The Top 5 Apps For Traveling & Saving Money

People always wonder how I afford to travel so I’ve taken the time to write about my top 5 money-saving apps and resources that make traveling as cheap as humanly possible. This also explains how I traveled through the French Riviera for less than $100.  Over time, I've grown to consider travel as a sport in a field of competitors all looking to find the cheapest flights and deals to explore the world.

And much like physical sports, you get better with practice and after living this nomad life for almost 2 years collectively, I've researched and networked my way to finding these helpful additives that allow me to travel and explore God’s beautiful Earth in a time where it’s easier than ever before. It’s a bit of a lengthy read, but you’ll be traveling like a Pro, or rather, like a Glo in no time! ;)


Rome2Rio

This website is truly for the adventurous souls. The ones who are willing to use 1-2 modes of transportation to save well over 50% on their transportation costs. Especially if you're in no hurry to get to your destination, people don’t realize that instead of that $200 flight, you could take a bus and train connection for a combined $60. I don’t know about you, but I sleep every night anyway. So taking a night train/bus and waking up in my new destination is pretty exciting to me!

Photo via @GloGraphics

Photo via @GloGraphics

This was the case for my trip through the French Riviera for my birthday back in March. Initially, I only wanted to go to Nice, so I only looked at routes going straight there. But Rome2Rio showed me that getting into Montpellier for €27 as my initial entrance into France would be the cheaper option.

From Montpellier, I then headed south to Marseille for €12, where I stayed for 2 days (which I ended up liking more than Nice, oh the irony) and then a ride into Saint-Tropez for €9, and then finally into Nice (where I caught a free ride from a fellow couchsurfer, see #5), where a train to Eze and Monaco were a mere €4 each.

If you’re in no hurry, have a flexible approach, and can weather the possibility of maybe sharing a bus with strangers, then you’re off to a good start!

Overall, what Rome 2 Rio does is show you every possible way or method to get from one place to another. Whether you're in LA and want to get to Peru or in London and want to get to Denmark, this app calculates the many ways to make that possible, comparing and contrasting prices and companies offering their services.

Since when was flying the only way to travel? The Wright Brothers (bless their hearts) have changed the world forever with those amazing floating machines, but I promise you that trains, buses, boats, and cars are still fully functional and amazing ways to see the world. This app is a game changer and before I ever plan any adventure, I “Rome 2 Rio” the route and see what ways I can save, what cities I can add, and how much more I can spend on Nutella with my savings.

iPhone: Download HERE

Android: Download (alternative) HERE

PRICE: FREE


Bla Bla Car 

My mom would lose her marbles if she knew I did this. I kind of like to refer to this as the next best thing to hitch-hiking. Safe-hiking, if you will. If the idea of getting in a car with a stranger terrifies you, then the media has done their job in making the world out to be some horrifyingly, dangerous place. Stahhhpit already. To my fellow Americans, realize that the chance of you getting kidnapped or dying is higher on American soil than abroad. Please let go of the notion that everyone is out to harm or hurt you. 

So first, let’s talk about what makes BlaBlaCar the safe, environmentally-friendly, and cheaper option.

PHOTO VIA @GLOGRAPHICS

PHOTO VIA @GLOGRAPHICS

This is basically the Uber of long distance journeys. BlaBlaCar allows drivers to publicize their long-distance trips to help them foot the cost of gas, which in turn helps you get to a destination about 30-50% cheaper than a train or flight. Seriously, just checking this afternoon, a train ride to Madrid (the capital of Spain) from Barcelona could range anywhere from €50 and up. BlaBlaCar currently has 5+ rides going there daily for as little as €4. It doesn’t get better than this guys!

On their publicized itinerary, they will say how many seats they have available and from what time they will be departing from a city. 

 

While searching for a driver, you can browse their reviews on their profile and see what past riders have said. Along with a 1-5 star rating, reviews can include anything from the cleanliness of their car, how they drive, and whether their music was up to par or not... kidding. I hope.

So not only are you getting to your destination faster and cheaper than any other land transportation, but you might get lucky enough to share a car with fellow travelers from Ecuador and Brazil who make for awesome eye candy and conversation en route.

I met the founders of BlaBlaCar for Spain at the Mobile App Premier Awards hosted in Barcelona a couple months ago, and it was then that I knew it was time to give this thing a try.

P.S. BlaBlaCar is how I got from Marseille to Saint-Tropez while on the French Riviera. Something that otherwise would've costed around €50, cost me €9. Seriously guys, get up on this.

iPhone: Download HERE

Android: Download HERE

PRICE: FREE


Revolut 

So I'm curious, how many of you guys are familiar with PayPal?

Everyone? Great. 

 

So think of Revolut as the PayPal for travelers. It's an online/physical money cloud that allows you to easily convert dollars to euros to pounds and vice versa, and vice, vice versa. And such. You get the idea.

Out of pure paranoia, I don't like to carry cash on me when I travel, so I always withdraw the bare minimum before I take off for a trip. But of course, I always find myself at the mercy of the almighty ATM, because I try to convince myself that I'll spend less if I don't carry so much physical cash, but things [read: alcohol] happens, so there's that. So like me, you withdraw at a foreign ATM and by the time you get home, you learn that your bank, or their bank, has charged you a €5 fee per use on top of the withdrawal amount.

WHAT IS HIGHWAY ROBBERY FOR $500, ALEX? 

 

Seriously, just toss my money out the window why don't ya. Jesus didn't die for our sins for things like this to happen.  *cue Revolut swooping through the sky with a cape to save the day*

 

Not only does Revolut not charge any withdrawal fees, but you can also send and receive money through the app in a matter of seconds to anybody in the world. So let's say one of you kind souls wanted to donate $5 to my depleting Nutella fund. But let’s speak hypothetically here. You could do that by simply putting my number in the app and sending it to me in dollars. And then I can receive it in euros to buy Nutella here locally. 

I'm not saying this would make my week, so I'll just let you re-read the first part of this sentence again.

Another benefit is that this is perfect for people who work abroad but pay bills back home. Since I haven't been able to divorce Sallie Mae yet, the euros I get paid in Spain mean nothing to her. So I can easily convert them to dollars on the app to pay every month. And since it's a currency conversion, it's only charged at 1% and you’ll be getting the same conversion rates you find on Google.

With spending, exchanging, and sending on the Revolut card, you will always be getting the most bang for your buck.. or pound... or euro. 

 

Deposits and withdrawals are allowed in GBP, USD and EUR as well as sending in these 20 other currencies (AUS, CAD, CZK, DKK, HKD, HUF, ILS, JPY, MXN, NZD, NOK, PLN, RON, SGD, ZAR, SEK, CHF, THB, TRY, and AED). It's okay, I don't know what half of those are either, but this just means I need to travel more.

 

So basically, it's an international card that let's you spend and withdraw like it's a national card in any country you're in. Pretty cool, right? And charges for conversions are capped at £120 per year so Sallie Mae can be the only thing stealing from my plate now.

At the moment, the app can only be downloaded with an invite, and is available in the App Store as well as Google Play if you type in the invite code "THEBLOGABROAD" or simply click below. 

 

iPhone: Download HERE

Android: Download HERE

PRICE: FREE


AirBnB

AirBnB is the perfect alternative to a cheaper and more authentic experience than that of hotels or hostels. After a certain age (that age was 23 for me) hostels become my absolute last resort. I know some really cool 40-year olds who totally blend in with the hostel culture, and they make a great example to those who think certain type of traveling is only for the young.

Party hostels in particular though, are a gamble. While the types of travelers you meet can be awesome, you also run the risk of waking up to a sweating, Hungover Hannah or Harry puking their brains out, this assuming they own one to begin with when evaluating their current state. Some rooms can also feel like an extension of the Jersey Shore, and you having no control over what time they want to stroll in from the club *cough cough* Irish Twins at my hostel in Scotland in 2012.

If you're really lucky, they might even generously offer you an assortment of drugs, but because your mother raised you better and you still secretly flaunt your DARE shirts from grade school, you don’t (and decide to stick to the shots of cognac).

 

If you've never AirBnB'd before, you can sign up for free and enjoy $25 off your first stay by clicking here.

 

iPhone: Download HERE

Android: Download HERE

PRICE: FREE.99


Couchsurfing

I might've saved the best for last when I talk about something that's saved me upwards of $1,000 of travel expenses through some of my 16 countries of travel. I can't stress enough the amazing benefits and advantages of CouchSurfing. And trust me, the first time I heard about this almost 3 years ago, I made the same face you're probably making now.

Sleep on strangers' couches? Surfing without water? Be the inspiration behind Taken 8? or whatever number sequel they’re forcing in theaters these days... It's crazy how we've become a product of our consumption of violence and homicide in movies and video games. Even with the word “stranger”, our minds are programmed to think of these people as STRANGE or weird.

 

Here's the honest to God truth that any American who's studied or lived abroad for an extended amount of time will tell you.

We feel safer in foreign countries than we do in America. 

 

PHOTO VIA @GLOGRAPHICS

PHOTO VIA @GLOGRAPHICS

The bottom line is that the European culture I've been met with has a "strangely" hospitable way of living. People cooking you the food from their fridge, giving you the clothes off their back (well, closet) just because they want you to have a souvenir, people taking off work or even better, inviting their colleagues to come meet you over dinner and drinks.

The fact of the matter is people abroad (just like us) sometimes fall victim to the mass media brainwashing and stereotypes. They've never met an American in person before, so their fascination with our culture, our music, and our strange obsession with the wrong kind of "football" is incredible to them. They love exchanging stories and getting firsthand travel advice about what to see in America, because visiting the states is a dream for 95% of the foreigners you’ll meet. And any time I can tell them that America is more than Vegas, New York, and LA, then I feel like I’ve done my job as a U.S. citizen, haha. Seriously, #BoycottVegas2015.

 

Plain and simple, CouchSurfing, although a free service, is really about a cultural exchange. A local opens up their home to you in hopes that you can open up your heart to them. Let them learn about your country, your life, your identity, and your story that brought you to the very moment you're sharing. Whether or not that moment be taking a tipsy stroll down a mazed road, stumbling upon a cathedral, and feeling the sudden urge to practice your non-existent ballet skills (true story: Montpellier, France).

These kind of authentic and random memories are what turn a tourist into a traveler.

And when you think about a majority of tourists, they're only interested in seeing the top attractions that Google neatly compiled with an array of "top 10" article must-sees on the first page of a google search. Imagine the hundreds of thousands of people who typed in the same thing, got the same results and had the same, mundane, neatly-packaged experience as you did.

People don't realize all the gems they're missing out on because the big-wig companies were able to buy their way to the top of Google searches and leave all the others by the wayside.

PHOTO VIA @GLOGRAPHICS

PHOTO VIA @GLOGRAPHICS

But think about it, who knows a country or city better than someone who's lived there all their life? Fall back, Google. I'm gonna take their word on this one. Not only do you have free accommodation, but you have a free tour guide at your service as well.

Because of them, I've been led to hidden beaches, tasted local-grown foods, and danced the night away at urban clubs that I bypassed the line and walked right into thanks to my host being a regular there.

Some of your hosts even have cars and offer to play taxi for the day and spend time taking you to all their favorite spots or any highlights you want to see. And sometimes you get to meet even more travelers if your host has more space for others. 

And don’t let the word “couch” fool you, because more times than not, I’ve actually had a room and bathroom to myself and more privacy than a hostel would’ve given and all at no cost.

And with the network, just like BlaBlaCar, AirBnB, and other community services, past guests leave reviews of their stay there. 

My advice, especially to women, is don’t be stupid. However, this is a general rule that I encourage everyone to apply to anything in life, really. Lol. But when it comes to female solo travelers, try and stay with other women, couples, or hosts who are also hosting other people. 

Use your common sense when looking at profiles and reviews and never be the guinea pig. If someone doesn’t have a review yet because they’re new, I wouldn’t take those chances.

As guests, it’s also important to remember these people are doing YOU a favor by opening up their homes to “strangers”. Some might even meet you at a nearby train station with the spare keys and tell you to enjoy your stay and take off somewhere (true story, London 2014, the trust in the community is amazing). But in general, the people on CouchSurfing are extremely hospitable souls. It’s a community of good karma, because they build a network of friends and travelers all over the world who will reciprocate the hospitality if they ever visited.

I’ve been very lucky to have stayed in nicer and more expensive flats most of the time, but I understand that won’t always be the case. So don’t be that high-maintenance brat who nitpicks or complains about everything. Remember, they’re doing YOU a favor. They don’t owe you anything!

And since it is free, a token of appreciation by bringing a bottle of wine or something from your home country is a nice way to get things off to a good start! Happy ‘surfing!

 

iPhone: Download HERE

Android: Download HERE

Price: FREE

 

What do you use to save money while traveling? 


Gloria Atanmo is an American travel blogger, overseas basketball player, English teacher, photographer, and professional risk-taker currently living in Barcelona, Spain. She's a lover of life and all things wine and Nutella. Follow her adventures on Instagram: @glographics