The cost of traveling on the regular can really add up, even if you’re frugal with your finances.
If you’ve got a taste for the finer things in life—like me—and you like to get away a few times each year, you’ll need to find ways to save every spare penny. So, if you’re simply not willing to sacrifice life’s luxuries, try these four budgeting hacks to save money for travel so you’ll have enough extra cash to live it up on your next vacation.
1. Set a Goal
Come up with a dollar amount that will allow you to have the kind of adventure you’re after. Whether you decide a single two-week vacation is in order or four long-weekend getaways, make sure your number will cover airfare, accommodations, admissions, and spending for whatever tickles your fancy. Figure out how much you need to put away each month in order to reach your goal. Open a separate bank account just for your travel fund, and only withdraw money to put toward travel.
Pro tip: Set a lofty goal—you’re more likely to save more each paycheck in an effort to hit your goal if it’s a bit higher. But make sure it’s still realistic to reach, or you’ll feel deflated when you simply can’t achieve it regularly.
2. Eat In
This may seem obvious, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Eat in. Watch a movie on Netflix. Go for a walk…the point is, instead of going out to eat or see a movie, do something that doesn’t cost you anything. In my house, eating out is a $5 pizza from Little Caesars. When I do go out for a meal with friends, we go for breakfast. French toast and OJ tends to be a lot cheaper than steak and a bottle of vino.
What things do you do each week that you could substitute with a lower-priced alternative, like going for breakfast instead of dinner? Maybe you can brew your own coffee instead of stopping by the corner café. Think about the money you spend on meals and entertainment each week, and cut it in half. Put the other half into your new travel bank account. You’ll be surprised by how quickly it adds up.
3. Popping Tags
One of my favorites lines from a move is when Hilary Swank tells Gerard Butler in “P.S. I Love You” that Marc Jacobs from Minneapolis doesn’t count as designer clothing because she buys everything on ebay. Well, it’s a brilliant alternative.
If you’re like me, your upscale taste doesn’t only extend to hotels. You also like to look good. Save cash by looking for your favorite fashions on ebay. You can find plenty of brand new, current pieces at a fraction of the retail cost. Also, sign up for newsletters from your favorite shops. These days, they’re always sending out online promo codes giving deep discounts on both sale and regularly priced items. The moral of the story: never pay full price for anything. Ever. Again, take your savings and put it in that travel bank account.
4. Size Matters
I can only afford one really amazing trip each year, but I go stir crazy if I don’t get away every three to four months. So, instead of trying to make each trip spectacular, I plan a few minor trips each year. And it doesn’t matter to me which order I go on the trips, so long as I go. I simply watch for the best deals.
For example, this past spring, I got an awesome deal on a 10-day Canary Islands cruise. It departed out of Barcelona, so I spent a few days staying at an affordable, but adorable, airbnb before the cruise. The total cost for 15 days, including airfare, was about $2,000. Then, I took a super cheap four-day Baja cruise with a few extra nights in Hollywood, and I rounded it out with a fall cruise along the New England coastline and a stay in New York at the end of the cruise. Both US cruises cost less than $1,200 each, including airfare.
In the end, I took three amazing vacations spanning more than 30 days for less than $4,500. That’s well below my annual budget, so I’m whisking away to the UK for a few days over the new year as an added bonus. Using some discount codes and coupons, I’ll spend a week overseas for less than $1,000.
Think about the different ways you can stretch your travel budget so you can get away more for the same—or even less—money.