Unless you are Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, you probably have a strong desire to travel. We sure do. What’s holding you back? More than likely it’s money. Afterall, plane tickets, hotels, rental cars, time off from your paying job, restaurant and bar tabs, and all those fun souvenirs can add up to an unfathomable amount of cash. While having a big savings account certainly makes travel planning a lot easier, it’s still totally doable while continuing to put money away for important things like a down payment and retirement. Here’s how:
- Don’t be picky! There’s an ingenious app called Skyscanner that allows you to peruse destinations around the world at varying dates, allowing you to find the cheapest airline tickets available. This is not only a good way to save cash, it also opens up the doors to places you may not have previously considered. Just plug in your starting location and instead of typing in your destination, click “everywhere”. You can also leave the “dates” field blank so that it spits out all the best deals. We happen to be starting in Boston. Here’s what we found today:
- A direct, round trip flight to Martinique for $208
- A round-trip flight to Cabo for $283
- A direct, round-trip Jet Blue flight to The Bahamas for $244
- Don’t be fooled by cheap airlines like Spirit. While sometimes the upfront cost is less, you may end up spending more than you would on a more comfortable airline. Spirit, WOW Air, and other discount airlines will upcharge you for everything, including bottled water and carry-on bags. I’m surprised they don’t charge you to use the bathroom! Do the math before you book, and you may be surprised that a flight with Virgin Air is actually cheaper overall than Spirit. You’ll have a much more enjoyable flight, too.
- Travel with a large group. If you are renting a house with eight people, chances are your per person rate per night will be cheaper than renting a hotel room for two people. Or, even better, stay together at a hostel. Hostels typically have bunk rooms and shared bathrooms. If you are staying with friends, that just means you are sharing rooms with the people you have been anyway. It’s also much easier to share a bathroom with your bestie than with a total stranger who may or may not have similar bathroom etiquette to you.
- Go in the “off-season”. My fiance and I just booked our flights and hotels for our September honeymoon to Costa Rica. The typical high season for the country as a whole is November – April. However, because we are staying in the less popular (and in my opinion much more desireable), Caribbean side rather than the Americanized tourist area of the Pacific coast, our weather will still be nice and the prices are substantially less. Sam and her husband went to Barbados and Grenada in what is known as the “Rainy Season”. While it may have rained for a few minutes each day, they had no lack of sunshine and saved a bunch of money. Just do your research, reach out to locals and people who have travelled to your destination, to make sure you aren’t signing up for a hurricane! Added bonus: less crowds, less lines, more beach to yourself.
- Work lay-overs into your planning. If you have always wanted to go to Europe, but can’t decide if Iceland is a better choice, you are in luck. You can do both without booking a separate flight. Iceland has been ramping up its tourism marketing and promotion in recent years and has so many good offers for you. Icelandair and WOW Air both offer stop-overs in Iceland at no additional cost on your way to Europe. Icelandair even lets you stay up to 7 days! Now you have two vacations in one!
- Don’t be afraid of AirBnB and HomeAway. I have used both several times and have never had a single complaint. This gives you many more options than just the hotels listed online and can save you a fortune. When I was in Iceland last year, we booked a cool loft right in downtown Reykjavik through AirBnB for the four of us travellers. It saved us a total of $200 each! Plus, when renting someone’s home, you have access to a kitchen. That equals $$. Less meals at restaurants and more cooking at your rental will save you hundreds of dollars. Plus, you have access to your local host who, in all of my experiences, has been a plethora of information during my stay.
- Start a travel account. Seriously. I put money into an account every month that is dedicated to just travel. It comes out of my checking account automatically and builds up over the course of the year and then when it’s time to book trips, boom! Money in the bank. Pick a number that is right for you; something you can afford on top of your regular savings and investments. Even just $20 a week = $80 per month. By the end of the year you’ll have almost $1,000. Believe me, you can plan an awesome trip with that especially when using these tips.
- Last but certainly not least, invest wisely! A good investment plan now, can mean way more money later, so that someday down the road you can stay in that Ritz Carlton on the beach and order room service instead of sharing a room with a friend and eating in every meal.
Don’t let the burden of money stop you from travelling! There are options. Even a road trip across the country with friends can be the trip of a lifetime. Drive your own car, split the gas, and camp in National Parks. I’ve done this four times – all of which have been some of the best and least expensive vacations of my life. You can’t spend the rest of your life exploring if you don’t start now.