I can't afford to travel right now....
It's a response I have said many times, and have heard many other people say countless times. Traveling the country, or the world is financially daunting. Thinking about all of the things you want to do, getting to the destination, the food & accommodation, and most importantly booze prices all weigh into making traveling seem like a financially scary thing to attempt. Factor in lost luggage, delays, theft, and time not spent at work, it seems even more impossible.
Traveling can be expensive, no doubt, but it can also be pretty inexpensive too. There's a lot of factors that go into calculating how much a vacation away from normal life can cost. My purpose in this article is to try to teach some ways to mitigate these expenses and travel in a more financially savvy way.
There is no exact science or perfect way behind making traveling cheap. Every person is different, and is in a different circumstance in life. Some people like to travel more luxuriously, some don't care. Some people have a family to bring with, others go solo. These tips I provide won't work for everyone, but I have found them to work well for myself.
My current life situation provides me with a pretty decent opportunity to travel cheaply and often. Being a self-induced bachelor (for the most part) and having no girlfriend to drain my extra income, helps me save a lot of money (just kidding, or am I?). Working in a field with plenty of opportunities for overtime, and having little debt (aside a car loan) all contribute to my ease of travel. I have no stubbornness about working overtime shifts, or working a second job to contribute to traveling funds, or other things. At least most of the time anyways. I don't make a ton of money, but I am smart about how I save this extra overtime income. This brings up the first strategy of affording traveling...
A second part-time job and or overtime shifts
In today's society it is not a uncommon thing for people to work a secondary part-time job. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Most of my post collegiate life I have worked two jobs. Whether it be to support yourself and your family, or provide extra money for some of the more fun things in life, it should be taken in as a option to increase your ability to travel.
The key to having a part-time job to provide additional income would be doing your best to make it work with your schedule, and be able to accommodate traveling while still working at this job. It make take a bit of planning, but it should be doable. If worse comes to worse, you can always quit when you reach your necessary financial goals for savings. Try to avoid making that a habit though!
The other option is to pick up extra shifts at your main job. I know right away people are going to jump on this option and say that the government taxes the hell out of your overtime pay. The plus side to this is that it ends up getting returned to you at the end of the year when taxes are done. (At least for those reading this from the United States) I have been known to pick up lots of extra shifts and work 16 hour days at my various workplaces whenever I have had the motivation to save money for traveling.
One thing to remember when utilizing these two strategies to save extra money, do your best to make sure this extra income goes into a savings account or checking account you use seldom. If this money goes into your regular account you use frequently, you will likely spend it. I know I have the bad habit of finding ridiculous ways to spend extra money in my checking account when it is available, and many others do to.
One new addition to this article that I have recently started doing as of spring of 2017 is using the website Rover. Rover is a website/app that allows people with animals to find others to take care of them while they may go on a trip, hospital visit, or are at work. It's a great experience so far for me, and its a FUN way to earn a little extra income. It doesn't get much more fun than hanging out with animals for money! Check out their website by clicking here. This is a great way to gain some extra income and focus it on your future travels!
I only ask for one favor if you decide to check out Rover. Please use me as a referral :). I don't make anything from this website, and this would be a great way to say thanks for the tips. To sign up for Rover click here.
Put extra money aside every pay check
This option is probably the easiest to follow through with on this article. This is also another strategy I have used to fund my travels. This one doesn't require too much explaining. I am going to use a example of simple math to drive home my point on this one, despite my horrible ability to do math.
52 weeks in a year
26 pay periods in a year (if you are paid biweekly)
26*(x) = ?
x represents the amount of money you set aside in savings for travel each pay period.
26*$50.00 = $1,300
Even if you were just to set aside just $50.00 every 2 week pay period, you would wind up with $1,300 a year for travel savings. That alone can get you a ticket to many places in the world! Say you double that amount by $100.00, then you're looking at $2,600. I could make $2,600 go a long ways travel wise!
There is not much more explaining necessary in this strategy, so I will conclude for this one. Plus, just having to do the simple math above gives me nightmares.
No interest and reward credit cards
I can almost feel the nervousness felt by people when I mention this option of affording travel. I will admit that this one requires some responsibility and good money management skills. Before you are quick to judge this strategy, hear me out. I have used this strategy to fund many of my travels, and have opened multiple credit cards.
Many credit card companies nowadays are offering 0% APR for 12 months all the way to 21 months now. You can fund a trip for no interest with this strategy, and pay it off in the time leading up to the trip, or after the trip as well.
These cards often offer many benefits as well. Some of these benefits are:
Bonus points or money for spending a certain amount of money within a specified time frame on the card.
No foreign transaction fee (debit cards and credit cards often charge up to 3% on foreign transactions)
Travel Insurance (the vacation itself, rental vehicles, stolen items)
and more (every card and card company has various offers)
For this strategy, I can't stress enough, that you need to be financially responsible and make your payments when they are due. If you don't, you may lose your 0% APR promotion, receive penalty fees, or worse!
If you think you are capable of making your payments on time, and slowly chipping away at the travel debt you have accumulated on the card, this may be a great option for you. Just make sure to finish paying off the debt by the time the 0% APR promotion ends so you don't get hit by high interest rates.
One other big bonus to this strategy is that it will also help you with building responsible credit history, and boost your credit score. I partially thank this strategy for my 813 credit score!
My current card I have been using for 2017 for bonuses is the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. So far it has worked out pretty well, and it's a pretty heavy credit card, which is kind of cool in it's own aspect. It definitely stands out compared to other credit cards.
The awesome part about this card is you essentially get $600 dollars back in rewards if you spend $4,000 in your first three months. I would recommend getting this card when you know you'll be spending a lot of money. On top of that, you get an additional 25% if you use Chase's travel program to book. So that's $625 you have that can be contributed to a airline flight/hotel/other travel expense! In addition, it also has no foreign transaction fees. There are more benefits to this card, but check it out at Chase's website for more information.
Again, if you would like to sign up for this card, please send me a message or email through this webpage and I can give you a referral email. Its another way to say thanks for these helpful tips! I believe you get an additional 10,000 bonus points for that kind of sign up as well.
I have also been enlightened on some great resources through U.S. News & World Report that can break down credit card rewards and finding the right credit card for your needs. There is a lot of great information that can be used for first time credit card inquires or seasoned credit card holders.
Check out the article for more information, it definitely has helped on my knowledge on the subject by reading through their articles. Click here to go to the article focusing on travel rewards cards.
For more of a general hub for travel credit card information click here.
Their website is a great source of more detailed information on credit cards than I could ever provide. I'm not an expert on the subject! It even has a good break down of some of the better travel reward credit cards out on the market right now.
Another strategy I utilize when I go abroad. Just because you are on vacation doesn't mean you have to drop your money saving habits you utilize already in your every day life. There are many ways you can travel, and be money efficient through strategies you use all the time.
So here are some of my ways to travel in a more frugal manner.
Hostels over hotels
Couchsurfing (Amazing website and culture I discovered while in Istanbul and its typically "free"!)
Group traveling (bring some friends along)
Buy your meals in grocery stores and cook them at the hostel kitchen or at your Couchsurfing host's house.
Avoid buying useless items at a gift shop (Do you really need a generic sweatshirt saying "Florida" or "London" with some iconic image in the background? These things just end up in a closet somewhere eventually and weigh you down on your travels.)
Buy alcohol in the airport to avoid high taxes, or buy at a liquor store and go back to your college days and "pregame" before going out for the night.
There are more strategies than these, but these are some of the biggest ones I utilize. Some of these can cut costs SUBSTANTIALLY. Hostels and Couchsurfing will also increase your chances of finding like minded travelers and locals. Locals can provide you with a plethora of beneficial area about your travel destination and what are some of the better things to do, and inform you about "hidden gems".
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, not all of these strategies will work for everybody. You have to figure out what ones work best for you and your circumstances in order to utilize these effectively.
So in review, my most commonly used strategies to afford traveling, whether it be abroad or within the United States.
-A second part-time job/
-Putting extra money aside in savings specifically for travel.
-0% APR credit cards
Take these strategies for what they are worth. They won't all be applicable to you, and they may not be feasible. Do your best to tailor them to your needs and make them work for you as much as you can. The end goal is worth it. I rarely ever hear anyone say that they regretted their 2 week vacation to (destination).
You will notice I made no mention of having the responsibility of children in this article. This was done deliberately as I have no experience on the subject! Maybe someone with experience in this field can provide me with some advice on traveling when you have children.