Everyone has a different story when it comes to funding travel. Whether it be eating super cheap, saving for years, or getting lucky and being a trust fund child, traveling is different per basis. But how do I afford travel?
I use a combination of tricks. First, I work pretty hard when I’m home. As a civil engineer, I bring home a decent salary that allows me to put some money away. Second, I know when I find a good deal and I jump on it.
Building up a good nest egg can be tricky. I use an app called Acorns. Acorns is a financial service that helps you invest your money. This app allows me to put $20/month into my portfolio that invests in Exchange Traded Funds. I can add more money at any time. The really neat function is called “Round-Ups”. When you link a credit or debit card to your account, Acorns tracks the spare change from your transactions and rounds those numbers up to the next whole number. For example, If I spent $23.67 on a dinner, Acorns would round up to $24 and invest the extra $0.33 cents into my account. Pretty cool! If you sign up for the app using my code below, we each get a $5 sign up bonus!
Sign Up For Acorns, get $5 (link opens in new tab)
Another way to build your nest egg is playing the stock market. Ok, this can be risky for the novice stock trader like you and me, but I use an app called Robinhood that allows me to analyze the what I may be purchasing stocks in a very user friendly way.
Sign Up For Robinhood, get a free stock (link opens in new tab)
Savings accounts with high Annual Percent Yields (APY) can also be your friend. The Barclays Dream Account has a 1.90% APY and ZERO monthly fees for a savings account. If you were to have $2,000 sitting in this account, you could very easily make an approximate $38 per year whereas your other bank savings accounts may make you up to a dollar with a 0.01-0.50% APY.
Sign Up For Barclays Dream Account for 1.90% APY (link opens in new tab)
Maximize your 401k! If your company has an optional 401k, utilize this! If they offer a 401k match, put in enough to get the maximum match! Let’s say your company offers you a 6% match, that means you should put a minimum of 6% of your salary (per paycheck) into your 401k and your company will match you dollar for dollar up to that 6%. That means that you are putting away 6%, but your essentially receiving an additional 6% for an equivalent 12% of your salary being put away for retirement. In 30 years we are going to have a huge issue with social security not having enough funds for the overwhelming number of people that will need to rely upon it. We will have a 40 trillion dollar deficit. Don’t rely upon the government, make smart choices now. Compounding interest in your twenties, will increase your 401k investment and allow you to retire at a decent age, whereas if you wait, you will be working long into your seventies. Invest in yourself now!
I signed up for Chase Sapphire Reserve card. It has a ton of travel perks. Yes, it has a $450 annual fee, however, the perks outweigh the fee. You receive $300 per year in travel credit (spend $300 dollars on anything travel related throughout the year and Chase refunds that money to your card), $100 global entry fee credit (allows for automatic TSA Precheck), complimentary airport lounge access with Priority Pass (great if you need a light meal or shower while traveling), 3X points on travel and dining expenses, as well as a great rewards program that you can receive 1.5X more for using your points to book travel through Chase, and other benefits: Chase Sapphire Reserve Travel Benefits.
Get 50,000 bonus points by signing up at the following link!
Sign Up For Chase Sapphire Reserve (link opens in new tab)
Sign up for airline mileage programs through most of the main airlines. I keep track of this information to input when I log on to an airlines website so that I can attempt to track and take advantage of using mileage points instead of spending the money out of pocket for my next destination. My wife also has a Southwest Rewards Credit Card in which any purchases she makes can be directly converted to points to use on travel.
Also download apps such as Skyscanner, Hopper, and Kayak. These will keep an eye out on the skies for you to find the better deals so you can save some money on what is often the costliest portion of your trip. Some websites will keep you updated of incorrect fares such as AirfareWatchDog or TravelPirates that will let you know when the airline has made a mistake and entered a price lower than originally intended.
Conversely, also sign up for hotel rewards programs. Most do not require fees and you can start accruing points by booking their hotels. Build up enough points and a vacation could very quickly change with a room upgrade with a participating hotel rewards program.
AirBnB is another way to travel on the cheap. I LOVE AirBnB! It allows you to not only save money on hotel expenses, but also talk with some locals and figure out the best of the best local scenes from none other than A LOCAL! Many “local” hotel employees will get discounts for making recommendations to nearby restaurants, but a true local will tell you exactly how it is. “Go to this little coffee shop for the best cappuccino” and the majority of the time, it truly is the best around. Another benefit of using AirBnB, is that you typically can get a full house, fully furnished for the price of a hotel room. Which means that if you are traveling with a larger group, the price decreases with each subsequent traveler. Sometimes the use of bicycles or surfboards also comes with the house (depending on location), which can negate the price you are going to have to pay to rent these additions elsewhere.
Sign up for AirBnB and receive $40 in travel credit! (link opens in new tab)
This is a great topic that can make or break a vacation. Often times dining can be just as expensive over the course of a family vacation as the airfare or lodging. It’s time to think cheaper. Yes, you can choose to eat out for every meal at any restaurants that pick your fancy. However, I tend to like to ask around (hence why AirBnB automatically connects you with a local) to get a full scope of really good local cuisine. Often times the little taco stand will serve delicious tacos that the nearby restaurant charges 2-3 times more just because you’re sitting down and being served. Don’t forget to tip! If given the choice between spending $200 on a nice meal or walking the streets until I find something that suits my fancy, I choose the latter. Don’t get me wrong, every now and then a nice meal is in the cards, but if you can save a bit of money by choosing a cheaper option each day and then spend a bit more on one meal by the end of the trip, the budgets you prepared may just work out.
Going to a local grocery store or market is another great way to cut costs. The purchase of some fresh fruits, a nice baguette, and some meats and cheeses can provide you with a nice picnic lunch that is much less than eating out. Plus leftovers that can be kept can make enough for a later snack or meal in case anyone gets hangry (looking at you babe!). This can also cut time if your hike takes much longer than you expected and you need to run back to your lodging before going to the show you booked, grab that snack and run!
Picking and choosing activities:
Most importantly on vacations, every now and then SPLURGE! Treat yourself! This is your vacation, your travel, your life! Spend a little extra to get some gelato on a hot day in Rome, or a once (maybe twice) in a lifetime experience like Bungy Jumping the Kuwaru Bridge in New Zealand. It is tempting to spend money at each new location, but maybe you skip the alpine slide and instead go on a hike to a spectacular view you may never have seen on the slide. It’s all about balancing your activities and knowing when to spend on a special experience.
Shopping for GEAR, cheaper:
What type of gear are you after? As a traveler, I’m constantly looking at the next piece of gear to add to my collection and use while vacationing. Obviously camera gear comes to mind. A few places I search are Craigslist, Greentoe, REI, and Nextdoor. I’m a huge advocate of buying slightly used or receiving a screaming deal on new items (don’t we all love that). Let someone else buy the gear at full price and reap the benefits when they realize it was unnecessary for their needs.
Sign up for Greentoe to negotiate a deal (link opens in new tab)