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Traveling on a Budget

In recent years, I have gained a lot of interest in traveling. I used to be the girl that would spend money on the materialistic things rather than on experiences. I would actually say, “why would I spend money on something that will eventually end, when I could buy a pair of shoes that will last years?” Thankfully I learned early on that is not the way I want to live. The feeling of purchasing things is great in the moment, but it goes away faster than it takes me to put the shoes away. Growing up, I never took trips or vacations anywhere, so I didn’t really know what I was missing. Then during my junior year of college in 2016, Marcus and I had this grand idea to go to Miami, FL for spring break. This was a big deal for me since I hadn’t been on a plane since I was six. That was when the travel bug started. 

So, it’s easy to say you want to start traveling and seeing the world, but it’s another thing when you actually have to pay for it and you don’t have the budget. Or at least it doesn’t appear you have the budget. The great thing about the world we live in today is we have access to so many resources and options, that we can make just about anything possible. It just takes patience and a Google search bar. For those of you that are in a similar position to mine, with student loan debt and an early career salary, i can tell you from experience, it is still possible to have a life and explore amazing places.

In 2019, I am grateful for the places I was able to go! 

  1. Las Vegas, NV
  2. Salt Lake City, UT
  3. Philadelphia, PA
  4. San Diego, CA
  5. Austin, TX
  6. Denver, CO
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Some people have asked me how I am able to do this. They either think I am being crazy reckless with my money or have a sugar daddy. Let me tell you right now, neither of those are true. The way I have been able to travel this year more than I ever have (other than having the PTO thing and getting a paycheck), is because I am budgeting for my travels and spending wisely on each of the trips. When planning your trip, it’s important to determine what your priorities are when traveling so you can choose what you want to spend more money on.

Now, these tips are not for everyone. These are mainly for those who want to travel and see the world even at the expense of convenience and comfort. Here we go!

FLIGHTS

  • Typically, the best time to purchase a flight is 1-2 months before your trip.
  • Use Google Flights. If you are flexible with your dates, Google has an algorithm where they will find you the cheapest flights.
    • Search “Google Fights”.
    • Click on the small calendar icon.
    • Click on “Flexible days”
    • Then change the airport, and now you can experiment with dates and locations.
Here is an example of what the screen looks like.
  • Use your credit card points.
    • I use my credit card for almost all of my purchases and after enough time, I typically have enough points to put dollars towards my flight, if not pay for all of it.
    • If you apply for a new credit card, a lot of times they have a bonus offer to get you a lump sum of points. This most likely will pay for your flight.
  • Try not to pay extra for luggage.
    • If you are flying Spirit or Frontier: try to stick to the personal bag they offer.
      • When I fly, I’m okay with packing just a personal bag. This makes it so much easier to travel through the airport with and hauling it around when trying to locate your hotel. I mean, how many pairs of shoes do you really need?
    • If you are with a more prestigious airline such as Delta or Southwest, they usually offer complimentary bags,.

Here are the flight costs I paid this year:

  1. Las Vegas, NV – $150 (I used google flights)
  2. Salt Lake City, UT – $0 (Completely paid for with credit card points but was $280)
  3. Philadelphia, PA – $57 (I used google flights)
  4. San Diego, CA – $0 (My parents paid for this, but I think it was like $150. Another tip, use your resources!)
  5. Austin, TX – $187 (I used some credit card points towards)
  6. Denver, CO – $0 (Funny story, but I won this trip on the radio)

Total costs on flights this year: $394

LODGING

Lodging is going to be one of your largest expenses if you let it. If you don’t mind slumming around a bit, then I would suggest looking into one of these cheaper options:

  • Find someone you know to stay with – This one works better if you know the people well because it can get a little uncomfortable if you do not have your own space.
  • Airbnb – This is personally my favorite option. There are some amazing prices out there. Our room in Philly was about $38 a night. Another hot tip, get a “room” versus an “entire home”.
  • Couch Surfing – This is an app where you can request to stay on people’s couches for free. Check it out.
  • Book a hotel and bring others, so you can split it.

EXPERIENCES

  • Look for the free attractions
    • I almost think the things that are free are the most fun. Off roadin’ and getting yourself immersed in the culture is not something that everyone experiences. If you look up the website of the place you are going, they usually have an events page of activities going on during that timeframe.
  • Don’t feel like you have to do all of the main tourist attractions that they’ve hiked up the prices for. 
  • Use Groupon

FOOD & DRINKS

  • Pack your own snacks, dammit. 
  • Buy alcohol at the liquor store and drink from your hotel. This way you are not purchasing overpriced drinks from the bar all night.
  • Bring a friend that is good at getting free drinks. SHOUTOUT TO KAYLI OAKMAN
  • Plan each day which meals you want to go out to eat and which you can cook back at the place. I typically try to eat breakfast back at the place, eat lunch at a fast casual, and go to a restaurant for dinner.

TRANSPORTATION:

  • Take the bus or train.
    • That may be an experience in itself! I personally love taking trains. You can sit back and take in the view from a different perspective.
  • Walking is a great form of exercise. Especially if you’re in the city, you can use your five senses and take in your surroundings better.
  • Rent a car:
    • Look into your company’s rental car discount. They may be able to get you a discount on National or Enterprise.
    • One of my personal favorites is an app called Turo. This is basically an Airbnb but for renting cars. You get to browse through people’s vehicles, see the reviews, and it usually comes with a hefty discount. Marcus and I rented a convertible through the app when we were in California to drive up the coast of California.
  • Drive your own car!
    • Depending on your level of patience, the other obvious way to get to your vacation destination is by car. This way you don’t have to pay for a flight and you have a car to get around with. 

EXTRA MONEY

  • Use some of these tips in your daily life before the trip to save up money. This gives you a larger budget to use during your travels.
  • Find ways to make extra cash and contribute that money towards your travel fund. Then you won’t have to feel bad knowing you aren’t taking away from your main source of income. Examples could be donating plasma or selling your old clothes.
  • It also helps when you have a significant other who can pay for things once in a while 😊 Shout out to you, Marcus.

That’s what I got! I hope that these tips will help you in your travels and make it seem a little more feasible. Traveling may seem daunting and too expensive, but it is possible if you want it.

Traveling is so much more than just exploring for the perfect Instagram picture. I believe it teaches you about yourself and the world. It opens your horizon to better understand situations different from your own. It’s time to be enlightened.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Let me know if you have more tips that I can use next time I take a trip!


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