You are so lucky! I wish I could afford to travel.
While Andrew and I have been quite fortunate in our careers and our finances, affording travel is often a choice. It does involve some degree of sacrifice and self-discipline, but affording travel is something that nearly anyone with a desire to travel can do.
Yes, it was both easier and faster to save up enough to quit work and travel for 6 months while we were both working as engineers. We have also successfully managed to save up for months of travel while abroad by working as cooks, cleaners, and supermarket cashiers.
So, how do we afford travel and how can you?
Track your Finances
This could be considered basic life advice as well, but if you don’t know where your money is going, it is really hard to know where it shouldn’t be going and identify where you can save.
For at least 1 month, track your finances while not changing your spending. Programs such as Moneydance, Quicken, and Mint.com make it exceptionally easy to import your spending and filter it into categories such as rent, coffee shops, and doctor.
This makes it possible to figure out where you can start saving.
First and foremost, you should rarely be in a situation where you are spending more than you are making.
Do I Really Need this?
This is one of the most useful questions to ask while trying to save money for any large purchase. It helps to cut down on impulse purchases and gives you more money to save.
For example, if you purchase a starbucks coffee 3 times a week, you are spending approximately $15 per week. If you decided to stop drinking the starbucks coffee, you would have an extra $780 per year to spend on travel.
The worst offender, of course, is eating out. On average, it costs around $5 to bring a packed lunch, whereas eating out will run around $15 per day. Assuming most people work 5 day weeks, this works out to around $2600 of savings each year.
These two simple things, packing a lunch and making coffee at home or at the office make it possible to afford to travel somewhere exotic every year.
If, on the other hand, you are the kind of person who doesn’t eat out, drink starbucks, or make other such purchases, identifying areas of savings can be more difficult.
Begin by looking at clothes, shoes, and material items. Do you really need everything in your house? It might have brought you pleasure to make the purchase, but is it still fulfilling that goal. Selling unnecessary items online through etsy, ebay, or online garage sales can clear your house of unnecessary clutter and help to fund your journey.
Any amount of savings can help towards your travel plans, even if it is only $5-$10 per month. It adds up!
Making More Money
Once you have tracked your finances and created a realistic budget that includes travel savings, it can be good to look at more creative ways to finance your trip. While most people baulk at the idea of having more than one job, a second job needn’t be a chore or take excessive amounts of time. The advantage is that all funds from the second job can be put towards travel!
Some ideas for flexible second jobs include:
- Selling crafts at local markets (jewellery, knitting, painting, etc.)
- Offering repair services for jewellery
- Set up a shop outside a college or university and offer hemming/basic sewing services
- Website and app design
- Tutoring or childcare
Choosing Where to Go
If you have a specific destination in mind, then skip to the next section. You will likely already have an idea of what you would like to do and what your budget is.
If, on the other hand, you simply want to travel anywhere, then read on! Where you travel and when can make a huge difference in the price of your trip. Travelling to less tourist-driven areas or in off seasons can mean savings of thousands of dollars, making more frequent travel a possibility.
Some ideas of less expensive options include:
Compare your local currency with currencies abroad prior to travelling. If your dollar exchanges 20:1 as opposed to 1.2:1, then chances are you will have more buying power while spending less.
Choosing when to travel is almost as important. For example, shifting a vacation by 7 days at Disney can mean the difference between paying peak and off-peak prices, resulting in savings of up to $100/night for the same room. Avoid school holidays, Easter, Christmas, and other popular vacation times if at all possible.
Finding Travel Deals
Ah, the all elusive travel deal. Travel deals are more useful the more flexible you can be with your travel, but they can make it a lot easier to afford travel. While other people might pay $4000 for a cruise, by booking at the right time through the right websites, you might only pay $400. Same goes for flights.
So where do you find travel deals?
- Sherman’s Travel
These are the two best websites that I have found for outright travel deals. It can also be useful to search for things like Groupon, Grabone, and other local discount sites at your destination to try to nab discounted hotel nights and activity vouchers.
What about the all elusive airmiles and travel points for free flights? While these do work, they are more useful programs for people who travel a lot.
That being said though, pick one airline and stick with it. Pick up the credit card for that airline (just remember to pay it off every month!) and rack up the points. Some credit cards also offer bonus incentives that allow you to earn a free flight for signing up and spending a certain amount in the first few months.
If you happen to live in the United States of America, look for these more as you are not penalised for signing up for credit cards and cancelling them in your credit score. There are a lot more deals too.
Saving Money While Abroad
Saving money while you are travelling is also a good way to afford travel. Even while travelling in more expensive locations such as Germany, Britain, Canada, and Japan, there are some simple things that you can do to cut down on your expenses and still enjoy your trip.
Eat local. If at all possible stop by the local supermarket and pick up an assortment of snacks, lunch meats, milk, and cereal. Preparing even 2 our of 3 meals in your room will cut down substantially on your food spending while abroad.
Eat early. Many restaurants have smaller and cheaper lunch menus with similar portions to their dinner menu. It is also more likely to find 2 for 1 deals and such around lunch time than at dinner time. If you can, research ahead of time, but otherwise, just ask to see the menu.
Choose your accommodation wisely. If there is a campground with rooms, they are likely cheaper than a local hotel. If there is a local hotel, it is likely cheaper than the big-name hotel, even for the same quality. Many hostels also offer private, semi-private, and family rooms that are significantly cheaper than hotel prices. This will give you more money to splurge on a few nights at a very nice hotel or to try out that skydiving lesson.
If you want more tips on how to save or specific tips suited to you, please feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or to check out my travel consultations!