I posted a meme, granted it was a bit over-simplified (aren’t they all), about travel. The basic premise of the meme was that if you didn’t eat out at restaurants, you could probably save close to $400/month, depending on how much you ate out. These savings could assist you in getting a round-trip airline ticket anywhere in the world. Like I said, it was over-simplified. However, the concept rings true.
In America, we make excuses as to why we can’t travel. Now, I’ll grant you that terminal illnesses and the like will make it difficult, if not impossible, to travel. That is a rare instance. The general American populace is making excuses though. Yes, we have abysmal vacation allowance in the States, but if you don’t get paid for taking vacation, just figure that into your vacation fund. We say our family is too big. In general, we have the typical European family size. Europeans are very well-traveled. Yes, Europeans have more vacation time from their jobs [see previous comment in this paragraph about vacation allowance in the States]. Europeans typically have smaller take home wages due to high taxes though. Let that be a factor. Yes, Europeans can travel more readily to different countries than we can, but travel between States rather than to other countries. Each state offers its own cultural experience, take advantage of that; it’ll feel like you are experiencing a different country sometimes!
I see several families in the States traveling to Disney. This is the only big vacation they take with their family. Disney is an expensive rip-off. It is the same every year. They push cheap, plastic junk to fill your house with, they sell over-priced junk food, and you can get similar ride experiences at the nearest Six Flags. Yeah, I know it is the happiest place on earth. I’m going to ruffle feathers. People love Disney. If you want to make that your yearly family vacation, then by all means, go ahead. However, don’t regale me with tales about how you can’t afford travel when this is your only notion of a family vacation. Travel is so much broader than Mickey Mouse.
Some years ago, a passion for travel was ignited and me and that passion keeps right on burning. I research travel daily, dreaming of my next trip or reminiscing about trips I’ve taken. As part of my research, I have signed up for daily e-mails from sites like Groupon, Budget Travel, and Intrepid Travel. (I have many more money-saving travel tip sites that send me information, these were just some that popped immediately into my mind.) I also follow well known travel bloggers and keep up-to-date on their insider tips for budget travel. [I follow Nomadic Matt (who has written articles for Lonely Planet) and Be My Travel Muse (who I discovered through Nomadic Matt; she is one of his guest writers).] Some of these sites have chances to enroll in free trips. I always click on the link and enroll for a chance to win a free trip. I know someone who won a free trip to Harry Potter World through the Today Show. Are the chances slim? Yes. Impossible? No. Then enroll, pray, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll win a free trip.
I finally had my husband agree, begrudgingly, to use a credit card. We have one. We pay it off every month. This credit card is the United MileagePlus Card through Chase, our bank. By signing up, we earned 30,000 mileage rewards. Besides fuel (which we can usually get for cheaper by paying in cash), we put all our living expenses on the card. If you refer a friend and they purchase the card, you can receive 10,000 mileage rewards. A roundtrip, economy airline ticket to Hawaii is roughly 45,000 miles. If you have a family member that has to travel for work, this is a great card! The first year is free, but there is a $90 annual membership fee after that. I considered the cost/benefit ratio, found reviews of the card online (Nomadic Matt being one of the sites I looked at for a review).
Too many Americans think of resorts and luxury leisure travel when they think of vacations and travel. Our mindset has to change in order to realize that we can afford to travel, TODAY! Check out these great sites:
https://www.uber.com/ (for getting a car)
https://www.airbnb.com/ (for vacation homes/rentals)
https://www.couchsurfing.com/ (stay with locals for FREE)
If you are staying in a big city, consider public transportation or walking. You don’t have to rent a car. Do you have kids in tow? Perhaps you can rent a stroller. Need a car seat to be transported from an airport to your dwelling place? Rent a car seat too. (I have traveled with an infant. We brought our stroller and car seat because we were going to be renting multiple cars and using several modes of transportation. It worked in our favor.) Also, do you have friends or family that live in other places? Ask them if you can stay with them. If not, ask if they have a friend who might be willing to let you stay with them. Check out monasteries and hostels too, these are great places to save in order to try and save housing costs on.
As for activities in a particular location, think about free activities like hiking or nature observing. Find local festivals or events that are free. Look for museums that have discount days or are free. When selecting activities, consider planning your own itinerary rather than using tour groups. In general, tour groups, while informative and potentially fun, will cost more. If traveling in the US, buy a National Park pass and visit National Parks. Enjoying a location doesn’t have to put you in debt.
For food, consider finding a place with a kitchen. Eat some meals in. Only splurge on a couple of meals while you are traveling.
If you want to travel internationally, consider going to towns or countries where the costs are cheaper. Brazil, Mexico, India are all countries that tend to have lower expenditures in the country. Americans tend to want to stay in fancy, resort locations and I certainly understand wanting to stay in a safe location in certain countries. Do research. Find out which places in a particular country or city are safer than others.
For day-to-day expenditures, consider cutting back on costs. If you eat out frequently, try eating more meals at home. If you have cable, cancel it. Most channels can be streamed through the internet anyways. Sometimes you have to wait a couple of days to get a show. Patience is a virtue. Trade in your smart phone for a GPS you can put in your car and a regular phone that only texts or calls. Shop at consignment stores rather than retail. Join Facebook groups like Free Exchange. Think about your apartment or home. Could you downsize and still feel comfortable? (My husband and I are comfortable in our 700 sq. ft. living space. I really like to entertain so it is a bit hard to have large gatherings. (The layout of my home is atrocious. It will be fixed later on.) However, our monthly living expenses for our house free up money to be spent on other luxuries we enjoy, especially travel. (We only pay roughly $800/mo. for a 2 bedroom home in NJ! That is hard to come by! Our house is old and drafty—you just layer up and save for repairs.)
Also, budget, budget, budget. Watch where your money goes. You will be surprised what you can potentially cut back on. Put away money each month for travel. Save up your coins and put them in a jar. Loose change adds up quickly!
Think about volunteer travel. Typically, your expenses will be partly, if not completely covered. (If a family, check to make sure what the minimum age is for this type of travel.)
I’m extremely passionate about travel because it strips me of my narrow mindset. I meet people who have had different experiences than me. I learn about the world and myself. I am removed from the comfortable shelter of only being around like-minded people. I get to experience Christ in fresh ways—be it in a stunning setting (admiring his creativity as author, Creator, of the world’s beauty), a new community (fellowship and new friends), or a historical place (which helps me understand how faith has shaped others and myself throughout time).
If it becomes important enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen.
People have said, “I want to wait to have kids until I can afford them.” Other people advise these individuals with “If you do that, you’ll never have them.” Kids have too many variables—they could get sick, they make terrible choices and need help, they excel in an area and need financial aid to pursue that talent. Travel isn’t as uncertain. If people have found a way to reproduce and pay for kids, who are far more unpredictable than a planned trip, people can certainly find a way to travel.
As such, get out there. Stretch yourself and your mind. Enjoy the world and everything God has to offer in and through it. (Note:I’m not saying to be of the world as some might misinterpret that statement.) Become the travel bug you aspire to be. Then write about it, try to get articles published, and use your experiences to pay for more travel. The possibilities are endless, if only you are willing to admit it.
May you have safe and enjoyable travels. Godspeed.