And that’s including accommodations!
Just recently, I’ve gotten a few comments in email and on my social media pages about my current travels. If you’ve missed any of my latest posts on Instagram or Facebook, I’m currently on the island of Santorini in Greece right now… staying in a charming, cozy Airbnb apartment with a wonderful host who was thrilled about showing me all of the best things to do and explore on the island.
So, my travels have prompted a few responses from my friends back home.
- “I promise I want to be like you when I grow up.”
- “Now that looks like a trip.”
- And even my 4-year-old niece after I told her before I left that I was going somewhere sunny on an island… just recently stated to her mom, “Auntie Marsha went to the light.” Rather ominous, but cute, right?
But, I have a confession to make…
I’m definitely not spending lots of money right now to enjoy all the things that life on the island has to offer. I’m simply living like I would in the States, except for much cheaper.
And how is that possible?
Lots of people believe that travel is pretty expensive and is only a treat that they can indulge in for one magical time of the year, summer. And for nurses, this is where PTO hours are used en masse. Usually, when we’re planning out vacation time, it’s done several months in advance because of staffing needs at work, right?
And oftentimes, as a nurse, we’ll make our plans hastily and without any thought because we must turn in our request for scheduling, before all of the “good dates” are taken. And that’s not even considering the winter holidays.
But, if you do a little careful planning, and you don’t mind taking the lead on your own travels or don’t mind traveling without a guide to foreign places, you can find that having a holiday in paradise is a bit easier (and cheaper) than you may have thought.
Case in point
Right now, I’m spending less than $30/night, often just around $25, on a Greek island, known for its picturesque landscapes and luxurious hotels that cater not only to honeymooners, but the successful business tycoons and business owners, who sometimes spend upwards of $8,000/night.
But, my $30 or less trip includes my room, food… and lots of coffee to get access to Wi-Fi at the cafes when I want a change of pace from the local library.
So with a little research (and practice), I’ve found a way to make travel easier and cheaper, so even us nurses can afford it.
Here are a few ways if you’re willing to spend time doing all of the research on your own:
#1 – Get cheap accommodations.
Now, I love an elegant hotel room. The fancier, the more expensive and wonderful guest relations, the better. And, I use to work at boutique hotels prior to my nursing career, namely one being a top 5-star luxury hotel chain that included access to a butler!
Working in the hotels and as an event planning manager before nursing gave me many opportunities to stay in some fascinating places, some with the discounts equivalent to staying at the Motel 6. So I would often have free upgrades that included penthouse suites, heated bathroom floors with Spanish tiles, free meals, and a room right next to the beach. All perks of my jobs of course.
But, I’m also a sucker for value. And, when I first made plans to travel abroad for an extended stay back in August of 2014, I knew my nurse’s salary wouldn’t afford me all of the finer things on vacation that I once had in my former position, so I simply made a plan to tackle the issue of housing once I had an idea of a few destinations. Sometimes though, you can find your destination based on what you would pay for housing, which is partially how I chose Greece.
To find affordable accommodations, I decided to try Airbnb.
You can find housing equivalent to your own abode, often for much less than living in the States. Now, my 1-bedroom apartment in the DC area cost me around $1,300/month. Then when you tack on the cost of utilities, water, food, internet, gas, insurance, etc… My monthly expenses soared to above $1800 a month.
With AirBnB, you’re simply renting out space in someone’s home or renting out the whole house. This could be days, weeks, or months at a time. And utilities for the most part are included along with Wi-Fi. So, the single rooms or entire homes in some areas of the world can be snagged for ½ or even ¼ for what you’d spend at home (or even cheaper than that).
So here’s my breakdown for my 11 day/10 night stay in Fira, Santorini, Greece. At $20/night for a 10 night stay, plus my Airbnb service charge, minus my $25 discount from Airbnb for a first time booking, I spent a total of $204.
Yes, you read that correctly.
I spent $204 on a 11 day/10 night stay on the wonderful island of Santorini. In Fira no less, the main town with a vibrant city day and night life.
If I were to stay for the month, that would have been approximately $612, at about ½ of what I pay for in the US. And of note, there are even Airbnb’s in the States, so make sure you check them out.
#2 – Eat like the locals do.
Or eat as you would at home. Find the local grocery stores… and purchase your food as you would at home. This is where a good Airbnb accommodation comes into play.
If you’re staying with a host who gives you access to the kitchen, you’re all set. My favorite, “easy” foods while I’m away: Boiled eggs for protein, Yogurt, Cereal & Milk, Sandwiches, Lots of cucumbers, tomatoes, fruit and some nuts.
Of course, It’s also good to treat yourself to the local fare, so there’s nothing wrong with indulging yourself. However, most times, if you’re staying in touristy locations, you’ll find the local cuisine can be a bit costly. And, ask to see the menu when you do. If you order something typical, say a coffee, don’t just accept the waiter for his word on the cost, unfortunately. Most times, they’re used to seeing tourist. I had a waiter thinking I was one from a cruise ship so he quoted me double for a regular Greek coffee.
The next day, he was indeed surprised when I came to visit and asked to look at the menu. My coffee was in fact half of what he charged me the day before. And, that day, he decided to discount my ticket on my order. Thanks!
If and when you eat out, try some of the restaurants and cafes off the beaten path, where foot traffic is rather slow or non-existent. Chances are, someone’s grandmother is in the kitchen, cooking the best home-cooked meal you’ll ever find for half of what you’ll pay in town.
#3 – Make friends with the locals and have them show you around.
No need for the fancy tour guides that will make you spend loads of money to see things that you can on your own for free. Try something like Free City Tours. You may just find one in your destination, like I did on my recent layover in Moscow.
I have to admit, my AirBnB host is phenomenal. On the first day of my arrival, she had a map, a Santorini guide book, and a shot of Ouzo waiting for me at the kitchen table as we discussed my strategies and site-seeing goals for the next 10 days. She explained the most popular sites, the hidden gems, and the ways to get around the island using local transportation.
If you have the time, really map out your plan while you’re at your destination, if you didn’t have time before your trip. This will help you maximize your time seeing the sites and not wasting the time to figure it out every day you’re there. It’s often better once you’ve arrived… especially if you have the help of a local host.
For the first 1-2 days, relax. Get settled in to your new abode, find the local bar or restaurant and then do your Google searches for the best attractions (if you haven’t already). Allowing these few days to unwind from your travel time will also give you the opportunity to talk to the locals, figure out low cost transportation, and ask around about the best (and free) ways to see what your destination has to offer without spending hundreds of dollars on tours.
Then, once you’ve done some research and planning, make a list of everywhere you’d like to visit. You may be able to walk to your destinations or take the local transportation for a very low fee.
Caution: I hardly ever use taxis when I travel… even from the airport. Most of the time, you’ll get ripped off. So, I usually use the train, bus, metro, or a car service where I’ll be staying (there are cheap services). Or, you can try services like a Lyft or Uber. They’re hot in the US, but you’ll also find them in some international destinations as well.
So these are a few ways that I’m designing my ideal lifestyle with freedom of time and travel.
What about you?
- Did you find these tips helpful? If so, let me know in the comments below!
*None of the links in this post are promotional. I will not receive any benefit.