With thousands of flights taking off each day, in hundreds of cities around the world, traveling has never been more safe, easy and appealing.
For a small-town girl from rural Canada, traveling always seemed like such a novelty to me. I remember reading children’s books set in Paris or watching TV shows set in England, and I wondered what it would be like to go and explore these exotic places.
Through high school, I used to beg my parents to let me go on class trips to Costa Rica or New York City, participate in Rotary exchanges to Brazil and tag along with my friends on their trips.
Luckily for me, I was able to do all of these things. Now, as an adult, I’m not willing to give up traveling as a part of my lifestyle.
But here’s the thing: I’m so sick of reading these blogs and articles that either tell us to write a travel blog or not to worry about the money.
Do you actually know someone who supports his- or herself as a travel blogger? Of course you do. He's a cousin of your friend’s half-brother’s roommate.
And do you think just spending money without any real knowledge about your current or future financial situation has ever helped anyone?
(That was a rhetorical question. The answer is no. It’s helped absolutely no one.)
So I’m here to tell you traveling is within reach for you, and you don’t have to sell a kidney, take up blogging or be a Kardashian to do it.
Here are 10 points that have helped me immensely in being able to travel several times a year, without breaking the bank.
1. Visit places where you have friends and family, or where your friends and family have friends and family (if you catch my drift).
This is one of my favorite things to do, not just because it saves money.
While it’s nice to have a free spot to lay your head every night, it’s also so wonderful to connect (or reconnect) with people. There’s nothing I love more than touring a city with someone who lives there and knows the place inside out. It makes for a great travel companion, and it’s much more personal than doing an expensive or mainstream tour.
Live life as a local, and you’ll get a far better experience. In my experience, most people love to host family and friends in their homes, especially those who have come a long way to visit them.
2. Expensive accommodations are overrated, as well as overpriced.
Accommodations are famously one of the most expensive parts of traveling, but I speak from experience when I say they don’t have to be.
While it would be nice to stay in a beautiful hotel with room service and a pool, it’s not a reasonable request for most of us Gen-Y travelers (or anyone, for that matter). But staying in a cheap place doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice cleanliness or safety.
There are many trustworthy places to look for online. You can often get a great room to rent in a safe and exciting neighborhood, for a quarter of the price a hotel room would be.
3. Explore seat sales!
I love a good seat sale. As a Canadian traveler, I’m often paying a fair price for airline tickets (we’re just so far away from everyone).
When I check my emails and find out there are promotions going on, it’s literally better than Christmas. Seat sales can be a huge price saver, even if it’s just the tax. Many times, seat sales will be the deciding factor on when and where you go.
While you might have a desire to go to Bali, the incredible deal right now might be to Amsterdam. I’m telling you to take it. Bali will always be there, and chances are, it will look a lot nicer when you fly on a discount.
4. Get a second job.
I know most people don’t like hearing this, but if traveling is a true priority, you’ll do it. I work at my regular “career” job from 8 am to 4 pm, Monday to Friday. Then, you can usually find me waitressing in the evenings and on weekends.
Does it suck sometimes, having to work a 14-hour day or seven days a week?
Of course it does. But right now is the time to do it.
You’re young and able, so if traveling is a true passion, you’ll make it work. That extra cash allows you a little more flexibility when you're planning your finances.
5. Budget, budget, budget.
I don’t want to sound like your parents here.
I don’t claim to be a financial expert of any kind, but budgeting is key. Being able to forecast your expenses and income is huge. This will allow you to have a future look at your finances, and assist you in making educated travel decisions without worrying about money.
There’s no sense in spending all your money on travel if you’re just going to stress about cash. This hinders you from moving forward with your travel dreams and your long-term personal goals.
I use a formula-based Excel spreadsheet that tracks all my income and expenses. This allows me to see where I’m spending my money and helps keep me honest. If I begin to see a trend of money leaving and going to “unworthy” causes, I can shut it down quickly.
6. Live at home for a while.
While I know we all have different family situations and this isn’t an option for everyone, it is a possibility for a great many of you.
Living at home for a period of time can be mutually beneficial. For me, living at home for a while after college allowed me to get ahead on my student loans, while still being able to travel and save for the future.
There is nothing worse than starting your life with thousands of dollars in student loans. (Trust me, I’ve been there.) Set up an arrangement with your parents for rent payment and household responsibilities. They’ll be happy to have the extra income and help, and you’ll be getting a heck of a deal.
Can’t live at home? Find a place that’s affordable. Maybe you can rent a room from a friend, or a house with several friends. You might not be able to have the hot tub or that amazing condo just yet.
But again, if traveling is a priority for you, these things won’t be as important.
7. Travel during off-season.
Going off-season is a huge thing for me. Not only is it a fraction of the price, but the volume of tourists is at an all-time low.
While I realize I am also a tourist, there is nothing I hate more than being bulked in with thousands upon thousands of them. Lines are often shorter, cafés are less busy and it will make for a much more authentic experience.
The only downfall during the off-season is usually the weather. Just be sure to pack appropriate clothing for the time of year you’ll be there. It will be worth the date change.
8. Not all travel destinations are “exotic”; local destinations can be a treat as well.
This is something a lot of people forget.
Often, our local areas are huge tourist destinations to everyone but us. Take advantage of that.
Maybe you can do a mini road trip, take a long weekend or explore an area you’ve never been to. Take advantage of the treasures that lie in your own backyard.
An adventure is an adventure, and you don’t always need to take an airplane to get there.
9. Pack light.
This is always my biggest struggle: what to pack and how much to bring.
Airlines make a lot of extra money off us heavy packers, so the lighter you can pack, the cheaper it will be. We all have our favorites that we end up wearing for most of the trip, anyway.
Pack the absolute necessities and keep the rest at home.
10. Set your priorities; it’s okay to say no.
I have crazy FOMO. I can’t miss out on anything, and if I feel like I’m missing out on something, it haunts me for the entire night.
But it’s become a huge realization for me that I can’t do everything. Not only do I not have the time, but I also don’t have the cash. While you can enjoy a dinner out at a restaurant and a party night from time to time, it doesn’t have to be something you do every weekend.
Have people over instead, go for a walk or have a beach picnic. The money you save over the course of a year will be startling, and will be put to much better use in Italy or Switzerland.
I’m fully aware we all can’t do everything on this list, but I’m confident we can all do at least one. Traveling doesn’t have to be a luxury, and it can easily be a lifestyle.
You only live once, after all.