I agree travelling is quite an expensive passion to have and I usually say to my friends I need to find a cheaper one 🙂 But it is not as expensive as the general belief is and it’s becoming more affordable. So I wrote a short guide on how to afford travelling. It mainly depends on how much time and effort you put into it, the same as with everything. And how high it is on your priority list (how bad do you want it).
The main topics to start your research are the following:
I get quite a lot “Oh I wish, but I don’t have money/ I don’t earn much etc”. Your budget/ debts have a great impact, but it doesn’t make travel impossible. And it doesn’t have to be an around the world trip to begin with, just exploring your hometown or going on a day trip to a neighbouring city means travelling. It’s about wonder, discovering a new place, observing life.
Now going back to the money thing. There are a lot of resources online on how to manage your budget and financial education. I personally spend half of my income on accommodation and food and the other half between savings and travel/other expenses (depending on the month). So only some part of my income goes into travel because it’s a priority for me. That same percentage somebody else spends on clothes, training etc, whatever is important for them. It doesn’t mean it’s bad. It means they do afford to travel, but other priorities come first.
Also, with so much advertisement, we think we need much more things than we do. Most of them are nice-to-have but are treated as a necessity. But that’s a whole debate. An easy exercise that helps me a lot every time I want to buy something I consider expensive is to ask myself “do I really need it?” and “is it worth/ do I like it that much?”. Travelling also made me more minimalist.
What if you have the money and not the time to travel?
Most of the countries in Europe allow 20+ days time off, but I wouldn’t take it for granted. Job type and flexibility count “big time”. This is more down to the individual, but every employee is entitled to time off as part of their work (and health I would add), it’s not a benefit the employer gives you if they want to. I’ve seen this mentality a lot, it’s like going to the supermarket and pay for your products and then the cashier tells you “give me a good reason why you want them” or “do you really need them? and now? I’m so busy”
But there are always solutions. I find it very inspiring to see how creative people are and they manage to find a way with everything. I used to complain I had 21 days annual leave. Until I went to East Asia and I met friends who managed to travel having 14 or even 7 days annual leave.
Now I have 25 days annual leave, 7 bank holidays, plus weekends, some work travel and remote work flexibility. I know I’m super lucky, but yes, I still complain sometimes (and I know how ridiculous it is). I try to maximize my holidays by making use of the weekends and bank holidays, but that’s not hard to guess.
You can leave the evening before your free day. It’s more expensive, as you pay an extra night for accommodation, but you earn a half day of time at your destination. Or to leave very very early on a free day. Another tip is to go to work as soon as you come back. Many times I arrived at like 2 am in the night and go to work the next day. It’s definitively tiring, but imagine you go out one night during weekdays, it’s tiring, but you don’t take 2 days off afterwards to recover right? Of course, it depends on your health and commodity, or simply preference. I also noticed the older I get, the lazier I become.
The point is, in travelling, you buy TIME, not just comfort. If you are willing to spend more, you get faster transportation means, better times, jump queues, or book great locations. If you are willing to cut off points from time and comfort, you get more points on affordable.
Travel deals and destinations
So after saving the money and have your time off approved at work, you are still halfway there. Of course, you can book a package deal, all guided etc. There are lots of services, but that’s comfort buying.
I have a few flights websites I follow. Although I’m not looking to buy at that moment, I’m up to date with the prices and how low they can get. For example, I see a promotion on flights to Japan for £400 and I think it’s a fair price, but I’ve booked it before with £250, so I’ll wait a bit more. The prices and promotions tend to come back, so if you miss them once but remember, it’s most likely to find them again after a while.
Noticing airline behaviour also helps a lot in predicting deals. Some airlines (especially holiday charters) usually drop the prices for last minute flights. Some airlines increase their prices closer to travel date. If you are interested in flights, I wrote articles about cheap flights hunting and how to make a long flight less painful.
For flights, it all matters. The day of the week you book it and the day you travel. The moment of the day you travel. The destination and departure city. The airline and the route. The stops.
Let’s say you booked your flight. You still need to plan your activities or travel route and book your accommodation. In this order. I would not advise to just book all your accommodation and see what to do there afterwards. Have a look at the stuff you want to see/experience at your destination, then search for places to sleep around there.
Finding a good deal for accommodation is way easier than flights. Nowadays there are websites for every budget and type. You can get free accommodation with Couchsurfing, home exchanging and volunteer work. If you don’t mind sharing a room, hostels can be very cheap. Then you have Airbnb, B&Bs, hotels, resorts. Apart from the usual promotions on a booking website, there are search engines who help you find which one has the best discount (one hotel is advertised on various websites, and depending on the deal they have, the price will be different).
On top of that, there are loyalty programs for both flights and accommodation. So you can book a room with a high discount on a website and still earn points. It’s not a big earning, you spend a lot to earn a little. But the thing is, you were willing to spend that money anyway, you don’t do it because of those points. They come as a little extra.
More travel, more joy 🙂