We determined in my last post that my most asked question is, “Are your eyelashes real?” Even though that’s the question that gets asked the most, one of the statements that I hear most often is, “I wish I could travel like you do.” While I’ll acknowledge the privilege that I’ve had to travel a fair amount in my young life, I will admit that I do post about traveling MUCH more frequently than I actually hop on a plane.
It’s way more fun to post pictures of myself in Paris than it is to share my regular day-to-day life that consists of me sitting at my desk…
In any case, I appreciate the fact that I do travel, I post about traveling, and I have the privilege to travel, so I’m happy to share how I do it. I present to you my top 5 tips for being able to travel without a huge bank account.
1. Have a (somewhat-okay-paying) job
Okay, I can hear your eye roll right now. I know that this is not an easy thing for a lot of people to attain. I know. I am a millennial with an honours degree in theatre, (with the student loan debt to prove it) for God’s sake. There’s no universal tip that I can offer to you with regards to the grind that is finding secure, non-contract, well-paying work in today’s market. (If anyone’s interested, I could write a post in the future about how I have a stable, “okay-paying” job with my education and experience, but that’s not what this post is about).
The fact of the matter is, it would be irresponsible to be booking expensive plane tickets and taking time off work if you’re not yet in a job that affords you to do so. This post (unfortunately) is for the people who lament “I wish I could travel like you,” when I know for a fact that they make at least as much as (if not more than) I do, with less student debt, or at least similar resources. The main point is: while I don’t think you’ll ever regret traveling, do be responsible and don’t put yourself in excessive amounts of debt to do so.
2. So you have some disposable income. Where is your money going?
If you want to be able to travel on a modest income, you’re going to need to figure out EXACTLY where all of your money is going. The best way to do this is to set a monthly (or weekly/bi-weekly) budget. Lucky for you, I wrote a post all about my methods for budgeting last year.
Now that you know your monthly expenses:
- Where can you cut back? Are you buying lunch every day? More than once a week? Choose to bring your lunch instead of buying it. (I’ve found great success with making a pact with two of my colleagues (and besties) to bring our lunch every day. It started with a goal to bring our lunches every day in January. We are still going strong in mid-March). Do you buy drinks at the bar each weekend? Pre-drink at home more often. At least cut down on buying coffee.
- Can you get a better deal on any of your regular expenses? Shop around with different internet and/or cell phone providers. Can you get a competitive deal? Even for a year? Make the switch.
- What kinds of ‘extras’ are you buying after all of your living expenses and bills are paid? Which ones can you sacrifice? Do you need to get a manicure every two weeks to feel alive? Cool, I need my eyelash extensions and I’ve kept those in my budget. You do you. But, maybe you can cut back on something else, like, buying new make up only when your necessities run out and not just perusing Shoppers Drugmart for an hour because you’re bored… Not that I know anything about that…
- Figure out exactly how much money you can save for travel per month. Determine that figure by including the money you would have spent on the things that you’re now cutting out, figuring out how much money you want to save in a certain time frame, how much it will cost to take the trip you want, etc.
3. Consider your travel savings a “monthly bill payment”.
Once you’ve determined how much you can afford to save each month, stick to it. Make a separate bank account that will cost you money (or at least be difficult to) withdraw from. Pay into that account at the same time you pay all of your bills. Don’t touch that account unless it’s an emergency or you’re ready to use the money in it for its intended purpose. Make this payment a priority.
4. Find the deals
Some of my favourite ways that I’ve saved some money when booking my travels have been:
- Springing for a last minute deal. My Contiki tour through Europe in 2014 was purchased 6 weeks in advance of departure and we saved nearly $1000. I had been saving for 3 years already, the timing was right, and I was able to save a huge amount of money by buying last minute.
- On the flip side, buying in advance can save you some dollahs too. On my most recent self-planned trip to Europe, we saved a lot of money by buying our train and attraction tickets well in advance. Train tickets (in particular) are guaranteed to rise in price the closer you get to the date of departure, so be sure to buy your tickets in advance whenever your schedule allows.
- Use google flight alerts to track your desired journey and buy when the price is right. I recently had amazing luck in tracking an expensive route for several months and being able to snatch it up when it fell by several hundred dollars for only a day!
- Drive instead of fly (if you can). Need to get to Montreal, the East Coast of the US, or another nearby province (from Nova Scotia)? You can get to lots of those places in a one day drive and can save loads of money on the cost of airfare.
- Make use of AirBnB. It’s all the rage and with good reason. You can rent stunning apartments (or private rooms) in your city of choice for the fraction of the price of a hotel. We used AirBnB in Paris (and Nice, but no post yet) and it was an absolute DREAM. Use my code and save some moolah (I’ll get a credit too 😉 )
5. Get crafty
- If you feel comfortable, ask for contributions toward your travel fund as a gift for birthdays, holidays, or special occasions instead of a physical present. I have received very few tangible gifts over the past 5 years because all of my loved ones know that the best possible gift they could help to give me would be the ability to travel, no matter the size of the contribution. Do you want to go to the top of the Eiffel tower? Ask for tickets for that as a gift instead of a Sephora gift card. Boom.
- Do you have anything you can sell? Do you make something you can sell? Can you dog/baby sit? I sold a ton of my gently worn clothes and shoes before my Contiki tour to save up a bit more cash. If travel is a priority, the “stuff” won’t matter any more, but you can probably find those things a nice home.
- Make (some) of your own food while traveling. Now, I believe that eating good food is one of the best parts of traveling, and it’s definitely not a category I skimp on while abroad. BUT I do LOVE shopping at foreign grocery stores because a) It’s really fun to see all of the different products and b) It’s easy enough to buy a few groceries (read: really delicious pastries fresh from a bakery) to have as a quick snack or an easy breakfast. Some of my favourite food memories include picnics in Paris and breakfast on our apartment’s balcony in Nice. All courtesy of the local Monoprix or boulangerie.
Finally, be patient. Saving for traveling can take a lot of time, but it’s so worth it in the end. Now get to work and take the trip you deserve!