If you’ve been browsing this website you may be starting wonder, “how can anyone afford to visit all of these wonderful places”, or thinking I must be rich. Well, I’m not rich. Working as a public school teacher in Los Angeles most certainly does not make one rich. I’ve just made travel a priority in my life, so I find ways to fund my wanderlust. Here’s my top 7 tips for making the most of your money and this wonderful world. Please feel free to add your own tips in the comment section at the bottom of this page!
#1 Spend less than you earn. This is really simple, but a lot of Americans do not live within their means and find themselves saddled with credit card and student loan debt. I went to a state university to save money, never buy name brand clothing, don’t indulge in Starbucks or pedicures, and am still driving around my used, busted looking 1997 Honda because it runs fine. If you met me in my daily life you would probably assume I’m quite poor as I pull up in my multi-hued vehicle, wearing my free work t-shirts, and toting my brown bag lunch, but to me these “sacrifices” are worth it to travel.
#2 Squirrel away extra money for travel. I have a separate, high-interest savings account where I’ve been putting my overtime money as well as any gift money for years. I don’t touch this account for anything other than travel. Whenever someone asks me what I want for Christmas or my birthday, I always ask for travel money. Presents are just stuff that ties you down, money allows you to buy experiences that can change your life.
#3 Travel on the cheap. In order to afford our Round the World trip, we had to make a lot of compromises. First we looked at which countries were the cheapest to spend time in. Then we looked at airfares and readjusted our original plan significantly. Lastly, we travel with low standards, living like locals as much as possible in terms of food and transportation. We won’t be staying in any 5 star resorts, or even have rooms with TVs or other modern amenities. We are going to Japan and the Maldives, which are both very expensive, because they are dream destinations for my husband and I, but we still look for bargains while there and will spend less time in these countries than others.
#4 Always shop around. Whether it’s a flight, hotel or cruise, you can save considerably from one booking site to another. Sometimes travel agencies will have access to the best prices, sometimes website will, and sometimes you’ll get the best deal directly from the company. It’s worth getting quotes in writing (email or screen shot of your computer should be fine) because many companies now offer guaranteed lowest rates. Not only will they match any rate you find, they’ll often knock off an additional 5-10%!
#5 Make your daily life work for your travel goals. Whether it’s paying your bills with a credit card that offers frequent flyer miles, signing up for rewards emails/programs, staying loyal to one hotel chain, or accumulating miles/points through business travel, everyone can find some way to help lower their vacation costs without significantly altering their daily life. Once you do this, you’ll be kicking yourself for not starting sooner.
#6 Consider the off-season (carefully). You’ll find drastically lower rates if you avoid traveling during the most popular times, which is different times of the year for different places. Sometimes the off-season is perfectly fine, it’s just a little colder or hotter. Sometimes the off-season means hurricanes, monsoons, or inhumane temperatures. I would not recommend India during monsoon season. But I would not avoid the Caribbean during hurricane season (I would just buy good travel insurance). Consider the trade-offs and whether you can deal with them.
#7 Sell almost all of your belongings. This isn’t practical for most people, I know, but it is helping fund our upcoming trip. You can always start small with a yard sale or a few items on Craigslist. Every little bit will help. If you can’t find buyers for your items, donate them to charity and then claim the tax-deduction. You’ll have to wait until the following April to see that tax deduction become a refund, but it’s better than nothing.
A few more tips from friends and family:
– My mother’s favorite way to save money on her morning cappuccino at home and while traveling is with her Kuissential Electric Milk Frother/Cappuccino Maker (she had several expensive, large, fancy frothing machines before this little guy but they all clogged and broke. this one she uses daily at home and often brings on the road)
– Many of my friends wait for sales and deals to save money on their travel packages. As a teacher, my vacation was always fixed, and often at the most expensive times of the year to travel, but if you have the freedom to be slightly flexible in your dates or locations you can score some amazing deals.
– Organize a group to travel together. Many companies offer discounts to larger groups and some will even allow you to travel for free if you sign up a certain number of other people. This is honestly why a lot of teachers offer group student tours at Spring Break- they want to travel but can’t afford it! Did you think they like hanging out with their students so much they want to vacation with them? Silly you!
– I’ve mentioned this before, but there are books devoted to budget travel that are worth the investment, such as How to Travel the World on $50 a Day
– Economic crises can also make for some great deals, but try to avoid severe political unrest. I was in Mexico when their currency plummeted against the dollar, resulting in everything essentially being 1/2 price!
– Study abroad as a student and travel before, during and after your term. Get an International Student ID card to enjoy great discounts while you travel.
There are a million other small ways to help pay for travel and I’d love to hear your best tips!