There are a lot of people out there who dream of a trip that they believe is unattainable. “One day I’ll visit Italy before I die,” or “My dream is to visit the country my family is from.” Traveling can be costly and it’s time-consuming but with a few tricks and tips, absolutely everyone can make it happen. You just need to plan a little. You’re thinking, “yeah, but I don’t have the money and can barely pay my bills.” Trust me, as a person who has been broker than broke before and still managed to travel to Europe when I could barely pay my rent, there are ways to make it happen.
Make a Real Plan: Believe that you’re going to do it and make a solid plan and make it in advance. Plan out everything you want to do with the exception of marking the exact dates. “In 2019, I will go to Italy for seven days.” Write it all down, make a “to-do” list of what you’ll need and plan to take a week for off for it. Create a Pinterest board of things you want to see on your trip and the cities you want to stay in. Print out pictures and put it somewhere you can see it with post-its that say things like, “you’re fucking going.” The more you plan it, the more likely you are to actually do it.
Be Flexible with Dates: Timing is everything if you want to find cheap tickets. The most costly way to travel is to decide where you want to go and which month you need to do it and search out tickets for that time frame. Example: I’d like to go to Italy in July in 2018. If you do it this way, you’re going to pay out of your ass for tickets. The best way to travel is to have an idea of where you want to go and be flexible with your travel dates. That way, you can monitor tickets and look for extreme dips in prices. The other day I found RT tickets to Europe from SLC for $400 dollars. You heard that right. Save up money, and start monitoring tickets. There are a number of apps and websites that make doing this very easy (I’m writing a blog post about it now that will be up in a week or so). When you find a shockingly cheap ticket, buy it. In order to do this, it’s important to leave a week of vacation time open on the year you want to travel. And you’ve got to really be disciplined about not dipping into your saved trip money.
Look into Rewards Cards: If you don’t have any already, get a rewards card or two if you can qualify. I’ve written about this before but my two favorite cards are the Delta American Express and the Chase Sapphire Card. Why? You get a buttload of sign-on points for both cards. The AE covers airfare while the Sapphire covers hotels and Airbnb (as of recently you can buy Airbnb gift cards with your points). The trick to credit card points is to use the card for monthly things you already have in your budget, like grocery shopping, and pay off the card immediately. That way, you’re getting the points and paying zero interest to the credit card company. DOUBLE WIN. If you don’t have the credit for a rewards card, no worries. It won’t stop you from taking that dream trip.
Save Smart: Go over your monthly budget and see if there are any expenses you can cut like eating out with friends or those weird dog sweaters you keep buying Fido. Open a savings account at a separate bank and put whatever you can afford into that account every month. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t put a lot in right way. Every little bit adds up so if you can only save ten bucks per month at first, that’s okay. Keep your eyes peeled for side work or other opportunities to make a little extra cash here and there. Write random things for Textbroker.com or sell some of your old clothes to a second-hand shop. Finally part with those glass trinkets that grandma gave you but just isn’t your jam.
Be Open-Minded (it can save you money): Don’t be afraid to travel in a way you never have before. Open yourself up to nontraditional lodging like a hostel or couch surfing or save your points for an Airbnb. Ask friends to come with you and split the cost of a hotel room or apartment. Sometimes, people think they can only travel under perfect circumstances and that’s just not true. You don’t need to stay in a nice hotel to have a good time. I once stayed in a hostel in Ireland with 12 other women (in bunk beds in one room) and while the entire thing sounded absolutely miserable before I arrived, it ended up being one of the highlights of my trip. I also know a couple who are in their fifties, a husband and wife, who travel the world together and only stay in hostels. It’s how they afford to do cool shit all the time.
Ask for Travel Instead of Shoes for Holidays: Ask for travel-related things for your birthday and Christmas. Ask for Airbnb gift cards, luggage, or use UpGift to raise funds for your amazing trip. Upgift lets friends and family gift services instead of material items, which I love because experiences are so much better than stuff (and also produce less waste). Hooray for the internet!
Change Jobs: If travel is really important to you but you just can’t swing it financially, get a job that provides travel perks. Airlines, travel agencies, hotels, all have travel perks that can put you that much closer to your travel goals.
Whatever your travel goal is, you can make it happen with a little tenacity, some creativity, and a killer rewards card.