Travel, without a doubt, is one of the most thrilling experiences you can have (at least in my opinion). It’s amazing experiencing new cultures, foods, entertainment, and scenery. But wait, there is more! Beyond the adventure of a trip, it is also absolutely refreshing once you return because it feels like your batteries have been super charged.
So what is holding you back? “It’s too expensive to travel?” “I don’t have the time?” I say – excuses!
With the right planning, research, control of finances, and an ability to roll with the unexpected, anyone can travel. But let’s go one step further. Let’s not just travel once. Let’s see how you can travel each year … for the rest of your life!
Money is usually the first issue that comes up when you talk to people about travel.
- Yes, travel can be expensive depending on your lifestyle
- Yes, travel can be expensive depending on your destination
- Yes, travel can be expensive depending on how long you go
But let’s break it down for a moment. Let’s say you’re in the United States and you want to take a two week trip to a country in Europe (like Germany, which I did last summer):
- Plane ticket (coach): $800 ~ $1,200
- Room & board: $30 – $80 a night (for your average location)
- Meals: $10 – $20 a day (if you’re not constantly eating at high-end restaurants)
- Transpiration: Free ~ $10 a day (walking is good but you might need a cab)
- Entertainment: $20 – $30 per person (for something nice)
Let’s round that up. For two weeks you can realistically expect to pay about: $2,400.
Readers, let me ask you a question: You’re the frugal type, yes? Then put that knowledge into action!
If you could save just $200 a month throughout the year you would be able to pay for your trip. This comes out to be about $6.50 a day … a day! Think of all the little money suckers you fall for each day, week, and month, and you shouldn’t have a problem putting away that much each day.
The second thing you really, really need to do is take control of your debt because what’s the point of having fun traveling today if you’re going to pay for it severely, via higher debt and interests, the new year? Get smart and start fixing your credit. Get help and get that out of the way so you have a credit line for when you travel and go over budget (which is perfectly okay if you’re truly enjoying yourself).
Once you’re in control of your finances and you’re putting little by little away (without touching it!) you’ll soon find you can travel. But if time is an issue go for a few less days, take some of those vacation days you’re building up, send the kids to the grandparents for the week.
Research and Planning
Here’s the big secret about being able to travel: it’s all about the research and planning.
What you don’t want to do is show up in some exotic location and immediately become overwhelmed by everything you see. You don’t want to start buying all kinds of souvenirs, going on every museum tour, trying out every “top” restaurant.
You need to make a plan (like you do with your budget) and to do this you need to do your research.
Let’s consider a few of the main things you’d need to look into:
- Flights. This is generally the highest up-front cost but you can lower it by using flight comparison websites, plugging in your destination, playing around with the dates, and then setting alerts so you’ll receive an update when there are deals for your ticket.
- Lodging. Another expensive part of the trip that can be cut dramatically if you’re willing to sacrifice some comfort and privacy. Hostels, bed and breakfast-type places, house sitting, and even couchsurfing are great options to keep the lodging costs low. If you’re going as a group, however, consider the possibility of temporary renting an apartment in the city and make that your base of operation (which is way cheaper than doing hotel night after night).
- Entertainment. Not everything you see in the guide books and websites are worth their while. Some of the best experiences you’ll have are right on the streets. Talking with the natives. Eating at the local eateries. Exploring the outdoors. If you can get avoid the touristy stuff you’re going to cut most of the entertainment costs in half.
So get out there and use websites, forums, and social networks to research your destination so you’re not stuck paying heavily for easy, costly mistakes by being sucked into the tourist trap.
Don’t know what to do once you’re there? Try these resources:
Doing It Again and Again
You’ve covered the expenses and you got to check off items on your bucket list. Great!
Feeling like you got bit by the travel bug? It’s possible to keep going! All you’ll need to do is repeat the steps each passing year which is saving up money (by making a few sacrifices here and there), doing your research on where you’re going, and finding things to do that aren’t going to break the bank.
Eventually it’ll get easier and easier to fund your travels. You may make friends in the locations to which you can stay next time around (thus eliminating the lodging costs). You might find a killer deal on a plane ticket or by racking up and cashing in on those frequent flyer points. Your career may even make a shift to accommodate travel. The opportunities are endless.
So keep embracing the frugal mindset. Cut back on the things you don’t truly need to afford the big experiences you desire. You can do this.