How can you afford to travel?

This has to be the top question I get from everyone asking me about traveling.  Let me start by saying: I hate this question, for a few reasons.

  1. I prefer not to discuss my finances, in any way, with anyone.  This question inadvertently pries into my current financial situation, which I am not comfortable discussing.
  2. It’s presumptuous.  First, it presumes that traveling is only for the wealthy elite, when in fact, travel is affordable for most people.  Second, it insinuates that not only do I not really know how to manage my money but that the asker does not either.
  3. Finally, it’s limiting.  Traveling is not limited to flying around the globe, eating unknown foods, and experiencing wild adventures.  Traveling is driving one hour west to a new hiking spot, exploring that city two hours away that you’ve always wanted to see, or simply trying out that new Peruvian restaurant in town you’ve heard rave reviews about.  Traveling, is by definition, broad.

But alas, this question is still here, lingering.  So let’s get to it.  Keep in mind, this answer is different for all travelers, although you can definitely find some common themes, tips, and tricks.

  1. I work.  A lot.  And hard.  I have a full time job in Marketing that requires my full day to day attention.  We run a lot of events and work a lot of trade shows that often require my time outside of your typical 9-5.  While my travels may look glamorous, my job is often not.  I can give you all the tips, tricks, hacks, and deals in the world, but at the end of the day, you still need your base income, no matter how you achieve that.
  2. I work some more.  I am constantly on the hunt for odd jobs that can earn me some extra cash.  Companies are always looking for event help or brand ambassadors.  This is simple, easy work that is flexible.  There are tons of freelance job boards out there.  Check them out, you’d be surprised by how much extra money you can make!
  3. I live simply.  I don’t own the newest gadgets or the trendiest clothes.  For the fourth year in a row, I superglued my winter boots together.  One more winter, I tell myself, every year.  I don’t cook gourmet meals, either.  It’s usually a simple chicken dish or a classic Kraft Mac n cheese dinner.  That’s not to say I don’t have my indulgences (hello, wine!) but my day to day life at home looks pretty simple.
  4. I have a quiet social life.  I have been blessed with friends who are as lazy and as quiet as I am.  We all save a lot of money by hanging out in our sweatpants and drinking cheap wine on the weekends.
  5. I know where and how to book for the best deals.  Along this blog journey I’ll be sharing some of my favorite sites for deals on traveling.  I’ll also share my experiences with them.  Bottom line, there are tons of deals out there, whether it be from travel sites or from the countries themselves that are struggling economically and need to bring in tourism revenue (looking at you, Greece and Brazil).  Being smart and vigilant will save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
  6. Be flexible.  I know this can be hard sometimes, but it can save you a lot of money in the long run.  Create a bucket list of your top destinations.  Keep all of them on the table when booking a trip and play around with different destinations.  Be flexible with your dates, too.  For the love of God, do not travel during the summer season.  You’ll spend more and get a less genuine experience since you’ll be sharing your time with more tourists than locals.
  7. Hit a lot of places at once.  This is especially true if you’re in Europe.  Getting there is most often the most expensive part of a trip.  Once you’re there, it is easy to move from place to place with relatively little money.  This winter, I spent 17 days in Eastern Europe and was able to cover 5 countries with ease.
  8. Be okay with okay accommodations.  I don’t stay in 5 star hotels when I travel or eat at the most expensive restaurants.  Often, I’m staying in the best value (if it’s clean, it works for me!) hotels and avoiding anything that looks fancy.  Utilize hostels and free breakfast.  You’re traveling to experience what’s outside, not what your hotel room looks like.
  9. Take advantage of business trips.  I travel frequently for business; it’s taken me all over the world.  Often, I’ll add an extra day to a business trip for the sole purpose of exploring.  I pay for the extra hotel night, meals, etc and count the day towards my vacation days.  Your costs there and back are already covered, so why not take advantage of the location?  Plus, more often than not, you can add your personal airfare mileage accounts to the flights, meaning you get the miles on your boss’ dime.  Win, win.
  10. Make travel a priority.  This is perhaps the most important piece of this whole puzzle.  I have built my life around traveling.  Everything I do, every decision I make is centered around my next trips.  It is important to me, so I make it happen, no excuses.

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