How I Save Money to Travel

One of the questions I get most often is simply, “How do you afford to travel?” Since I’m not exactly subtle about the financial struggles of working an entry-level job, (see my blog’s headline lol) I figured it makes sense for me to share my pointers on how I can afford international trips and weekend galivants throughout the year.

Now, a quick disclaimer. While I think this goes without saying, everyone’s situation is different. Some of us are working around PTO and vacation days, others around class schedules and winter breaks. We all have different salaries, different student loan payments, you get the idea. None of the below ideas are GROUNDBREAKING, but I hope it inspires you to be more conscious of spending in order to get your dream trip booked. I promise it’s worth it every time.

Please enjoy photos from my trips of 2018, and without further ado, my tips to saving money for your next vacation:

1. Examine your monthly costs

I have a whole blog post dedicated to this (coming soon), but these costs are often the foundation of our spending. Are you signed up for music services? Can you join a family plan to save a few dollars? Are you really using your gym membership or can you deal with the gym at your school/office instead? What about the Birchbox free trial that you forgot to cancel? Make sure ANY monthly cost (including cable, etc.) is something you’re using daily. Cut the ones you don’t.

2. Stop eating out

I truly think this is the number one thing that sets people back when it comes to saving. I eat out maybe 1-2 times a week (1 lunch and 1 dinner), and the rest I cook at home. It’s better for your body, it’s better for your wallet, and hopefully you’ll pick up a skill or two in the kitchen. Stop buying Chick-fil-A every day and pack a lunch. 🙂

3. Be conscious of small spends

Yes, this includes coffee runs. *eye roll because this is everyone’s advice* Drink coffee at work, avoid getting overpriced candy at the movies, and finish your not-so-great can of hairspray before buying a new one. Small purchases really do add up, and often times we’re buying things we don’t need, which is a whole other topic that I’ll get to later.

4. Open up a travel account

Not accessible for everyone (including myself), but my boyfriend has a separate travel account that he puts money into monthly. This way, it’s easy to budget for trips and you know right off the bat if you can afford to book something. If you’re not great at limiting yourself on the day-to-day spend, this may be a good tactic for you.

5. Give yourself personal challenges

Cut down/take a month off of drinking (helloooo, dry January! Join me!), don’t buy clothes for a month, or limit your grocery runs to a set amount. This kind of makes saving feel like a game, but it’s definitely not always fun 😅 Sometimes I try and see how many days I can go without spending money, which is absolutely terrible but I recommend.

6. Book the flight

Once you have your flight, you’re going (unless you’re actually willing to pay the cancellation fee, which is just BONKERS if you ask me). Knowing that I have a trip coming up is usually what gives me the push to start saving and have more discipline with my spending.

The last thing to remember has less to do with saving and more to do with the actual travel aspect. In order to afford bigger or more frequent trips, paying for an average-priced ticket, staying in hotels, and having brunch daily just isn’t in the cards (not yet, at least lol). Use these hacks to find a cheap flight and stay open to the idea of hostels or small Airbnbs. My trips usually involve public (sometimes overnight) transportation and the same hostel breakfast daily. If you want to visit somewhere, this is how you make it happen. And again, I promise it’s worth it.

If you have tips to help you save for travel, let me know! Follow my Pinterest board for more travel inspiration, stay tuned for some more itinerary posts, and good luck not spending any money at all!

Thanks for reading,

Cheap Flight Tools and Tricks

The starting point, the largest cost, and often the pain point of international travel planning is the flight. Looking for options can be overwhelming, and many times it has made a trip completely undoable– but sometimes it’s the one thing that actually ends up working out. And when that’s booked, you usually have no choice but to save up and go! Haha! (More on this mentality later)

These tools and tricks have been the reason I’ve been able to see so many places I never thought I’d see:

1. Book during shoulder season/off-season for your destination

Shoulder season is the 1-2 months that overlap between off-season and peak season. The gamble here is that you could have the disadvantages of off-season (weather, closed businesses, etc.), but oftentimes you’ll experience the advantages of peak season without the crowds. Off-season is a bit riskier, but most destinations have enough redeeming qualities to warrant a little rain or cold.

2. Fly into a nearby country with a larger airport

This works especially well in Europe/Southeast Asia where travel is common among the region. If Marrakesh, Morocco is your dream (as it is mine), but the $1,100 price tag is a bit steep for your budget, start your trip exploring in Spain and hop on a cheaper flight over. This is what we did to see Bali, Indonesia- my dream destination that I thought was completely out of my league.

3. Befriend Google Flights

My absolute savior. Stalking flights early and often is somewhat common-sense, I know, but it’s the best way to feel confident about your purchase. Plug in places or dates and scan for those green numbers that indicate a lower price than usual. They have a calendar view if you’re flexible on dates, and it’s super easy to navigate. 

4. Sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights & Pomelo Travel

These services send out daily flight deals from major US airports. Scott’s Cheap Flights were the reason I got such a cheap ticket to Paris- an awesome surprise as we were looking at both Asia and Europe for that month. The only downside is having to pull out your wallet right away– the flight deals don’t last long and it’s recommended to book within a few hours of seeing the price, sometimes even on the spot.

5. Utilize Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” option

Skyscanner, a service similar to Google Flights, will accept “Everywhere” as an option. Just plug in your dates and see what’s available.

6. Set up flight alerts

I’m not big on flight alerts, but it’s great for super busy people. Alert services like Hopper or Google Flights will do the work for you and send you statuses on how much your flight is and when you should book.

7. Know what’s included

Don’t go for a budget or big name airlines if you have to pay another $100 for a carry-on. Many smaller airlines still offer free baggage in their prices, so make sure you check before booking with whatever’s “cheapest.”

8. Use airlines with free stopovers

A stopover is exactly what it sounds like– the airline will stop in a destination free of charge on the way to/home from your destination. This is a great way for countries to get tourism and for us travelers to essentially get a bonus destination in their trip. We use Iceland Air’s program last January and it definitely won’t be my last timing taking advantage of it. Read a full list of airlines to keep an eye out for.

And as always, there’s things I know nothing about, like credit card rewards and frequent flyer points. When I’m more of an adult I’ll be sure to update. For travel inspiration, follow my Pinterest boards. I promise it’ll never run dry.

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