13 discount codes to make your trip cheaper

Related content: how to eat for cheap; how to travel the U.S. as a broke nomad.

Let’s be honest: if you live in the U.S., travel — both nationally and internationally — is constantly threatening to break your budget and leave you with post-vaca woes. Partly thanks to our geographical location and partly thanks to an airline industry that’s completely out of control, flights can be really expensive! Most hotels are honestly nuts, too. ($400/night just to get some shuteye? Are you disconnected from reality??!) And transportation in a given place isn’t always much better. If you’re doling out $2,000+ just to arrive, sleep and get around, your whole travel plan gets squeezed — perhaps causing you to skip some of the actual, you know, SIGHTS.

That’s tragic. And really, really defeating. Thankfully, there are lots of ways to save some bucks on the logistical costs if you know how to work the system, play the points game (get loyal: with a credit card, an airline, a hotel chain, etc.) and SHARE SOME CODES.

Here are 13 of my own personalized codes you can use to cut the costs on your next trip. (Bonus: for most of these, I benefit too!)

A pork story: How a father and daughter found culinary commonality over NC ‘cue

When it comes to food, my dad and I don’t have whole lot in common.

I love strong flavors, heat and, as he might describe them, “adventurous” proteins. He doesn’t even want to be in the same room as a garlic clove.

I’ll try anything at least twice. He proudly operates by his personal motto “dare to be dull” — shunning different choices in favor of something he knows he’ll enjoy.

It’s led to a fair amount of dinner and restaurant quibbles. We’ll likely never split an appetizer or agree on the proper ingredients involved in a tomato sauce. I’ll never convince him that octopus is actually super tasty just like he’ll never persuade me that anything is better without chilies.

But our culinary journeys do have one major intersection: barbecue.

Traveling not to visit, but to live

If there’s one skill of the nomad life I’m terrible at it’s this: staying in a place for only a week.

It’s torture — a week seems to be just enough time to find myself settled and fulfilled by new routine before uprooting again. 

As I’m leaving San Ignacio today (Monday), I’m feeling that sentiment sharply.

Somehow, in my old life, I did this on the regular while vacationing. When I look back and think about traveling through Mexico or Asia or Europe, spending three short days (or even TWO?!?!?!) in a single place and acting like that was normal, my mind is blown.

Indeed, my original “itinerary” when I was playing with the idea of doing this was jetting across Asia and Africa, spending only two or three days in every town or even country. (A BIG LOL TO THAT.)

Most of the other travelers I run into are on this kind of track, so much so that some guest houses are shocked when I tell them I plan to stay even a full week.

But of course, what I’m doing is very different now. I’m not on vacation anymore. I’m not even on a work trip. I making my way across the world, full time. To do that, one has to keep moving. Sometimes I’ve relented, staying in a particular spot for two, three weeks, even a month in Panajachel.

Still, it’s never enough.

What I can’t wait for, what I’ll miss while in the U.S.

By the time you read this, I’ll be back in the United States for a welcomed two-week break from everything being, well, so hard.

No more search parties for every item I need. No more lapses in communication. No more cold showers, constellations of mosquito bites, difficult kitchens, lifeless WiFi, lack of water, or feeling dirty. For at least 18 days. 

As excited as I am (honestly, I’m so pumped), I still don’t know how it will feel to abruptly shift back to my old, comfortable way of life. Will it be jarring? Will as feel as disconnecting as it felt when I took the plunge in leaving it?

Have I become accustomed, more than I even realize, to this harder degree of living?

I’ll have some idea soon.

But in the meantime, I thought I would share my list of all the things I’m excited for and all the things in this wild, new life that I believe I’ll miss until my return.

Here we go: 

Sorting through Antigua’s “danger” reputation

The idea that Antigua, Guatemala might be especially “dangerous,” never really occurred to me until after I arrived, and was putting on my jacket to go grab some street food that first night.

“Make sure you don’t walk down dark streets,” my host, Cesar interjected.

Sensible advice, of course, no matter where you travel, but usually people don’t take the time to say it. He continued, off-handedly, as he stirred a pan of sautéing mushrooms.

“Tourists gets robbed a lot. Girls get robbed a lot.” He eyed me. “And you’re a tourist and a girl.”

At his direction, I unloaded half of what was in my bag back into my bedroom before heading out into the evening, including the professional camera I had planned to use to photograph the street cart cuisine.

“One more thing,” he said as I thanked him and told him I’d see him later. “If you do get robbed, just make sure you don’t die.”

Finding peace on the road

I realized I felt it, truly, for the first time in weeks on the way to San Cristóbal de las Casas, a mountain town on the southern border of Mexico.

Already, it had been quite a day.

After a week each in Mexico City, Oaxaca and Huatulco, I was on the move again, a process that had become stressful as I started my transition from “avid traveler with a steady job” to “full-time nomad struggling to pay her bills.”

I’d taken two flights, discovered I needed to pay for my overweight carry-on (apparently that’s a thing in Mexico), and then nearly missed my connection from Mexico City after mistakenly walking out to Baggage Claim 7 instead of down to Gate 7 (why were they next to each other anyway?!), making my way through security again and then losing said boarding pass.

Now, after all that, I was on an hourlong shuttle to my next destination.

Early struggles

On the night before I boarded a plane with a one-way ticket to Mexico, I was out to eat with my family, and my sister asked me if I was nervous.

“Nope,” I said, stuffing my face with North Carolina barbecue. 

“But — do you have butterflies?” she pressed.

“I actually don’t,” I said.

I was being honest. On the eve of the biggest decision of my life, my greatest adventure, my greatest challenge, I was certain: I was going to kick ass. 

I had no doubts. Traveling like this, on my own with no itinerary, was what I had always wanted to do. It was what I was meant to do.

Two weeks into my nomad existence, I can hardly write those sentences without tearing up. Yep, that’s right. I’m close to crying right now. I’ve been crying a lot.

ticket to everywhere

A one-way ticket to everywhere

Yesterday, I booked a one-way flight to Mexico.

A one-way ticket into the world; a one-way ticket away from stability.

It feels weird. It feels crazy. It feels thrilling. Right now, I can’t separate the fear from the fervor, the excitement from the terror. It’s all rolled into one. (I’m excitfied? Terricited?)