When I started traveling in my early 20s, I had no money most of the time.
I was making it work on limited resources, which has made it easier in my 30s for me to enjoy planning my trips on a budget, even with somewhat more stable cash flow. But, before we get into traveling the world on the budget, let's start at home.
How you operate your finances at home plays a large part in your ability to plan trips; a fun fact I learned in my 20s when I thought stuff was more important than saving or even traveling. Here are a few tips to help you to avoid making the mistakes I did:
Cut Back On Daily Costs
Here is the thing, it's difficult to plan a dream trip if your finances at home aren't in order. Those new shoes you want to buy, skip them. The Zara sale, say no. Those daily breakfasts, lunches, and dinners out — cut them back to once a week. All of the things I listed above will take away from your travel fund. Obviously, I am speaking from a single gal perspective, as I imagine having kids and a family might make cutting back in certain areas tougher. But no matter what your circumstance, you can do it, sis!
Create A Travel Fund
Once your budget is set, create a travel fund in an account that you don't have daily access to. Set a savings goal that aligns with your pay schedule and the date you'd like to embark on your travel journey. If you have the time, find ways to make extra money to get to your goal faster.
Pick Your Destination
Deciding on your destination is key because you'll want to price flights and hotels as those two things will eat up a large portion of your budget. For example, if you're looking to head to the Caribbean, peak times are from December to April, so you can count on flights and accommodations being priced higher. Or if you're looking to Eat, Pray, Love your way through Italy, you'll want to travel in April, May, September, and October, as their peak season is typical during the summer months (June-August).
Shop For Airfare
Airfare shouldn't take up more than 30% of your overall trip budget, which can be tough to nail down depending on your dream trip destination. I don't plan a trip without using Google Flights. You can set the dates you're looking to travel, and get email notifications as to when the flight goes up or down. If you're a researcher by nature and are headed to a city like London, you can take a flight to London and take a train to Paris or to wherever your heart desires. Part of budget travel is doing the research to find the most economical deals.
I have stayed at some pretty interesting places on my travels, including a bench in an airport. It wasn't ideal but it taught me a valuable lesson — never land in a city without a plan. The night I spent on the airport bench was before there were apps like Airbnb, Hotel Tonight, and Travelocity. Finding the right accommodations for you really depends on what you're looking for. Would you be down to do it bunk-style in a hostel, do you prefer the idea of a traditional hotel with a millennial flair, or would you try something entirely different like spending the night in a shipping container? Yes, a shipping container. It was one of my favorite places to stay of all time.
Private rooms in an Airbnb or a night in a hostel will save you money, especially in cities that are known for really high hotel rates. If you want to try your luck on a last minute option that may not have you're throwing out your entire travel budget, try an app like HotelTonight. I have had one bad experience with the app in New Orleans but gave it another try in San Francisco, and was pleased with where I stayed while I was there.
Pro-tip: Don't be afraid to hotel hop. It takes a little effort but sometimes it can be worth it depending on the rate.
Food & Drink
Trying the hottest new or old institutions in a new city (or old favorite) is one of the perks of traveling, but if you're aren't careful, you'll come back to a bank statement you don't want to reconcile. I've been there, done that, and have the statements to prove it. Setting a food budget is very important but you have to have the willpower to stick to it. For breakfast and lunch, keep it light and cost-effective, and splurge on dinner. If you're staying in Airbnb that has a stove and fridge, buy fresh food at the local farmer's market. You'll still be with in the city but saving at the same time. Oh, and be sure to ask about happy hours.
Many cities offer rideshare services as well as taxis. One of the fastest ways to get to know a new city is to travel the way the locals do, which is usually by public transit, especially in cities abroad. Walking and public transit will also keep your costs down and make sure you're working off those extra pounds that sneak up on us when you're living our best lives. Be sure to download an app like Moovit or Citymapper to help you navigate public transit lines as you travel across the globe.
Featured image by Getty Images.
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