Oneika Raymond is a travel expert who has dedicated her career to inspiring women, as well as people of color, to see the world. She’s the host of Travel Channel’s digital series Big City, Little Budget and One Bag and You’re Out, as well as the voice behind Oneika the Traveller, an award-winning travel blog.
But she wasn’t always a traveler. Raymond says that she developed an interest in travel, thanks to her upbringing in Toronto, one of the most multicultural cities in the world, and thanks to her parents, who are Jamaican immigrants. “We traveled to the Caribbean to visit family frequently,” she says. “When I went to university, I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in France for a year, which opened up my eyes to leisure travel and exploring more of the world.”
That boundless passion for discovery has taken Raymond to more than 100 countries and six continents — and she says that the more she has traveled, the more ways she has found to save money. “Over time, my blog gained an audience who wanted to know how I traveled around the world so often and for so cheap, so I began to share my budget travel tips in my blog posts,” says Raymond.
Raymond is a big advocate of solo travel for any and all women: “No matter your age, income level or marital/reproductive status, a solo trip is something every woman should do.”
She points out that solo travel is important for self care — which is especially vital for women who are expected to be nurturers and provide emotional support. “When you travel by yourself, there’s not one to answer to…but you,” she says. “You’re free to structure your days as you see fit and experience your destination as you’d like. Want to spend half the day at the museum? Fine. You’d like to visit three major cities in one week? Go for it. It’s your trip and your decision.”
Additionally, solo travel affords women the ability to recharge your batteries without interruption, separating you from routines and those moments where someone “needs” you. “The best part? That relaxing time leaves you with the mental, emotional and physical energy to discover your surroundings at your leisure,” says Raymond. It also frees up women who might feel hampered — consciously or unconsciously — by the opinions or expectations of family, friends or colleagues. As Raymond points out: “When you travel solo, you can be who you want to be.”
Here, we got Raymond to share advice in both of those areas with money-saving travel tips and her favorite affordable places for solo female travelers.
Oneika Raymond’s Money-Saving Travel Tips
Create a travel-specific savings bank account. Random expenses can come throughout the year and before you know it, you may be more strapped for cash for your trip than you anticipated. Set a goal, auto-transfer a set amount into your travel account every month and consider various expenses both in booking your travel and while you’re on the ground (meals, drinks, activities/excursions, transportation, etc.) to avoid emergencies.
Choose the deal, not the destination. Being flexible with regard to travel dates and destinations will allow you to snag the best rates on airfare and accommodation costs. Traveling in the off season or shoulder season will reward you with great deals. While there’s no exact science to when to book cheap airfares, a recent study by CheapOair revealed that the best time to buy tickets for domestic travel is 70 days before departure. However, the best option is still to set airfare alerts through a search engine like Google Flights, which will send you an email should the prices on your desired route drop.
Look for cheap airfare. Flights can cost a pretty penny, and there are a ton of great options for discounts. My top recommendations for finding deals are:
Scour Groupon for deals in your destination. So many people avail themselves of Groupon deals when they are home, but did you know it’s possible to find deals for experiences abroad? The “Getaways” section of the website offers deeply discounted package tours for locales as far flung as Mexico and France.
Rethink where you stay. Hostels have had a somewhat polarizing history in terms of cleanliness and safety, but there has been a growing number of “upscale” hostels and communal living options that have been popping up around the U.S. and beyond. They can be a more affordable option than a hotel (with some for as little as $15/night), but give you more of a luxurious experience — including confirming who will be staying in the room ahead of your arrival to cut back on the hesitation of roommate uncertainty.
Get a local SIM card. International phone plans can be costly, as can purchasing local maps. A good solution? A local SIM card. They’re very inexpensive and — for newer, unlocked phones — can be added to your cell, so you can easily stay connected with friends and family.
Consider a group tour. If you’re not sure where to visit in a destination and want to interact with fellow travelers, group tours are also a great option — and they can be affordable. I highly recommend Damesly, group tours for women run by my friend Kelly Lewis.
Use ride sharing apps, where possible. I’m a big fan of checking out public transportation and exploring cities by foot, but sometimes I prefer a car. Not all cities offer these apps, but they can certainly come in handy when you’re traveling solo and may not be familiar with the area. Plus, you can get a sense of cost and route ahead of your trip or split the fare with other rider to lower your fee even more.
Pack smart. No one wants to get stuck with a hefty baggage fee. Reduce the amount of clothing and “stuff” in your bag. Choose a single color scheme so you can mix and match clothes easily, dress items up or down and get more out of what’s in your bag. Also, don’t underestimate a great scarf. It can do triple duty: It can be used as an accessory as a scarf, a picnic blanket or a shoulder covering.
Look for freebies. There’s always something to do in a big metropolis — and there are a ton of great attractions that are super inexpensive (or completely free). Do your research ahead of a trip and you can find things like free walking tours, free student days at museums and cheap street carts that have restaurant-quality food. And, if visiting a city like New York, taking a ride on the subway will lead you to incredible art at different stops.
Skip the hotel breakfast. That hotel breakfast buffet comes with a hefty price tag (sometimes upwards of $20 per day). Often this cost is hidden in the nightly rate, so make sure to double-check and ask if the hotel will remove ir before booking. Hit up the local cafe or supermarket for cheap eats you can make yourself. It’s way better than the generic hotel breakfast, anyway.
Oneika’s Favorite Money-Saving Destinations
Bolivia: This gorgeous country has a ton to offer travelers, especially the scenery. La Paz, Bolivia’s capital, is a great starting point for any trip to Bolivia. I suggest taking a stroll to El Mercado de las Brujas (aka the Witches Market) to grab a cheap and easy bite before hopping on the My Teleférico and picnicking at one of the stops. The Hotel HBlue is a slightly upscale option that is still great value. It is worth noting that infrastructure and transportation aren’t the best outside of the major cities, and you need to be able to communicate in Spanish to get around efficiently. Also, don’t forget to stay hydrated since altitude sickness can be common for tourists.
Guatemala: The country is incredibly diverse in terms of activities; you can check out ancient Mayan ruins and rituals, take a group tour to explore green lush jungles and volcanoes, wander through colonial cities or even take surf lessons on its Caribbean coast. I fell in love with La Antigua when I visited, and it’s a great city to use as a base to explore the rest of the country. It’s beautiful, with bright colors of low buildings, breathtaking volcanos that can be seen in the distance from any point of the city and the cobblestone streets. Hotel Meson de Maria is a great budget option in Antigua.
Portugal: Western Europe can be pricey given its popularity with tourists but Portugal is a more relatively affordable option. It’s often overlooked by visitors who travel to its neighbors, Spain and France, but Portugal is safe, easy to navigate and doesn’t have the same “touristy” feel as other European spots. Food is one of the best parts of any trip, and Portugal doesn’t disappoint. Lisbon is fabulous and its restaurants are cheaper than other European hotspots like London and Paris, so you can eat a five-star meal on a three-star budget. I recommend Cervejaria Ramiro and Can the Can. My accommodation recommendation: Inspira Santa Marta in Lisbon.
Minneapolis: For those looking to make a quick, affordable and tasty U.S. getaway, Minneapolis, Minnesota is an emerging foodie destination that is worth a look. Like Portugal, Minneapolis is often overlooked by travelers, mostly due to its harsh and extremely cold winters. But it’s underrated. First off, the city has the advantage of being a massive airline hub, making getting there easy and cheaper than other destinations. There’s also a thriving theater, food and beer scene. In fact, visitors can indulge in the free tours with samples offered at several breweries in town, such as Excelsior Brewing Co, Fulton Beer and Lift Bridge. My accommodation recommendation: Millennium Minneapolis.
Greenville: Besides the fact that Greenville is making a name for itself in the culinary world, its location in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and affordable museums and natural attractions (the Greenville County Museum of Art is free to enter and biking along the Swamp Rabbit Trail is both scenic and cost effective), make it an attractive destination for outdoorsy female travelers. At the end of the day, one of the best things about traveling is unplugging, right? My accommodation recommendation: Embassy Suites.