From crowded and dirty hostels to LUXURY
properties around the world….
How I made the switch while still holding on to my purse strings.
Did you know, that less than 30% of Americans have ever even stepped outside of this country? Why is that, when travel seems to be at the top of so many people’s bucket list?
Is it really because there is enough to do in our own country? Are we afraid of the post 9/11 world that we live in, with fear and cultural ignorance being the leading reasons? Or could it be an even more simple reason that keeps many of us from fulfilling dreams: LACK OF MONEY?
Let’s face it, if money weren’t an issue, we would all love to travel more, wouldn’t we? But with jobs and kids tying us down sometimes it’s hard to get away, and even harder to have the extra cash sometimes to be able to afford it. Even if we have the money, who doesn’t love to spend less money when they don’t have to?
Wouldn’t it be great if we could all quit our jobs and just endlessly travel the world?
About 2 years ago I decided to do just that. I put aside my real estate career (as well as the part-time serving job I had trying to make ends meet) and decided to work and backpack around the world. I picked up seasonal jobs working on yachts and hostels in Europe to save money for a few months, then hit the road traveling, stretching my money as far as it could go making my way through 24 countries in about 18 months.
It was an amazing experience, meeting new friends all around the world and seeing things that I had always dreamed of seeing such as the Sistine chapel, an erupting volcano, and the Pyramids in Egypt.
But the real life changing moment came when I was getting ready to make a trip home for the holidays. A little tired from a couple months of continuous travel through Italy, the French Riviera, Spain, Morocco, and finally Egypt, that last dirty hostel in Cairo was the straw that finally broke the camels’ back. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
I had stayed in my fair share of hostels through my travels, done some camping, couch-surfing, crashing with friends, and whatever budget friendly thing I could do to extend my travels as LONG as possible, but it was time for some pampering!
I met up with a friend on the Red Sea for some diving and I decided to splurge. Not only did we avoid the cheap hostel, we went ALL out. We stayed in a 5-star property on the beach in a presidential suite!
A first for me in my life (even after rubbing shoulders with the multi-millionaires I used to work for.) Instead of an alcohol guzzling, hostel going back-packer (god love them, because I still do) I now felt like one of the wealthy yacht owners I had spent my summer slaving for. Just to be able to afford that very room back home would have probably cost as much as a mortgage payment for one night!!!
I was about to head back home to my family after being gone for nearly 2 years, and I had to face the hard reality that I might be stuck there with a JOB while I was trying to save money to begin traveling again. I didn’t want the phantasy to end!
And then I was introduced to something that totally ROCKED MY WORLD! I found a way to make the fantasy reality, a way to be able to afford these types of places, maybe not always the penthouse suite, but a room in luxury 4-5 star properties all around the world, with some deals costing as much as staying in a hostel dorm room for the week, while making money at the same time. It seemed like a dream come true!
Just to be clear, I am NOT knocking hostels at all. For a budget minded traveler, it’s much more affordable than any hotel, and there are private guest rooms and pensions you can rent if you don’t want to put up with the dorm or party life style.
But then I started to really think about this:
- The average price of a hostel is between $15-20 per night for a bed in a dorm room at a quality, highly rated hostel, unless you like bed-bugs and dirty bathrooms, in which case you can find for much cheapter, like the 5 dollar room in Egypt where this whole story began.
- For private accommodations in hostels you are looking at least $25-30 per night per person (and you still may have to put up with the noise outside your room.)
- Special events and heavy tourist areas will be much more. (I paid around 50 Euros a night for a dorm room in Edinburg during Hogmany.)
- Hostels are a great way to meet people, but so are hotel bars, pools and spas, lobbies, cocktail hours, and basically any tour or activity I did while traveling.
- My friends and family would never be able to meet me in a fun “party” hostel (especially with their kids.) Here is a picture from when my dad traveled with me through Europe. He was a good sport at first, but we decided to switch to private rooms and guest houses when the floor to our dorm room flooded with toilet water! (We both slept with our shoes on that night…we might has well have been camping.)
We didn’t mind as that was part of the adventure and definitely made for some memories (my dad still talks about the sewer smell which he now associates with the city of Brugge.) But many people wouldn’t find it amusing, especially if this was the one chance they got away for that year. Besides, the nicer hostels are age specific to make it more appealing for the younger crowed, and the cheap accommodations are really intended for those under the age of 30. Considering I am 31 now, that didn’t even give me much more of a window for the budget traveling.
On the other hand:
- I could travel to 4&5 star resorts worldwide
- Pay as low as $100 per week with “Hot Week” special offers (you can see the standard price for the room to the right)
- Stay in a luxury 1 and 2 bedroom villa to fit all my friends and family (maybe even split the cost between everyone if I wanted to save even more money.)
- Have the benefits of a timeshare villa without the hassle of maintenance fees, exchange fees, or ever having to spend the “investment” or sit through a timeshare presentation
- Enjoy significant discounts on cruises worldwide
- Have a price-match guarantee with all online booking competitors such as Price-line, Hotwire etc.
- And have an awesome referral program allowing me to make money while I traveled!
Besides the great travel deals, is it ever a mistake to learn to make more money? We all want financial independance, don’t we?
Just getting up in the morning, knowing you could provide for yourself, reach out to others, and have the freedom to travel and set your own hours seems like the American Dream!
But how was it possible to save up to 90% on a vacation rentals and not have to put up with all of the other shenanigans?
And here it was: “an exclusive travel membership.” I get to save all this money because I had to spend a boat load of money first? And the more money I spent, the more I saved, right?
I started researching some of these “travel memberships” and travel scams online, and for the “ultimate money saving package” the price was almost as much as buying a timeshare! Many of these companies charged somewhere between $1200 to $10,000 to join and the ones who didn’t were just trying to upgrade me into something else later, with “bigger and greater discounts.”
Was I really saving more money, especially with all of the other cheap ways I had found traveling on my own?
And then they let me look at the list of deals that had been sent out the week before, and I saw with my very eyes the prices as well as the resorts that were offering the discounts, and even with all my traveling and research from writing my blog, to stay for an entire week with one of these “HOTWEEK” specials, it was LESS money than what I would have spent staying in a hostel!
And for the ONE-time membership fee (with no annual renewal fees) at ONE price which entitled everyone to the same discounts, compared to the price that the week would have normally rented out for, I was saving money from the starting gate.
That’s when I made the switch from dirty hostels to LUXURY hotels and villas, paying almost the same price!!!
Imagine,being able to afford travel as much or as little as you wanted to around the world, and no longer have money be an issue.
YES, there are many ways to work around the world, fabulous volunteer opportunities, and even ways to stay for FREE! I have certainly learned how to do all of those things, and they have certainly enhanced my traveling experience.
I also realized something. We aren’t all college aged backpackers. Some of us do have families, (or at least plan to in the near future,) established careers, and other life interests and we can’t just pack up our bags and hit the road, hitching, backpacking, and bouncing from hostel to hostel. There is nothing like having a LUXURIOUS vacation or cruise when you need a break, and to no longer have time or money be an obstacle.
This allowed ANYONE, including families, to be able to travel anywhere in the world, at a fraction of the cost while enjoying a fabulous lifestyle at the same time.
Imagine the type of family vacations and bonding opportunities you could have while allowing your family to see and experience the world! Having your children touch the Pyramids or Coluseum with their own hands, instead of reading about it in a text-book!
To get an idea of what I’m talking about watch this quick video:
I don’t know about you, but that was exactly what I wanted for my own children one day.
My first vacation I booked:
A 2-bedroom unit, on a ski-in ski-out resort during Christmas week for $450 instead of $1300
I had saved more money than the membership had even cost to begin with!
I had made my money back AND saved money at the same time. Even if I NEVER booked another vacation, at least I wasn’t out anthing. And the resort gave my family a fantastic opportunity to get together right before the holidays (a peak season, especially for a property sitting right on the mountain of Powder Mountain Ski resort. )
After a great week of skiing with the siblings, enjoying the heated indoor pool, hot-tub and game room with the nieces and nephews, tubing and snowball fights at midnight, hikes through the fresh snow and beautiful mountain air, and having a lovely holiday family meal all together just a few days before Christmas (not to mention an amazing staff who was more than accommodating to all of us as we were also there for the funeral of my grandmother) I realized I had found a new way to travel.
More than great discounts, the membership allowed me an opportunity to continue to make money while traveling, and helping other people come along with me. This grown-up way of traveling didn’t seem so bad after-all.