I am confident that a lot of you are curious how I can afford and have the time to travel so often (mind you, I know people who travel literally three times as much as I do). I can’t speak for everyone, but I can definitely tell you some things that have helped me out! At the beginning of this year, I made the official decision that I wanted to explore as many places as I could. One thing that works to my advantage is that I live at home with my parents (don’t judge), so I am able to save a lot of my extra money and use it toward trips and vacations. Below is a list of the top 10 ways of how I afford to travel and am not left in the negatives afterwards. Some of these things are circumstantial and just happen to work for my situation, but you can tailor your needs as you see fit.
1. Before I start with ANYTHING, the most important thing is to set money aside. Why not have a savings account that you can put money in every pay check that is solely dedicated to travel. So instead of dipping into other savings, checking, or other sources of income, you already have a designated pool of money ready for travel expenses. The amount of money in that account determines if you can afford to go where you want or not (however, I am planner, so I pretty much know what trips I’ll take this year).
2. BUDGET! It’s always nice to have a little buffer because you never know what can or will happen. I write out all of my travel expenses before hand so I am not surprised when it’s time for me to pay the bills for that trip. I take into consideration flights, shopping, meals, and transportation. There is nothing worse than going on a trip and you end up spending three times as much as you originally planned. ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN! (Side note – If you know you don’t have the money to take the trip, stay at home. There is nothing worse than going somewhere and you feel like your pinching pennies or asking friends to borrow money. That’s tacky, sorry.)
3. Rewards. I am lucky enough to be a member of a number of reward programs through my job, so I use that to my full advantage. When I say rewards, I am talking points, frequent flier miles, etc. That is how I pay for the majority of my trips, having to spend only a little money out-of-pocket for flights. I have a card which earns miles on dollars spent (Suze Orman says having cards with a yearly fee is a waste of money, so that’s what made me decide on this one). I am considering a Southwest card but I haven’t decided yet. Not a huge fan of having a million credit cards, I’ll keep y’all posted on that. (I suggest doing your research in full before deciding on any credit card, especially one with points).
4. Stay with friends. I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. Staying with friends is more economical than hotels fares. I won’t lie, the last few trips I’ve made I stayed in hotels. BUT, my friends were able to use the perks from their corporate jobs to get us lower rates, which is awesome. Besides that, I rarely stay in hotels.
5. SAVE YOUR PTO (paid time off)! I don’t know how much I can stress this to you. I am extremely stingy when it comes to using my PTO. I would probably come into work with pneumonia than have to take a day of PTO (I am embellishing, but you get the point). Where I am going with this is that I only use my PTO for legit vacation and ‘just in case’ days, because you honestly never know. More than likely you aren’t taking any spur of the moment trips, so why not plan ahead and prepare yourself accordingly? I literally already know how many PTO days I will have left in August so there is no excuse for me not to be prepared.
6. Check flights early and often. I honestly think we will never know when the ‘best’ time is to buy flights, but a good rule of thumb is around six weeks out and on Tuesdays for national flights. I honestly have tested this theory and I really think it depends on when and where you’re traveling because I haven’t noticed a huge price difference between certain days. But, to each is own. Use your best judgement.
7. Don’t be afraid to check prices everywhere. I know some people are loyal to certain airlines, but I am not. Especially since I have points all over the place. I will literally write down every airline and price and compare to see which one is the most affordable. I do love Southwest because you can check your bags for free, however I have found airline prices cheaper elsewhere. Also, there are great deals on your local travel websites, don’t hesitate to use those as well (Priceline, Expedia, Kayak, etc.)!
8. Don’t think you’re too good for the Megabus or Amtrak. Though flying is definitely a faster method, these are way more economical. Also, they don’t charge you an arm and a leg for wanting to change your departure or arrival time, unlike the airlines who want $200 (cough cough, American Airlines). Sometimes, if you book early enough, you can get a round trip ticket for only $2 through Megabus. I like to save money any way I can, so I am all about it. You could even make your excursion into a road trip with friends or family which gives you the opportunity to split costs multiple ways (winning).
9. Local is better. I know when you travel it’s very tempting to want to do the trendy things that the city has to offer. Sometimes, not only is it more economical stopping by the local food trucks and mom and pop places, a lot of the time they taste better and are more fun anyways. I am not a huge touristy type gal when it comes to traveling though. I am very much about doing what the locals do and trying to take a peek into their everyday life.
10. Besides budgeting, the most important thing of all is to have fun and be friendly. You would be shocked by how many free things I’ve been able to do or even get discounted because I had a positive attitude and am not afraid to speak to strangers. People really vibe off positive energy, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. It has worked wonders for me!
I hope these tips help you feel like you can take the trip of your dreams without breaking the bank. I know a lot of people talk to travel agents and might have hook ups at certain places, but I am pretty old fashion. If you have any questions or need help planning your next trip, you can email me or leave your questions in the comments section below.
Happy Money Making Monday!