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How to Travel on a First Job Salary

How to Travel on a First Job Salary

By Lauren Bayne Anderson

July 08, 2011

The best time to travel is when you’re young. Seeing the world changes you—and helps shape your world view.

When you’re young, traveling is less about “vacation” and more about experiencing culture. Most likely you don’t have kids to worry about or a mortgage to pay.

But…it’s expensive. And the catch is that most young people don’t have a lot of extra money to put toward travel.

So, how do you travel on an entry-level budget? It is possible.

It won’t be luxurious – you won’t be staying in 5 star hotels—but you will get to see the world, experience the culture, taste the food and bring back tons of pictures and souvenirs to show your future kids and reminisce over for years to come.

  • Backpack: The term refers to buying a super huge backpack into which you stuff everything you need (from sleeping bag to clothes) for weeks of travel. It’s easy because you don’t have tons of bags to lug around. Everything is right there on your back! Plus your hands are free to hold maps, drinks and everything else you need to find your way around a new city.
  • Book early: If you’re planning a trip, book your flights early and do your research. Check sites like for their fare calendar, which shows you which days are the cheapest travel dates and compares several websites.
  • Don’t spring for the Eurail ticket just yet!: If you’re backpacking around Europe, you’ve heard countless people tell you to buy a Eurail train pass. But it’s not always the best option. Europe has tons of low cost airline carriers that can get you there for cheaper and save days worth of travel time. For example, British airline Ryanair has flights from Paris to Barcelona for 20 Euros, including tax—that’s $30! They offer flights around France, Spain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, even Morocco and more! And there is more than one European low cost carrier—so check them out before you book your train ticket. Europe is not the only place with low cost airlines—be sure to research your location and you may be surprised.
  • Book hostels: Don’t let the movie scare you, hostels are a cheap alternative to hotels and most of them are pretty safe. Think of a hostel like a dorm—you’ll be sharing the room with several other people and you’ll have access to a shared bathroom down the hall. There are lockers to keep your stuff secure and many even offer free breakfast in the morning. The best part is, you can book a night at a hostel for around $15 depending on where you’re staying. Make sure to book in advance if possible—some hostels are much nicer than others. Do your research online, read traveler reviews and look at pictures. Then book the one you’re interested in, because like hotels, they do book up fast, especially during busy seasons.
  • Have one good meal in every city: Food can get expensive, but it is part of the culture you’re there to experience. Instead of dining out every night, select local “hole in the wall” places—they often have great, authentically local food and are super cheap. Eat from street vendors (that look clean) and buy snacks from grocery stores. But do allow yourself at least a couple of nice meals at nice restaurants. If you’re traveling for an extended time, a good idea may be one nice meal in every new city. You’ll get the flavor of the country without going broke.
  • Don’t be afraid to travel alone: None of your friends can take time off work and you feel like if you keep putting it off, you’ll never live out your dream of backpacking around Thailand, or Europe, or South America. Our advice? Don’t let that stop you! Get on a plane and go. You’ll find you’re not the only young travelers traveling alone. You will meet friends and the best part is, when they start to get on your nerves, instead of fighting about it, you can just split up! Trust us: Many a best friend has learned they can’t stand traveling together AFTER they were two weeks into a trip. And we promise, traveling alone will not be anywhere near as lonely as you think.

Editor’s Column: Why Traveling is Worth its Weight in Gold>>>

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


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  • Forest_flowers_max50


    over 5 years ago


    I traveled my first time alone at 18. I was working in a Chinese take-out. I also had a job working on luxury and speed boats, at the time. I went on a cruise to a few islands. It was great. I traveled alone. I leaned how gracious tourism is. They will let a lot of people stay in one room for the same price.

  • Sdc10611_max50


    over 5 years ago


    I love this article because it makes you feel that you can do it and you can. I have traveled by myself many of time especially to Europe, but I would say that I would take a train because of the scenery and it can be expensive, but I think it is worth it for the first time around or so.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago


    Also, keep in mind that there are some really nice "hostels" in europe. The european perception of hostels seems to be different than American, and most hostels have private rooms, bathrooms, etc. Check trip advisor for ratings and amenities. Another option if you are on a budget is renting an apartment from a site like pillowapartments[dot]com. Just be sure that your lessor is fluent in English and only use this option if you are not checking luggage as I have had problems with the airport delivering luggage to an apartment address before.

  • Yellowtree_max50


    over 5 years ago



  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago


    i've always wanted to travel but i thought it was too expensive for me. this article changed my mind, thanks for the advice

  • Superhero_logo


    over 5 years ago


    Please keep your comments on topic to the article -- Any comments posted with embedded links leading to questionable infected sites outside MonsterCollege will be removed and the poster's account will be banned from MonsterCollege. Thank you.