What is the secret to affordable travel?
This is probably one of the top three questions readers send me, along with…how do you eat cupcakes and not weigh 300 pounds? and I’m visiting (fill in the name of the city), what should I do? So I thought it was time to put all my thoughts together and share my tips and secrets to affordable travel.
I’ve divided the tips into two groups…(1) increasing the amount of money you have to travel; (2) decreasing the amount of money you spend when you travel. This is what has worked for me…even during seasons of my life where I was living paycheck to paycheck. Some of these tips won’t work for you, and that’s okay! Choose what will work for YOU. If you have any other tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments below, and if you use any of these tips, I’d love to hear your travel story! And feel free to let me know if you have any other questions you want me to answer!!
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Affordable Travel: More Money = More Travel
Save, Save, Save
I set aside money each month in my budget (and just like Dave Ramsey says, I name every dollar!) for travel. Different seasons have meant I was able to save different amounts of money each month, but I always make saving a priority in my budget. Saving money each month allows me to break up the cost of a trip over several months. It has also allowed me to take bigger trips, as I save up over a longer period of time.
The reality is that most people probably can’t change the amount of money in their take home pay each month so they are a bit limited in setting monthly savings goals. And that is where this next tip comes in for affordable travel. I hustle to increase my monthly income. And let me tell y’all, I hustle big because I don’t want money to be what stops me from traveling! Here’s a look at some of things I am currently doing, or have done, to increase my monthly income…
•Proctor SAT/ACT tests – It’s easy to give up a Saturday morning to proctor a test when you think about the time you’ll be able to spend taking a trip with the money!
•Babysitting – I have babysat more hours than I can even count in my lifetime! I started at 12 and used that babysitting money for a trip to the East Coast in 8th grade. I babysat all through high school for a three-week trip to Spain. And I have babysat as an adult for extra money.
•Thirty-One Gifts – I have spent nearly 10 years as a consultant for Thirty-One selling travel bags, accessories, and other great home products. For me, it has been a great way to earn some extra money while using a product I truly love.
•Hosting on Airbnb – Opening my home to other travelers looking for affordable travel has provided me with money to do traveling of my own. If you’re thinking about becoming a host, here are my thoughts on being the best host possible.
•Blogging – This blog is also a source of income and if you’re willing to invest time into a blog (lots of time!) it could also be a good way to make some extra money.
I carefully choose my credit cards and checking/savings accounts and typically only use cards/accounts that offer me points or cash back. I then turn these points into cash for my travels.
***Note: If you feel like credit cards cause you to overspend and go over your budget, then this is not a good strategy for you! This works for me because in over 15 years of having credit cards I’ve never paid a late fee and I have paid my credit card balance in full every single month. So I’m actually coming out ahead by using the points. But the points aren’t worth it if you’re spending money you don’t have just to earn points!
Holiday Wish List
I often ask for money and things I need for travel for Christmas and birthdays since I don’t need a lot of physical things. This is a great way to add to your travel budget!
Make Difficult Choices
Travel is really important to me. So I’m willing to skip the line at Starbucks and wait for the movie to come out on Redbox to save money. I regularly look through my budget line by line and decide if each item is something I really need or if I could instead put some of that money towards travel. For me, experiencing a new city is more important than a new outfit, so I’m willing to have a relatively small clothes budget in favor of a much larger travel budget.
Affordable Travel: Cut Spending = More Travel
Flexible travel dates? Travel during shoulder season (the time right before and after high tourist season at a particular destination) to save money on your trip. This year I’m heading to Europe and I’m leaving at the end of May…before summer tourist season really begins. And this helped me save a lot of money on my plane ticket! If you have your heart set on a particular destination see if you can go just before, or after, it gets busy.
Follow the Deals
Sometimes this tip is really hard for me follow, but I have found I can travel more if I don’t have my heart set on particular places. If the goal is just to travel then I watch for deals and when I see a good one I snatch it up and make that my next trip! I use both Scott’s Cheap Flights and Dollar Flight Club, and I have Google Flight alerts set so I can be on the lookout for great flight deals. When I see a great deal I make that my next destination instead of spending whatever it takes to get to a particular place.
One great way to head out on affordable travel is to skip the hotels and book on a homesharing site like Airbnb. If you decide to book an Airbnb be sure to read these tips on how to be a great guest! A site like Airbnb allows you to save on your nightly rate compared to a hotel. You can also save on food by eating some meals in your home rental instead of eating out every meal.
For almost any destination you can head to Pinterest and type in “Free things to do in (your destination)” and you’ll find some great suggestions! From free walking tours (like these walking tours in Paris) to free museum days to free local attractions, you’ll find a surprising number of things to do for free. And when you can explore for free, that translates to affordable travel.
Check out sites like LivingSocial and Groupon for deals in your destination city. One benefit of these sites is that you’ll save money. Additionally, you’ll probably find a few things to do that you wouldn’t have found otherwise.
Make Difficult Choices
It’s as important to make difficult choices while on your trip as it is while saving for your trip. Personally, I limit alcohol when I travel because it’s just not a cost I want to incur while I travel. I’d rather extend my trip by a day or two then drink while I’m there. I’ll also look for lunch deals at restaurants I really want to try and then just have a light dinner. When I travel I set a daily budget and then decide what’s most important for me each day.
For me, I have had the best experience being a loyal customer. For example, choosing one airline allows me to earn more free miles.
Hit the Ground
Save on transportation by walking around your destination or taking public transportation. Not only is walking a great way to explore a new city, but it’s cheaper than a taxi! Another way to hit the ground is to skip air travel and road trip for your next trip. A road trip is often less about the destination and more about the journey. So this is a great way to travel for less money!
If you have any other affordable travel tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments below! If you use any of these tips, I’d love to hear your travel story! And again, feel free to let me know if you have any other questions you want me to answer!!
p.s. You might be interested in my Top Ten Reasons to Try Airbnb and My 2019 Travel Plans
p.p.s. Also check out How I Afford to Travel Frequently and How to Find Cheap Flights