About the Episode
Traveling internationally can seem intimidating, but according to Pew Research Center, over 70% of Americans have done it! On this exciting episode of Making it Count, we’re preparing you with all the traveling tips and tricks for you to start booking those long-awaited trips abroad — without breaking the bank! Today we’re joined by our money-smart friends, Jeremy and Jenna, your go-to guides for travel tips and destination inspiration. With their help, Cristina and Randy do a tell-all into everything international travel.
Pre-International Travel Tips
Randy asks Question 1: “So obviously what you guys are doing is very unique. How did you go from just a love of travel to actually making it your full-time thing and way of life and then taking that abroad?”
Jenna responds: “So we are almost 30 and a couple of years ago we were not ready to have a family yet and we said, What do we want to do with our life before we really have to be a little bit more settled? And we went to bed one night. Jeremy's falling asleep, per usual. And I'm up there thinking in my brain, Dee dee dee dee dee, what am I going to do? And I shake his shoulder, wake him up. I said, What if we go live in a camper van and traveled the US? And he's like, okay. And then we had like a whole long conversation about our jobs and if any of our jobs could be remote so that we could live and make money and not be maybe reckless with like no jobs, just live off our savings. So we kind of tried to do both.”
Jeremy follows up: "Yeah, that was the biggest change, is we had to figure out how can we still make a little money and still be kind of responsible. I always say that we're frustratingly responsible sometimes. Sometimes it'd be nice to just really like drop everything and just like, let your spirit guide you. We don't completely do that, but we've done all right. But the transition to remote work was definitely the beginning of realizing we have a shot at this. And then over time, our social media has grown a lot and that's provided some really fun opportunities that have kind of encouraged us to keep going."
Cristina: follows up: “And then what took you guys abroad”
Jenna responds: "Well, yes, that's the part that we loved. Like we gave up our life. We didn't say bye to it in a way of like, oh, we're done with it. It was, wait a minute, we're now getting closer to the idea of wanting a family but there's one more bucket list thing we'd really like to do. And it's not one country. It's 12. So we had said, let's sell the RV and let's do 12 countries in 12 months. Well, that ended up being 15 months and 35 countries because we couldn't help ourselves."
Jeremy follows up: "How to leave a good life for what we hope will be a better one. Because before we even had the RV, we liked our life. We were happy, it was great. But that was we wanted to travel more in a way that encouraged us to do so, and then we really wanted to go abroad. So we sadly ditched the RV, which was really sad. We still think about it often."
Randy asks Question 2: “So because you guys have traveled pretty much everywhere, Christina and I want to go, Do you guys have any tips for people trying to go on their first international trip? Like, what places would you recommend based on the ones you've been to?”
Jeremy responds: “Yeah, it's a great question. I mean, if it's your first time going abroad, you might not want to go that far or spend a lot. So we're probably looking at Central, maybe a bit of South America. Part of the way we let a lot of our decisions be made was by money and flight prices. So at the time, we had Southwest points. We found a flight to Costa Rica out of Florida, close and cheap. It's a pretty well-traveled country and pretty safe. So that was our jumping-off point and it made the decision pretty easy.”
Jenna follows up: “So to answer that a little bit more clearly, pick something that's maybe proximity closer to home than just so, so far away, a country that does have a good reputation for speaking English, but also safety. Okay, I can kind of get by with the language if I didn't know it. I feel safe around my surroundings and then just kind of you'll start to get the itch, but also the confidence to be like “Wait, I did that. Now we can go a little farther for a little longer.”
Cristina asks Question 3: “So now that we think about traveling abroad, you gave us some good starting off points. The first thing that we consider, at least for me and Randy, is how much is it going to cost? So, because some of those flights are going to be longer, some of those stays are going to be longer because you flew all the way out there, you're not going to stay for like five days. You're going to stay for weeks at a time. So what are some cost-saving tips for planning that trip?”
Jeremy responds: “Well, I think first and foremost, being as flexible as possible will help you. I know that's not so easy when you have maybe a job and things like that. But try to, you know, look at Google flights or wherever you're searching and just be as flexible as possible. Find that cheap day and go for it if you can. That'd be the first.”
Jenna follows up: "Definitely credit card points and like Miles have helped us so much. It makes you feel like you're not spending your own money."
Randy follows up: "Yeah, I like that you said that, that it's not really, you got to think about it, that it's not your money. It's the points that you earned because you know, you swiped your card elsewhere. Right? It's a good way to think about travel."
Jeremy follows up: "Well, and an add-on, too, is we're actually pretty fortunate to have availability of all the credit cards we have in America because we talk to people all over and that doesn't really exist."
Jenna follows up: "Gosh, if you are not utilizing it in the US, it is such a big miss out because everyone we have talked to, they always say, “Oh, I don't have that opportunity, I don't have that option.” and they're from all of these different countries. Wow. And we're always shocked when we tell them, “Oh, we don't have foreign transaction fees on anything we ever spend on.” And they're like, how? How do you avoid all these fees? And it's because if you find the right card that matches that travel, it."
Randy follows up: “Disclaimer. Use responsibly.”
Jeremy states: “So a note on Airbnb is the longer you stay, pretty much the cheaper it will be. I mean, that's the case with almost anything. But if you hit a week on Airbnb, you have a discount. If you happen to have the flexibility, you could go somewhere for 28 days, you could get another discount. But also sometimes asking for a discount can help. Sometimes I'll actually pitch my photo services to Airbnb hosts to see if they're interested and it does work here and there.”
“And then I had one more thought on Airbnb saving money. Is sometimes we book a new listing on Airbnb that has no reviews, which comes with a little bit of risk, but if you send them a nice message, if they respond favorably, if the pictures aren't, you know, too bad, then go for it. You know, you'll save a little money that way and.”
Jenna follows up: “They're thankful for it. So they'll usually offer you a discount and be super welcoming when you arrive. And you're kind of like their first little, you know, guest and they're like, you know, excited to host you.”
Jeremy follows up: “One more thought on that is sometimes we will find places that are not on any booking platform just by looking on Google Maps and seeing something, clicking it, finding their number and messaging them on WhatsApp or sending an email. And it's cheaper that way.”
“Here's an example. We went to Malaysia, specifically Borneo, the third largest island, I think, in the world. And we wanted to do a homestay. We looked on Booking.com, we looked on Airbnb. There were a few options, but they weren't great options. So we went on Google and found a place that had a few Google reviews, but weren’t on any booking platform. I think they maybe had a website —It wasn't great. but I got their number, put it in WhatsApp, and you know, they do this. It's their business, it's their livelihood, but it just takes a little effort to find them. But they're cheaper because they don't pay for those booking services. And it worked out! It was a great stay. We left them five stars and I'd go there again. It was awesome."
Jenna Follows up: "Who would have thought using Google Maps would find you a place to stay?"
Randy follows up: "Wow. So places that are not on these apps, you know, the middleman is not taking a cut, so of course it's gonna be cheaper."
Tips During International Travel
Randy asks Question 1: “So you guys, once you've got your international trip planned and it's within the budget, hopefully. What are some ways that you can actually save during the trip itself? You already mentioned reaching out, using Google Maps. What are some other fun tips that you guys have used in the past?”
Jeremy answers: “So this might sound simple or obvious, but with most budgeting, saving money, when you actually see the money being spent, you're a bit more aware and might spend less. So we actually track every single dollar that we spend in an app that's free called Travel Spend. And yeah, it just makes us a bit more mindful of what we're actually spending on.”
Jenna follows up: “Yeah, it's really helpful and it organizes you by months, countries and categories. We really wish we had started it sooner because we were tracking everything in Google Sheets and it was kind of messy. And this one is just instant. As soon as Jeremy and I say, What did you just buy? How much did you spend? Add it in. And then that day you kind of are like, Hey, we did pretty good today. That means tomorrow we have a little more leverage or movement to spend more or the opposite.”
Jenna follows up: “And then another app that is so cool that we wish we've used a lot more. It's called Too Good to Go. So this means at the end of the day, bakeries, cafes, and restaurants, have so much food supply left over, they don't want it to go to waste, but they also still want to make a little money. So on the app, you type in your location and it will show you as many places that are offering $3.99, $2.99, $5.99 deals to bring home all this extra food. We did it in Europe and it was so exciting.”
Jeremy states: “Quick thought about Costa Rica.”
“We were in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. We wanted to go on some kind of excursion. We had some cash in hand. We walked around to different tour operators, compared costs a bit and having cash and actually putting a deposit and getting a little slip, you know, receipt, it helped save us maybe 15% or something like that. Whereas you can't really do that in a place like Iceland, maybe much of Europe, maybe even not the States, but some places having cash there and just being a little savvy negotiating can save you some money."
Randy follows up: “So having cash on hand.”
Jenna follows up: “And you know, be careful, be smart, do your due diligence. But usually, you're walking through the tourist section and they know that you're going to be trying to book. Everybody's going to the volcano, so who wants to take me with my money and will give me the best price? So usually that helps. And then another thing that we have learned is to be just a little bit more brave with asking locals or, or our Airbnb or hotel host, for advice on the area that we might not know about. So we found so many cool places that were free and local because we just asked and stopped trying to just only use the internet.”
Cristina asks Question 4: “So staying along that vein of like. Being very cautious about where you go. What are some common tourist scams that you've heard of? What tips would you give about avoiding? Because a lot of people get nervous about traveling abroad because of, you know, there are some scary things out there. What kind of tips would you give them?”
Jeremy responds: "First thought on this actually is just a perspective shift here for people maybe who haven't really spent much time outside the US. The United States. While it might seem kind of safe, it actually ranks sadly low in the world in safety. And there are a lot of places that are much safer. So just knowing that, you know, the world maybe isn't as dangerous as you might think before having stepped outside to see it."
Jenna follows up: “But we're married and we don't wear our wedding rings when we travel. That's just one safety tip. I do. We do not even risk it. There's nothing to show here, guys. We're not flashy. We're not trying to look this extra league of fanciness that makes us look easily targeted.”
“You know, just safety tips of, like, using your phone too much on a I mean, in Brazil, I was told to put my backpack on the front of my body and not the back of it because people are easily able to unzip things when you're in the shuffle.”
Randy asks question 5: "So in terms of saving recommendations specific to longer trips. So you guys are in Iceland, what kind of things should we be doing if we're planning something a lot longer?"
Jenna responds: "Yeah. Oh, my gosh. Please tell me you guys have heard of World Packers."
"Wow. It is basically a service where you can volunteer for as little as one day to many, many months. And if anybody on that platform is some type of host with we need help in our garden. We need help painting. We need help with hardware and construction. We need child care. We need social media outreach help. We need marketing help. All of these things that people in the community of another country say we would love help with. But hey, listen, while you're helping us, we're going to provide food, breakfast, lunch and dinner. It depends. We'll provide housing. You can have your own room with a bathroom, or maybe you'll share one with a bunk bed. Or maybe you'll have a tent or a camper van. Basically, it's an exchange program, and you get to live like a local in a local’s home or on their property to do those types of activities."
Making It Count Essentials
Randy asks Quick Question 1: “If you could give your past selves one piece of advice about traveling abroad, what do you think it would be?”
Jeremy responds: “Hm? That's good. I would tell us to slow down a little bit. Not a lot, but a little bit. The thing is, before we ever did this, the longest trip we'd ever taken was 12 days, and that felt like a really long trip. But now it's our life and we tend to plan as if it was a trip. So just putting in some buffer time to relax, to plan, since not everything is always.”
Cristina asks Quick Question 2: “What would you say is the biggest misconception people have about traveling internationally?”
Jeremy responds: “Maybe that you have to know the language or be super prepared. I mean, maybe there's places we've gone. We could have done more research, but sometimes we just show up and pretend that, you know, it's 100 years ago and we couldn't have read all about it or whatever. So, you know, you figure it out as you go. It's okay to stumble a little bit.”
Randy asks Quick Question 3: "So what do you two think would be your bucket list? Travel destination?"
Jeremy and Jenna respond: "African Safari!”
You just have to remember three words Quench Your Adventure. That's our name. Everywhere. I'd say we're most active on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook, but quench your adventure. That's what we came up with a few years ago because we never can. Seem to get enough. So we always have to keep quenching our adventure.
On this episode, Cristina and Randy shared a previous Making it Count episode called Money + Love Part I: Are We Financially Compatible? In this episode, they’re joined by Rod Griffin, the Senior Director of Consumer Education & Advocacy at Experian, and two newlyweds from Addition Financial, where they covered important money conversations early on in the relationship and tips for setting a strong financial foundation together.
Posted on Aug 24, 2023