Step one was complete...I was going to move to Ireland. Destination picked, organization I was going through known. But now I had the most daunting task ahead of me - how was I going to afford it all.
It's a scenario I've faced many times. I've known where I've wanted to go or what I've wanted to do, but how was I going to afford that trip, that choir tour, that perfect room with the perfect view.
Travel can be an expensive venture. With so many elements to arrange to ensure your trip is a success, here are some of my tips and tricks for helping you afford your dream vacation.
1. CASH JAR
If you're someone who still uses cash, consider getting a cash jar or a piggy bank of some sort. Anytime you break a bill, put away a portion of it. If you break change, put some of that away too. Breaking a $20 bill and hiding away $5 from that in your Travel Cash Jar can add up over the course of 12 months.
2. REWARD CARDS
If you're someone who read #1 and thought "I don't even remember what cash looks like", well, there's a solution in the credit card world and that's in the form of reward cards. There are many out there so it's important to track down one that best fits you. Some earn points, some earn cash back and some can translate into a cash amount you can use against vacations.
3. SET A BUDGET EARLY ON
Honestly, you can afford any trip. The question is how long are you willing to save for that trip and how often do you want to travel. That dream destination/hotel/flight class might be expensive on paper, but if you know you're aiming for a certain amount and are diligent in setting aside a portion of your income each month, no matter how small, to get there...you can go anywhere and do anything. If that dream trip is $10,000 and I want to go in 5 years, I know I have to find $167 a month. If I want to go in 10, that's $83.50 a month to set aside. Concrete goals are going to get you there faster than abstract plans.
While this could be your traditional idea of fundraising, such as I did with my choir to help offset tour costs, I mean taking a personal, household approach to the matter. Consider deciding that all the money you earn from taking in your bottles will go towards the trip. Look around you and consider what you might be able to sell online or at a garage sale to bring in some extra money. Sell those unwanted Gift Cards. Look for random side gigs. My mom got paid one weekend to shuttle folks for a festival to the airport which she put directly into her travel fund.
5. USE WHAT YOU HAVE
So, confession. I am addicted to earning AIR MILES. I don't know what it is, I just want to keep adding to that pot to use against the next vacation. The thing is, one person can only house so much toilet paper before it becomes a safety hazard. I had to take a step back from collecting and focus on using what I had. If I caved at sales or deals all the time, I was actually OVER spending
6. RESEARCH (or have your Travel Agent do it for you)
Companies often have predictable sales. For example, folks know that Free Disney Dining dates are released in the Spring every year and they wait and watch to see when those will be announced to make sure they get free dining. Or the last trip to Europe I did - we knew we wanted to go and I followed the airlines trends and so when a sale came up, we adjusted our dates and our plans and booked a flight to Paris instead of Berlin because it was under $500 with a stopover in Iceland. Knowing the trends can help you plan where and when you want to go.
7. LIFESTYLE CHANGES
If you reduced your consumption by one Starbucks at $4.50 a week times 52 weeks - that's $234. Remembering to pack a lunch to work so you're not always running out to grab something - that's a $2-$5 meal instead of a $10-$25 meal. We make time and space for what matters most, so if that dream vacation is important, cutting some of the "luxury" expenses can help you save faster.
8. OPEN A TRAVEL ACCOUNT
So, you've decided that you're foregoing one Starbucks a week - don't let that money sit in your regular account. Physically setting aside money you ear mark as your travel fund will help the account grow and keep you from using it for other things. Some banks even have accounts where it will round your spending and put the change into the account for you. So you spend $20.98 on your debit card - they'll take $0.02 and move it to your assigned account.
9. ASK FOR CASH FOR GIFTS
It can be weird to ask people for money, I get it. But if you let friends and family know that you're saving for a vacation and if they plan on getting you something for your birthday or Christmas - to perhaps consider a cash gift for your travel fund.