Save up and travel

Other than “where to next?” the biggest question I get about my travels is “how do you pay for your trips?”

Everyone’s budget and travel style is different. For some perspective, I work at a nonprofit organization, and have a mortgage and a car payment – no student debt, no kids, no mocha latte habit, no sugar daddy. I travel to see gorgeous landscapes, experience new cultures, and photo hunt wildlife. I do not need fancy resorts or lavish meals. If this sounds like you, the following ideas may work to travel on a budget!

How I pay for my trips: My first trip was financed by saving Christmas and birthday money from my grandparents since I was a teenager. For those of you who can’t travel back in time to do this, set up a separate savings account just for travel. Set up an auto-transfer from checking to savings and watch your travel fund grow! If you transfer $40 a week for an entire year, you will have more than $2,000 for your next adventure. I also get decent tax return, which I add to the travel piggy bank. My credit card racks up points too. It takes me several years of regular spending to get to a point where I can take a free flight, but if I can avoid airfare every 3-4 years, I’l take it.

Camping: This started out as an affordable way for me to travel, and quickly became my favorite way to see America’s National Parks. A friend recommended the AdventureBus and I’ve since done NINE trips with them. I didn’t realize camping could be so comfy.  I also camped during my 9-day stint in Australia’s Kimberly region and that certainly helped keep my overall Aussie adventure within budget.

If camping just isn’t your thing, companies like Intrepid and G Adventures have affordable options. G Adventures is my current go-to for international trips. I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of hotels and experiences on those trips. It’s affordable without sacrificing comfort or safety.

Avoid the single supplement. None of the companies mentioned above charge a single supplement. Also, when I traveled with Holbrook, they paired me up with another female traveler so I could avoid the single supplement.

Here are some other tips for budget-mindful travel:

  • Don’t check bags. I’ve packed for two week trips with only a carry on. Outdoor gear stores sells laundry detergent papers and I wash stuff in the hotel sink.
  • Note which tours include excursions and meals. Add-ons can add up quickly.
  • Pay for experiences (dancing, rafting, hot air balloon rides), not material things.
  • Alcohol will drive up your costs, but you can still try local beers and wines without going broke.
  • Select a couple nights to have really good meals, and get cheaper options the rest of the time.
  • Free walking tours! I discovered this gem in Quito, Ecuador. It was wonderful, and our guide showed me a great lunch spot where I ate an entire meal for $2.50.
  • Public transportation – Don’t be intimidated. I haven’t done this much internationally, but within the US, cities have easy and accessible transit systems. I can vouch for Minneapolis, Atlanta, Portland, New York, D.C. and Philadelphia.

Feel free to comment below with other tips or questions.

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