rented to just friends or people I've at least met.  It's so nice to have someone I trust in my house while I am gone, knowing that everything is taken care of and it's a huge bonus not to have to worry about the biggest expense for the month, while travelling.

– No Hotels. I almost never stay in hotels. I stay with friends or rent an apartment or cottage through Airbnb or vacation rental sites. Almost always cheaper than a hotel, and often immensly charming, apartments offer the advantage of cooking at home which saves on food expenses and gives you the advantage of grocery shopping in a foreign place, which is one of my favorite things to do on trips! If I stay with friends, I help out in the ktichen, pitch in for expenses, and figure out my own transportation. Staying with people is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture and make friends! And for many hosts, it's a great honor for them to share their traditions with you. If you don't have friends in foreign places, try Couch Surfing or Workaway.

– Bring Your Work. While this isn't possible for everyone, consider if it might be a possibility for your job. The balance can be tough so I try to keep a schedule of working early in the morning or late in the evening and using the other time to explore. Sometimes you can really work the time difference to your advanage.  I wouldn't be able to get my job done if I was jetting all over, so this is another reason I root myself in one place.


– Don't Spend. I don't buy souvenirs or spend a lot of money. I purchase food and necessities and inevitably pick up a few special handmade items or some clothes but I try not to go crazy buying a lot of stuff or bringing back tons of gifts. I take a lot of photos and hope to have a lot of expieriences to bring back to the states to share.

– Take Public Transportation. I almost never rent cars. I use public transportaion, walk, and bicycle. While staying in a more remote area outside of Stockholm, I walked a mile to the bus stop and caught a bus with three transfers to the city. It took about an hour total, sometimes longer. It could be a pain sometimes but I met friends, got lots of exercise, and even happened upon a moose! This saves so much money and I find the slower, simpler pace of life incredibly healthy and refreshing.

Pack Light. The fees for baggage are so expensive these days so I try to bring as little as possible. Last time I was away for 6 weeks, I lived out of a backpack. It made it easy and inexpensive! I brought a small tote bag to carry back a few items on the plane.

I'd love to hear how you travel and about your adventures! Leave your tips and thoughts in the comments. More of my adventures and tips are right here. Happy traveling!



Top photo by my friend Jen. Other two by me.


  1. while I’ve never been able to afford to be away for a month, I’m so with you on just settling in and living in a place. My favorite thing to do when we’re traveling is to walk, just to walk around, see new things, and take pictures. We get the most marvelous exercise on vacation this way, as we usually walk around 15 miles every day, and we get to know the place we’re in like locals. We really like the Lonely Planet city guides, too; we never read them cover to cover and the Paris one was clearly written for people who are a LOT wealthier than we are, but we always seem to spend our downtime flipping through it and reading it together, and we like to let it define our walks – if there’s a museum we want to see, or a particular neighbourhood that sounds interesting, we will let it create a destination that shapes our day’s walk. I also love a paper map, and each guide comes with one; while we’re out and about, we ONLY use the paper map for navigation, which also contributes to our learning the lay of the land!

  2. We’ve definitely been staying at more AirBnBs, although we don’t really take advantage of having a kitchen since we love eating out and want to explore all of the different restaurants and bars and cooking styles in the different places that we stay. We mostly stay there to have a unique home and to be in a cool neighborhood.

    We aren’t very thrifty travellers, come to think of it…we do the opposite of a lot of the things you mention here. 🙂 We don’t really do touristy things (like going to museums and landmarks and stuff*), but we travel around more than we should, rent cars sometimes to do that and eat out a lot. I also spend money on travel guides because I love them (and think that the anticipation of a vacation is almost as good as the vacation itself).

    * I’ve been in Stockholm for a total of 3 months or so (spread out over 3 vacations) and never went to the Vasa Museum.

  3. Love this! Question: do you own or rent your home? I rent and have never felt like renting it out while traveling is an option, but maybe it just depends on lease details and landlord preferences?

  4. Hi Sarah!

    I love your tips! Yes to the walking!! I also love the Lonely Plannet books and apps. I find they are a great way to get a hold of the neighborhoods and understand the city!

    I love how you choose one thing you want to see and let that shape your day! I think that’s the perfect way to wander!

    Thanks for sharing!



  5. Hi Hilary!

    I love hearing how you travel! I think rental cars are nice when you want to get to the countryside and see outside the city and I am right there with you on the anticipation! I probably take about 1% of the trips I plan!

    Thanks for sharing your perspective!



  6. Hi Winona!

    Great question! I rent and I do have a flexible landlord. I passed it by the landlord before I sublet. When I did a lot of Airbnb, I actually paid a friend while I was gone to manage the rentals and meet people with a key, etc. She would keep me up to date as to what was happening and arrange the cleaning person. I usually introduce my landlord to whoever is staying. It’s definitely a risk, though, as I said 90% of my experiences were really good. I have a really strict screening process when I accept Airbnb people:)

    I like renting to friends the best.

    There’s also the option of Home Exchange. I’ve heard really good things about this. You could also set up a house exchange with a friend or acquaintance.



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