It’s the beginning of a new year! It’s the time where we tell ourselves we should do all of those things that we’ve been putting off. You know, like exercise, eating healthy…and travel! Each year a ton of people want to travel, yet it often gets put on to the “dream” list because of other priorities. But I promise you if you prioritize travel, it will happen! You just have to live, breathe and bleed travel… Ok, maybe not bleed it, but you get the point.
There were 662 million unused vacation days in America in 2016!!
What?! Americans, as a whole, aren’t prioritizing travel. We aren’t even prioritizing taking a personal day and binge watching Netflix! If you are lucky enough to have vacation days, take them for your health and your family’s! If you make travel your priority in 2018 there’s no reason why you couldn’t take an amazing trip! And when I say prioritize I don’t mean put travel above, say dentist appointments, rather put it above your daily Starbucks and your Friday night events.
Random fact: I also just read that those unused vacation days are hurting the economy, so use them. Feel good about helping the economy. (Somewhat old article but still relevant.)
5 Things You Should Do If You Want to Travel in 2018:
1. Get your finances together
The number one reason for not traveling in the U.S. is money. Money controls so many of our decisions and most people, including myself, are spending outside of their needs. There are many many ways to get your finances together but the first step is always just to develop an awareness of where your money is actually going. For at least a week, write down everything you spend. At the end of the week, reflect on which of those items you really needed versus the ones you just wanted. Which things could you find cheaper alternatives for? Which ones could you do with out for a few months? Could you pack lunch instead of eating out? Or leave some food a work for breakfast instead of grabbing a muffin on the way in? Go through everything you spent and decide what’s necessary and start cutting out the rest.
Write down your income and everything you NEED to spend on during the month- your loans, rent, electricity etc. Subtract the expenses from the income. This is how much you have to spend every month, use the week’s expenses that you recorded to give yourself a monthly budget. Then stick to it. This can mean only taking out that amount of cash each month and when it’s gone you’re eating ramen for whatever’s time is left. Calculate what is reasonable for you to save each month and how much you would have by the time of your trip.
Are your student loans holding you back?
Think about refinancing them to lower your interest and your monthly payment. I saved over $12,000 by refinancing my loans!
Get rid of money suckers
Money suckers are our tiny mistakes that end up costing us money. Things like ATM fees, late fees, parking tickets etc. Accidents happen but make sure you aren’t making the same mistake again and again. If there’s not an ATM for your bank by your work and you’re paying the same $3 fee every time maybe open an account for that bank instead. Better yet, open a Charles Schwab account which reimburses ATM fees worldwide and has no foreign transaction fees. If you know you always forget to pay that credit card bill, set up autopay or set a reminder on your phone. Stop paying more money than you need to.
2. Subscribe to Save
Contrary to popular belief, traveling does not have to be expensive, especially in less developed countries. However, the biggest expenses are always your flight and accommodation. Lower these costs by subscribing to deal notifications. One of my favorite companies for saving money on flights is Secret Flying. I booked a $3 one way flight from Madrid to London because of a Secret Flying Facebook post. You can subscribe to their posts with whatever service you use the most- Facebook, Instagram, email. Probably Twitter too. Skyscanner will notify you if a specific flight has dropped in price. Scott’s Cheap Flights sends weekly emails about price drops going out of your area. Whereas TravelZoo posts unique hotel deals and typically has deals on cruises. Secret Escapes is great for luxury hotels on a cheaper budget. I’ve also gotten deals on Groupon for activities I was already going to do in a city I was visiting.
I’ve saved hundreds of dollars just by opening Facebook or my email. Take the time to subscribe some of these websites so that you can save too!
3. Be Flexible with your Destination and Time
Most of the time, we plan our vacations in the wrong order. We pick a destination, figure out when we should go, then look at flights. What we should be doing however is finding a cheap flight first then planning around that deal. I check Secret Flying on the regular, then if I see a cheap flight going out of my area that’s where I decide to go next. Skyscanner also has a feature where you can see what the cheapest destinations are from your location. Just type in your starting city, then type Everywhere for your destination. You can even search the cheapest month of the year or a whole month to compare fares.
4. Get Motivated
One reason we start to slack off on our New Year’s resolutions is because we lose our motivation. You’d think seeing a new part of the world would be enough to motivate you but it’s hard to save money, to justify that time off of work and to organize a trip. Set a specific time oriented goal for your travels. Join a travel Facebook group (like Girls Love Travel) to see and hear other’s travel stories. Tell your friends about your goal, share your progress on Facebook. We don’t have to use social media just to show others our last chapter of a goal; rather use it to show the journey to get there. Who knows, maybe you’ll even motivate a friend or two as well.
Need some other ways to say motivated? Check out other tips here.
5. Be realistic
Traveling does not have to be resort and expensive meals. If you really can’t afford a resort style vacation then don’t plan one- it doesn’t mean that you can’t travel. Look into hostels and homestays. Plan on grocery shopping and making a few of your own meals if you’re in an expensive city. Be realistic about how much money you can save and how much time you can take off work. If you don’t have a passport and can’t afford to get one, travel within your own state or country.
Every time someone tells me I’m “so lucky” that I get to travel. I think, nope, I’ve just prioritized it. Prioritization is what it all comes down to. I can say nope I don’t need to buy an iPhone, new clothes, or live in an expensive apartment. I choose to travel instead. I’m privileged to be from the U.S. with a strong passport and I’m privileged to have a family that supports me, and that doesn’t depend on my income. But overall, prioritization is what has given me my ability to see the world.
If you prioritize travel too and complete the other things on this list, there’s no reason you couldn’t see another piece of the world in 2018 too!