At the point in time that I am writing this post, I am only 4 months into the first 6 months of being a full-time traveler; but my tickets are booked, so I can accurately forecast my total mileage.
Admittedly, I have become slightly obsessed with the numbers. After all, I would like to know the tally on how far I have gone and how long it took to get me there... and of course how much it cost me to do so.
Like most people, I am very budget conscious; specially knowing that the more I save, the further I can go; and for longer. Working for myself as a freelance photographer and filmmaker, I also have the advantage of open schedule, which has allowed me to be very flexible with travel dates, and therefore, save money on airline tickets.
Yes it is true that there are travel hacking formulas, recipes, tricks of the trade, many of which involve rewards programs, credit cards and spending money to get free flights. Well, I don’t think that is practical. Most people consider opening a credit card and spending $3,000 in the first 90 days just plain irresponsible, even if it does earn you 50k miles. That is an actual reward structure for a popular credit card program by the way.
Sure, that way of earning mileage is not totally out of reach and is very doable for many, but I choose NOT to travel that way. I do not believe in spending money to earn a reward. I believe in immediate results, and the BEST way to achieve immediate results is to get a great deal, NOW.
All I did was shop around. I used websites like kayak, priceline, and skyscanner, THEN once I found the best flights, I went to the airline's website and checked to see if I could buy them cheaper by going direct. This takes time, patience, and more patience. Just be sure to have the money ready so you can jump on a deal when it pops up; the prices can change daily.
Curiosity got the best of me, so I drew up a chart to get the real numbers on my recent air travel
To summarize the above, I went 26,000 miles for $1,445 USD. I was in the air for 60 total hours, and waiting in a airport for 28 total hours. Yikes! thats a lot of time, but luckily it was broken up, and sometimes separated by weeks at a time. But there is more...
I drew up a chart to get the actual numbers on my ground and sea transportation while abroad.
In most countries, buses are the preferred mode of point to point travel because of the low cost. While they are economical, they are far more prone to delays and travel complications, like the landslide(s) that almost killed me. Also, it is always important to weigh time versus money when traveling. For example, a 12 hour bus journey for $12 may not be worth it if you can get there for $35 in 1 hour via plane. Time is money when traveling. That is an entire day of explore that you are giving up to save $25, hypothetically.
Conversely, that 12 hour, $12 bus ride is potentially cheaper than a hotel if the trip is overnight and you can sleep through it. The $35, 2 hour flight may end up costing you far more money because you many now need to add an extra day of lodging to your budget.
Next, I drew up a chart to account for the travel that I have already purchased. This is NOT a wish list! These are solid plans that have yet to happen.
So, as a total summary (and projection) for my first 6 months of the travel life, I went 52,000 miles, in 5 countries, for $2,188.00 in airfare. Not bad!
I would expect to add AT LEAST another 1k miles in ground and sea transportation and AT LEAST another 2K miles in domestic air travel, but for the sake of this story, I am going to exclude that from the numbers.
I did however spend a total of 234 hours traveling or waiting to travel. That is nearly 10 days that I was not able to explore, but it was time well spent shooting, editing, and writing.