Hi Friends! A lot of the questions we get are about how we afford to travel and if we have recommendations/tips for affordable travel and how to travel more. To start off, I want you to know that I’m not an expert on budget travel. There are a ton of great resources out there. Like everything else in life, if something is a priority for you, you can find a way to make room for it in your life. We have not always been able to travel as much as we wanted — but we are finally in a stage of life where we can travel more.
In order to afford to travel more you need to look at your current life situation and decide where you can save money or make more money. Look at where you are currently spending your money and then see what you can change. Sometimes you just aren’t in a stage of life where you can fly off to Europe, but you could take a car camping trip somewhere within driving distance. If you want to travel with your family, you can find a way.
In this post I’m gonna share some of the ways that I make traveling more affordable and also how we create our family travel budget for the year. I’ve also include a travel budget worksheet you can use (below). But, remember, there isn’t a secret to affordable travel. There is no quick fix. Mostly it involves a lot of searching and work to find good deals, to budget, to save, and to plan ahead.
Money-Saving Travel Tips
Use Airbnb, HomeAway, or other home rental sites. Hotels and lodging are one of the most expensive parts of traveling. You can find amazing rentals on these sites that won’t break the bank. You can always rent out your home while you are gone too, and make money while you travel.
Find cheap flights. We are signed up for the Scott’s Cheap Flights newsletter and we also use several apps/websites to find the least expensive flights (Google Flights, Skyscanner, Hopper, Momondo). There are certain times of the year (November, for example) when flights are at great low prices. A lot of times we base our travel plans on where is cheap to travel at the time we want to go.
Join an airline rewards program or use credit cards that help you earn miles. We have Delta and Southwest credit cards and we earn miles when we spend money. We also primarily fly these airlines so we earn miles and status. If you pick an airline program to be loyal too, you can reap those benefits. There are also companies that offer miles as rewards for signing up for a credit card. We don’t love having a lot of extra credit cards, but if you want go this route there are a lot of travel bloggers and websites that have great tips on this (like The Points Guy).
Travel in the offseason (or “shoulder” season). Yes, I know this isn’t easy to do with kids in school. But you can usually find great travel deals if you are willing to travel in the offseason (meaning the time of year that it isn’t the most popular or expensive time to travel to a place). Sometimes traveling in the offseason means lousy weather, so you’ll want to be careful where you pick to travel. When you Google the cities or countries you want to travel to most of the time it will say when the offseason is. For example, we have had some of our favorite visits to Paris in February and March when it isn’t crowded with tourists.
Watch for deals all the time. We like to use the calendars on Google Flights to watch flights and to figure out when the best time to fly are. If you are watching trends in travel pricing you can get a good sense of what is a good deal when you see it. We also set a limit on ourselves in terms of spending (for example, I set an amount that I won’t go over for hotels or flights). We monitor a lot of travel accounts on Instagram and Facebook and look for tips and deals constantly. We usually have a list of places we want to go and if we see a good deal we try to make a decision quickly whether to book.
Look for ways to cut expenses in your everyday life. Making travel affordable might also mean looking at your every day life and making changes to be able to afford to travel. Look at your grocery expenses, TV or cable bill, shopping habits, excess subscriptions, transportation costs, misc bills. There are a lot of great resources for budgeting online that can help you get a handle on your spending and see where you can make room for travel. Even if you save a little bit each month in a travel savings account over time it can add up!!
Earn more money. If your goal is to be able to travel but you can’t afford it, you might need to find a way to make more money. Are you under-employed? Could you do any side jobs to make more money? Here are just a few ideas of ways you could make more money:
Turn a hobby into a business
Babysit kids in your home
Tutor kids (if you have subject matter expertise)
Find a job you can do from home (if you are a SAHM/D)
Get a job with an airline and get perks
Sell a product you believe in
Invest your money
Work toward a raise at your current job
Sell some of your belongings
Rent out your house/apartment on Airbnb
We hope some of these tips will help you!
Creating a Travel Budget
Also, I thought I’d share a little bit here about how we create our family’s travel budget for each trip. You will want to have a general travel budget for the year and then set that money aside and save it somewhere so you don’t spend it!! Then, for each trip we try to make a general budget from that amount. For example, if you are going to go on two big trips for the year you will have money more to spend per trip than if you are trying to do five trips. Using this budget worksheet (or sometimes I just write everything in my Notes on my iPhone) you can make a plan for what you want each trip to look like.
The biggest expenses we’ve found for traveling are accommodations and transportation (mostly flights). But when you don’t plan ahead you can also be surprised by small expenses that add up. For example, we found amazing flights to London a few years ago and then later decided to fly to Vienna and Budapest while we were there. Well, those shorter flights were super expensive and we should’ve factored them in originally. Or, when we went to China the visas and visa processing was much more expensive than we planned for, even though our airline tickets where cheap.
Once you have created a travel budget, you want to try and stick to it! So as you try and estimate costs do your research and also assess your family’s habits. If you like to stop for gelato three times a day, add that into your budget. Also, as you research for your trip you can assess what activities are going to be expensive and then decide whether or not to do them. Then you can set your kid’s (and your) expectations. If you don’t have the money to afford Disneyland but are visiting Los Angeles, you will want to remind your kids ahead of time that even though they see Disney signs everywhere, you aren’t going this time.
We want everyone to be able to afford to travel, but travel looks different for everyone. Look at your life, your finances, and your dreams and then assess what works for you. We hope that some of these tips will help you reach your travel dreams in 2019, or in the future!