Hello Biz Kids!
Biz Kid Amanda, here! Four months ago, I came back to Washington from living a year in Spain as an Au Pair. I lived there to experience a new culture and practice teaching English as a second language to children. A job like this is done for the experience and less about the money. After one year, the Au Pair contract ended, and two of my friends flew to Madrid to meet me for six weeks of travel around Europe! We visited nine countries total: Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Holland, and France. I had about $1,500 saved. This is clearly not enough for hostels, trains, food, museums, and attractions.
The first thing I did was make a plan for a cost-effective way of traveling with my friends. When you’re an adult with a family, the simplest way to travel is to stay in a comfortable hotel. And you have probably heard about Hostels for young travels to sleep. If you haven’t, a hostel is a “hotel” but for travels. There are rooms for up to 10 people to share and can be as low as ten bucks a night. They usually have organized events, such as free tours of the city, and food and drink tasting for $15. My friends and I booked four hostels and even visited a friend in Poland. For our other destinations, we used something called couch surfing. If you have never heard of this kind of traveling, it’s an online community of travelers and hosts, where the travelers live for free in personal homes. You may have some doubts upon hearing this at first, and I don’t blame you. First you must pay a $30 fee to become a member of the organization. The reason couch surfing is safe is because it is based on a rating system from other visitors and hosts. So, when my friends and I researched a place to couch surf in Milan, Italy, we would look at a profile and see comments from former travels who stayed with that person. It is not possible to remove negative comments, if present. It is important to remember to leave comments and ratings for everyone who hosts you, as this is your thank you as a guest and what keeps the program free, honest, and running. It is also important to travel with at least one person and not alone. I would not recommend couch surfing alone and I would highly advise speaking to your host over the phone, Skype, or email before arrival, as is true for hotels and hostels as well. Not only did we save money by traveling this way, but hosts usually drive you around, give you inside tips on their home city (instead of a typical touristic view), and you walk away with a new friend.
The second thing we did to save money was travel from place to place using a system called the Bla Bla Car. It is similar to couch surfing in most ways. It is an online car sharing system based on ratings, but you pay the driver a certain amount to go from destination to destination. You gain a new friend from the experience and usually receive an insider’s advice and perspective on the city you are arriving at. A safety tip: travel in groups. We saved a great deal of money by traveling this way instead of paying for trains or buses from city to city. However, there is a downfall to this system. Because you are looking for a car pool that happens to be going from the city you are in to the city you wish to go, you may get unlucky and have to purchase a bus ticket (as we had to once) or you may have to adjust your travel plans a day or two to “catch” the ride the day the driver is leaving (which we had to do many times.) Only a flexible person can travel in this way.