Travel More On Any BudgetWednesday, September 09, 2015
15 Tips To Travel More On Any Budget
Most of my life I've had people ask me how I have the time or money to travel how I do. First, I would say that if you have a passion for something, you find a way to make it happen. You live, breathe, think, and eat it until it comes true. Okay, maybe not that much, but you get my point. I never considered myself as someone who traveled an awful lot, maybe it's because the more places I see, the more I want to see. My list of destinations that I want to travel to is seemingly endless but I wouldn't have it any other way. It would be a sad day when there was nothing new to explore. But given the vastness of our world, I will never be in danger of that happening. Since people have always asked me these types of questions while saying things like "I wish I had the time or the money to travel more", I kind of always wanted to shake them and say YOU DO, YOU DO! And show them ways to make it happen.
"Everyone has the same hours in a week...what you choose to do with them is up to you."
Once you can free yourself of the mindset "I have to do this today or that today or clean the house this weekend or grocery shop and run errands this weekend or take so and so to this commitment"...once you free yourself of that kind of thinking, the world opens up. Who says you have to do that on that particular day? What's the worst that can happen if you don't do that and choose to make yourself happy today instead???
Once I took on that mindset, I started finding little ways to make mine and my family's dreams come true. We longed to travel and see new places, experience new things.
So this is what I do or have done to make that happen:
1. First things first. You need the time to travel right? Ever since I was young I knew I was more interested in traveling the world than holding down a 9-5 Monday through Friday job (or more). My husband feels the same way. It's important to us to be happy, actually enjoy our job, and be able to be free when we feel the need to break out of our location and see the world a little bit.
I've almost always held jobs that were easy enough to get some time off or were (purposely) in the travel industry. I've worked in restaurants, office work (this is where I was my least happy as it involved the least flexibility in my schedule), I've worked in hotels (hello hotel discounts!), I've been a flight attendant (could there be a better job?), once my son was born, I couldn't be away from home, so I switched to working with the airlines but in the reservations department in an office. I still got free flights and tons of time off and it was very flexible to take extra time away. I am now a massage therapist (so I could technically work anywhere) and I have this blog- which can also be done from anywhere.
My husband is a bartender so his schedule is pretty flexible as well. Sure, we can't say that we work for some fortune 500 company or are some big business hot shot. But we're okay with that. This is what makes us happy and we can provide for our son and give him the experience of travel. So my biggest tip is if it's important to you, make the time. I had to leave a job for a different one because I realized I needed travel in my life. I know not everyone can or will do that, but there are other ways.
Look at a map...what interesting city is within a 5 hour drive from your home? Why not pick a weekend, leave when you get home from work Friday evening (or cut out a little early?) and spend Saturday and Sunday in a new location! Come home Sunday evening. Maybe take a 3 day weekend if you can.
Pack the car Thursday night before you leave for work so that by the time you get out of work on Friday, you can just hop in the car (get whoever is going with you) and go. I know a weekend trip may not seem like much time, but you have the same amount of weekend time every single week- what you do with it is up to you....wouldn't it be fun to spend a couple of those somewhere new? Put yourself first and enjoy getting out of town for a minute? You'll come back renewed for the week, and with wonderful stories to tell! Make 1 weekend a month be road trip weekend or something like that.
2. Save your change. Really. It adds up quicker than you realize. Maybe save it all month, or save it for an entire year. I would be willing to bet you could go on a vacation with the amount of money you save just by throwing your change in a jar and forgetting about it. It's like a free vacation. When my husband and I were in college we would save up our change all month long and pick a day each month to make it a "change date". However much we saved up in spare change determined what we could do on our date. Sometimes it was going out to a cheap restaurant and getting ice cream after... One month we saved up enough for a whole weekend in a hotel. And this was back when we were college kids with hardly working much at all. Saving up our change now as adults, adds up to even more. Speaking of having enough change for a hotel stay....
3. Use Priceline's Name Your Own Price method. Does it really matter that you get a particular hotel? While we're on vacation, we don't spend much time in our hotel. As long as it's clean, in a safe area, and has a bed and shower, that's really our only requirements. With Priceline's Name Your Own Price, you can easily pick the star category hotel you want to choose so that you are comfortable. We usually choose 2 star hotels because they usually include breakfast and free wifi. Free breakfast? Perfect, it's a meal that we don't have to pay for. Also, you can take some fruit or granola or something from breakfast to take with you for a snack for later.
4. I take money aside from each paycheck or chunk of money that we have coming in towards our vacation fund first. 5-10% goes straight to the vacation fund before doing anything else. (I also do this with the savings account, etc). Choose whatever amount works for you. The point is to just choose something and don't change it. Pay yourself first. Even if it's just $5 from your paycheck. That's not hurting you. It's skipping one day of getting your morning Starbucks each week. But if you get paid weekly- that's an extra $20 a month towards your vacation- just by making coffee at home 1 morning a week. You could get into some great attractions for that, or have a nice meal out in an interesting city or gas money. There are plenty of little ways to save up money simply by delaying a little pleasure until later (giving up going out for coffee one morning, not buying your lunch out one day a week, not buying that shirt you really don't need...and end up not wearing, etc).
5. Join a hotel rewards program. Pick a hotel line that you like and join. You can rack up free nights pretty easily- especially if going on a longer road trip. Choice hotels and Marriott had a thing where you stay 2 nights get the third free. I'll let that sink in. You know how many free hotel night stays that add up to on a couple week road trip? How about the weekend getaway we talked about earlier? Stay Friday and Saturday night....that means next month on your weekend getaway one of those nights is free. Or save it up and you'll have an entire weekend free the following time. Some programs have rules such as it must be used on "non consecutive stays", etc. No problem. Let's say you want to travel to Asheville, NC. Spend Friday night at one choice hotel, check out...spend Saturday night in a different choice hotel- same city. Boom, there's your two nights. Now you get a free one. I don't know if those companies always have that particular deal or not, but it's worth checking these programs out.
6. Get rid of cable and get Netflix and/or Hulu. You can spend $100/mo or more on cable when Netflix and Hulu is only about $8 each per month. (They both start you off with a free trial month too!) They have a lot of the most popular shows. Check out their websites to see what offerings they have. I feel like Hulu is better for TV and Netflix is better for movies, but that's just my opinion. Even if you're paying $100 for cable and you choose to get both Netflix and Hulu (like me) you're still saving about $84 a month. That's 2 hotel nights. EACH MONTH. Without adding any more money to your monthly bills. Just pretend you still have the $100 cable bill and when it comes time to pay Netflix and Hulu- take the extra $80 some dollars and put it in your travel envelope (I work on the envelope system with money). Boom- there's your free weekend. And you got a hotel with a breakfast every day? Now you get to sleep and eat one meal a day free.
7. Check out the free or almost free things to do in each city. A little research will shows loads of awesome things to do for cheap or nothing. (Follow along with my "Planning a dream Road Trip series as I do just this with the places that I want to visit this coming summer") So now you have your hotel and breakfast taken care of. Find some cool places and things to do for free. Many places have beautiful scenery, hiking, museums, all for free or almost free. Pack a picnic lunch and take some of that fruit and snacks we mentioned above from the free breakfast at the hotel instead of eating out and now you have lunch and entertainment for the day covered. And packing a picnic lunch isn't spending any more money than you would have if you were home. You have to eat lunch when you're home- so make yourself a sandwich and something for the trip. Stop at a grocery store in the location or find a yummy food or farmer's market to check out.
8. Let's say dinner time you really like eating out while you're on vacation. Before you go, check out restaurant.com for the city that you are going to. (You can also do this on long road trips knowing what city you will stop in for a bite to eat.) They will list restaurants in your destination, they will have their menus posted and you can get say $5 off $10 or $25 off $50 etc. Then they email it to you and you can print it out and take it with you. I check this site out before we go on trips a lot....use it at home too!
Speaking of Ebates- use this when you book your hotel, airline tickets, or rental cars too! Priceline, Orbitz, the actual airline- all work with Ebates. Seriously- sign up now and put the savings towards your trip.
10. Sell things around the house or have a garage sale. All of the proceeds goes towards your vacation. You can do this all year long. Have kids? They grow out of their clothes and toys like crazy. I have had fantastic luck on Facebook groups for our town. Search for "your town" garage sale or something like that on facebook and most places will have a group that comes up. I get much better prices listing my items there than I ever do doing an actual garage sale or ebay. Craigslist is another great place to list items- especially furniture and kids stuff.
11. Do something crazy. If you want to make it happen- you will find a way. I'm going to share something really personal with you now. My husband and I had a hard time getting pregnant with my son. We went to a bunch of doctors for tests, procedures etc. Nothing had worked yet. I found a way to help other couples facing the same issue as us, while also helping ourselves. We needed more money to try another attempt at having my son. I looked into a program to donate my eggs. I found a great place and got in contact with them. Normally, a couple chooses you to be their egg donor and once you go through with the procedure, you can make anywhere from 3 to 8 thousand dollars depending on the company. I wanted to help other couples and also make money to help ourselves with our own fertility issues. I found out the program was doing something they don't do all the time where they were accepting certain people and just freezing their eggs and sort of keeping them on hold without a couple having picked them yet. I would make $7500 for donating 3 times (it's less than normal because a couple wouldn't have "chosen me" yet).
I decided to do it. My husband and I talked and we were so down and distraught with all of the attempts that we tried for our own child that we needed something to look forward to either way it worked out for us. The program would take a while to complete with a bunch of testing prior to being able to go through with it. My husband and I were trying something new on our own that wouldn't cost near that much during this time. We decided that if this didn't work, we would take a break trying for a while. Either we would end up pregnant this time, or we would spend the money I would get on backpacking Europe for 3 months. That way, even if I wasn't pregnant, we would have something to look forward to and be happy about- a trip through Europe, our dream trip.
As it turned out- I got pregnant before we went through with the procedure. Now, backpacking through Europe still has not happened- but we have something more special- our son. Europe can wait. Point being- sometimes if it's your dream- there are crazy things you can do to make it happen.
12. Sell plasma- This may not be for everyone, but it is something I have done in my earlier years trying to scrap together money to still travel. You can make $20 to $50 dollars each time you donate and you can donate up to twice a week. It's much like giving blood- but for a much longer period of time. And you get to help people who need plasma. Biolife is the name of a big legitimate company who does this all over the US.
13. Okay this one is also crazy. And you probably can't do it if you have kids that are school aged. But it's what we've done a few times. Pick up and move. Move. To a whole new city that you've always wanted to be in. Maybe it's a vacation that you took that you never wanted to leave and you always look fondly back on. Maybe that place is so close to so many other wonderful cities you want to visit.
My husband and I have picked up and moved to Las Vegas for two years. When our lease on our condo (also another way to keep ourselves free. We won't buy a house. We'll rent a house, or a condo, but we'll probably never buy as that makes it way too hard to ever move.), we sold all of our furniture, packed up anything we wanted to keep, put it in storage ($40 a month wasn't bad for what we wanted to do), sold 1 of ours cars, packed our clothes, pictures, and anything important in our other car and took a road trip across the US. We moved from NC to Las Vegas.
We stayed in a weekly hotel place (included kitchen, etc) until we found a furnished apartment right near the strip for a good price. (This only took 2 weeks, thank you craigslist). I was able to work remotely on a project from my job in NC for a couple months. We made money by doing that, by signing up at all the casino's player cards. They gave you about $10 in free slot money when you did. we would always cash out the winnings. We found one casino who gave us a free $10 each...every week. We think it was a mix up because that eventually stopped- but it lasted for almost a year!
Every week we would go to the casino to put our free money in the slots and be diligent about cashing out the winnings to use towards our normal bills. We would often make about $100 a week doing that. We also were really good poker players, so we would play in the casinos to make money while my husband was waiting to hear back from jobs that he applied to.
This was all before my son was born. However, we did the same things years later when my son was 4. We were back living in NC again and did the same thing and moved to Hilton Head Island, SC. It's a beautiful vacation spot that we had been to time and time again and decided it would be a great place to live and raise our son since we had to think about settling down and keeping him in school somewhere when he turned 5. We had a garage sale- sold all of our furniture. Weeks before, I had gone on homeaway.com to look at all of the long term vacation rentals available. These are places in residential communities that people just use their spare house as a rental. It is fully furnished, has amazing amenities, and came inclusive of ALL bills. Power, cable, internet, etc, all included in a monthly price. The prices here were much lower after summer tourist season so we stayed in amazing places like this for almost a whole year before we rented our own condo here where we currently live. We knew some friends int he area, so my husband got a job pretty much right away at the restaurant his friend worked at and the rest is history. We now live in a beautiful vacation destination with many more beautiful areas near by to take day trips to. I know this option isn't for everybody- but it can be done. We wanted to do this before our son entered school, because now it's not an option we would consider.
14. Eat out less often. This is a tough one for me and one that I still need to work at. I love food and I love going to restaurants. But seriously, if I added up all the money I spend at restaurants in a month? Second thought, let's just not think about that right now. However, if you can cook, it's so much cheaper to just buy whatever you are craving at the grocery store and make it yourself...a lot of times anyways.
15. Get those credit cards that give you points or money back. If you've got the credit for it, why not? Again free money.
Those are the tips that I can think of right now. I've showed you how to come up with money for a weekend hotel trip, provide free or low cost meals and entertainment, and hopefully prove that you have the time to take for yourself once in a while. All without having to really save up any extra money- just by making a few changes in lifestyle- or an extra click or two on the computer :) It doesn't have to be every month....anything more than you are doing now is a plus, right? Please leave your own tips for being able to travel on any budget below! I am always looking more tips for myself and for those that are reading!
Be sure to follow along every Monday where I'll be discussing a new city on my dream road trip!
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