How I made it to Miami on $160 a month

Never in my life did I think I could afford a trip during school. Don’t laugh, but after watching Pixar’s Up, and seeing how that old couple never got to go on their dream vacation, I knew I needed to travel now. But instead of travelling to a South American rainforest, I set my sights on the Miami Ultra Music Festival in March 2015.

Caution: you may want to drop out of school and go on your dream vacation after reading these steps.

Saving up

As a student, it was really hard  to create a budget for this trip. The festival ticket was $550, the plane ticket was $450, Airbnb was $150, and I had about $150 in spending money. My income was about $160 a month and I had no credit card.

But I did have my OSAP, so after paying my tuition I used the leftover money to pay for my ticket. First tip: If you are going to a music festival make sure to go for the payment plan option so you can pay for the ticket in installments.

The festival was at the end of March, so I had six months to save up enough money. I did some research to find the cheapest way to fly into Miami, then I saved about $80 from each paycheque. Two months before my trip I worked extra hours to increase my income, and was able to squeeze out about $160 more for spending money.

Needless to say, it was super hard. Being in second year, there was a lot of pressure to go out with friends and eat out constantly. You really have to sacrifice your social life and keep your eye on the prize.  

I told my friends about my trip and my financial obligation to it and they understood. They did their best not to get me involved in activities that required a lot of money. I learned that a $10 bottle of wine and a game of Cards Against Humanity can be just as fun as a night out at the club.

Getting there

I saved money on the flight by booking it last minute—I paid $450 literally four days before I left.  Living in Ottawa definitely helps put the odds in my favour, since I have three airports to choose from within driving distance. I drove to Plattsburg, New York, and flew to Miami from there because they had the cheapest deal. When looking for flights make sure to use sites like Expedia and Flight Centre because they give you a ton of options.

My friend had a credit card, so we used it to pay for the Airbnb with the intention of paying it off when we returned. If you have the funds and can pay for it before, that’s obviously great too.

Travelling alone is great, but having a friend to go with who is in a similar financial situation is the best. We kept each other motivated and helped each other out where we could.

On the ground

Before you get to your destination, make sure to research all the places you want to visit and see if you can get there by bus from your hotel or Airbnb so you can save money. Once you arrive, do a grocery run and buy some snacks, a pack of water, and some simple breakfast items like pita and peanut butter that you can eat.

The best part about the States is that food and booze are dirt cheap. I ended up spending $30 on food and $15 on booze my whole trip.

When you get to the music festival buy one water bottle, and make sure to hold on to it for the whole day as they have refill stations. At $5 a bottle you do not want to buy more than one.

All in all, I didn’t have the most lavish trip, but I did go to one of the biggest music festivals in the world—and the experience alone was worth it.  

Bottom line: Don’t wait until you are done university to travel. Do it now!