Friends of ours invited us to their home for dinner last Saturday. Unfortunately we couldn’t make it because we were going out-of-town for the weekend. Our friend’s response was one we hear a lot: “How do you find money and time to travel so much?”
I chuckle every time I hear it. It is true, it seems like we are always on the go – but that’s how we like it. Travel is as much a part of our lives as family, friends, exercise and even work are.
I usually pause before giving my answer; you’d think I’d have a scripted answer by now. But to be honest, the answer to how we find time and money to travel so often is multifaceted and ever-changing. While my answer to anyone who asks is not always the same, the heart of my message is: we love to travel and we make it work.
This works for us, but you might have to adjust these ideas and tips to fit yours.
- Prioritize Travel – It might be obvious, but it is important. All other tips and ideas listed below will seem silly, extreme or not important enough if travel is not at the top of your list of things you want to do. Since you are reading this article, I will assume travel is on your radar – or you want it to be! We choose to travel, even with careers. That choice makes it easier for us to prioritize travel.
- Budget your time – Most people understand that budgeting money is a given when it comes to planning a trip. However, what most people do not actively budget is their time. If this is true for you, you will need to re-think the way you spend your days off. If you are like us and have full time careers (which means at least 40 hours of work each week), you time is a precious commodity. You have to budget your time well in order to travel with a full time career. For example, Mike and I do “weekend chores” during the week. Therefore, when weekends roll around we are open for weekend getaways and not bogged down to our honey-do lists. We also look at a calendar at the beginning of each year to map out when and how we can best utilize our vacation days. It takes time to manage your time, but we find it to be worth it. It is very difficult to spend money wisely if you don’t budget it; the same applies to your time. William Penn said “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” Is this true about you? If so, start today re-examining your days off and see if you can’t carve out a day or even a week to use for travel.
- Go Natural – This one is (mostly) for the women. Quick question: how many pedicures have you paid for this year? Here’s some quick math. At (at least) $30 a pop – just one pedicure each month will cost you $360 each year. As of today, a round trip flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Palm Springs, CA was $250 on Virgin America. Hello! Take that flight and have $100 left over splurge on a killer spa day in California. It is amazing how quickly the “extras” in our life can add up. Maybe pedicures aren’t your beauty vice. Maybe it is your hair? Maybe it is facials? The list of costly beauty treatments is endless. All I’m suggesting is you paint your own toenails instead; make your own moisturizer mask or buy your make-up at the drug store, not department store. I wear make-up, and use hair products and paint my nails; I like to feel pretty, but just at a lower price point.
- Be a minimalist – It seems like a logical place to mention that besides beauty regiments, Mike and I also go without other luxuries such as lots of designer clothes, bling and new electronics. These things are not bad. They are just not on our priority list because I know we are saving for travel. I ask myself before each purchase “Do I want this more than a trip to Europe?” If the answer is no, I put the item back, even if it was a shirt that only cost $20. It is amazing how easy it is to you nickel and dime (or $10 and $20) yourself out a vacation. Less is more in this case!
- Earn Rewards – Pick a hotel chain, airline and/or rental car agency you like and stick with them! We’ve been able to fly many places for free (or at a significantly reduced rate) just because we are loyal to that company. We always shop around, but will always pick “our” company over another if the cost/convenience difference is not that much. We do this because we know we will still gain points, miles, etc. for being a consistent customer. The more you travel, the more you earn … who can resist that deal! One hint: research the “local” business in your area. For example: One of Delta Airlines’ hubs is in Atlanta. If you live within 2 hours of Atlanta, fly Delta, every time!
- Travel Buddies – We travel by ourselves a good bit. However, anytime we get the chance to travel with friends or family, we do. First and foremost, it is just FUN. Secondly, it can save you money on hotel rooms, rental cars, gas for the rental car, even excursions or outings if your group is big enough. What’s that? You say your extended family does not like to travel. Hmm, maybe you should reconsider who you are related to! Just kidding, keep asking. Someone will want to go with you.
- Waiting in Cue – Even if flights are not booked and hotels are not reserved, Mike and I are (almost) always planning a getaway. This helps us budget our time and money even more wisely since we know we’re working towards the goal of booking that trip. The trip waiting in our “cue” is like a piece of bait dangling in front of a hungry fish. We just keep swimming towards our goal because we know how great it will be once we get it!
Work, family and friends are huge, but worthwhile, commitments. Finding the time and the money to travel is not always easy. However, if you make travel a priority, budget your time and money and stay flexible with your plans, you will be able to travel without sacrificing your career.
No more excuses! If you want it, go after it! Set a goal to travel at least once this calendar year. Whether your trip is overnight to a local B&B, a weekend trip to a nearby beach or even a longer adventure to another state or country, do it! Michael and I are living proof that you can travel, even with full-time careers and commitments.
Oh! And let me know about our trip once you’re back – I LOVE to hear about other’s travels!