How I Afford To Travel

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When my friends and I find ourselves discussing traveling, it’s inevitable that at some point the conversation will turn into a sort of interrogation- with everyone trying to see if someone else has some Golden Secret of how to afford traveling, in terms of both vacation days and actual cash.

The short answer I have is this: If something is a priority to you, you’ll find a way to make it happen.

For example.  If you buy lunch every day you’re at work, that $10 a day can turn into a $200 monthly expense in no time, takeout adds up fast, and don’t even get me started about going to bars.  Most people fortunate to live above poverty could afford to travel, but maybe you don’t like cooking meals at home, or you can’t live without the newest technology or thousand dollar handbags.  It’s all about the choices we make every day, and so the first step in being able to travel more is to take a look at your daily or weekly spending habits.

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It’s also been said that more frequent, short trips have the ability to make us much happier than one big long trip; and I completely agree with that.  I’ve tried to adopt this by traveling locally as much as I can.  Going to places like Maine, Vermont, and New York City over long weekends is pretty affordable (no airfare cost and very reasonably priced hotels), plus it’s super easy to do from Massachusetts and requires few to no vacation days.  Last year, B and I spent a rainy Memorial Day Weekend in Portland, Maine and it rejuvenated my spirits like nothing else.

Another way I embraced the shorter trip mentality was 2016 into 2017.  My best friend and I went to Austin for five days, which was just enough time to get a feel for the city.  Then, six months later, Mac and I went to Nashville for another five days.  Having to use only six vacation days total, I got to spend *almost one week* in two different cities, that didn’t need much more time than that.  Plus, spreading the trips out gives you a bit of a chance to catch up and earn some extra cash!

Another way I afford to travel is by tagging along.  I’m very lucky in that my parents offer me to tag along whenever they’re traveling for business (or even for pleasure).  My sister and I will always tag along with my dad when he is going to Manhattan for a business trip, since the hotel is already being paid for.  I also joined my mom on a trip to Ottawa when she was meeting up with her friends for a weekend.  She got company in the car and I got to see a new city.  (I do immensely regret not buying a plane ticket to join my dad in New Orleans when he was going to a conference, so I’m trying to learn my lesson).

The next obvious cost friendly way of traveling is to visit your friends and family!  I usually end up more excited to see people than to save on the hotel room, but it’s a nice bonus perk.  My mom’s family lives in New York City, and we love to visit them whenever we are welcome, with the added bonus of being in a pretty fantastic location.  B and I are spending the weekend with his family in California, and I haven’t spent much time with them since we started dating, so it’s nice to get the chance to do so and see their turf.

Traveling during shoulder seasons is an amazing way to maximize your dollar without sacrificing good weather.  A quick Google search will usually yield some pretty helpful results in terms of peak tourist season and average weather forecast.  Then you have the chance to capitalize on lower airfare and hotel rates, plus quieter attractions!

“Just do it” is frequently my motto for traveling.  B and I were watching the prices for our San Francisco tickets, and the price dropped significantly and suddenly.  In fear of not seeing such a low price for San Francisco again, we just took the plunge and bought the tickets.  As a result, we were forced to save the extra cash we needed for lodging, food, plenty of activities, and even wine/Ubers in Napa on a two month notice.  The truth is, we probably would have ended up spending much of that money restaurant hopping on the weekends or getting takeout on a lazy weeknight.  But booking the trip forced us to save the money based on the decision to just go ahead and book it.

Traveling loyally is something I’ve heavily embraced as well.  Even though these days it seems like airfare is the most affordable part of traveling, I think every piece adds up.  My primary airline loyalty is to JetBlue.  This is for a plethora of reasons including, but not limited to: FlyFi (free Wi-Fi in every seat, on every flight), most legroom in coach, the most flights out of Boston, best free snacks, and the best inflight entertainment (including a full Amazon experience).  For hotel loyalty, I always try to stay with Marriott when possible. I don’t travel as much as my parents do, but ever since I saw their membership points pay for two hotel rooms for two full weeks in Hawaii, I’m doing my best to catch up.  Brands like Fairfield Inn and SpringHill Inn and Suites are generally my go-to’s for the low price, that includes wi-fi, breakfast, and usually parking.

Traveling based on your vacation days tends to totally contradict everything I just mentioned.  My family almost always traveled the week between Christmas and New Years when we were all off, and B and I love taking a long weekend getaway whenever a Monday holiday rolls around.  Annoyingly, airfare in particular tends to skyrocket on around these times; but there are still plenty of ways to finagle your schedule to maximize your time.  While I love taking an early flight, sometimes (particularly when traveling to the west coast) I find it best to take an evening flight.  This allows the opportunity for a full day of work instead of losing a full day for traveling.  It also tends to work out great for jet lag, just having one really long day, and waking up nearly adjusted by the next morning.

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What are your favorite tips on making travel affordable??  Let me know in the comments!  Hope you all have a great weekend!

xo, C

(The pictures in this post are all from NYC!)

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