There is a wide assumption that traveling is expensive. I’m not going to lie, it can be; however, it doesn’t have to be. For me, I’ve adopted the mindset of “travel smarter, not harder (on my purse strings); because here’s the thing, I’m currently a teacher. Teaching in Spain. Which means, I’m not exactly rolling in dough or making it rain Euros.
Far from it, my friends. So, I have to come up with ways that allows me to still live this life of travel that I love. It’s an absolute priority for me. I mean, I’m not going to skip out on rent, or subject myself to eating air sandwiches, washing it down with a glass of hope, but yanno, it’s important to me. So, I find ways to travel smarter. In this post I’m going to show you exactly how I only paid $23 for a 7-Day trip to Orlando. Granted, some of these ways are the advantages of having a travel blog, but there are several things I will discuss that you can implement yourself.
Orlando wasn’t even a trip I had planned. It was nowhere on the radar. However, one night, as I was scrolling through one of my favorite Facebook groups, I saw the Marketing Manager of BlogHer and SheKnows post about giving away free tickets (valued at $399) to the upcoming BlogHer17 conference in Orlando. All we had to do was shoot her an email and follow her on Instagram. I checked the dates, June 22-24. Yes! I would be done teaching by then and could return home.
If you’ve never heard of BlogHer, it is the largest blogging conference for women content creators. So yeah, it’s kind of a big deal. The opportunity to network, and connect and collab with brands and sponsors, is endless.
Without a second thought, I sent her an email showing my interest in attending the conference, and within the hour I had my free pass to BlogHer17.
“Welp, I guess I’m going to Orlando” were my thoughts. Then I had another thought, maybe my blogger bestie, Natasha from Live Learn Venture, could come with as well. So I shot her a message, she messaged the marketing manager, and wham bam thank you ma’am, we were both now going to BlogHer in Orlando.
I’ve said this before, go where the opportunities are. If you find a glitch fare, or a cheap deal, or happen to be in the right place at the right time (like this instance for me, or that time I won a free trip to Bali) then hop on the opportunity and figure out the rest later.
So after slightly coming down off the high of going to BlogHer, it was time to get to work, making this the most low-cost trip as possible. What originally started off as a 3 or 4-day trip to Orlando, had suddenly turned into an all out mini vacay. But here’s the thing, I wouldn’t be teaching and had not secured a steady income for the summer. So yeah, this would definitely be a budget trip for me.
This is where having a blogging business comes in handy. It’s very hard to explain what exactly it is I do to family and friends. All they know/see is me sitting in front of the computer and on social media all day everyday, and every now and then getting “free” stuff, but there is soooo much more to it than that, and NOTHING is free. There is always A LOT of work behind every single product, stay, tour, excursion.
I make my love for travel and writing work for me. So, I started reaching out to various hotels for collaborations (writing and promoting their brand in exchange for accommodations aka free marketing), but Orlando in June, the absolute peak of peak season, turned out to be a little more challenging than expected. No luck on that front, for me or Natasha who was double teaming with me on these efforts.
After a couple of weeks of failed collaboration attempts I turned to other resources. I’d reached out to someone I knew who had a timeshare in Orlando and hoped we could at least get a good deal if they agreed to let us stay. They did us one even better, they used points they’d accumulated to book three nights for us, totally FREE! Talk about a blessing!
A $431 value, we paid $0 thanks to the graciousness of others. Use your resources! Talk to friends, family, other travelers, people who know people. Closed mouths don’t get fed. But, don’t be a moocher, that only comes around when you need something. No one likes a moocher.
After securing accommodations for the first half of our trip, we still had to figure out where to stay for the second half. We continued to reach out to hotels to no avail. But we held onto hope, as we started focusing on other aspects of the trip, such as activities.
You can’t go to Orlando without going to at least one of the parks, you just can’t! So we doubled down and reached out to Disney World, Universal Studios, and Visit Orlando for possible collaborations. In the end we both ended up getting sponsorships to Disney for a 1-day Park Hopper Pass for two guests, Natasha landed a 2-day pass for Universal for two guests; as well as, a Day Pass to Volcano Bay for two guests, and I landed a VIP pass with Visit Orlando that’s chocked full of complimentary activities, restaurants, etc.
Even if you are not a blogger, but have a business, or a large following on social media, or you just flat out have the gift of “sales” pitching and marketing, make those things work for YOU! Some of the top influencers in social media don’t even have websites, so it’s very much possible. Figure out what it is you can do for a brand/company and sell that idea to them. Give them a reason to want to work with you.
What would have normally cost $406 per individual just for one day at each of the parks alone, again we paid $0.
One of the biggest expenses on a trip is usually the flight. You guys know I’m a die-hard Skyscanner advocate (I wish they’d just give me a job already, as much as I promote them), and it’s where I turn to find the cheapest flights. However, this time I decided to do a little travel hacking. A few months ago I signed up for the CapitalOne Venture card that offered 20,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 in 3 months. In the states, I could easily spend that in my sleep. In Europe, not so much. Rent, my biggest expense of a whopping 450€, can only be paid in cash so there went that idea.
Instead of going out and blowing 1k on frivolous things I decided to solicit the help of my bestie back home. I offered to pay her rent for her, and she simply transfer the money back into my account, which I would then turn around and pay the credit card balance off immediately. It worked out perfectly. And I was 20,000 Skymiles richer.
The flight to Orlando was pretty cheap, at only about $109. But again, trying to keep this trip as low cost as possible, I decided to use miles to pay for this trip instead. It cost me 10,938 miles and ZERO dollars out of pocket.
I’m new to “travel hacking” and using credit cards for miles, but if you are financially responsible, it is definitely something to consider.
So Where Did the $23 Expense Come From?
Ok. I’ve covered the flight, activities and accommodations for the first part of the trip; all totaling a grand ZERO dollars, so far. So where did the $23 come from? Well, the accommodations for the second half of the trip. After still having no luck securing a sponsorship with any hotels, I decided to use some credits I’d accrued with Airbnb. We figured since the second half of our trip we would be out most of the day at the parks, we’d only rent out a room and not an entire home, which also cut down on the cost. The total came up to $128. I used $105 in credits, and paid the remainder balance of $23 in cash.
Click here to get $40 off your first Airbnb stay.
Ok, now let’s add this up:
|Timeshare Accommodation- 3 nights
|Airbnb- 3 nights
|Disney Park Hopper (per person/per day)
|Universal Studios Day Pass (per person/per day)
|Universal Studios Volcano Bay
So, for 7 days in Orlando, an almost $1500 trip, I have only paid $23 out of pocket; including accommodations, airfare, and all the major parks at Disney and Universal Studios. THIS, my friends, is how I’m able to travel the way that I do. I’m not rich, I don’t have family footing the bill, I struggle from time to time just like the next person, but I make travel a priority, and use my resources to propel me from one destination to the next.
Need help planning your next trip? Contact me here.
After having already started this post, Natasha actually heard back from one of the hotels who offered us a complimentary, three-night stay for the second half of our trip. Luckily, my Airbnb has a flexible cancellation policy and I’ll be able to get a refund; which has brought the total expenses down to $0. Not to toot my own horn, but TOOT TOOT! I would have to say this is my proudest travel planning moment to date.