"But how do you afford it?"
How do I afford to travel? It's a question I've been asked on more than one occasion, most recently last week. And I'm okay with being asked this. I know there are some people who are bothered by these types of questions and may consider them intrusive, but I understand it's not usually asked with malicious intent but genuine curiosity regarding how someone can afford to travel as often as he or she does.
And let's be real, even if you haven't asked someone this question, I'm sure you've thought it.
"How does she afford to travel so much?"
"He's going on ANOTHER trip?! Did he win the lottery or something?"
"I can't believe she's on yet another vacation. It must be her parents' money."
I think some variation of the above has crossed almost everyone's mind at some point in time (mine included), especially when looking at certain people's (selectively) documented lives on social media. Honestly, it's just human nature to have these thoughts.
That said, I can't speak for others and, quite frankly, it's none of my business if someone won the lottery, is using dad's credit card or chose to put money towards travel instead of a retirement fund. I can only speak for myself and my methods for traveling more. Here are the things that help ME afford to travel (without winning the lottery, use of parents' credit cards, etc):
1. I prioritize travel over other non-essential expenses.
I am a fairly practical person when it comes to how I spend money. I know that if I spend a lot on X, I need to spend less on Y. I can't spend a lot on both unless I have the funds to do so. For example, I do not spend money on buying concert tickets because that is not my priority. Sorry, Bey. And you will likely never see me drop a ton of money on a new purse because it's just not my priority, but for others it is. Instead, I would rather take my money and use it on travel experiences. This is after I've paid all of my bills and put money towards my savings, retirement and other accounts. I personally don't subscribe to the spending all my money and living in the now sentiment, so I try to make sure I'm preparing for the future before I start booking those trips.
2. I am diligent about my travel research and finding what I consider a good value.
I seriously love a good deal, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. A sale at Zara makes me very happy, just as lower-than-average airfare fills me with joy. Oh, and error fares? Well, you can read a bit about how I react to error fares here. I find that I am truly getting my money's worth when I find something that's a good deal versus paying face value for it. This isn't always possible but there are many, many travel deals out there that make this more possible than many people think. My resources page lists some of my favorite sites where I feel I get a good deal. I also like to do research when traveling to get a sense of where else I can get something that I consider to be a good value. And the way I know it's a good value is because I've searched around and have an understanding of what something should normally be, whether that's from a cost perspective or other non-monetary factors.
3. If someone wants to buy me a gift, I ask for it to be travel related.
If a family member decides to buy me something for Christmas or my birthday and they ask me what I want, I usually will say, "Oh I don't need anything, but if you insist on it, I love travel gift cards." Yes, I give the don't-get-me-anything line because I really do mean it, but if that person wants to get me something, I have no problem being specific about what will be valuable to me. A travel gift card is great because it forces me to use the card on travel (versus a generic gift card, which can be used anywhere). It also helps to offset the cost of travel like a flight or accommodations. In fact, increasingly I'm seeing couples with honeymoon registries where people can contribute to their trip rather than the things in their house. It's all about helping people have those amazing experiences! The next time you are gift shopping for someone, consider a travel-related gift!
4. I am (mostly) flexible with my travel plans.
Unless I have a specific event, like a wedding or birthday, that I need to plan my travels around, I'm fairly flexible with my travel plans. I don't insist on going to London in the middle of July and then complain that there are no good deals, because guess what? It's London in the middle of July. Airfare will be at its peak. But let's say I knew I just wanted to go to London in general. Then I would be more flexible about the timing of that. I am a big believer that you're likely to find a better deal if you're flexible about the location or the time of year. You can't always have the time of year AND location you want and expect the best price, but if you're flexible about one of the two, you'll save some money.
5. I am all about points and miles
If I had to name one thing that helps me "afford" travel, it would be points and miles. I used to pay full price for all of my trips, and it makes me shake my head to think that I didn't need to do that! But I didn't understand points and miles at the time, and it took me way too long to make myself understand. Now that I do, I can't get enough and want others to join in on the fun. In fact, two years ago, I helped my dad fly from the U.S. to Europe for $95 roundtrip. For less than $100, he flew roundtrip on a non-discount airline! And it was all with the help of airline points. Read how we did that here. I have used points and miles to fly to Florida, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Australia and hopefully South America later this year. Though I'm not the most knowledgeable about points and miles, I know enough to get by, and it's helped me tremendously.
6. I work a full-time job.
This feels like an obvious thing to say, but I think it's worth including because it is the main way I afford to travel. I work a full-time job, and I save a portion of my salary for travel. I set travel goals and figure out how to make them happen, with full-time employment as my main way of getting there. There are many bloggers out there who tout the "quit your job to travel the world" lifestyle but what some neglect to mention is that they still need to make money somehow because this is the world we live in. So these bloggers may freelance or find odd jobs here and there while they travel, but one often needs to work to make money and then figure out how they want to allocate that money. It's an obvious but simple answer. Without my job, I wouldn't be able to travel as much, so I try my hardest to make sure I am doing well in my work.
These are six core reasons I am able to afford travel. It's also worth mentioning that travel doesn't have to be expensive. Travel isn't synonymous with spending thousands of dollars to fly across the world and stay in a $500/night place. Travel could be a road trip to see your friend, or a visit to explore a nearby town. There are ways to travel inexpensively and still have an amazing time. So, the next time you find yourself wondering how someone else affords to travel, know that there are things you can do to help you afford to travel more.
Do you have tips on affording travel?