Back when I was still working full-time, people were always commenting on how often my husband and I travelled.
“You’re always on holiday!”
“Do you ever work?”
“You’re heading off again?!”
“How do you afford to travel so much?!”
My favourite comment of all was when we decided to quit our jobs altogether to go travelling full-time. My boss at the time started saying we must have won the lottery! (Definitely not the case!)
Some people seemed convinced that we somehow got more annual leave than they did. That we earned a lot of money in order to afford to travel as often as we did. But in reality, neither of those things were true.
Simply put, the main difference between us and many of these people is that for us, travel is a priority.
It is one of the few things we splash out on every year, and the main thing that keeps us sane and drives our motivation to save.
Still, travel isn’t free. So, how do we afford to travel as much as we do?
The main thing is that we make sacrifices elsewhere. At the end of the day, you can only spend your money once. So, where will you spend it?
I think one of the important things to remember is that there’s no right or wrong answer to that question. Honestly, travel isn’t for everyone. Especially not full-time travel! Some people would rather spend their money on new cars, clothes, manicures or dinners out at nice restaurants. And that’s ok!
But, since you’re here, reading this post, I’ll go ahead and assume that you do want to travel more. So how can you finally afford to do just that? Read on to find out!
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1. Get Serious About Your Savings (And Your Spending!)
You might have read this before in another post, but I love a good spreadsheet! We have a pretty well defined budget for our day to day stuff at home. We even budget for the fun stuff!
Whether it’s an automatic payment into various savings accounts, or a cash withdrawal to put into a purse or envelope for a specific purpose, it’s so important to have a clear idea of where your money is going.
For example, let’s say you receive €1500 in your pay-check each month.
If travel is truly a priority, start by putting as much as you possibly can into a savings account for travel first. Even before rent and groceries.
I know this might seem counter intuitive, but if you have a travel and savings goal, you need to prioritise it.
Then work your way down the list of priorities.
Obviously rent (or a mortgage), groceries, electricity/gas/water bills and insurance payments will come next. You might be able to tweak these but unless you move home and live rent free, you’ll likely have to set some money aside for these things.
Pro Tip: We would take out €400 in cash every month and put it into a specific purse for groceries. This meant we had a defined amount of money to spend on grocery items every month and we could easily see whether we were over spending or not.
Lastly, figure out what’s left, if anything. What can you spend on? What would you rather save?
Full disclosure; At one point we became too focused on saving… We realised that we weren’t having an awful lot of fun between trips anymore.
As such, I’m not suggesting that you never go out and see your friends to have a drink or go to the cinema or get a take away meal.
What we ended up doing was to put some money aside each month (in our case, it was €100) for “fun stuff.” We actually named this savings account “Fun Money”!
This is the account we dug into for those nights out with friends or other social activities. It meant that we didn’t feel guilty about spending the money while at the same time it helped us see when we were getting too bogged down with saving. When the Fun Money balance started getting too high, it was a reminder to go and enjoy ourselves!
Balance is important!
Like I said, when it comes to money, you can only spend it once. So, where do your priorities lie?
Sure, travel is up there. We’ve established that.
But what else is important?
- Would you rather buy your lunch every day or are you ok with taking a packed lunch to work?
- Is that cappuccino from the coffeeshop on your way to work a necessity, or could you get a travel mug and bring your hot drink from home?
- How important is it to go out to a restaurant for dinner with friends? Or could you host a dinner party at home instead?
- Would you manage without that sports channel or Netflix subscription for the next six months?
Some of this stuff might not seem like much (that coffee is only €2.50 after all!) but once you add it all up, it makes a difference.
Read More: 20 Realistic Ways To Save Money For Travel
Which brings me to my next point; Keep track of your expenses! Write down absolutely everything you spend money on every single day.
This might seem tedious but it’s a great way of uncovering where you’re spending your money. You’ll be surprised at how much you are actually spending that you didn’t even really realise. Just a few small tweaks can beef up your travel savings pretty well!
Let’s assume you work 5 days a week. We’ll only focusing on those days and leave your weekends alone for now. Again – it’s all about balance!
- Are you buying lunch every day at work for €7? That’s €35 a week
- That cappuccino from earlier? Even if you’re only having one a day, it adds up to €12.50 a week
- Craving a chocolate bar or a bag of chips in the afternoon? At €1 each, that’s another €5 a week
Before you know it, you’ve already spent €52.50…
Of course, you still need to eat and drink, but buying food at the supermarket to make your own lunches could cost as little as €10 a week, meaning you can still save the other €42.50 every single week!
That’s €2210 every single year!!
You could get a pretty nice holiday for that kind of money, right?!
There are lots of different ways to save money so that you too can afford to travel. Again, it’s all about priorities. If you need some help figuring out how to save money, read my 20 actionable tips that anyone can use.
Make The Most Of Special Deals
My husband used to laugh at me for buying two bottles of shampoo when the one I was using wasn’t even empty. Or getting a big box of washing powder because it was on special.
But the thing is, there are some items you know you’ll need. If those two bottles of shampoo were on a two for one deal, meaning I saved €5 today, that’s €5 I don’t have to spend in the next couple of months when I do need more shampoo…
I’m not suggesting you start hoarding stuff just because they’re on special! Definitely don’t go buying a fancy new gas BBQ just because it was on sale for 15% off if you were never intending to buy a new BBQ!
But, make the most of discount sales on items you would buy anyway.
Two for one deals, three for two deals, 50% extra free… all of these are definitely worthwhile on your usual, day to day items. And, they’ll go a long way to helping you to afford that trip you’ve been dreaming of taking!
2. Be Smart About How You Travel
Combine Business Trips With Personal Travel
If you’re “lucky” enough to travel for work (and I say lucky hesitantly because I know from plenty of experience that this is definitely not as glamorous as it sounds), consider combining your trip with some personal time off.
You’re there anyway, so why not combine it with a trip in the area? It’s definitely an easy way to make travel more affordable.
Stay for the weekend or a few extra days before and after your work trip. Have your other half come and meet you there if possible. Your work has already paid for your transport there, so you may as well make the most of it, right? It’s going to be much easier to be able to afford one ticket instead of two!
I used to travel to Exeter in England a lot for my job, and sometimes to the States. While my husband never came to meet me in the US, he did once or twice in the UK. Other times, I would extend my trip to cover the weekend and go and visit a friend for a night or two in London.
Yes, you’ll still have to pay for your own accommodation obviously, and whatever transport and so on you’ll need while you’re there on your own time. But, it’s often the flights that are most expensive. Plus, since you’re already there you’ll probably need to use less personal time, meaning you’re being smart about how you’re using your hard earned holidays too!
Make The Most Of Weekends
Similar to extending your business trip with some personal days, make the most of the time off you’re getting anyway. Add a Monday to your weekend (usually Mondays will be quieter and cheaper than Fridays).
By creating a 3-4 day weekend, your annual leave will stretch much further meaning you can take more short breaks rather than just one 2 week holiday a year.
This will most likely mean staying closer to home, but that generally also means it will be cheaper!
Take the car and go camping. Explore neighbouring cities. Discover your local area like a tourist.
You could do the same with public holidays as well, but a word of caution – Those days tend to be popular times to get away and therefore more expensive. So, not an altogether affordable way to travel.
Travel When Others Don’t
Unless you’re tied to school holidays because you either have children of your own or you work in education, don’t travel during school holidays!
Travelling in off-seasons can make it way more affordable to travel!
We went to Thailand on the cusp of the rainy season and still had lots of amazing hot and sunny days. We travelled to New Zealand in the winter which yes, can be cold, but also a hell of a lot cheaper (and trust me, New Zealand can be an expensive destination!)
The bonus is that attractions will be much quieter too, so you’re not fighting with hoards of people making your trip more relaxing as well as affordable!
Spend Time Getting Good Travel Deals
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m a meticulous planner! I do a lot of research and this pays off when it comes to travel.
Always compare prices across sites before booking. Check to see whether purchasing flights and accommodation together is cheaper than buying them separately. Sign up for newsletters to be the first to hear about discount codes or sales. Check whether hotels or apartments are better value at your chosen destination.
It helps if you can be flexible too; Whether it is flexibility in when, where or how you get somewhere, you can save big money!
Also, if you can, travel with hand luggage only! This is definitely a huge cost saver and makes it easier to afford to travel.
At the very least, try to pack as light as possible so that you’re in the lower weight bracket for your luggage. Many low cost airlines will have a tiered system meaning if you can get away with ten or 15kg instead of 20kg, you’ll save money.
3. Consider Going All In!
The following suggestions definitely won’t be for everyone. But, they’re worth considering as they can go a really long way in helping you to afford to travel more and for longer.
After I finished University, I moved to Kanazawa, Japan, and taught English for a year with Aeon.
It was an incredible experience!
No, I’m not a teacher and never studied teaching. But, in many countries, you can teach English at private language schools as long as you are a native English speaker and have a university degree.
Living and working in Japan for a year meant I was able to explore on weekends, take short trips using minimal annual leave, and even visit neighbouring countries like Thailand more easily than I can from Ireland.
An alternative is to see whether your company offers any relocation opportunities. Would it be possible for you to transfer to a team in a different country?
Or, maybe you have skills that will allow you to work virtually? These days there are lots of virtual opportunities, from teaching a language to social media management to being a virtual assistant!
If you’re able to save up enough money to travel longer term, you’ll be able to afford to travel and see a lot more for much less.
You see, airfares are often the biggest expense of any trip. So, if you can stay in an area and travel slowly and (primarily) over land, you can often save a lot of money. Meaning that you can afford to travel for much longer.
Maybe your company offers unpaid leave, or the opportunity to take a 3 or 6 month sabbatical?
Or, if you’re game, do what we did and quit your job to travel. Yikes! I know! That’s a big one!! And definitely not an option to be taken lightly. There’s a lot to consider when you give up the financial stability of a job! But, if you save enough, it might be possible to head off for a year or more.
Pro Tip: When we decided to go traveling full-time, we chose to focus our time in South East Asia. It’s generally much cheaper so our money went much further there than if we’d chosen Europe or America.
Either way, the main point is that staying in one area for a longer period of time means you don’t have the high cost of long distance airfares to get you there in the first place. Meaning you’ll be able to afford to travel for longer and see more in one go.
Money impacts nearly everything we do, including our ability to afford to travel the world.
But, that doesn’t mean it should hold you back from pursuing your travel dreams! If you set a clear savings goal, focus your priorities and are smart about how you travel, you’ll be able to afford to travel as much as we do!
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