As a digital nomadI travel about 5 to 6 months a year while working remotely full time. This fall, I wanted to revisit my favorite destinations in Europe and Morocco and travel for a long time on a budget.
This two-month trip allowed me to witness a world record at the Berlin Marathonto hike through the villages of Cinque Terre,to visit friends in Portugal,to attend a festival in the Agafay desert, to surf the waves of Morocco and to end my trip in the City of Light.
I managed to spend less than $900 on my flights while reaching a new Marriott Bonvoy Elite status and earning more points through it all. Here are the strategies I used to travel on a budget.
Several reviews, itineraries and hotel reviews will follow in the coming weeks and will be added to this article.
My trip allowed me to visit the following destinations: Berlin, Milan, Cinque Terre, Lisbon, Porto, Paris and Morocco (Marrakech, Agafay desert and Taghazout).
Several guides will be added here on these travel experiences and destinations:
Tips for flights
I managed book 8 flights for a total of $820. Adding in cabs, trains and buses to get from one city to another, the total for transportation remains under $1100. My strategies for traveling on a budget involve a combination of a few factors:
- Flexibility in destinations and dates; I often took flights on Tuesdays, for example
- Travel by carry-on only, save on baggage fees and wait time
- Travel in shoulder season; Europe and Morocco are very pleasant to visit in the Fall
For my flights, I mainly used Google Flights strategically with the help of this guide and by exploring different options for the cities and countries I wanted to visit (Germany, Italy, Portugal, Morocco), then I took the opportunity to add a few days in Paris since the price of the Paris-Montreal flight was incredibly low.
Here is the summary of my flights, the airlines used and the days of the week (which influence the price):
|Montreal – Dublin (layover in Toronto)||September 20, 2022||$298||WestJet|
|Dublin – Berlin||September 21, 2022||$62||Ryanair|
|Berlin – Milan||September 26, 2022||$82||EasyJet|
|Milan – Lisbon||October 8, 2022||$88||Tap Air Portugal|
|Porto – Marrakech||October 24, 2022||$58||Ryanair|
|Agadir – Paris||November 11, 2022||$50||Vueling|
|Paris – Montreal||November 20, 2022||$182||Air Canada|
Since I was a regular visitor to airports, I took the opportunity to visit the VIP lounges. My Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card includes 6 lounge passes per year in partnership with Dragonpass. I spent time in airport lounges in Dublin, Berlin (where I met runner Eliud Kipchoge, shortly after he set a new world record!), Milan and Agadir.
This allowed me to save money on many meals and continue my work day since high-speed Wi-Fi was always included.
I often travel solo and like to join communities of digital nomads while having some comfort and fast Wi-Fi; this is what guided my accommodation choices. So I opted for properties tailored to young professionals with coworking spaces like the Moxy and Selina hotels.
Since lodging costs can go up very quickly when traveling for months on end, I booked a mix of hostels, hotels and apartments using the Booking.com and Hotels.com platforms where I often find good deals with the Genius and Hotels.com Rewards loyalty programs.
Marriott Bonvoy Hotels
I had a golden opportunity toachieve a new Marriott Bonvoy Elite status, so I used this trip to do just that. I was able to book 6 nights worth of free stays at hotels in Berlin and Milan by redeeming 79,500 points combined with the free fifth night strategy and by using my annual award night certificate.
My stay in Berlin during a high demand period alone saved me nearly $2,000 in hotel reservations.
Here are my reviews of the hotels I visited on this trip, which will be added here as I go along:
Using my paid stays at Marriott Bonvoy hotels, I earned over 18,000 points through this promotion since my reservations coincided with the offer period.
Since I was changing countries almost every week, I opted for the quick and easy eSIM option with the Airalo application. I would buy the right package for the next destination often when I was at the airport or when I got there so I could instantly stay connected, which saved me a lot of time.
Only in Morocco, where I stayed for 3 weeks, did I buy a tourist SIM card from the provider Orange since it was much more affordable (11GB for $10, valid for one month).
In telecommuting mode, data also played an important role in places where Wi-Fi wasn’t strong enough; to be able to take calls or just not have to interrupt my work day.
Foreign currency withdrawals and payments
ATM fees as well as the 2.5% conversion fee add up quickly abroad, especially on long trips.
In an effort to continue earning points while traveling, I used my Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card which saved me the 2.5% conversion fee. On occasion and whenever possible, I would use my American Express Cobalt® Card card as well, especially for restaurant and grocery store purchases that earn me 5x points in those categories.
When I needed cash, I used my debit WISE card at ATMs to avoid fees. In Europe I was able to keep the fees down to a few cents, and when I found an ATM, I could quickly transfer money from my bank account to my WISE account and then withdraw it. In Morocco, ATMs charged me 20 to 35 dirhams (less than $5 CAD), but I still managed to limit the fees by using my WISE card.
I explain how to use this card which has become an essential tool for saving money when traveling:
Use your Reward Points
Many credit cards offer the ability to redeem your points for travel expenses. So you can simply charge your travel expenses to your credit card without having to worry about using a particular booking platform. For example, I chose to use my American Express Cobalt® Cardcard, knowing that I could later use my Membership Rewards points to earn an account credit at the ratio of 1,000 points to $10.
When working remotely, it is possible to travel for a long time at low cost. Thanks to travel tips and rewards programs, going to Europe and Morocco for two months did not cost much more than my daily life in Montreal. If you’re interested in low-cost, long-term travel, there are a few strategies you can use to make it happen!
Stay tuned for future reports on my experiences on this digital nomad trip.
Do you have any questions about these strategies? Let’s discuss in our Facebook community!