My new 4-Month Adventure has begun!!!
STATS – Day: 3 | Distance: 425.5miles | Location: Seattle, WA | Money Spent To Date – Transportation: $28.55 | Food: $6.00 | Play: $0.00 | Lodging $0.00
“Where do you find the money to travel all the time?” This is a question I get asked often. It can sometimes seem impossible to have enough money to go someplace when your whole paycheck go to gas, rent, groceries, etc. How does one do it?
Here is how I do it. Although not everyone wants to travel, but for those of us who do and need a little encouragement, maybe this will help.
I plan for travel like other people plan to buy a car, or a concert ticket, or attend a main sporting event. Heck, once upon a time I’d have to plan just to rent a movie….from a video store. The process is the same regardless of the “what”.
I save money.
I plan for the experience.
Saving money for me isn’t like, “Oh, I have an extra $5” and put it in a jar that sits there for whatever I might want. I actively save. Before I had a bank account, I used to use the envelope method – putting a specific amount of money, in a specific envelope, for a specific purpose each day, week or month. I had envelopes for everything!
I see saving for travel no different than paying a bill.
I’ve had a bank account for a while now and have an automated money transfer scheduled from my checking account to a special “travel” savings account. It is not mixed in with my regular savings account where it could lose its purpose.
I started with $50 a month (totaling $600/year), then I increased it to $100 a month ($1,200/year), and finally $100 every two weeks ($2,600/year) – dedicated to travel.
My lifestyle naturally adjusted to having less in my checkbook for eating out, renting or going to the movies, and buying groceries un-necessarily. At the end of the year I magically had money in my travel budget, dedicated money! Any money that wasn’t used for travel that year, stayed in the account and was added to the next year.
The next part is planning my experience and making my money count. For me, that means experiencing as much as I can, for as long as I can, on as little money as possible.
Plane tickets – If flying to another country I will almost always use that country’s airline. Not only are tickets usually reasonable, you’re helping that country’s economy, and you get to experience a new culture before you even land. The plane’s seating room and configuration is different, the food selection is different – both usually for the better! In-flight movies will typically include a selection from that country with subtitles so you can hear and familiarize yourself with the sounds of a new language. If I can’t fly direct cheaply, I make my layover count and choose a longer time to hop out and get a mini-experience. Several times I’ve taken 6-19 hour layovers to have a beer with friends, check out one attraction, or even have a long meander through an airport. Don’t rush, ENJOY!
Accommodations – I don’t like to spend a lot of money (if any) on my room because all I usually do is sleep there. Who cares if the view is beautiful, or if the bathroom has 5 mirrors and a telephone, or if you can see the television from any angle? If I don’t use it, why pay for it? Plus in typical accommodations like a hotel, you don’t get to interact with anyone other than your companion (which I usually travel and prefer to travel, alone). I’m a natural introvert, so I need forced opportunities to interact, I won’t do it on my own.
Which is why I like hostels and Airbnb (I haven’t tried couch surfing yet). These options are inexpensive, provide the basics, create wonderful opportunities to meet locals as well as fellow travelers, designed for social interaction, and filled to the brim with experiences.
I could choose to spend $200/night in a hotel = $1400/week (just to sleep), or I can spend $25/night (usually less) in a hostel = $175/week and use my direct my cost savings for other things. Sometimes you can even work in exchange for your accommodations.
Sightseeing – If I am visiting a new city for the first time, I will usually splurge for one of those double-decker bus tours. I am directionally challenged and I NEED visual markers to I can figure out my bearings during the many times I’ll find myself lost. I know myself! The bus tour is a great way to acclimate to a city in a short amount of time, it will go past the major tourist attractions, and I can get an idea of what areas I want to explore more and what areas I want to skip all together. And since you can get on-and-off at various places, it is less intimidating than striking off on your own first thing.
I also like to ride the bus. I will just pick a bus, any bus. A bus has a “bus route”, which means they go to a set number of stops and will ALWAYS (okay, almost always) end up at the same place you got on initially. A bus ticket can cost anywhere from .25 cents to $2 compared to $30-50 for the double-decker bus tour. The key is to make sure you write down what bus you got on, just in case you want to get off somewhere and get back on the same bus, or if you want to go back the way you came, you can get on going in the opposite direction. Some bus stops have little signs with a map which I’ll snap a photo with my phone and keep it handy.
A bus ride doesn’t guarantee you’ll go to all the tourist attractions, but it will take you places you’d never see otherwise, and you ride with locals, rather than other tourists, who will be curious as to where you are going and will share their favorite stops. Be ready to talk, be friendly and gracious. Experiences are unlimited!
I treat each place I visit as if I’ll be back again and again, even if I never do. I don’t rush around trying to see everything and do everything. It isn’t fun for me, and I want to be able to retain every experience and story rather than it being one big blur. So I’ll usually pick 1 or 2 “must see” locations and the rest of the time I wander, I relax in a park and watch people, I’ll write in my journal or read a book – out in the open, absorbing the life and culture that is happening all around me, I’ll go on a hike to a hill or mountaintop and take in the beautiful view that is unique to this one place.
Food – I eat the local street food. I go to the grocery store and see what meat and produce is readily available. I see where the workers get their meals. My experience is that the food will taste better, you will eat things you’ve never experienced before and you will LEARN something you didn’t know. You don’t go hungry, and you save a TON of money. It that is too adventurous for you, buy a box of protein bars and back them in your suitcase. Put one in your pocket every day, just in case you find yourself ready to starve to death. Start with something small, a pretzel or bag of hazelnuts and work your way up. The ham and cheese sandwich you buy on the streets of Paris is better than any restaurant, and you can afford to buy a bottle of wine and enjoy a beautiful park view. Mega Experience!
Example of a 7-day trip and pricing differences
|$600 – flight to Turkey (economy )
$175 – hostel for a week
$150 – sightseeing (double-decker bus tour, bus/subway/tram tickets, bus to/from airport, 2 museum tickets, endless experiences wandering and meeting people)
$100 – street food, groceries, a few beers
|$600 – flight to Turkey (economy)
$1400 – “known” hotel for a week (Hilton, etc. w/ taxes, surcharge, fees)
$500 – sightseeing (taxis, 2 guided tours, museums)
$350 – lunch and/or dinner in restaurants, no beer
If you have a child and/or a significant someone that can’t save money for themselves you have options:
- Don’t take them.
- Scale down your trip. Drive somewhere instead of flying, camp out, cook instead of eating out or buying pre-packaged food. Spend $500 on this year’s trip so you’ll have more to work with next year, or the year after.
Most family vacations take about 5-years to save for, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do something together every year.
“In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself.” – Frantz Fanon
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