Since the age of 24 I made travel a priority. Previously - travel was something I did with my family. After I went backpacking in Europe when I was 24, I decided, travel isn't going to be a 'nice to have' option, an 'i want that' option or an option at all. It was going to be a must. And since then, I have done everything I can to make sure I can pay my bills, put money into savings, pay off student loans (at a comfortable rate) and still be able to pay for flights and stay and other cool experiences during my travels. As I've grown older, more priorities have been added to my lifestyle and it's taken some shifting and adjusting to ensure I can still be able to visit countries and cities on my travel bucket list. For me, traveling is important. It enriches my life culturally, clears my head and exercises my mental health and makes me very very happy. Experiences are something I truly seek in my life. ( I AM NOT AN ALL-INCLUSIVE VACATION PERSON...and as a heads up, this post has nothing to do with going on all-inclusive vacations)
Today, I am 34, and my boyfriend and I have a baby. While we have a combined above average income...we also live in Toronto. And if you're not familiar with the real estate and lifestyle situation in Toronto - it is FAR from affordable. So really, our above average combined income means SQUAT. This year - as I've mentioned previously, traveling was significantly sacrificed because any travel budget we had was ultimately put towards Huxley's budget. Of course, being the savvy traveler I am, I thought about this ahead of time and Bryon and I were able to 'afford' (you will read later why I put this in quotations) a trip to Hawaii while I'm on mat leave.
One question I get ask quite often is "how am I able to travel so often." Taking the considerations above into account...I also only get two weeks vacation time from my work and a handful of sick days...that are supposed to be used for actual sick days. And yet (before baby) I go on AT LEAST 4 trips during the year. I'm not sponsored, my trips aren't comped or paid for...I do it all on my own. And so...I wanted to share with you how I make it work, and how you can make it work too!
These are some of the rules I live by to ensure I have budget and time for travel:
NO FRILLS LIFESTYLE
This is the number one rule to live by if you want to afford travel on an average salary.
At least for me.
Think about this: if it's not broken...it doesn't need to be replaced. Before you purchase something you need, ask yourself, do I need the extra bells and whistles or the latest version...or can I function with the basic version or the previous model/item (because you start with model 2 and suddenly there's a model 8 that has much better options!)? All the extra money you spend on things you DON'T NEED could be going toward the thing you want. In my case: travel. And another thing: I try to look for the item USED in good condition first (sustainability and saving money at the same time is great!)
Of course, there are cases where you need to buy things that are necessary: you move and need new furniture, a car (We needed a new car before Huxley arrived and that took A LOT of consideration budget wise). Bryon and I live in a small condo, so we are less likely to be tempted to purchase a lot of stuff. We just don't have the space for it. And that's probably a blessing, because the bigger your space the more things you have to buy, such as furniture. But this aside, we try to go for quality when we need expensive items, but we also don't get the most expensive option - just what we need.
Before Bryon, I lived exactly like this. My lifestyle was so simple. I had a super cheap basement apartment I scored, I used my cell phone until it was completely broken before I got another one (not to mention I continued to be on the same plan I got when I was 16 which was incredibly cheap!), I had a super basic gym membership, a good (reliable and decent) car... but it was still basic lol. My bills were just a slight chunk of my take-home pay. On a single salary, I still managed to heavily fit travel in my life by sacrificing other areas.
I'm not saying I never splurge or that I'm extremely conservative with my spending habits - because I'm not all the time. But I do consider most purchases and the extra money added on for something luxury or more expensive based on something less expensive and what I could put the difference toward. $100 here and an extra $600 there...even an extra $50. It all adds up. I've tried to tell myself to stop saying, "oh, well it's just an extra $20" because saying that makes it okay to upgrade or get the 'better version' of something I need to buy...or just buying something I don't need at all.
Just a thought!
SELL WHAT YOU DON'T NEED
Ask Bryon..I'm a pro at this. This ties in with my rule above. I hate holding onto 'stuff' I don't use. Clothes, furniture...anything! Whatever you're not using can be sold! I love using Kijiji, Varagesale, Poshmark and mom/general buy and sell groups on Facebook. I've made a lot of money selling unused items and I usually take that money and put it in my savings account for travel. Does this take extra time in your life? Absolutely. Is it worth it in the end? In my opinion: Absolutely. Why? Because I'll see you surfing in Nicaragua! (Surf lessons cost anywhere from $60-$125 fyi)
SAVE YOUR CHANGE
I don't do this anymore, but before I moved in with Bryon I was working as a waitress and I ALWAYS had spare change and small bills kicking around. So I decided to save my change and when I was about to go on vacation I would dig it out, count it and use it for spending money on vacation! You would be shocked at how much you can save if you are someone who always uses cash. My tip: Put it in a jar you have to physically break in order to get the change out.
WORK EXTRA JOBS/START A SIDE HUSTLE
This is another one of my #1 tips. The funny thing about this tip is that a lot of people are not willing to do it. While I was single and not a mom this was of course much easier. I had a full time job (at an office or freelancing) and on top of this I served at a restaurant. I was probably working as a server about 4-5 times a week and made a very healthy income on top of my full time income. I used this money to pay off student debt and put toward travel. I enjoyed serving, but it is a tiring job. Now, I have a full time office job and freelance gig on the side, I don't need to do it anymore. If you have a family, starting a side hustle/second job is very difficult! But if you can make it work, the extra money goes a long way. It is a lot of work and commitment, but if you have a goal that is important to you, then you make it work! Plus I love both my full time job and side hustle, so it's not a huge deal for me.
SAVE YOUR TRAVEL POINTS FOR A RAINY DAY
Huge fan of travel points. I use an American Express charge credit card, which MUST be paid off in full at the end of the month or you get charged 30% interest or something crazy like that. Think of it as a debit card you have to pay back. I've never missed a payment, and it turn, I've been able to reap the benefits of Aeroplan points accumulation! You can learn more about this card HERE (sorry, I don't have a referral program with them!). There is an annual fee, which I feel is reasonable considering I collect a lot of points. The fee is a small fraction of the flights I would book with my points. I was able to book two economy class flights to Hawaii for myself and Bryon with the points I accumulated on this card. If this type of card doesn't work for you, American Express has many other options that are great for travel. These cards or these cards are also good options. If I needed another credit card (which I don't) I would get this one because I love the Bonvoy Marriott program. Make sure you read each one thoroughly as they are all different.
Bryon also has Scotia Rewards, which is what we used to book our hotel in Hawaii. I don't know a ton about that program, but if you are with ScotiaBank, it's something worth looking into. There are TONS of options out there for travel points that you can accumulate and I strongly recommend taking advantage of the ones that will work best for you (the ones that will allow you to rack up the most points in a short period of time so you can actually use them) so you can save money.
BOOK IN ADVANCE
I know that sometime emergency travel situations pop up and you end up having spend a fortune on flights and hotel bookings...and sometimes, that's just the way it is! But at the beginning of each year I try to plan my travels in advance. I'll either make a short list of places I'd like to go, or I will make concrete plans. With the nature of Bryon's job, I pretty much have to do this anyway. But even before I met Bryon I had a pretty good idea of how many trips I would be going on throughout the year so I could budget accordingly.
Bryon and I (when I'm not on mat leave) travel someone for a week without each other so we can travel with our friends. He always goes on a ski trip, and I usually go away with a girlfriend. And then we do one vacation together. Sometimes a week gets broken up so we can go on multiple trips - it just depends on what we want to do! A great way to keep on track with what you want to do is to create your (realistic) ultimate travel bucket list so you can really plan ahead! The more advance you book your flights...the cheaper! It's also a great idea to download an app like Hopper so you can monitor the cost of flights. While I book flights to Canada and the U.S. on Hopper, I don't book long-haul/international flights on it, but use it as a tool for monitoring flight prices!
ENJOY LONG WEEKEND VACATIONS
My close friends will tell you I am the queen of long weekend travel! Because of my sad vacation time I am allotted, I have to get creative. There are SO many cool places you can travel to over a long weekend. Add an extra day to your weekend to book off and you can go even further. I allow myself up to 6 hours for a flight for a long weekend trip and I get picky with my flight times (i.e. EARY morning and late nights back). You better believe it I'm extremely exhausted when I return to work after these trips, but I get to experience another location on my bucket list, so I'm happy!
HAVE A SAVINGS ACCOUNT FOR EMERGENCIES
You might think this isn't related to affording travel, but it totally is. Financial experts will advise you to have at least one-month's salary (3 months is better) in a savings account for an emergency. If you have an average income, this is pretty important. It takes some time to get this saved up and ready to go, but it's the best security blanket. Booking trips can take a pretty big chunk out of your finances, and if push comes to shove and you need a little extra to fill in some financial gaps when you leave or come home from a trip, the savings can make things a lot more comfortable. The other reason why it's important is because sometimes things go wrong on vacations: you miss a flight, you get hurt, your stay doesn't work out - always budget OVER the actual cost of your trip to prevent going into emergency debt.
Those are all my tips! Hopefully if you are planning to add more travel in your life in the new year these tips will help you get started and plan a little better!