For those of you who neglect your itch to travel due to the cost, let me give you some much needed advice: where there is the internet there is a way. I am a firm believer in the fact that our technological advancement has made traveling on a budget a lot easier for us travel junkies. You can find package deals on a plethora of websites (Groupon, Living Social, Bookit, etc) and fancy flight subscriptions deliver the latest flight deals to your inbox on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis (theflightdeal is my personal favorite). The choice is up to you.
As a frequent traveler, I always get asked "how", so here is how I do it!
- Make the commitment: If you don't commit 1000% to traveling then you will never do it. This means cutting back on unnecessary expenses (like that fancy pair of shoes, eating out all the time, or that Starbucks latte everyday (I'm guilty on this one)). Maybe take that part-time job you were thinking about, start a car pool to work, or sell some of the things you don't use. These are just a few of the many ways you can save some cash. Make a detailed list of all of your weekly expenses (big and small). You will be surprised at what you choose to spend money on. I found that I was spending roughly $25 a week on coffee at work which totaled to whooping $1200 a year. That could have been trip money honey. Find the things you can cut out and save that money. Plenty of folks have even downgraded their cable tv package to "internet only" to save money for a few months. Saving takes time for many of us. And that is OK, just commit to it!
- Budget: Set-up a new and realistic "travel budget" and stick to it. Make sure to tell all of your enabling friends and family so you don't get the side eye when you turn down multiple happy hour invites.
- Keep your time off flexible: This is the hardest thing to do. Everyone has multiple obligations (work, family, dog, etc). But deciding to travel when the opportunity arises is the best way to find a deal as flight deals operate on a random basis. I am fortunate enough to have a flexible work schedule but as an alternative you can also reserve a specific travel time with your employer way in advance (at least 3-6 months). Then take 10-15 min out of your day each week to search for deals during that specified time online. The best time to search is on a Tuesday after 3 pm. The best deals will be found 1-6 weeks before your specific time off. Since you planned to travel you will already have saved a certain amount to cover the flight and accommodations. This option is more spontaneous but the savings are well worth it. For example, I knew I wanted to travel for a week in December (this was in July) so I requested a random week off before Christmas time. Around Halloween, I found a flight deal to Barbados and just booked it. Spontaneous yes, but that is how I save on my trips.
- Use that rewards credit card for everything, and I mean everything humanly possible. I love this reward/point credit system we have going on these days. It is a simple way to rack up travel points on things you already purchase everyday. My debit card collects dust.
- Lower your standards: This one may not apply to everyone but it is something that really helped me to travel more often. There is nothing wrong with wanting a 5 star resort or hotel. Just be aware that you will have to factor that into your budget. I always want to be on the go when I travel so my accommodations are the most irrelevant part of my trip. I look for the cheapest most basic places to stay. Period. It frees up money for other things like excursions or adds to savings for another short trip. All I need is a safe place for belongings, a bed, and a functioning bathroom. Continental breakfast is a much welcomed plus as you save on eating expenses. The best way to save on more upscale accommodations is to split the cost among travel companions. I travel solo often so hostels really come in handy for me. I get to stay in a decent inexpensive place and meet interesting people to split things with a long the way. I have shared some of the most elegant dinners in the company of other solo travelers such as myself.