Despite what my Instagram photographs portray, (and what I secretly wish was the truth) I am not a retired twenty something with a secret load of money inherited to pay for my travels. I have multiple jobs, I am enrolled in a full class load of graduate school, I moved out of my parent’s house years ago and I firmly believe in only buying what I can afford in the moment. So how do I travel a lot? Well, all of the money and points are my own so here’s a breakdown:
PRIORITIZE – What do you want most? That’s what dictates my everyday savings versus spending as well as what I am willing to spend on abroad. Prioritizing is a practiced mental habit that took years of writing lists for me to make into a habit for myself. I consider myself a very frugal person, in some circumstances I seem cheap but then in others I can travel to Europe three times in a year. Priorities are personal, so take time to think about them! Timing plays into this as well. I know that I am in my twenties, also paying for school right now, so I can’t do the luxury trips I would like to do when I am older and more able to afford them. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t go anywhere! Traveling through cheaper countries and road tripping around my neighboring states are totally realistic options for me that I take advantage of.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LITTLE THINGS – They really add up! Based on my lifestyle my purchases are minimal. I don’t spend money on things like getting my nails done, shoes, makeup…things that can be considered habitual purchases. I spend my money on gas, groceries and triathlons in the summer. Don’t get me wrong I do need to buy clothes and fun things- but the key is when I need them. I learned the hard way my Tim Horton’s timbit (donut holes) habit can add up to a lot spent in only a matter of weeks. So now I have left the country in order to kick my Tim’s habit (kidding, sorta). Coffee is something I really like so it's a treat for me after a killer morning training session. That's where I find my balance!
SHOP AROUND – I have a tendency to check in on flight prices on a regular basis. This keeps me aware of the trends, new websites, airline sales etc. It’s so hard to explain to friends in a short conversation how I know when and how to purchase flights as cheap as I do. It takes a lot of leg work! It’s worth it though, because really, who wants to pay a few extra hundred dollars to an airline that they could have kept to spend on a trip? Airline point prices for flights don’t typically change as much as the dollar price because they’re usually fixed for domestic vs international. However, they do move a little bit, so I will also plug in a potential trip on my airline point websites every once in a while to check in on that.
CREDIT CARDS, PLAY THE GAME – It took me two years of saving money to go on my first two big trips. I booked both trips on my credit card and immediately paid them off. In the process, gaining thousands of airline points. In order to get the sign-up spending bonus on my credit card I had to make purchases for other people because I couldn’t spend $4,000 in the first three months. Luckily someone I know needs premium gas for their car and we were good friends, so they were willing to help a gal out!
Nowadays I pay for my tuition on my card and immediately pay it off to gain my points.
My credit card also has no foreign transaction fees, so I can use it in any country- trust me getting home to additional charges just to switch currencies is a horrible welcome home!
SPEND WISELY – I can use 12,500 points to fly to San Diego OR I can use those points to fly all the way across the country to Tampa. Choose wisely. I can also save $20 and fly home on the early morning flight OR I can spend the $20 for the later flight and get a whole extra day at my destination! I can spend my monies on Uber here Uber there OR I can use my triathlete legs to walk and see more (and beat my Mum on Fitbit steps 12 miles later!). I can spend $1,400 on going out to eat three times a week for a year, OR I can eat out once a week and book a flight to Scotland, England and South Africa (done, done and I love pizza).
GO WITH THE FLOW – Travel does cost money but so does living at home. Understanding your spending habits and how you can splurge versus save when you are abroad will help make traveling more affordable!
This is how I have been able to afford my travels on my own since I was 19 through working, and while paying for school and everyday life. If you have other tips and tricks feel free to let me know, I would love to hear it!