Raise your hand if you love to travel! I have to say that traveling is my #1 favorite thing to do with my money because I feel that experiences will last so much longer than that $1000 Louis Vuitton purse or $300 Jordan’s you’ve been eyeing. Many people assume I make the big bucks or just charge a lot on my card in order to travel like I do, but I actually take the time to budget my trips, plan strategically, and stay the course in order to make our travel dreams come true. 99% of the time I pay for my trip in cash or pay it back on my card within a week (I use my Discover card sometimes to get that wonderful cashback and just pay it off).
If you’re reading this after I post it, you’re catching me about a week out from a Disney Trip I started planning sometime last year. I’ve saved so much money but yet managed to travel at a great time of year—so how did I do it? I’ll share the details of that specific trip in a few weeks with some fantastic pictures and all about how I did it!
Not sure how to get started? Scared to travel alone? Now this blog is not exclusively a travel blog, but my friend Courtney definitely has some more information about seeing the world on her blog Thirty30Courtney. I’ve got some amateur advice for you so scroll down to see how I save money and plan a badass vacation…
How do I Save?—Apps, Points, and More
Saving money is always a tough thing but the good thing is that we live in the age of technology! We have tools available to us that can make saving so much easier. One that I have personally been using is Digit which is a great tool to take small amount of money out of your account without you even noticing. You can adjust how aggressive you want it to save for you and even put in specific goals and deadlines you have to save for!
I also love to use hotel and airline points. My advice: find one or two of each and stick to it. My preferred partners are Hilton, Delta and Southwest (No thanks United!) because they all give decent rewards and a decent amount availability. If you use Hilton be sure to sign up for all of the double and triple opportunities with them! You tend to get treated even better when you are a part of these hotel programs as you start to accrue points. Half of our one week stay in Disney/Universal Studios was paid for because of points!
I also love using travel agents if you need some time to pay things off. My favorite one is Dream Vacations. You get plenty of time to pay off your cruises or other vacations through them which makes it kind of like a short term bill in my opinion. I usually put down a couple hundred a month which makes $1000 looks much better than having to pay it all at once.
AirBnB is also a great option! I have only used it a couple of times but the experience has been great. I know this is a big one for people who are traveling in Europe. I’ve seen rooms for like $20 a night and no, it didn’t look like a creepy dank room where you’ll wake up with someone standing over your bed braiding your hair. Just be sure to look at reviews and ask about any hidden clean up costs or deposits that might cause your price to go up.
The 3 D’s–Destination, Determination, Deliberation
Why yes, that is a Harry Potter reference but also a motto to live by when it comes traveling the world. Determining the destination can be difficult but only if you’re really picky about what time of year to travel. We don’t have kids so we don’t normally have to travel when they are on break, so we pick times of the year where we know that they will be in school to avoid crowds. Also, it’s a very good idea to check out if there are any national holidays at that time if you’re traveling abroad as this can spike prices as well. We usually travel in April/May (be careful with Easter falling late and Memorial Day!) and September/October (Labor Day can be tough but most of the other time you’ll be good). We like warm weather vacations and those times of year allow us to escape a lot of crowds and high costs. You don’t have spring or summer break any more so think outside of the box when it comes to when you are going to travel.
Determination is important because, honey, it’s going to take some to save up for this! Depending on what type of trip you’re trying to plan you may have to cut down on some spending to make it work. No more sushi dates and movies on weekend evenings if you want to save up! But there are always alternatives especially if your partner is on board with all of this. Rent movies from Redbox (make sure to return them the next day please!), find Groupons to save money and try new places, or even find a recipe to make together to make up for that date night that you guys used to have and grab a bottle of wine. That old $60 date can turn into a $20 date pretty easily and without much sacrifice if you are determined to see the world.
Deliberation usually occurs if you’re not traveling alone. Sometimes it’s really hard to figure out where you want to go! There are so many amazing places in the world and if you’re like me, you want to see as many of them in this lifetime as possible. I suggest using things like Kayak’s Explore function and put the length of your trip, home airport, and price range in to give you some unique ideas on where you can go. I also like to do a lot of research on travel blogs. Minus the one I mentioned earlier, you may want to check out travel posts from LiveLifeWell as she does many trips with couples, girlfriends, and family.
The People You Bring Will Make or Break Your Trip
I cannot emphasize this enough. Just because you’re BFFs at work or regularly doesn’t mean that you travel well together. I have traveled with groups I knew like the back of my hand (or at least thought I did) and groups that I barely knew (that I came to love and cherish) so here’s my advice: go with people who have similar styles as you. For example, I take about 20-30 minutes MAX to get ready (mainly because of my amazingly low maintenance hair), so I have a hard time traveling with people who take more than an hour to get ready (I can handle it if we’re going to a nice dinner but to go to the beach???). I feel antsy, annoyed, and quite frankly like I am wasting my time. I also don’t do well with SUPER cheap people. I may be money conscious about saving to take the trip but I also try to keep a sizable amount of money to enjoy myself when I get there. What’s the point of going somewhere where I have to sacrifice learning and experiencing the culture because I’m too cheap to pay more than $5 for lunch? For some of my friends, that’s not important, but I love to eat and drink, so I am going to save my money for those experiences when I travel. Roll with people who are willing to spend what you’re willing to spend.
Splitting the bill also may be something you have to consider when you’re traveling with others. Set up accounts with Venmo or check what bank they have so you can send money quickly to each other when you have that illustrious Wifi connection. Also make sure you don’t jampack your days so that you don’t come back more exhausted than you are when you left for your trip. We like to take naps on vacation and have days where we just kind of chill, so if that’s you, make sure you’re vocal with your travel partners.
Back in my first post I tried to explain that being “fit” isn’t all about being physically fit. I hope that after this post you realize that being culturally fit—seeing and traveling the world and exploring new cultures—is not as difficult to attain as maybe it was 20-30 years ago. Your journey to being culturally fit starts by taking a chance and trying to see what you need to do to make it happen because, my friend…it is very possible.
I am hoping to see as many cultures, countries, and people in this world as I possibly can, are you? How do you find ways to save money when traveling? Where are some places you’re hoping to go this year? Where would you suggest?