How you can afford to travel: 7 tips you should know

Wood bridge piers with smoothy sea water against beau
AJ: I found this article one day while mentally escaping from my hectic life on pinterest and thought it was a really unique perspective on one way you can afford to travel and save money. She references a lot of the tried and true factors that we leverage (see our post on How to use credit cards to your advantage) like making your credit cards work for you throughout the year but also has some other tips that we love.

Checkout this article we found, too, with some great ideas on how a blogger discusses her experience with traveling in a cost effective manner: Travel, Paint, Repeat blog article.

KJ: Once you catch the travel bug, you get this strong desire to keep searching the globe for different foods, different cultures, and different ways of seeing the world. Traveling the globe has an allure of being very expensive, but there are countless ways you can find creative ways to travel on the cheap – or at least cheaper (read saving money) than you thought was possible. Here are some tips on how we enjoy ourselves while we travel, yet keep a healthy perspective on our budgets.

Scour the internet for airline mileage credit cards
AJ: This is how we were able to subsidize the cost of our most recent European vacation. We found a couple of cards that were offering 50,000 miles for signing up and completing a few purchase milestones. That’s right: 50,000 miles just for signing up for a credit card and meeting some qualifications. The key is to read the fine print, so you know exactly what you need to do to get those miles (and how long it will take to get it credited to your account). Don’t get a credit card where the minimum purchases required are above what you spend on a regular basis, and don’t extend yourself on the credit cards just to get miles. That’s ill-advised and dangerous, and you will end up spending more on interest and charges than it was worth it.

After a year, our cards moved to an annual fee style setup, so we simply cancelled the cards at that point and continued using our other, regular cards.

Balance working hard with playing harder
During our annual Valentine’s Day spa day last year my facialist, a beautiful Russian woman, told me that “we Americans work too hard and don’t enjoy life enough!” Every time KJ and I are in Europe we wind up feeling the exact same thing after a few days – we work too hard! Alas, we have no intention of leaving the states permanently anytime soon, so why not make all the working hard worth it by playing even harder on vacation? I’m almost as addicted to the working hard as I am to the playing hard because it makes it THAT much sweeter.

Search online forums for advice
My newest travel on a budget find came from Google. KJ and I have vacation days to burn and while I really wanted to go back to Europe, KJ wanted to stay domestic, so we went to Boston! In my hunt for must-do things and must-eat places I found this online forum where chefs can post their nightly, weekly and monthly specials – a totally public-facing, underground-esque approach to what city-based magazines used to provide 10 years ago. Prix Fixe menus galore, dinner for two specials, happy hour deals, you name it, they cover it. We sorted through all of them and picked out the must-eats for us and then built our schedule around it in ways we could be saving money.

Build a budget
Even if it is quite a simple calculation, at least begin to add up what you plan to do on the trip(s) including travel, meals, transportation around the city(ies). That will help you frame what you have to work with while not just assuming you have the money to pay for anything your heart will desire. Knowing what your average spend for the day is will go a long ways in making sure you don’t overspend – it’s amazing how quick a coffee here, snack there, drink here can really add up and impact your spend for a trip.

Avoid high-priced hotels and accommodations
One of the best ways we have found to help save some money on our travels is to find local bed and breakfast stops or apartment or house rentals for a few nights (or week). It’s not just the nightly cost you save, but most places we look for have some type of kitchen, so it allows us to experience the local grocery stores and make some meals ourselves which saves some extra money since it’s cheaper than going out to a fancy restaurant.

Plan ahead and plan last minute
Wait, what? One of the keys for keeping costs low is to plan really far in advance. That way you can get some deals for being some of the first to book your trip. However, don’t be averse to last-minute deals either. Sometimes that’s the best way to find a good deal where airlines, hotels, rental car companies, etc. have extra inventory they are trying to get rid of, so keep on the lookout for those opportunities if your lives and jobs allow for that last-minute flexibility.

Understand that luxury doesn’t mean high priced
There isn’t always a direct connection with price and luxury. We have been in plenty of hotels and locations that were top dollar only to find that they were far less than what we expected (i.e. saving money at its worst!) while we have found some great gems on the cheap (i.e. saving money at its best!). Don’t always associate high cost as being a better experience. Sometimes it’s the lower to middle part of the market that provides you with the best travel experience.

    What are your travel secrets?
    How do you keep costs low while you travel?
    Share with us what your experiences are.

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2 thoughts on “How you can afford to travel: 7 tips you should know

  1. Loving your blog and all you do to share wonderful and helpful info. We love to travel too. We’re off to a family reunion (30 some of us) in June and found our reasonably priced lodging on VRBO.com. We’ve used VRBO several times and always found better deals than expensive hotels.

    • Great find! We haven’t used VRBO.com before, but we have used other vacation home rental sites (domestically and for international travel to Spain/Italy) and have had great success!

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