As a flight attendant, I am constantly posting pictures of my travels. Whether they are from work trips or vacations, I am always on the go and experiencing something new! I always have people commenting on these pictures or messaging me telling me they are jealous of my travels and I always let them know that they can become a flight attendant and travel for free as well! But let me share with you the true cost of getting to see the world for free!
I do not just get to go wherever, whenever! If I want to travel for free, I only get to fly standby! Standby travel means that I only go if there is a seat onboard that a paying passenger isn’t already occupying. During the summer months and holidays, most of the flights are FULL! If I want to go anywhere, I need to become very creative with my flight routes and I also need to be flexible with my time-frames. Sure, waking up and traveling around noon would be ideal, but unfortunately, the seats that are left open are usually on those flights that leave at 5 am or 12 am! Also, when you are trying to get out of a popular city while on standby, you will sometimes find yourself stuck for days without a single seat available on a flight! Standby flying is cheap for sure, but it is definitely not the most glamorous way to travel!
2. Working Long Hours
Yes, I get to travel internationally for work, and yes I get to spend a day on a layover when I do. However, working these trips and getting to spend a day in another country comes at a price. These trips require you to most likely work all night, go through a time change, and completely exhaust yourself by the time you arrive at the hotel! Even though we might have 24 hours, 5 hours of that can be commuting to and from the airport when the traffic is bad in a major city (*cough cough* Paris), 8 hours of that time is spent sleeping since you worked all night and work all night again to go back home the next day, and only 11 hours is left to explore the city. When you do these trips all the time, you figure out what works best for you! You either stay awake and go out right away, or you nap and wake up for the last few hours of daylight. Whichever you choose, it isn’t entirely a “day vacation” when you are traveling for work.
3. Always on the Road
When you travel for free, you will find yourself being gone more often than not. You are either away for work, or away for leisure, but your feet never seem to be grounded in one place for too long! You really have to understand what is important to you and prioritize your time. Recently, I gave up a free trip to Spain so that I could attendant a wedding with a group of my friends! Any normal person would have taken the trip to Spain if it wasn’t a close friends wedding, but when traveling is always available to you, sometimes you need to take a moment to step back and simply catch up with your friends! When you are only home 5 times a month, your relationships are strained, your chores pile up, and you really start to hate paying rent for a place you are never in. Being away from home definitely starts to take a toll on your life, so you need to be prepared for that before you consider this lifestyle.
4. Unpredictable Schedules
When you are traveling for free, I mentioned flying on standby. Since you fly standby, you never know if you are going to make a flight or not. Making plans or reservations becomes almost impossible! You never want to reserve a hotel in advance, you never book tours, and you always sort of live your life on a whim incase your travel ideas don’t go as planned. Not everyone is cutout for this type of travel. If you need everything scheduled out in advance, then traveling for free is not for you because it only leads to unpredictability.
This one I almost did not put up for the sake of sounding vain. However, it is so true that the more I travel, the more I distance myself from people back home. I understand that everyone wishes they could have flight benefits, but its not my fault that I have them and I utilize them. After a certain number of times asking “How was your trip?” your friends start to lose interest in what you are doing. You even start to notice that some friends will stop liking your travel post on instagram all together and the few times that you do get a chance to talk, they are sliding in snide remarks about how “traveling the world must be so hard” and how “it must be nice to not have to have a real job”. It gets frustrating because traveling is my real job. It is fun and I enjoy it most of the time, but it has its hardships too just like any other job.
I definitely do not want people to read this and think that I am ungrateful for these benefits because thats not the case at all. I am simply sharing this insight with you so that you can better understand what it means for flight attendants to travel the world. Traveling for free is the greatest gift I have ever received, but this lifestyle is not for everyone and often times these circumstances go unnoticed! If you have any questions about the job feel free to reach out/comment below! For more information about how to travel with a normal job/on a budget, stay tuned for a blog post within the next couple of days with tips on how to save and where to cut cost when traveling!