In order to afford your dream vacations you need just one thing (drumroll please….)
A trust fund!
I kid. Though wouldn’t that be great?
I’m assuming if you had a trust fund you probably wouldn’t be reading about how to afford travel without credit cards, so don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. The actual key to being able to afford travel is to spend less money than you earn on a monthly basis. I know. Duh. Yet somehow it’s still difficult to do. Here’s how to break it down and make it work:
Step One: Create a Budget
If you’re going to afford to travel, you need to have a travel savings account and you need to be adding to it every month. In order to know how much you can save, you should first look back at all of your expenses from last month. Are there things you can cut out? Subscriptions you don’t really use? Dinners you can cook at home?
Figure out what that amount adds up to and the next time you get paid, automatically transfer that sum of money into your “travel savings account.” (I’m a fan of Capital One 360 because it’s totally separate from my regular checking account and they pay a tiny bit of interest – plus a $25 sign up bonus.)
Step Two: Make More Money
No, no, don’t run out and get a second job but do consider the many supplemental income opportunities that exist in today’s sharing economy.
Admittedly this one has nothing to do with the sharing economy, but Ebates is free to use (in fact, you’ll get a $10 for signing up) and gives you cash back for online purchases you’re already making. Check it out, sign up, and link your payment rewards directly to your travel savings account.
You’re going to be traveling, right? Who’s staying in your apartment while you’re gone? Heading home to visit your family for your little brother’s graduation? Who will be in your apartment then? You’re traveling for work? Even better!
If you’re not going to be home, you might as well be making a return on all of that rent you’re paying. While traveling I’m typically picking up $100/night from my apartment, which covers my accommodations almost anywhere. This saves $1,000 on a 10-day trip… seems like a no brainer to me.
Today more and more companies are turning to freelancers to get work done. Upwork, TaskRabbit, CloudPeeps, and Fiverr are platforms connecting those companies to people like you.
Do you like design? Are you a kickass writer? Do you have an expertise in SEO? Are you really bomb at party planning or putting together Ikea furniture? Each of these platforms caters to unique skills and talents. Figure out which one is right for you, set up your profile, connect with a few clients, and start watching the money roll in! (Remember, link this income directly to your travel savings account so you’re not tempted to spend the extra cash on something else!)
Step Three: Save Money While Traveling
Traveling isn’t free, but it definitely doesn’t have to be expensive.
While traveling you can stay in 3-star hotels every night and break even on the Airbnb income you’re earning at home or you can stay in Airbnbs, hostels, or even Couchsurf and save hundreds on your trip. Airbnbs are a particularly good value if you’re traveling with a group of friends. That said, many people are starting to rent out spare rooms in their home, which is the perfect option for a solo traveler or couple traveling together. In Seville I rented a private room in a couple’s apartment for less than the cost of a 6-person shared dorm in a hostel. I had access to a kitchen, a private room (with a bonus office area) and high speed wifi for ~$20/night.
I’m a big believer that eating the local food is an important part of travel experiences. That said, your pants and wallet will thank you for not eating out 3x/day for the duration of your trip.
Figure out which meals will be the biggest bang for your buck and enjoy those at great restaurants. In Spain, you can spend 10€ on a Menú del Dia: a 3-course lunch filled with wine, an appetizer, entree, dessert, and coffee. In Taiwan, for a few USD you can stuff your face at the night markets. You get the idea.
For your other meals figure out where the locals shop and head there yourself. I could have had a sit down lunch on a regular old square when visiting Tarragona but instead I spent less than $5 on picnic supplies and ate my lunch on top of this aqueduct:
If you want more tips about how to afford travel and a workbook to get you on your way, check out this complete guide. Do you have any go-to strategies for saving up for your travels? How about saving big $$ during your trip? Share them below!
About the Author
Liz Peterson is an American expat based in Barcelona who loves exploring new cities on bike and on foot. She runs a travel blog www.california2catalonia.com where she shares travel tips to save you time and money. Other than travel, her favorite things in life are coffee, red wine, puppies, and chocolate. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.