I’m often asked, “how do you afford to travel?” I know there is no malintent, but when someone you don’t know from the internet is questioning your pockets, it becomes offensive. But I get it. People often equate constant travel to a certain tax bracket. The truth is, you need money to travel. You need money to do anything. Traveling is a priority, so I make sure it’s reflected in where I allocate my spending.
Here are my top 10 tips for making travel affordable:
- Don’t have a specific destination. It sounds insane, I know. When people ask me where next, the answer is more than likely, “I don’t know, but I’ll be gone in a few weeks.” I always get crazy looks, understandably. But I do this with a purpose. I allow the prices of the flight to dictate where I go.
- Purchase tickets/travel expenses on a credit card that gives you cashback. Typically, you can choose to set a higher percentage rate of cashback earned in a specific category. Of course, pay the card right away. Travel should not end up costing you more than the initial swipe. I do not recommend putting trips on credit if you can’t afford to pay your bill before the due date.
- Be flexible: don’t have specific dates. Allow ticket prices to determine when you travel. If you have an event that you need to attend, center your travels around that date but do not have a set window unless you’re willing to pay the price. Ticket prices vary, sometimes significantly, day by day.
- Begin every travel search with Skyscanner. This website/app gives you an idea of cost dependent on dates and locations. It’s one of few that allows you to search “everywhere” for flights. (For example, your search could look like the following: From JFK to Everywhere.) It has absolutely no limitations. You’re even able to search by the cheapest time of year. From that point, you can move on to different airline/flight websites.
- Don’t stay at all-inclusive resorts! (One of my biggest travel pet peeves.) I do not enjoy being surrounded by tourists. I would rather fully emerge in the culture and interact with its people. Additionally, resorts are either watered-down or concentrated versions of what you’d get if you were elsewhere.
- Don’t pay for excursions before your travels. Debatable, but let me tell you why. When you’re searching for activities before a trip, you will more than likely get prices from tourism agencies. You may think the price isn’t terrible (which may or may not be true). However, there are usually locals who offer the services at cheaper rates. Many times, locals don’t have the means to brand themselves on social media or the internet as companies do. Plus, you’re supporting a small business. Always save a list of activities and the best prices found online. If you can’t find a small company offering the same service, you can always refer to that list and book accordingly. (This tip is dependent on the activity type, location, and availability.) My exception to this rule, photographers.
- If you aren’t renting a vehicle or are in a location where public transportation isn’t available or reliable, find a driver and stick with them. Exchange contact info and stick with him/her/them. It doesn’t have to be the first driver you meet, but keep this in mind as they will give you deals the more service you offer. Something I’ve done while abroad is downloaded the driving service app used in that area and worked with the driver so they can make accommodations for me during the entirety of my trip. Many are willing to drive you outside of the app, and it helps with safety concerns.
- Opt for local restaurants (and street food) instead of those geared towards tourists. A- They’re more affordable. B- You’re supporting local businesses and individuals. C- It’s a whole different experience.
- Booking.com. Make an account, rack up your points, save some money, and thank me later.
- Pack light! I know. Trust me, I know. Save money on luggage and overweight fees by just having a carry-on and a personal item, if possible. Unless (*invisible ink* this is for you, Spirit), it is more expensive to travel with a carry-on than luggage. The exception also applies if the prices are comparable.