Millennials have often times been quoted as saying they have no problem spending more money on experiences than material things. Some have even admitted they’d pull from retirement savings to partake in such experiences.
One such area in which millennials are ready and willing to spend some money is travel. We’re a generation of globe trotters and blurred borders. Maybe it’s because we grew up with the internet and have realized we can work from anywhere so long as we have a Wi-Fi connection.
The problem is most people falsely assume that travel is for rich people. It’s something you need to have plenty of expendable income to enjoy. You need to go all out and spend thousands in order to truly travel.
The reality is nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve learned to love travel and do it without breaking the bank. The first year I was self-employed I was practically on a plane every couple of months. This year I’ve decided to up my traveling game and am going to Mexico and Bali – and I’m not getting into debt over it. Below you'll find out how I'm able to travel on a budget so I can enjoy experiences without depleting my savings.
1. Credit Card Rewards
Want to know a secret? Aside from taxes, I haven’t paid for a flight in three years. For example, I got a roundtrip ticket to Cancun and all I paid was $78.00 in taxes.
How did I do this? By learning how to rack up, use and maximize credit card rewards. More specifically, by accumulating rewards I can use for travel.
The easiest way to rack up the points is with credit cards – several of them actually. Now, before I continue, I need to address something first. Usually, the first thing people think is “Oh this is going to wreck my credit!” It only wrecks your credit if you don’t use credit responsibly. If you’re paying off your balance in full each month you’ll be fine. I’ve had several credit cards with different airlines and my score is over 750. In fact, you need to maintain excellent credit just to qualify for these cards.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about one of the best strategies to accumulate points. I pretty much wait until a credit card increases their sign up bonus before applying for a credit card. For example, British Airways recently had a promotion where you could get up to 100,000 miles when signing up for their credit card. If you spent $2,000 in the first 90 days you got 50,000 points, $10,000 in the first year and you get an additional 25,000 points, and so on and so forth.
I could easily hit those spend goals just with business expenses I have to pay each month anyway. And if I play my cards right that’s a whole lot of short haul flights.
This is a much better strategy than getting whatever card is out there right now. Granted, this is just one strategy of many. If you’re interested in travel hacking check out blogs like Extra Pack of Peanuts, The Points Guy, Frugal Travel Guy and The Simple Dollar.
(P.S. You can do the same with hotel rewards too.)
2. Go where your friends are.
I tend to travel to places where I have friends. It’s just easier that way. You possibly have a place to crash, they can give you a real tour for free and you can spend quality time with awesome people. It’s a win across the board.
3. Try AirBnB or Hostels.
When I was in Rome a few years ago I stayed with friends half the time and then spent the rest of the time at a hostel run by nuns. It was around 60 euro a bed, I was right smack in the middle of the city (the Pantheon was two blocks to the left) and it was a fraction of the cost of a hotel in the Eternal City. Or should I say outside the Eternal City, because the only ones I could afford weren’t even in old Rome.
Most hostels have private rooms but you can stay for even cheaper if you're okay with roommates. In this case, my brother was my roommate so our nightly rate was less and I didn't have to share a room with strangers.
4. Be okay with being unconventional.
I’ve done some pretty unconventional things for cheaper travel. This includes taking 5:00am flights and red eyes in Dublin, staying with Catholic nuns while I earned my keep in Spain and flying out on a random weekday because it cost fewer points.
The reality is these things aren’t that unconventional. It’s just that people assume travel needs to look a certain way. If you want to travel on a budget you have to be willing to color outside the lines. Paula Pant constantly talks about this on her blog, Afford Anything. In one blog, she even detailed how going agaist the grain can save you hundreds in travel.
5. Be flexible with dates.
Being flexible with your dates can save you a lot of money and points when traveling. Sometimes airlines have last minute deals. Sometimes flying out on a Tuesday at the crack of dawn and coming back 10 days later is cheaper.
The point is if you want to travel on a budget you need to be flexible. I get that this may be easier for people like me because I run a business from my laptop, but it’s not impossible. Check out the blogs mentioned earlier in this post for tips on how to have flexible days if you’re still holding down a day job.
Traveling doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. It also doesn’t have to get in the way of your other financial responsibilities. By learning how to travel smart, you can save yourself a whole lot of money.