The question I get asked most often is “how do you do it???”. Sometimes it comes in the form of a snarky comment, and sometimes it comes from innocent curiosity. I didn’t always understand where this question derived. It seemed as though some people would be hoping that I would reply “I’m drowning in credit card debt” or “Don’t tell anyone, but I am involved in an illegal gambling operation”. It was as if they were hoping that I would offer some magical answer that would allow them to travel for free or an answer that would exonerate them from doing the work that would allow them to travel.
The answer is simple, it can be summed up into one word – commitment. Be willing to do whatever it takes.
I always find a way. Traveling is a true passion of mine, so when an opportunity comes my way I figure out how I can make it happen. What does this mean? Well, I look at the cost of the opportunity and I ask myself how can I come up with the funds. For example, if you are a home owner and your hot water heater breaks you find a way to replace it. You weren’t planning on this breaking so you look at your resources and figure out where you can find the money. It might look like shutting off your Amazon account for a few months or waiting to upgrade on that iPhone 12.
Planning. Almost all of my trips are planned a year in advance. I add the cost into my budget. I generate a realistic cost estimate of my trip and pay each item off one at a time over the course of the year. For example, airfare might cost $1200 for my family, Airbnb might be $1,400 for the week. Rental car might be $300, then food & excursions. I make a plan to pay one item off at a time starting with the most time sensitive. Sometimes this comes in the form of a second or third income for both me and my husband. If we can’t afford the trip with our main job, we’ll look for a second job that will bring in an extra $6,000 ($115 a week) each. Sometimes we even look for a third job so that we can go on a second or third trip. This can generate $3,900 extra dollars ($75 a week) each. It’s work – YES! But worth it!
Networking. The more I travel, the more resources come to me. For example, in 2017 my husband and I were on an inexpensive Carnival cruise out of Miami. Despite asking for a table for two at dinner, we were seated next to the most amazing family from Denmark. It turned out that we spent a lot of time with them during our cruise. They invited us to come visit them in Denmark. They offered us to stay in their home and to pick us up from the airport. The husband was the CEO of a large music festival (featuring artist such as Britney Spears). He offered us VIP tickets to the festival – all for free. All we needed to do was buy an airline ticket and have spending money. Although we have not been able to take advantage of this generous offer – we still hope to. We also extended a similar offer in return and hope they come to the United States. Many times, we have offered friends and family to come with us and pay only what they can afford. It has always come back to us with a similar invite.
Pooling Resources. Often, we will travel with others. One Airbnb split four ways greatly lowers the cost of the trip. Renting a van and splitting it two ways cuts the cost in half. Going to the grocery store and splitting the bill three ways lowers the cost to eat. Also, it’s fun! Sure, traveling with other people takes some compromise and patience but it also offers a deeper connection with your travel companions and can be wonderful.
Make travel a priority. Change your perspective about traveling. Do not view it is a luxury or indulgence. View travel as a choice. View it as something that you must have in your life. Look at other things in your life and ask yourself what you can live without. Do you need such a large home? Do you need to trade your car in every three years? Do you need that Starbucks coffee every morning? Is your television extreme? How much cable do you really watch? Are you paying for a home cleaning service when you could do it yourself? You get the point.
Do your research. Travel is an investment. Researching airlines, hotels, cruise lines, restaurants, tour companies, and so forth is worth your time. Educating yourself about deals, offers, amenities, logistics not only saves you money but also helps you to plan a trip that is tailored to your taste. The more I dig in the more I learn about each industry. With this knowledge I have developed a greater understanding of the travel industry as a whole. This understanding has allowed me to plan the most amazing trips!
If you love to travel or would like to begin traveling, now is the perfect time to start. Although we are in the middle of a horrible pandemic and travel seems like a taboo subject, now is the perfect time to start planning! Now is the time to do the research of your ideal destination. Learn everything you can about it. Now is the time to make the perfect budget and stick to it. Now is the time to connect with others that want to travel as well. Now is the time to give yourself hope and joy in a time of uncertainty. Do the work now. Ask yourself how YOU can do it.