How I Afford To Travel to Gymnastics Meets (and All Over Europe)
Surprise! I am a millionaire trust fund kid!
Just kidding. I just saved a lot of money and learned tricks from the experts such as The Points Guy and Nomadic Matt which made me realize that anyone can and everyone should travel!
I realize that I am incredibly lucky to have been born in country where education is a right and higher education of some form is nearly a given. I am very lucky to be educated and live in a place with many employment opportunities and to have found jobs that allowed me to save money. I am also very lucky that my passport allows me to travel to almost a hundred countries without visas or invitations or a lot of security questions. I am also lucky that the language of tourism and travel is my native language. Fortunate birth aside, I took many, many financial steps to make my travels happen and they are steps anyone can take. I do not have a wealthy older relative who funds my travels and I still pays student loans while traveling. Here’s a breakdown of how I travels to so many gymnastics competitions.
2014 European Championships
I took advantage of a credit card sign on bonus and mileage system to fund my trip to Sofia, Bulgaria for the 2014 European Championships. I signed up for a Barclaycard Travel card, which rewarded me with 40,000 miles for having spent $000 within the first three months of opening the card and I earned 2 miles per dollar spent bringing the total miles to 42,000. The redemption rate was $25 per 2,5000 miles on any travel related purchase and then I received an additional buns for redeeming miles on travel of 10%. I also pulled a sneaky trick by paying for my wisdom tooth extractions with my credit card which were reimbursed by mt insurance company which means I earned 6,000 miles for conking out while watching Twilight on my iPod and being vaguely conscious of the dentist chopping open my gums. I did all of my spending on this credit card, continued to earn miles, and redeemed $525 on my $800 ticket to Bulgaria. I also used additional miles on the AirBnB in which Meredith and I stayed in Sofia. I continue to use this card, mainly because it does not charge foreign conversion fees, and puts all purchases possible on it and then pays it off before it can accrue interest.
Most credit cards offer a sign on bonus and waive the annual fee for the first year so one can sign up for the card, receive the bonus, and cancel the card and keep the miles. I did this with a JetBlue card and flew roundtrip from Boston to Florida free. The aforementioned experts also speak of combining points from various cards, opening business cards, transferring points to spouses, etc but I have not yet reached the expert level of travel hacker.
2014 Stuttgart/Glasgow World Cups
I began a new job in July 2014 and immediately set up direct deposit with a percentage of my paycheck going straight into a Charles Schwab checking account which became my “Travel Fund.” Keeping the money earmarked for travel and not anywhere near her everyday spending account kept her from spending it. Also, the Charles Schwab debit card does not charge foreign ATM fees worldwide nor does it charge foreign conversion fees and it even reimburses fees the ATMs charge for foreign cards. The card and account has saved me a huge amount of money over the past two years.
I purchased my ticket to Europe through Momondo.com which like Kayak or Expedia website but better. I also purchased two one way tickets as opposed to a round trip ticket, which saves money, although I am not exactly sure how. I spent around $360 total to fly from Boston to Munich and Glasgow to Boston but the trip took place over Thanksgiving, during which most people travel domestically, meaning international flights become pretty inexpensive.
2015 World Championships
I made it to Scotland through good old fashion penny pinching. I used to purchase an iced coffee every day but then did the math in my head and realized I was basically throwing money away and learned to drink the crappy office coffee. I also learned to say to no when coworkers asked if I wanted to grab lunch and instead eat the salad I had brought from home. I also stopped ordering Indian food for delivery, shopped sales, clipped coupons, and became somewhat fanatical about turning off lights in my apartment to keep the electricity bill low. I also invited friends over to her apartment to watch gymnastics rather than go out, and only purchased 2 clearance dresses from Old Navy and a single shirt from Marshalls in an entire year. All these extremely simple steps allowed me to save a large amount of money to put towards my trip to World Championships and eventual life of full time travel.
I used Momondo again to purchase my flight to Europe and spent a few days in Iceland prior to arriving in Glasgow. I traveled with two friends and we stayed in AirBnB’s where we cooked most of our own meals. We attempted to eat out one night; however, we purchased sandwiches from a gas station because restaurants charged extreme amounts for small seafood meals. I had a similar experience once I arrived in Glasgow. Meredith and I stayed in a hostel and ate mamy meals from Tesco Express, including the pesto pasta salad and cherry tomatoes I ate while watching men’s team final.
Everything since November 2015
I once again purchased an international flight during Thanksgiving when I began my world travels. I paid $167 to get from Boston to Berlin on Wow Airlines. I have been staying in hostels with the occasional hotel, AirBnB, or few days spent crashing with friends. I also cook more than eat out and do not eat meat, which saves money.
Most importantly, it is very cheap to travel in Europe. The continent has a much better train system than the United States and a plethora of discount airlines that make traveling relatively easy. I bought an $8 train ticket to get from one side of the Czech Republic to the other in order to see the Brno Grand Prix. For comparison, it costs $11 to get from Boston to Providence. I used Skyscanner and paid $18 to fly from Berlin to Venice then took $15 bus from Venice to Ljubljana in between the Cottbus and Ljubljana World Cups.
I never thought I would have the funds to travel but I set a goal and made it happen, which is something anyone can do. Also, I have met people who work remotely, teach English, volunteer in the Peace Corps, and people who do many other things to make their travels happen, which has convinced me that anyone can travel if they try make it a priority.