“How do you manage to travel all the time?” I am always being asked this question, and the answer is actually quite simple. That is, being very disciplined with finances while at home, as well as being good with budgeting while on the road. Travelling was not as accessible to the middle class fifty years ago like it is now. Anyone who knows how to use the internet can find a good vacation deal with the proper tools. In this article, I will share with you all of the valuable tips and tools that I use every time I want to go somewhere.
1. Saving for travel.
The first step is to review where your money goes. Are you a coffee drinker, unhealthy snacker, or a smoker? To track exactly where your money is going every month, you can use an application like CoinKeeper. You will probably be surprised to see how many seemingly small expenses add up quickly by the end of the month. Once you figure out where you need to cut costs, your next step is to change your mentality and to set goals. Without goals, it’s hard to move forward and achieve bigger things.
Open a savings account and set an amount to auto-transfer every time you receive your salary. By doing this, you will be forced to work around the leftover budget, and you’ll also build funds for future trips in a couple of months. I would recommend an amount equivalent to at least 10% of your total income if you can. Otherwise, start with a lower number and be patient.
Use a credit card that rewards you with points, Air Miles, etc, for your purchases. That said, make sure you don’t spend money you don’t have. It’s not because you have $2000 in available credit that you should go on a shopping spree. Collect moments, not things is my best advice when it comes to spending. Always think twice before you make a purchase, and ask yourself: Is the product you’re buying really necessary? Is the newest phone or the latest car indispensable? Impulsive buys are very dangerous and should be avoided, and are what keep many people from achieving their travels dreams. You don’t need to stay up to date with the latest fashion, it’s society putting pressure on you. Spend what you have in your regular bank account and make conscious purchases.
2. Shop around.
Once you have your money in order, you can start looking for the kind of escape you want to have. Personally, whether I am looking for a luxury destination, an adventure, or just a low key getaway, I always go through the same protocol. The first step is to determine the amount of money you are willing to spend. The flight is usually a big chunk of your budget unless your final destination is not far from you. My go-to sites for flight research are Google Flights and the application Hopper. I use these to find the cheapest departure days. After you have an idea of which days are cheapest to fly, you can browse on sites like Skyscanner, and CheapFlights. Go directly to the carrier company website to make your booking to avoid commission fees.
When I look for a place to sleep, I don’t look for the most luxurious place or for the cheapest one. I always search for the best value. Location is my main concern; it needs to be near public transit, or very central. I always look on Airbnb first, then on Booking, Agoda (for asian destinations) or Hotwire.com. If you are on a tight budget, I recommend using Couchsurfing.com. It’s a platform where you can get in touch with locals from all the cities in the world. The principle is simple: you get in touch with locals via the website, and if you are on the same mindset and get along, they open their homes for you for a night, or a couple of days if they are able to. In exchange, you don’t have to pay anything. The idea is based on the principle of paying it forward. All you need is a great attitude, open mindedness and plenty of stories to share with your host! If you’re uneasy about staying with strangers, there is a review system where you can see the history rating of your host, along with the experiences of other guests.
To get around the city, walking is always my first option unless the distance is very big or I have a time restriction. I really like Uber because it’s practical and you don’t need to interact with the driver to determine payments, which is practical when you are in a foreign country. Similar apps to Uber in Asia are GrabBike (or Taxi) and GOJEK. These options are cheaper, more reliable, and much safer than regular cabs. The catch? You need a local SIM card in order to register on these apps, but it’s a small hassle compared to what you win on the long term!
To find any other information, like finding where to eat, good local bars, hangout spots or museums, I always message locals on Couchsurfing and I ask them. People are extremely friendly and they are very helpful. Of course, everyone of us has different taste and a different opinion. I usually message a few people and make a list of the spots that they recommend. I’ll google the places that everyone mentions, and then make my final decision. This way of doing things has allowed me to have some very memorable trips and end up in places I never thought I would. There is no such thing as a perfect trip, it’s subjective to each and one of us. This is why I recommend focusing on what makes YOU happy, don’t be afraid to improvise and take risks. You don’t always need to book everything in advance, you can also find some really amazing last minute deals. Negotiate and don’t settle for the first price you see. In the long run, you will become good at it and pull better deals. Planning a trip is a very enriching experience, so take the time to plan it properly if you can, and otherwise, just go with the flow! Make yourself aware of these tips and tools before you travel and you’ll be much better equipped.
Step out of your comfort zone and overcome the daily challenges, its part of the adventure!