There are 365 days in a year and 52 weekends. If you’re like me, you look at those days and weekends as a lot of time to travel.
Often, people ask me how I’m able to travel so much. Beyond budgeting for it and putting in the work when it comes to planning, I recognize learning how to travel more can be tough. If you wish you could spend more time traveling this year, you likely just need to make a few small changes to be on the way to more adventures.
The first step in making more travel a reality is changing your mindset that it’s too expensive, too much work or unattainable. I prioritize travel the same way people prioritize buying clothes, decorating their homes, going out with friends, etc.
After reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up last year, I re-budgeted my expenses and realized I was spending too much money on things that weren’t bringing me true joy. Sure, I could spend $20 on a candle or $30 out with friends on a Friday night, or I could put that money toward a trip to Europe. That $50 I’d save in my above example could cover the cost of a flight from Munich to Paris.
As part of my new budgeting system, I meal prep breakfast/lunch/dinner for Monday through Friday, and am more mindful about weekend activities and added expenses that aren’t truly necessary, e.g., a watch I think is cute, but don’t actually need. In the short term, buying the watch may make me happy, but it’s not going to bring me the same kind of long-term joy I have after visiting a new country. Experiences > Things, as they say.
Create a Travel Budget
The best way to commit to traveling more is to create a dedicated budget for it. I put aside money for trips the same way I do for my bills, rent, gym, groceries, going out, and so on. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money, even $20 per paycheck adds up over the course of a year. But, set an amount and stick to it.
The amount of money I budget for travel is proportional to my travel goals for the year. As of late, I’m putting more emphasis on international trips, so I’ve cut back big time in other areas of my life so I’m able to save more than I would need if I was only planning for domestic travel.
I’ve written about how I find cheap flights, but there are also ways to cut back in lodging expenses (another contributor to driving up travel cost). Usually, when I take trips, I don’t spend much time at the hotel because I know I’m going to be exploring the town/city/nature attraction I’m visiting. If I’m only going to be sleeping at the accommodation, I look at Airbnb (often great value), and use tools like Hipmunk to help me find budget friendly hotel options. I’ve also heard great things about Hostel World and Couch Surfing, but haven’t tried either yet.
- Tip: Automate the saving process! In addition to automating money transfers from my bank to a travel-specific savings account, I use Digit to stow away little bits of cash here and there. Even though I’ve always thought I’m pretty good at sticking to my budget, I haven’t really noticed when Digit takes a dollar or two. Over the course of 5 weeks, it’s amounted to almost $75- which will be great spending money to take on trips if I feel like treating myself to an extra margarita, or if an unexpected expense pops up
Make Time for Travel
I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me to take a few weeks off every year, but if you’re not in the same situation, that doesn’t mean travel can’t be a reality for you.
Think about your weekends, especially ones with a holiday buffer. If you book things far enough in advance, traveling on a holiday weekend won’t necessarily be more expensive than other times of the year. What’s more, vacation time around a holiday weekend can be an efficient way to take longer trips.
Don’t Procrastinate Planning
Schedule your trips as you would weddings, baby showers, graduations, work meetings and other events you can’t miss. Once you’ve scheduled a trip, start planning.
Often, the earlier you book flights, the cheaper they are. You may also be able to find good lodging and activity deals if you book far enough out (e.g., check Groupon for a city tours or restaurant deals).
Don’t Forget about Staycations
If you haven’t traveled much or are limited by vacation days or budget, start small. You can travel to a lot of great places on a small budget.
I do this often in New York by visiting new neighborhoods (checking out new restaurants/bars, going on a food crawl, spending the day at a museum I haven’t been to before) or places just outside of city limits. If you live in a smaller city and own a car, think about a nearby city or state you want to visit and start planning a day trip or weekend adventure. Make the most of what you’ve got close to home. Even a few hours spent experiencing something new can be refreshing.
Live Somewhere that Makes Travel Easier
This won’t apply for everyone, but if you’re truly serious about traveling more, you may want to consider living somewhere where it’s easier to visit the kind of attractions you’re interested in seeing.
For example if you want to have access to a wide variety of flights, living in a major city with multiple airports makes flying more affordable than a mid-size city with only one airport. Part of the reason I live in New York has to do with access to three major airports- flights I take are often shorter and cheaper than flights my family would have access to if flying to the same destination from Pittsburgh.
Not all travel involves flying though, so if your goal is to explore a particular state or region, it may make sense to move to a city where that’s possible. E.g., San Francisco makes it easy to visit north, central and south California, as well as the Pacific Northwest.
Consider a Loyalty Program
Planning for a year filled with travel? Look into airline and hotel loyalty programs, and consider whether using one may be a way for you to earn free perks. If you’re serious about using loyalty programs to reap the benefits, The Points Guy is an incredibly helpful resource.
Bottom Line: If you really want to travel more, you need to make travel a priority and stop making excuses.