Travel Hacks For The Budgetnista in You

Travel has become part and parcel of a millennial’s life. We prioritize traveling a lot more than we did over a decade or so ago. Why?

Because travel life is the best life that’s why. Visiting new places, experiencing new cultures, new cuisines and making lifetime memories while you’re at it?

What could be better than that?

That being said, the jet set life isn’t something people willingly get into because of the cost. SLA has a few tips and tricks on low budget travel that can possibly help change your mind…

1. Save Smart

It goes without saying that if you want to travel, you need to save for it.

Travelling requires sacrifice and compromise and good financial management. So if it means ditching your daily coffee run and carrying your own lunch to work for three months then so be it – every little bit counts.

We spend so much on little luxuries that we can actually do without if we think about how much we can save in the long run. If you have a financial goal to meet by a certain time – you will need to cut out some unnecessary spending habits. Save and save diligently.

2. Visas

Check whether the country you are traveling to requires a visa on arrival or one to be acquired before travel or none at all.

In regards to visas on arrival, be sure to check with the country’s consulate directly and not just Google.

For example – I was travelling to Mexico last year and being a Kenyan, I immediately knew I needed to get a visa and when I checked the requirements on the consulate’s website, the list mentioned that if you have a current US visa, you can still get entry into Mexico – no need to apply for a visa.

I called the consulate to confirm this and they did confirm it. Saved myself the process and the coins and had I not checked, I’d have paid for a visa I didn’t really need.

Please do your research when it comes to visas. The UK visa, for example, gives you access to England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The US, Canada, and UK visa do also offer visa-free access to plenty of other countries with an entry of up to 15 to 180 days, depending on the country.

You do have to check whether your passport is eligible for such access though.  All this helps you void visa fees and the entire process altogether if necessary.

Some consulates require confirmed flight and accommodation bookings when applying for a visa. A trick to get around this – book your accommodation through booking.com, this site lets you book a hotel room without any payment required and you can cancel the booking within a particular timeframe.

This helps you get through the visa process without losing any money in case you aren’t successful in the visa interview. You can also reserve tickets without paying immediately with some airlines or travel agencies.

3. Best Time to Travel

It is always cheaper to travel during off-peak periods.

Traveling during the holiday season such as Easter and Christmas will cost more than any other time of the year.

The Summer season is also an expensive travel period especially to countries in the west. Here in Africa, peak times depending on the country. For example in Kenya, excluding the holiday season in December, other peak seasons include April (Easter holidays) and August (when the cold season here ends). Any other time of the year is off-peak season so perfect for traveling here.

In Europe, off-peak times include January – March or September – Early November. For countries in South-East Asia like Indonesia and Malaysia, the best time to travel would be during their monsoon season, which starts around November until March.

The weather is still hot and humid, just mixed with showers of rain from time to time.

The best days to travel in terms of affordability are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Majority travel is done from Friday to Monday so those days will have more costly travel fares.

For holiday travel, it would be wise to book a flight scheduled for a week before the actual holiday, i.e. a week or two before Christmas week or if you can’t leave that early, traveling on Christmas day is another option. It’s not ideal but it will be the cheapest ticket you get.

Flying on Christmas day or Thanksgiving day will give you the best rates on the low.

4. Flight Hacks

Searching for cheap flights is really an extreme sport sometimes but if you’re keen on various airline trends, you can find a loophole.

First tip – when looking for flights, browse using an incognito/private window.

Websites track your searches and you will always see the same rate on several different sites because they have picked up that you are looking. Either use a private browsing window or clear your cache every time you search so the sites have nothing to pick up on.

The best time to search for flights is a good three months in advance, the rates go up the closer you get to your departure date.

Flights with one or two stops tend to be cheaper than direct flights. As convenient as direct flights are, they tend to cost so much just because of said convenience.

Picking a flight with connecting flights saves quite a bit of money and for some airlines like Emirates, if your layover is 10hrs or longer, they automatically give you a transit visa which allows you to get out of the airport and put you up in a hotel for that duration before your next flight.

Join ALL the miles programs. Most programs are partnered with more than one airline, for instance, Delta SkyMiles program is partnered with KLM, Air France, Kenya Airways, Korean Airlines, Alitalia, China Airlines, etc…

So you can get miles from any of these airlines and use them on any of them too. The more miles you rack up the better your chances on using them to get upgraded/free flights.

Travel light when you can. Especially during domestic travel, you can avoid all those baggage fees by just having a backpack or a carryon suitcase.

5. Accommodation Hacks

Airbnb and Booking.com are some of the best sites to find affordable accommodation.

When traveling in a group, it’s better on your wallets if you rent out an apartment or villa, which come by super cheap in places like Bali and Vietnam instead of spending so much on resorts and hotels.

If you choose to stay at a resort or hotel, pick the bed and breakfast option. This saves on the money you’d have to spend on food throughout the day, the breakfast is usually buffet style, you could eat as late as 10 am and be full throughout the day thus avoid spending money on finding breakfast and lunch elsewhere.

Couch-surfing is another cost-effective way to travel. There’s plenty of people who are willing to offer their couches for solo travellers and backpackers, it’s free, you get to have your belongings in a safe place and you get to connect with locals all at once, it’s a win-win!

6. Live like a Local

Get to know your surroundings, don’t just stick to doing the cliché tourist activities that are popular in the city you are visiting. Walk the path less traveled, talk to the locals and find out what else is good to experience and explore.

The locals will shed light on what to do and what not to do, this keeps you from spending so much on overpriced city tours.

Check out event sites for that particular city, some cheap or even free events are always advertised on these sites and on Facebook. You can tour an entire city for as little as a simple subway/bus ride thanks to lots of free events.

Use public transport often – a lot more affordable than cabs. If the city has Uber/lyft/Grab, you should take advantage of those as well and avoid local cab services as they mark up the price if they know you are a foreigner.

Walk a lot. You’ll find that most times you don’t even need to take a cab or a bus. European and Asian countries especially are very walking friendly, there are also walking tours that you can take to acquaint yourself with certain areas of the city.

Walk often and get to know the area, the people and get your 10k steps in all at once.

7. Be Flexible

To travel on a low budget you have to be prepared to be flexible. Anticipate flight delays or cancellations, you may not get to travel on the days you have planned so being flexible with travel dates is also important.

Allow some flexibility in your itinerary; being in a new country not everything will work the way you are used to. Do not be tied to your plans, travel requires breathing room.

8. Use Your Network, Grow Your Network

If you’re planning to go to India and you happen to have had a college roommate from Mumbai or you may want to visit Southern Africa and you worked with someone from Namibia… hit them up!

Keep your contacts well especially if you have any international contacts, they really come in handy. They could help you with accommodation, give you some insider knowledge of their city/country, all of which can help save you money.

Having friends or family who work in
hospitality i.e. big hotels can help you save money by letting you use their
employee discount, it cuts the price by a good percentage – you could end up
staying somewhere like the Marriot for much cheaper than what is advertised
thanks to the plug from your friend.

Talk to other travelers, join various travel groups on social media, learn from other solo travelers and travel groups. 

Get to know your Airbnb hosts, they could be very useful (read free) tour guides because they know the area they live in better. Using your already existing network and growing it will benefit your travel life immensely.

Joanna Steele: 2019, my year of return – from London to Equatorial Guinea

I was born in London in the 80s to Jamaican immigrants who arrived in the UK as young children in the 1950s. My mum studied and worked as a nurse for the NHS (UK’s national health service) specializing as a midwife before becoming a health visitor. My dad was a Ph.D. educated engineer, physicist, and researcher working for MI5 (the UK government security and intelligence agency). He was also an Open University lecturer. My early ambition was to be a lawyer. I began a Law degree at London Metropolitan University but discovered pretty early on that it wasn’t for me. I changed to Marketing and Spanish with the ultimate aim of working internationally. After university, I worked in a number of traditional PR and marketing roles and in the early 2000s, transitioned to a more digital focus. More recently I have been making my mark within the UK digital retail space leading award-winning teams, projects, and campaigns. I developed the content for the Mothercare (UK Mother & Baby Retailer) app – Winner of Best App at Paypal E-tail Awards – 2013 & 2014. I managed the social media team shortlisted for Best Social Media. In 2017, I was a Tech50 Women award nominee which acknowledges emerging UK female tech talent.
“But I’m leaving London for Equatorial Guinea”.

Why Leave?

In 2014, I met my now fiancée –  a self-taught digital designer and animator who had worked for companies including Google and Amazon. We would often get requests to design leaflets and websites – many from DRC and Angola where my partner originates. There was a clear demand for digital and design services but no-one local to fulfill. My partner went to DRC to explore the market and landed an opportunity in Equatorial Guinea where he teaches animation at a local school, has built their website and is working on other marketing collateral. Africa’s potential as a global leader in the world’s digital economy grows significantly every year. A growing population, increasing internet penetration and mobile adoption, already goes a long way towards overcoming infrastructural barriers to digital transformation and connecting people and services online. That’s why we’ve created Dimax – a digital agency helping businesses in Western Africa become more digitally focused to drive growth. Relocating and establishing a business is exciting, but it is hard work - @MissSteele Click To Tweet

How am I preparing for such a big transition?

Here are my top 5 ways to prepare for a huge transition such as this… 1. Visit the region multiple times. Read, research and understand the cultural and business landscape. Upskill if necessary. Current reads: “How We Made it In Africa” – compiled by Jaco Maritz & “Africa’s Business Revolution – How to succeed in the world’s next big growth market” by Acha Leke, Mutsa Chironga and Georges Desvaux. I’m also a student at the Oxford University Fintech Programme learning about how technology is disrupting financial markets. 2. Network. Get yourself known. I attend at least 2 networking events per month and am working on elevating my online personal brand 3. Get your finances in order. Reduce expenditure, increase passive income and have a plan for how your assets will be managed whilst you’re away 4. De-clutter – I didn’t realize how much stuff I had – most of which I don’t need or won’t be able to take with me 5. Focus on your physical and spiritual health. Your mind and body will be tested with all that you have to do, so step up your exercise and healthy eating regime.

What am I looking forward to?

  • Playing my part in Africapitalism. Driving financial returns and long term sustainable economic growth with social and environmental responsibility, education and community enrichment at the core.
  •  Living and working side by side with my partner in life and business
  • Sounds cliché, but the weather – anyone who has ever lived in London knows the struggle!
I will however definitely miss my family, friends and the fast-pace of London.

Looking to make a similar transition? Follow these steps…

  • Preparation is key. I’ve hired a business coach to help me plan and prioritize which has been so helpful because at times I get overwhelmed with what I need to do including holding down my day job whilst I’m still in the UK!
  • Be patient. You’re going to want everything to happen quickly – know that everything will happen when it’s meant to.
  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable: No need to always know your next move. Whilst we have short, mid and long-term goals, we still don’t have everything figured out.  It helps not to overthink things. Once we made the decision to make the big move, things just started to fall in place.
  • Tell people about your plans: you’ll be surprised how many people are willing to help you or connect you with someone that can.
  • Be flexible: Whilst I aim to be in Equatorial Guinea by the end of 2019, nothing happens before its time. Following my most recent visit, 
I have been invited back to host a workshop and participate on a panel at TegCampus – an annual tech initiative for young people organized by telecommunications company GITGE in May. So, I will be back sooner than I had anticipated. Watch this space! Follow my journey on Instagram and read more about Dimax here: www.dimaxdigital.com
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Erika Atienza: From solo backpacking through Africa to becoming a Digital Entrepreneur

This is not a success story of a freelance solo backpacker who became a digital entrepreneur. Not a story of someone who went from nobody to become somebody.

This is a story of someone who used to live life passively, without a purpose other than to make it through the day okay, until finally realizing a dream, then realizing she can fulfill that dream, and eventually going after it.

This is a story of how I finally came to understand a lesson I’ve heard many times over – That there is nothing in this world we cannot accomplish if we really put our heart’s desire into it.

And it all started in Africa.

Erika shares how she became a digital entrepreneur and founded @whileinafrica by moving from the Philippines to backpack and volunteer through Africa. Read more... Click To Tweet

First, the Travel Bug…

I had a typical life with an 8-5 job and everything about my life was “okay”. It’s not bad at all. I was fortunate but I was definitely not living life on the edge.

But after being able to travel to a foreign country alone for the first time,  I had an epiphany that I wanted to see the world. Since that trip, it was just never the same for me. That night, I finally understood what passion meant. And mine was to see the world.

And so after 2 yrs of over-planning and some modest savings that were definitely not enough, off I went. I left despite the doubts because if I waited for the “right time”, I was afraid it wouldn’t come.

Buying my 1st and only backpack

Why Africa?…

I was choosing between South America and Africa and somewhere along my research, I found cheaper flights to Tanzania. And that was really the main reason why Africa ended up becoming my first solo backpacking destination.

Also, I thought it was exotic and I wanted to prove to myself that I can pull it off. Indeed, I was able to visit other African countries as well for the next few months.

Budget Problem. No Problem…

A few months before my flight, I looked for volunteering opportunities and ways to travel cheaply. I searched workaway for hosts but there’s really nothing in there that I found interesting.

Couch surfing community in the cities I wanted to visit seemed dodgy and everywhere else, there was only voluntourism.  A little deeper into my research and I had an “AHA” moment. I learned that safari tourism is big in Tanzania. In fact, all over East and Southern Africa.

I did marketing in my previous job so I’m familiar with the whole concept of “Ex-Deal”. Hence, I emailed every one of them in a personalized manner, introduced myself like a pro, and offered to help in their marketing in exchange for food and accommodation.

A few days later, I received another milestone in my backpacking career, someone actually replied and took me in.

And so, with my heart full, I went to Tanzania and for the next few weeks, I was staying at their office helping them out with marketing while combining it with tours here and there.

It was the perfect way to get to know the culture and experience the local life, just my kind of travel! I worked with Gosheni Safaris in Tanzania and experienced the local life

From Freelancer to a business owner…

After I left, my “boss” kept emailing and texting me about the things I have started while working for him. I carried on to politely help them and after some time of consistent demands, I had another “AHA” moment.

I presented the best opportunity they can ever imagine… that I work for them remotely.

They were thrilled with the idea and we came up with a fair price that later on increased to a modest amount that funded most of my travels. This idea fired me up and I basically traveled for the next 2 months in Africa, either looking for volunteering opportunities or trading off my skills.  

I continued to travel for a couple of years more doing the same thing until I finally decided to slow down a bit. As I had a lot of free time now that I wasn’t all over everywhere, I decided to take it up a notch and find a few more clients by emailing them and advertising myself.

Eventually, in 2018, I took another major step and built my own website, made everything official, and registered my humble digital marketing service.  

It’s worth mentioning that until this time, the same company in Africa where I first volunteered is still a client and they have passed on a lot of referrals to me ever since.

Looking back, I think the thing that made all the difference is that I always did my best while serving my volunteering time.

Even though I was not getting paid, even though I know I wasn’t going to work-volunteer for that company for long, I gave it my best shot and I always try to have fun. And it paid off in better ways I can imagine.

So always, always do your best. This is how you make impressions and build connections. A lot of opportunities can open by simply putting your best foot forward at all times.

Good times and shots with friends in Nairobi, Kenya.

Here are some lessons you can learn from my experience…

1. There’s no one right way to do things

You don’t need to have a big capital to start your own business. Especially in this day and age, even a kid can become an entrepreneur, all you need is creativity and courage.

In my case, the right dose of luck and creativity allowed me to build a modest lifestyle of being able to work from anywhere in the world and where I was able to combine my skills and passion.

But there is no one way right way to do things.

The first things to ask yourself are:

  • What am I passionate about?
  • What am I good at?
  • What are my potentials?

Then try to think if there is a way where you can combine the two. The possibilities are endless!

If like me, you’re a born traveler but stuck at a job you semi-hate, set aside some time to find clients through Upwork or another online network, and save up until such time that you can quit your job and plan a life of travel around it.

If you travel first and then just find anything to earn money from, not capitalizing on your skills… It will be really difficult for you to sustain it.

Doing what you love will allow you to meet new friends and make your life even more colorful.

There’s no such thing as bad luck, only excuses - @whileinafrica Click To Tweet

2. Don’t be greedy, but know your Value

If you follow your passion and build skill around it, income will follow naturally. When I volunteered, it didn’t matter that I was not getting paid at all.

Had I been greedy and negotiated for compensation on top of the free meal and accommodation, the turn out of things may have been different.

After seeing how I worked, they understood my worth and that gave me more than enough leverage to negotiate for what I thought I deserved.

At the same time, they trusted me even more, which added to their confidence in trusting my business not only in terms of skills but attitude as well.

If you follow your passion and build skill around it, income will follow naturally - Erika @whileinafrica Click To Tweet

3. Just go for it and the universe will conspire to help you

I first came across this statement in Paulo Coelho’s book, “The Alchemist”, years ago, and it stuck with me since. It sounds so cheesy but even after evolving as a person and having a change of perspective many times. I have always believed this because IT IS SO TRUE.

If you put your energy and focus into something you are passionate about, you can indeed move mountains.

4. There will always be doubts. Welcome them with open arms

No one is born a master of anything. Sometimes we doubt ourselves and fail so we can stand up and learn new things every day. That is simply the nature of life.

Without those, there is no life to live.  I still get insecure if I’m fit to deliver the service I’m selling and then I talk to potential clients who have no clue what to do with their marketing and I realize that I actually have a lot of things to share and they find it very helpful.

We were born in a society where success is defined in comparison to others, an unfortunate recipe of society. But it shouldn’t be that way.

Don’t let it be that way. We are successful if we achieve peace, content, and happiness in the things we love to do. Even more successful if we can feel the same joy for others too, regardless of gender, race, or religion.

Me and my husband, Martin, on a weekend trip while living in our previous home in Cyprus, with our friends from Russia, and our favorite all-purpose cloth (shuka) from Kenya

 I’m Asian and I’m married to a European, yet we put up a business for African tourism and blog about our travels because we fell in love with this continent and now consider it as our 3rd home.

Who knows how long I can carry on being a digital entrepreneur, maybe in a few years time I’ll decide to become a musician, perhaps a painter, or maybe I’d prefer to settle down as a housewife, and that is okay.

But for now, I’m still a backpacker, I still travel cheap, and definitely not rich (financially). But I found my purpose and I’m living my dream. And that’s more than I can ever ask for.

So ladies, do yourself a favor and get out of the box and let the world see what you’re capable of.

Find and live your passion and tell us your story.


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Eyitemi Popo: How I turned my media brand into a lifestyle brand

If you're an entrepreneur who feels stuck with your business, I hope you find this article at the perfect time and it encourages you to keep pushing. Click To Tweet

After five years of building my online magazine, painstakingly growing a social media following, and nurturing relationships with global brands, I had found a comfortable niche in the media landscape.

The night after my magazine’s 5th-anniversary party, I quietly reflected on the journey. I read the congratulatory messages I had received, some reminding me that many online sites and magazines that started with – or even after – Ayiba no longer existed.

But was survival enough of an achievement?

Making my dream my reality was significant. Building a team to drive that vision forward had significance. I mean, I had gone from shooting the first cover of Ayiba Magazine on my college campus to having celebrity photographers shoot the cover with Hollywood actresses.

The growth was undeniable, that had to count for something. And perhaps it did. However, my side hustle was still a side hustle bringing in side hustle revenue. Was that the best I could do? And more importantly, what was next?

Almost a year to the date of my quiet contemplation, I have built Girls Trip Tours, a social venture that is a direct manifestation of my magazine’s mission. It leverages Ayiba’s readership, brand equity, and professional network to design unique travel experiences across Africa with a focus on female empowerment.

Our trips have the goal of empowering future female leaders through mentorship, while taking in the sites and dining around town in the company of high profile business women and local industry leaders. I like to think of it as ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’ with less soul-searching and more self-actualization.

Where once you could read about Lagos’ nightlife, Nairobi’s startup ecosystem, or Rwandese artisans in the pages of Ayiba, now we can arrange for you to experience these things first-hand through group or solo travel with Girls Trip Tours.

The idea came from the opportunity I observed for digital brands to bring online experiences offline and create deeper more meaningful connections with their virtual communities in real life. The concept of Girls Trip Tours emerged from a perceived customer need. Ayiba readers were emailing to ask for travel advice.

Our articles had inspired our readers in the diaspora to want to visit the continent and they were looking to us as an expert resource. My mission with Ayiba is to connect Africans in the diaspora with those on the continent through storytelling. I have consistently done this through online and print mediums, but now I have the opportunity to create those connections in real life.

Lifestyle brands thrive when they figure out what their customers end goal and design their brand around the experiences that their customers desire - @AyibaMagazine Click To Tweet

Figure out your customers desire, along with the people, places, things, and ideas that inspire them to action.

After surveying 100 plus women in Ayiba’s online community, I decided to organize trips to Kenya and Nigeria in 2019. As per their feedback, there are a mix of experiences to satisfy those seeking ancestral travel experiences to West Africa, wildlife and adventure in National Parks, as well as urban exploration in Africa’s most vibrant cities.

In addition to satisfying a customer need, by expanding my media brand to include travel experiences, I now have a new avenue for creating content. On each trip, there are multiple opportunities to connect with new talents to feature or more contributors to write.

I also will be creatively inspired by my surroundings to shoot video series, photography campaigns, and write OP-EDS on social issues I am confronted with. In the long run, I believe it makes sense for Ayiba to become a lifestyle brand.

I am creating a customer journey that can start with exploring content online, which may lead to booking a travel experience or vice versa. The magazine and the trips will feed into one another. In this next phase of my entrepreneurial journey, I look forward to listening to my customers, as well as looking to broader industry trends for my continued evolution.

For any entrepreneur that may feel stuck with their businesses, I hope you find this article at the perfect time and it encourages you to keep pushing.

If your growth has become stagnant and you are looking for a new direction to go in, observe customer behavior, look to the industry for inspiration, and most importantly, ask your audience what they want/need, then test it out.

I did a soft-launch with a Girls Trip to Ghana in July. It was that small group trip, the women I met, and the girls I mentored that gave me the confidence to do more.My advice

  • Consider what other verticals may be profitable before you give up on a business you have put time, money, sweat, and tears into.
  • As tough as it may be, if you have a good foundation: reputable brand and loyal audience, there are many ways you can consider monetizing and scaling up.

 Interested in contributing for She Leads Africa? Click here.