“How do you afford to travel so much?” is the No. 1 question my friends ask me. Aside from making it a priority in my life, I’ve been able to travel as much as I do because I take time to plan and budget. Travel doesn’t have to cost a lot if you know how to hack the system. Here are the things I wish my friends knew about making travel work in their lives.
1. You can travel at unexpected times of the year
Yeah, you’ll overspend on travel over Christmas vacation — because everyone is traveling over Christmas vacation. Prices drop dramatically right before and after big holiday breaks, but really, what’s wrong with traveling during April or October? Travel off-season and you’ll maximize your vacation budget dramatically.
2. Doing it yourself will save money, but “cost” more in the long run
The DIY vacation process can be a fun and exciting hobby, but there are drawbacks as well. Just like planning anything with a lot of logistics, the money you saved is only worth it if the stress is saved as well. It might cost $2.75 to take the subway from the airport to New York City, but it also takes over an hour to get to your destination, plus navigating connections, dragging luggage up the stairs, dealing with grouchy commuters, etc. Suddenly a $40 cab ride doesn’t sound so bad, huh?
3. Cruises make it easy
Book a cruise, and your vacation is basically set — your itinerary, meals and many of your activities are already taken care of. Cruises are incredibly cost-effective as well, especially if you live in or near a port city. Plus, since most cruises drop you in port for only one day, it’s a great way to see several countries during one trip.
4. Private rentals are fine too, though
Hotels are notorious for overcharging on what they have to offer. They can be especially expensive for large families or people traveling in groups who want their own space. For the price of a hotel room for one night, you can rent an entire house for a week in some cities using private rentals. Flexible check-in times, fully-equipped kitchens and sometimes even laundry facilities make your home away from home a great vacation investment.
5. Opt for city passes
If you’d like to tick off lots of sites on your vacation bucket list, see if the destination you’re traveling to has a city pass. These often include free entry to tons of museums and famous sites, city transportation and exclusive perks (skip the line, anyone?). Each city offers their own unique options and they are well worth checking out.
6. Or do nothing at all
There’s no rule saying you have to go crazy with a packed itinerary during your vacation. Things come up when you least expect them, especially when traveling with others. Choose a few must-see experiences and fill in the rest of your time with walks in the park, people-watching and window-shopping.
7. Get to the point (credit card points, that is)
Fiscally responsible folks know the power of credit card point systems. I’ve traveled for free using the points I racked up on my cards. It’s not worth going into debt over, so you have to have the diligence to pay your bills on time, but if you can swing it, reward programs basically pay you to spend money!
8. When in doubt, road trip!
You don’t have to travel far to have an awesome vacay. Road trips and staycations can offer you a lot for, well, not a lot. You can hit up everything from beaches to historic cities on the east coast, gorgeous national parks in the west and even cross the border into Canada if you’re feeling international. Driving yourself saves a ton on what you’d normally spend flying.