I want to get real about saving money to travel. People ask me all the time how I make my trips happen, considering I’m young and just starting out in my career. No, I don’t have my parents paying for it, nor do I make a butt load of money. I’m simply smart with my money, hard-working, and passionate about getting where I want to go. In 2017, I’ll have traveled to 6 new countries, explored multiple U.S. cities, and made it back to South Africa twice (because I’m pretty obsessed with Cape Town)!
So, let me tell you how I do it.
1. Living at Home
If you can, spend a year or two living at home. When a lot of young adults get their first real job they are quick to move out into their own place. I very well could have done that, but I had my eye on something else – traveling. I knew I couldn’t afford to see all the places I wanted to if I was paying a hefty monthly rent. Although I still contribute financially to live at home, it beats having to pay the high rent rates in the area I live. On top of that, I’ve now saved and planned my finances so that in 2018 I can move out and still travel. Have some patience my friends, and don’t rush out to get your own place.
2. Saving Money the Right Way
I check on my bank accounts almost every single day. I watch my money like a hawk and make sure I’m not slipping anywhere, especially when I’m close to going on a trip. Paying attention to your money is key – and easy!
That’s the simplest step. The next step is finding where you can cut down on your costs. With food, I still act as if I’m living at university. I only buy what’s necessary at the grocery store, I always pack my lunch for work, and I rarely eat out. Since I prefer the experience of traveling over going out to bars, I’m very careful with what I spend on going out with friends. If you enjoy going out, make sure you balance that with what your travel goal is. The same goes for shopping. I’m admittedly addicted to shopping, but I love to travel more. I limit myself to seasonal shopping trips and the occasional “treat yo self” days. And even when I’m shopping, I give myself a budget.
If you do have rent and/or monthly bills to pay, it’s all a matter of balance and timing. Know when your bills are going to hit and plan out what you have to pay out vs. what you can save. If you want to travel, you must actively and continually save. There’s no way around it. Whether it’s $5 or $200, keep putting it away. It’s also helpful to have a travel saving fund separate from your regular savings and emergency money. That way, you don’t dip into your travel savings if your car breaks down or you need a new washing machine.
3. Taking on a Second Job
When I was in college I worked at least two jobs, sometimes three all at once, knowing that the goal was to travel. During the first year of my career, I was still babysitting. Sometimes, I babysat for an entire weekend. Then, this past year, I started working in sales on some weekends for a family friend’s business. Having extra income like this is exponentially helpful.
Not everyone can take this on. Sometimes I couldn’t, but I made the decision that when I could take on the extra work, I would. The extra income from my side jobs has literally paid for my plane tickets and Airbnbs. It’s definitely something worth doing, and even when you’re tired and just want a weekend to relax, remember that an even more relaxing and revitalizing trip will come out of putting in the extra work.
4. Gathering Miles and Points
Signing up for credit card points and miles, as well as airline miles is always helpful, but don’t rely on it too much. I personally don’t use my credit card that often, so I don’t get a huge return on points, but after spending a good amount on travel purchases with my Capital One Venture card throughout the year, those points helped pay for some of a recent plane ticket purchase I made. If you are loyal to an airline, or just happen to be a frequent flyer, definitely sign up for their reward miles. Miles and points are great for helping lower the cost every once and while, but be aware that they rarely cover entire costs of plane tickets or travel purchases. Here, you basically have to spend to save, but if you do your research, you’ll definitely find cards and programs that will work in your favor.
5. Utilizing Travel Apps
You ultimately have to do a lot of research to plan a cost-effective trip, and there are plenty of apps to help. Here are the three I live by when planning my adventures – Hopper, Hitlist, and Groupon. Hopper is one of the best flight watching apps (but others like Kayak work great, too!), Hitlist provides you with the best flight and travel deals from weekend getaways to extravagant adventures, and Groupon has the best all-inclusive deals. It doesn’t hurt to try out different apps and use a variety of flight-watching ones to find the best deals.
6. Spending Less, Spending More
Unfortunately, traveling can end up being expensive no matter where you go. You should decide on what you’re willing to spend less on and what you’re willing to spend more on. If there’s no way around an expensive flight, be willing to lay down the money for that, but then budget yourself on things like accommodation, eating out, and paying for tour guides. If you can find cheap flights, then plan to make the most of the experience by getting the luxury hotel or trying the nicer restaurants. Do your research on what will give you the best experience while you’re there and budget yourself around that.
Traveling like I do takes planning, research, dedication, and strategic saving. It’s not always easy, but these are realistic, effective ways to do it. Focus on where you want to go and be willing to work hard towards getting there.