I get comments from my family, friends and on social media all the time about my travels and how I afford it. This year I’ve been to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Acadia National Park in Maine, New York City, Glacier National Park Montana, Austin Texas, various states all over the North East for a LOT of different weddings and still have upcoming trips to Iceland and Chicago. That’s a pretty good amount for a year, it’s a lot of plane rides and a lot of hours in the car. This means MONEY but my savings account is still looking its best. Here are all the ways I save money during trips and during everyday life in order to make my travel goals a reality.
It’s a lifestyle choice
I need to be honest here, I like the good things in life. I love nice clothes, new tech, a good steak (sorry veg friends), and good wine (not sorry anyone). I’m about 3 years into my working life, I have a nice marketing job at a fancy office but I can’t afford a rent in Boston and 20 plane rides a year without skimping out somewhere. This year, I made a choice to integrate travel as a concept into my everyday life. By this, I mean that I started looking at EVERY purchase I was making and equating it to a travel expense.
That beautiful dress from Nordstrom is a plane ticket to Austin to see our friends. The dinner out at the Cuban nice place down the street is a Cuban sandwich in ACTUAL Cuba. If I pack my lunch every day for work, in three months, that’s enough cash to snag an overnight horseback riding tour through Glacier Park. The more you start looking at your cash as experiences and not as stuff is when travel becomes tangible.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you it’s easy, it’s not. It’s honestly a giant pain the ass. You really need to sit down and have an honest conversation with yourself. For me, it’s really easy to give up a night out in Boston but that’s not the case for everyone. Sit down and really think about it.
Minimize your stuff, maximize experiences
Look around your home and at all your stuff and mentally go through it all. The more crap you have, the more you have to take care of. I don’t know about you, but every time I move, I end up throwing out tons of stuff. If you don’t use it, wear it, consume it at least once every 30 days, trash it or donate it.
This is especially on my mind lately because my parents and sister are in the process of moving from our childhood home in the Boston area to Sydney, Austrailia. We’ve lived in our house for 21 years. That’s a LOT of stuff to go through. As we’ve all been going through the process of going through our childhood toys, our dvd’s, our furniture, our kitchen tools, we’ve all come to the same realization. We don’t use half of this stuff!
It has taken us MONTHS to go through it all but even just clearing out the house has been such an amazing experience. I actually can see the weight that’s been lifted off my family members’ shoulders and see how much more excited they’ve become for their next chapter and adventure just by throwing things out. Imagine you have to carry everything you own on your back, you’d lighten that load pretty quick. The less stuff you own, the more agile you become.
Skimp on accommodations
Obviously, I don’t mean skimp out completely, ya gotta sleep somewhere and preferably not a park bench, but do it right. If you’re going on a backpacking trip through Europe, you don’t need a nice hotel room. The goal is to get out and see everything you can, you really want to spend money on something fancy or nice only to see it for the 20 minutes before bed?
- Hostel: My favorite way to stay is in a hostel but I totally get not everyone is into that, especially if you’re not a twenty-something. It’s a younger scene and people can be loud but it’s the best way to tap into the traveler network. People are coming and going and happy to talk about their adventures. Pick people’s brains, get some tips, and listen. Most of the time, someone is coming from exactly where you were hoping to go. It’s also perfect for solo travel because you can meet people and grab a meal together or invite others to join you on a tour. It’s also CHEAP and can save you cash money. Some even have breakfast included.
- B&B: You can find them all over sites like HomeAway and AirBnB. A lot of times they’re much more personal so you can still get those sweet travel tips but with that homey cozy vibe that won’t cost you hotel money.
- Hotel: If you are more comfortable in a hotel, go for one in the right area. Don’t go super touristy, that’ll blow your budget immediately but the smallest room that’s maybe a 10 to 15-minute walk to the area you want to explore the most, that’s money in the bank.
- Camp: While that rules out a city, there’s nothing like sleeping under the stars and breathing that fresh air all night. Many campsites have bathrooms, showers, picnic benches, wifi etc. You can still access that traveler network and s’mores, duh.
We’ve stayed in Gers, cabanas, barns, cabins, and countless huts. Unorthodox places to stay and can add a lot of fun!
Travel smart means put in the time and do the research. Research things like where, when, how to get there, how to travel once you are there, etc. As far as timing is concerned, typically, you want to aim for when the peak season starts or ends.
Last year when we went to the Algarve in Portugal. Peak season at the beautiful beaches is end of June to end of August. We went in mid-June which means all the shops were beginning to open up but the area hadn’t been swamped by UK tourists yet. It’s cheaper to fly, cheaper to stay, cheaper to rent a car, you can save a couple hundred bucks by going during these times.
During the off season, you can save even more but this is when the research really comes into play. What’s the point of going to Sweden in the winter if every road is snowed in and you can’t do the exploring you were hoping to? There’s some risk with off season but the savings can be massive.
As far as flying goes, there are so many great ways to save money. Sites like Google Flights, Momondo, Kayak, and apps like Hopper can save you big bucks. If you have flexible dates, even better. These sites can help you find the cheapest time to go and Hopper will even send you an alert for the best time to buy that particular flight you’ve been eyeing. Get familiar with these sites and use your favorites.
This is my number one tip: tell everyone about your travel goals. Tell your sister, tell your aunt, tell your coworkers, tell people you’ve just met, you never know who is going to hook you up and who you’ll be able to help in return. About a month before I was leaving my study abroad in Paris, I was chatting with some friends about how I badly wanted to visit Budapest before I left Europe. In the span of ten minutes, one of my friends revealed that she’d be fantasizing about a trip to Budapest for years and another told me he had a friend (Benny) who had grown up and still lived in Hungary. We booked our trip right then and Benny the Hungarian personally escorted us through the entire city, showing us his favorite places to eat, where he’d gone to school, and what life in Hungary was like. Sometimes, it’s truly as easy as that.
I leave you with this, there is traveling and there are vacations. On a vacation, you splurge. You order that dessert at the nice restaurant, you sleep on a comfy mattress, and pay extra to get the leg room. While that is fantastic, and a wonderful way to see the world, it’s not sustainable and will not permit you to go on trip after trip. Travel is roughing it where you can and calculating the splurges. Skimp on the hotel to splurge on the cave tour, it’s ying and yang. You need to balance your wanderlust with your wallet so that in the end, neither is left short.
What are your travel goals? Share in the comments and maybe you’ll be off and running to your next adventure!