I’ve travelled a lot over the past year.
I’m not a full time traveller. I don’t travel for business. I haven’t won the lottery, and I don’t have a rich family. I’m an average girl who loves to jet set as often as possible. For most of the year at home, I work a full time job, yet I’m able to incorporate plenty of travel into my lifestyle. You might be wondering how I afford to travel so much. How do I save for it, and how do I pay for it? Let me share all of my tips and tricks with you!
Not surprisingly, one of the best things you can do to travel more is save money. This can be a lot more difficult than it sounds. We all end up having unexpected expenses, bills to pay, and those little things that add up to big expenditures. Over the past year, I’ve managed to travel for three weeks throughout Italy, spent a week cruising the Caribbean, traveled for five days to Florida, stayed at a resort for seven nights in Jamaica, and I’ve taken numerous overnight trips throughout Ontario and Quebec. On top of that, I’ve already planned to take a ten day volunteer trip to Kenya and explore Iceland for two weeks in 2016. Don’t worry, I’m not going into debt! Here are some ways that I make it all work.
Working a Full Time Job
Though there are many people who live as digital nomads on the road, I work a full time job for most of the year at home. While this doesn’t allow me to travel nearly as often as those perpetual travellers, I prefer this type of lifestyle. Living in one place for most of the time lets me stay close to family and friends, be a mother to two cats, and we have our own lovely apartment. It also provides a stable life that I enjoy, which includes sleeping in my own bed. I enjoy the lifestyle of the part-time traveller. You may wonder how I am able to book so much time off work. While I work primarily full time hours, my job is technically considered a freelance job. The downside is that I don’t get paid vacation days or employee benefits…but the main upside is that I can book days or weeks off work whenever I want.
Have a Separate Travel Savings Account
Open up a separate savings account, just to save money for your vacations. You can decide to put a set amount of money in there every week or every time you get paid. I put $100 in there every two weeks. I barely notice this amount being deducted and it adds up fast. Soon enough, you’ll have thousands of dollars sitting there and you can splurge on the trip of your dreams.
Save Your Coins
Whenever I use cash, I save all of my Toonies in a coin jar (for those who aren’t familiar, these are our $2 coins). Over time, I manage to save hundreds of dollars without even noticing it. This turns into my spending money for my next trip.
Cut Out Things You Don’t Need
While there are some things in life that you can’t live without, there might be other things that you don’t really need. Just ask yourself, “Would I rather be travelling than have this?”. One thing that I have eliminated from my life each month is my cable TV subscription. This saves us about $1800 per year, which is more than enough to fly us somewhere fabulous. Instead, we watch Netflix, shows online, or simply watch less TV. I also find that I don’t need to buy all of the latest gadgets or technology, unless it’s useful for blogging or travel. Another way that I save money is by not purchasing new clothes or shoes every month. While I enjoy dressing fashionably, I wear some of the same outfits for years until they become tattered or completely worn out.
Don’t Drink Your Money Away
Going to the bar or pub every weekend will surely drain your savings account. I don’t really drink that often (I would much rather be drinking coffee than alcohol, but that’s a whole other matter…), so this one isn’t a big issue for me. I know some people that drink at the pub every weekend and they’re constantly broke. If you can’t give up drinking completely, it’s cheaper to buy alcohol at the store than at the bar. Also, a bottle of wine isn’t all that expensive if your tastes aren’t too refined.
Don’t Splurge at Salons
Getting your nails and hair done at the salon is expensive. I purposefully have my hair dyed ombré because it requires minimal maintenance and grows out naturally. I rarely get my nails done at salons either. Sometimes there are great sales to be found on group deal sites if you’re looking to treat yourself to a spa day.
Drive a Hybrid Car…or Ditch the Car Completely
I need a car to get to work as there are no public transit options that would take me there. A few years ago, I bought a hybrid car for both environmental reasons and to offset the high costs of gas. I love my hybrid car. It has saved me so much money over the years, it’s been super reliable, and I was kept very safe once in a car accident. It’s also amazing for summer road trips – we save so much money taking my hybrid car on the road!
I Don’t Own a House
Justin and I rent an apartment together. Renting just outside of Toronto isn’t the cheapest place in the world, but it’s way cheaper than owning a house. We don’t have any unexpected costs due to fixtures breaking down or things needing to be renovated. I have more free time because I don’t need to shovel snow or mow the lawn. And when we decide to travel for a few weeks, it’s very easy to pack up and go without any worries. Our apartment is decorated exactly as we like it, and I’m able to keep a small vegetable garden on the balcony in the summer. We don’t own that many belongings, and we don’t need any more space than we already have. If one of your dreams is to own a house, I think you should go for it. However, this is my ideal situation at this time.
Travel Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive
Rent Apartments When You Travel
I always recommend renting apartments, whether it’s a vacation rental or from Airbnb. (If you decide to try out Airbnb, you can receive a $40 credit if you sign up here). We adored renting apartments throughout Italy. It’s often cheaper than a hotel, plus you get an entire place of your own that has its own character. Make sure you rent an apartment that has a kitchen so you can cook your own meals. Be sure that the apartment comes with free Wifi to cut down on any roaming charges or high cell phone bills. Choose an apartment that’s situated in a charming neighbourhood, so you can live like a local when you’re travelling abroad.
When it comes to accommodations, some people swear by house-sitting or couchsurfing. I haven’t tried either, but some travellers have great success at both of these options.
Rack Up Points with the Capital One Aspire Travel Mastercard
I started using the Capital One Aspire Travel World Elite MasterCard last year, and I can’t stop recommending it to all of my family and friends. Although this post is sponsored by them, I can honestly say it’s the best credit card that I’ve ever owned. I used to get so tired of Canadians not receiving the same advantages that our friends to the south could get from travel reward programs. I charge almost everything that I buy to this credit card. For every dollar I spend, I receive 2 reward miles. There are premium benefits, such as travel emergency medical insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and World Elite Mastercard concierge services. For new cardholders, you’ll receive a bonus of 40,000 miles, equivalent to $400 in travel once you spend $1000 on purchases within the first three months of signing up. The card has an annual fee, but it quickly pays for itself.
In October, Capital One introduced some significant improvements to the program. For instance, there are no more redemption tiers. 100 reward miles equals $1 travel towards your next adventure. There are no minimum redemption requirements, and you can even use the points towards partial redemptions on a portion of a transaction. The travel points can be redeemed for almost anything involving travel (flights, hotels, a taxi ride to the airport, airline fees), gift cards, or even cash. These points add up fast – I’ve already saved up more than enough miles to pay for our return flights to Iceland!
Redeeming miles is a very easy process. Purchase your travel, log into your Capital One account, and click the redeem button for the full or partial amount of the charge. Then, your account will be credited accordingly. Easy peasy.
I’ve signed up to so many travel reward programs over the years, and usually these points sit in my account for such a long time and I’m never able to redeem them for anything worthwhile. With this credit card, I’m able to easily redeem points for travel all the time.
Free or Cheap Activities
Once you reach your destination, there are plenty of free or cheap activities to try that are just as fun as the more expensive ones. One of my favourite things to do when I travel somewhere is simply walk around, snap photos, and take in the sights. There are also many free city walking tours that you can easily find by doing a little bit of research ahead of time.
Another cheap or free activity is to explore a city by bicycle. We once stayed at a hotel that offered free bicycles for guests to use. Justin and I also rented bikes while we were in Lucca for only a couple of Euros, and we were able to ride through town and the park that surrounded the city walls.
Many outdoor activities are low cost or free, such as hiking, swimming, sunbathing on the beach, watching the sunset, or snorkeling if you have your own gear. Some museums are free or have an evening where they let guests in for free. And many cities have outdoor festivals that are free to attend.
There are also social networking sites like Meetup where you can attend themed events and meet like-minded locals for free.
Use Skyscanner to Find Cheap Flights
I always use Skyscanner to find the lowest rates for flights. This site searches through hundreds of flight websites and finds the best deals. It’s easy to spot which days are cheaper to fly, and I’m able to plan accordingly. In addition, I always make sure to check the airline website. Sometimes the cheapest deal can be found on the airline website, especially if there’s a seat sale.
When I’m not able to travel for extended amounts of time, there’s always something new to explore close to home. At home in Ontario, there are always different activities and places that I’ve never visited before. When Justin and I first started dating, we would often spend the day in a neighbourhood in Toronto that we’d both never explored before. This past year, we were in awe of a frozen Niagara Falls during the winter, went kayaking in the 1000 Islands, tried stand up paddleboarding for the first time, had a treetop trekking adventure in Collingwood, and stayed overnight in a glamping tent. Those adventures weren’t far from home, and they were all exciting and memorable experiences.
Don’t Cut Back Too Much
This might seem like a huge contradiction to this article, but hear me out. It’s one thing to cut back in order to save for travel, but don’t deprive yourself of other things that you really enjoy.
I think it’s important to strike a balance in life. While I love to travel, I also love other things, too. I enjoy spending time with friends and family, so it’s really fun to go out for dinner with them. We also stay in sometimes and play board games or have pot luck dinners, though it’s really enjoyable to have a quality meal at a great restaurant. And of course, I love reviewing restaurants on the blog for all of the yummy vegan food that I find!
I try to cook my own meals when I’m home, but sometimes it can be very time consuming on days that I work. I try to prepare meals that can serve as leftovers while I’m working. When I’m not able to cook, I’ll buy healthy meals from a local grocery store’s salad bar or a tofu noodle dish from a fast food place. Even though I love cooking, sometimes I’m not able to find the time and I try not to beat myself up about that.
On this note, going vegan is significantly cheaper than consuming an omnivorous diet. The more expensive items at the grocery store tend to be meat and cheese, while dry beans, rice, potatoes, pasta, and vegetables tend to be cheaper. I tend to spend more money on groceries than the average vegan because I prefer to buy organic, local, and non-GMO products. I prefer to pay a little bit more for a quality product that’s better for me, better for the local economy, and doesn’t cause harm to the planet.
I’m also a self-proclaimed coffee addict. When I’m at home, I brew my own coffee. However, when I’m at work or out for the day, I’ll buy coffee at a local cafe. It really does help my day at work pass more quickly, plus I’m in a much better mood if I’ve had my coffee. I don’t always spend more money on the premium lattes and cappuccinos, but I do sometimes. I will treat myself to one of these drinks from time to time. And you should, too! With that said, even cutting back a little bit can help, like buying a regular coffee instead of a fancy latte. If you stop buying coffee completely while you’re out, I bet you will save a ton of money. And you have way more willpower than me, so I admire you for it.
The bottom line: if I absolutely love something or really want to buy it, I will. If I’m on the fence or I’d rather be using that money for travel, I won’t buy it.
Now that I’ve shared my tips with you, how do you afford to travel? What’s the best tip or trick that you have to share? Do you enjoy a particular activity that’s low cost or free? Do you enjoy saving money as you travel, or do you cut back on things in your daily life to save up for that special vacation? Let’s discuss our favourite ways to save in the comments section below!
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