Full disclosure, Carrie and I are not independently wealthy. We earn average salaries for our positions and education in the Washington DC metropolitan area. People often ask how we afford to travel as much as we do. Well, the secret is we work hard to identify the most cost-effective way to travel to our destination, without sacrificing comfort. That starts with being flexible with our travel dates and airports of departure and arrival, traveling outside of peak season, and knowing who flies from where to where and when.
For our most recent trip spanning 11 days we have documented exactly how much I (Albert) spent to travel from Washington, DC via Oslo to Vilnius, Lithuania, and then overland through Latvia and Estonia to then fly home from Helsinki, Finland. The grand total was $427.86.
Here’s how I did it. As we live in Washington, DC we are lucky to have relatively convenient access to several major international airports along the east coast (IAD, BWI, PHL, EWR, and JFK). JFK, the busiest of all, has the most affordable options. More flights to a destination can often lead to lower fares because of the competition.
Amtrak to New York’s Penn Station - $49
I booked at least two weeks in advance and therefore found the cheapest one-way ticket on Amtrak from DC to NYC. Sure you can take the bus for cheaper, but the train is faster, more comfortable and has way better WiFi. Perfect for working remotely or on this blog post.
LIRR from Penn Station to Jamaica Transit Center $10 (during peak travel plus $6 to get to the JFK terminals).
From Penn Station, there are two options to get to Jamaica Station to catch the AirTrain to JFK- the subway for $2.75 or the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) for $10 during peak times (4-8 pm), outside of those times it’s cheaper. I opted for the LIRR which costs more than the subway but is a much faster-one stop on the train I caught. From Jamaica Station, everyone must take the AirTrain to get to the terminals at JFK. It’s $6 and on the day I passed through there was a problem with the machines and you could only pay in cash!
Norwegian Air from JFK to Oslo - $200 one-way
Norwegian Air offers bargain deals to Europe, with Oslo as their least expensive destination. For a base fair of $200, I bought a one-way ticket to Oslo from New York. This does not include a checked bag, a meal or selecting a seat. Each one of those options costs an extra $45.
Ryanair from Oslo to Vilnius - $25 one-way
Ryanair is famous for offering inexpensive flights throughout Europe and was once known for its unfriendly customer service and heavy-handed tactics to nickel and dime passengers. Having lived in London for 8 years I had flown my fair share of flights with Ryanair and after terrible experiences, I had vowed to never fly with them again, despite the ridiculously cheap airfare. I had recently read they were working hard to improve the customer experience and I can happily report we had a pleasant experience with them on this trip. Everyone received an assigned seat, the plane left on time and there was no nickel and diming!
We purchased two $25 one-way tickets from Oslo to Vilnius, Lithuania. When we first looked the flights were $15 each!
LuxExpress Bus from Vilnius to Riga - $15 one-way
The four-hour trip on the luxurious LuxExpress is the perfect way to travel between Vilnius and Riga, Latvia. The internet is excellent as is the selection of in-seat entertainment. I watched the original X-Files movie and worked on this blog post! Keep in mind we bought the tickets the day before so I am confident you could purchase tickets for less.
LuxExpress Bus from Riga to Tallinn - $22 one-way
We took another extremely comfortable four-hour bus ride north to Tallinn, Estonia. Had we booked the tickets more than one day in advance I’m confident again we could have paid less. We were disappointed to find the bus on this route did not offer in-seat entertainment, but the internet was good enough for us to work throughout the journey.
Ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki - $35 one way
There are three different companies offering several daily ferry service between Tallinn and Helsinki, Finland. We only booked a day in advance so you can definitely purchase this for cheaper, plus if you are more flexible with your time you can pay even less. We chose the option that would get us to Helsinki at 12:30 pm, allowing us to maximize our day after checking into our hotel. It also happened to be the most expensive.
Flight from Helsinki to Dulles International Airport (IAD) - $65.86 plus 30,000 United Miles
We are able to accrue enough miles to redeem them for annual trips by using our airline credit cards for our routine purchases throughout the year. Most sign-up bonuses would easily cover the 30,000 miles I used to fly one-way back home. We have United and American Airlines credit cards and the best travel card out there, the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
In sum this is what I did and you can do it too!
All photography by Albert Bond
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