As you know, I am a big traveler. I am usually away from home four to six months a year, and even though my travels lately have been more around visiting friends and family, I have still managed to fit in a few new destinations.
Since this is a money blog, let’s talk about how you can make your trip both enjoyable and stay within budget without maxing out your credit card. First, let’s determine said budget. How much can you afford to spend, all in? Remember that there are a lot of hidden costs to traveling, such as getting a passport or a new visa, pet-sitting for your furry friends, parking at the airport, and so on.
The last thing you want is having to charge your card and pay interest on a trip long passed.
Then, let’s have a look at destinations. As a long term traveler, I often visit places for months on end. I spent six months just in the US and Mexico. So when people go to the other side of the world for a week, it surprises me. Yes, hotels in Goa or Bali are dirt cheap, but have you taken into account the cost of the overall holiday? Once you include a $900 flight, your daily average for a week jumps by over $125!
People often wonder how I can afford to travel so much, and the answer is simple: slow travel. If you minimize flights, you can stretch your budget for fun.
For short trips, I like to stay within the same time zone. Mexico offers great value right now, due to the cheap peso, it is a fascinating country and has a lot to offer to everyone. Plus, it is less that five hours away from most US cities.
Asia offers outstanding value, if you have the time to go all the way there and recover from jet-lag. What I love most about it, is it is completely different from everything you know. Gorgeous sights, delicious food, it is a feast for all senses.
One way to save big on travel is to be flexible. I have been going back to Europe for the past few summers, and when I book my flight, I pretty much look for any way to cross the ocean. Landing in Brussels, London or Barcelona for $300 less than Paris? Count me in. If you subscribe to a few alerts you can book a great deal.
Last minute “I’ll go anywhere” deals are also worth it, but in my case, I still want to go to a specific destination. If my trip is set in stone, I book flights and hotels as much in advance as possible. Otherwise, like when I am on my motorcycle and anything can happen (from a flat tire to a wonderful camping spot I don’t want to leave), I’ll book on the same day. Last minute bookings are a bit more expensive, but you don’t lose money on the nights you were not able to use.
I also try to define my priorities. I like good food, and am willing to pay more for a good table, but regarding accommodation, I’m ok with just a clean bed. Living on a lake most of the year, I am pretty spoiled and don’t need to spend $200 a night on accommodation. I don’t mind cooking a few meals at home or having a picnic if that means more money for a longer trip.
When it comes to traveling, everyone is different. Make sure your trip aligns with your priorities and you spend on what matters most to you!