Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to traverse many parts of the globe. The opportunity to travel had the same effect on me that it has had on many people: the more I saw, the more I wanted to see. And the more I wanted to see, the more I realized that my income couldn’t exactly sustain all my traveling whims.
Yes, there’s such a thing as frugal travel BUT after adding up travel expenses, lodging, and daily costs, even low cost trips will have a noticeable impact on your bank account. So how can you keep up with the traveling spirit beyond downloading a sweet tropical photograph as your screensaver? You have to plan, prioritize, and compromise.
If you too find yourself infected with wanderlust and on a limited budget, here are some ways you can satisfy the traveling itch without skipping out on your rent:
Specify your travel goal
Even if you’re ready to take off on the next available flight, try to funnel that excitement into one travel goal at a time. This doesn’t restrict you from dreaming about multiple destinations but it does help you to plan out the best direct path to your goal without diverting funds or attention elsewhere. Unless you have a flexible work schedule or are currently roaming with nary an obligation to your name, your best bet in budget travel is to choose one travel goal.
By setting sights on a specific trip rather than a more general desire to “travel somewhere or everywhere” you can budget your funds effectively and also resist the temptation of going into the debt by following all your traveling whims.
Get your finances right
If you already have debt, now is as good a time as any to make a plan to pay it off. You can use the free online tool ReadyForZero to make a plan. And if you don’t have a monthly budget then go create one so you can start optimizing your finances for your future travel plans.
Calculate your expenses
Once you have a goal, you’ll want to consider the overall cost of a trip. And remember – a trip is made up of much more than airfare. Take all your expenses into account when creating your travel budget. Calculating each specific expense will give you the most honest look at what’s affordable within your means. This would be the time to compare rates at hotels, factor in the cost of immunizations or other medical costs, and add up any visa or travel document expenses.
A few tools you can use to do this:
- To compile costs… there are plenty of Travel Budgeting Calculators, but browse around for the ones that include a wide range of expenses. Travel goes beyond just airfare and lodging and includes things like visas, vaccinations, and medication.
- If you’re flying… you can begin by mapping out destinations within your budget on kayak.com/explore. Just type in your budget, your intended travel dates, and filter your results on the map. This is a great visual way to see where you can afford to fly and also when in the year you’re most likely to encounter cheaper flights.
- If you’re driving… be sure to include the cost of gas. Use a Fuel Cost Calculator and add these fuel costs to your overall budget.
Set a saving “pace”
The timeline to your trip (how long you have until departure, how long you will be traveling, etc.) will be a determining factor in how you budget, what you need to save, and how you choose the best tactic for managing your financial goals. If you know that the travel goal you set will be a long-term goal, then you will want to adopt a marathon mentality. That means setting a pace for your saving strategy that won’t leave you exhausted or burnt out. This is particularly important with travel because you’ll probably purchase a plane ticket months before the actual trip. You don’t want that milestone to go unsupported by your budget once the departure date arrives.
Maintain movement towards your goal
Life and expectations have a tricky habit of putting the brakes on your travel plans. Think about it… you probably have dozens of other expenses that it would make sense to pay into right now. A flat tire, a bachelor party, the holidays – any of these can easily take funds from your travel jar. If you’re choosing to travel then you’ll need to make the expenses a priority over something else. That doesn’t mean siphoning expenses from your retirement or debt repayment but that might mean opting to stay in on the weekends, making dinner at home, or lowering costs in other spending areas.
Stayed focused on your goal
Once you’ve set your travel goal, set a travel budget, and made your trip a priority, make sure to remain focused on your goal. Sites offering travel deals are enormously tempting and sometimes these deals feel “too good to pass up.” Seeing a flight to Ireland at a huge discount will tempt any traveler who has interest in the area and likes a good deal. Just remember that buying that ticket might mean replacing an original goal of visiting another destination… say, Brazil. Though not necessarily a bad thing, it simply comes down to making choices and owning them. Remember: eyes on the prize – or in this case, eyes on the runway.
Sacrifice some convenience
Though round-trip flights have become known as the cheaper option compared to one-way tickets, different legs of a trip can actually end up being cheaper than bundling the flight on one carrier. For instance, a round trip to LA from San Francisco on Virgin could be $189 while a one way ticket from SF to LA could be $59, and a one way ticket back on another carrier could be $70 – added together that’s a much lower overall cost. Check out neighboring airports, earlier/later flight times. Letting go of that convenience can reveal cheaper options.
Have a flexible schedule? Go for it.
Flexibility is a huge advantage when you’re a traveler. It’s in the roots of traveling: hitting the road and appreciating the journey rather than the destination. This is a luxury that not everyone has, so take advantage of flexibility when you have the chance! Please note – this does’nt negate the earlier advice of creating a savings plan and understanding the cost of your travels. It’s just a rad option for those who have the enviable “wiggle room” in their schedule. In the event you have flexibility, Travelzoo is an excellent site for last minute travel deals and airfare.
Reinvent the way you think of travel
Most people have finite vacation time and funds. That means facing the reality of a limited window for “big trip” traveling. But if you’re really hankering to hit the road (as in legitimately tempted to catch the next train out of state on your lunch break) then you can ease your anxiety by planning to visit destinations closer to you. Even if it’s just to try out a new hike or visit a neighboring city’s cheese museum, travel is often about exploration. The newness and the discovery can help to settle your restless legs – if just for a while.
So from one vagabond at heart to another, travel doesn’t have to end even once you’ve settled into a permanent address. With proper organization and planning you can continue exploring the open road/sky/ocean (whatever it may be) without putting yourself in debt. Now, time to do some saving for the next great trip on your list!
Image Credit: dave77459