I never traveled much when I lived on the East Coast. I made it to NYC, Montréal and the beach in Jersey, but unfortunately that’s about it. Since my move to San Francisco, travel has become a priority. Not only is it part of the culture, but it really is another world out here. My curiosity has definitely been ignited. There’s just so much to see and do within a couple hours drive, if not a bus ride… Planning trips that are close by certainly saves money, but there are other ways I’ve learned to maximize my travel savings.
People are quick to mention how lucky I am that I get to travel as much as I do. Make no mistake, I am privileged to have the opportunity to work my butt off at a good job that pays well. But I also make sacrifices to realize my travel dreams. It’s all about prioritizing what you want out of life and working hard to make it happen. My story goes something like this:
San Francisco is almost as expensive as Manhattan. After two years and some very careful consideration, I decided to leave my gorgeous 2 bedroom flat in Noe Valley to move across the bay to Oakland. I moved out west to live in San Francisco, so this was completely heartbreaking, but absolutely necessary if I was going to prioritize traveling.
When I moved to Oakland I found a cute rent-controlled spot two blocks from BART (our West Coast subway). The apartment is a studio, again: heartbreak, but priorities. Besides, I’m 4 stops away from San Francisco.
I used to go out A LOT. Dinner, drinks, movies, coffee… It all adds up. It adds way up. In my previous life I didn’t save a penny. Life was all about the present. Now I live on a budget. I always put at least 10% of my salary away for travel. Whatever I have left after rent, bills and savings I divide up with how many weeks happen to fall in the month and that’s what I’m left to work with. For more savings inspiration read Mr. Money Moustache’s blog.
There is no car. I live in California without a car.
You need to entertain yourself somehow if you’re no longer going out as much. The library is free. So is nature.
The Travel Hacking
My credit hasn’t always been stellar, but I’ve hammered away at getting it sorted and now that I have, I’m trying my hand at travel hacking. Basically, if you have good credit, you apply (and get approved) for certain credit cards with tight sign-on bonuses and use these bonuses to rack up airline miles. There are several ways to do this and it’s way too complicated for me to get into here, but I took Brad and Alexi’s free online course, Travel Miles 101, and it clearly explained all the details.
Obviously, some places are cheaper to travel to than others. My friends just had a rad little destination wedding in Mexico and spent under 3 grand. A quick internet search will provide a list of places with a great exchange rate.
Norwegian Air now has a hub in Oakland, making it extremely affordable to get overseas. My boyfriend and I wanted to go to Liverpool to visit his family. Flights to London were out of our price range (Norwegian Air was not yet flying from Oakland to London), so we instead flew direct from Oakland to Stockholm for a quarter of the price. We got to explore Stockholm for a few days and then took a $50. flight from Arlanda to Manchester where a friend picked us up. Again, internet searches can save you lots of money.
The Common Sense
Everyone, and I mean everyone, commented on how expensive Stockholm must have been though. Did we really save money? We did. We stayed in a tiny Airbnb. (Click here for $40. off your first Airbnb stay.) We had late breakfasts and late lunches, so we weren’t very hungry at night. We went to Systembolaget for beer & wine instead of going out and had cheese & crackers for an evening snack. I get scrimping on vacation doesn’t sound very appealing, but have you been to Stockholm? It’s freaking gorgeous and at no point did I feel like we were missing out by skipping nice dinners. Instead we had strolls along all the gorgeous waterfront.
Am I missing anything? What about you? How do you save for travel?