Let’s face it. Everyone wants to travel.
Whether it’s a simple 4-day weekend driving up north, a weeklong Caribbean cruise, or 2 weeks in Europe, the desire to escape the daily routine for fun and leisure is always there.
However, not everyone does it. Many people I know have the best intentions of taking their dream trip but never do. Others I know rarely go out of town, even for a quick getaway. Excuses like money, at-home responsibilities and lack of time, immediately put travel on the back burner.
But with small changes to your routine and approach, you may find that it’s easier to make travel a priority. You don’t need a lot of money upfront, nor do you need to throw responsibility out the window.
Here are some unconventional ways to save time, money, and to keep travel top-of-mind.
1. Do all your shopping online
It’s no secret that online shopping is a terrific way to save time. But this doesn’t mean that people do it enough to notice the difference.
It’s amazing how much free time is spent wasting away at the mall, grocery stores, and mass merchandisers, for the sheer reason that it’s necessary. People work 40+ hours a week, only to spend their weekends running errands. Shopping is an inevitable task that consumes us, whether we like it or not.
You are probably already online shopping to a certain extent, but chances are, you need to be doing it much more. Forget about making a special trip to buy toothpaste. Order it online. Forget about shopping at the mall for pants because of needing to try on. Buy 2-3 sizes online, try them on at home, and schedule (online) a UPS pick up when you need to return a pair. You can even buy groceries online.
I’ve been ordering almost everything from Amazon Prime-Now which delivers groceries and household items within 2 hours for free. Doing so saves me from a lot of grief fighting shopping crowds, looking for parking, and monotony. Online shopping frees up a lot of the time I’d spend shopping typically on the weekend.
If you can fully take advantage of the endless ways to shop online, you may start to see your weekends opening up. And that means more weekends for trips out of town.
2. Binge-watch TV
Bingeing on anything is never the greatest idea, but with TV, it’s all psychological. Unlike bingeing on food, bingeing on your favorite TV show is finite. That is, you’re less likely to want to rewatch every episode of Game of Thrones compared to wanting to eat chocolate cake every chance you can get. I can never get rid of my sweet tooth, but I can get rid of the need to find out what happened in Season 6.
In essence, binge watching TV satisfies your burning desire to know what happened, thus getting it out of your system. Allow yourself an entire weekend a month watching TV, and you won’t feel a pressing need to maintain a balanced agenda on your only two days off. Furthermore, binge watching TV may even make you feel bad about being lazy, and motivate you to get outside even more. Now that I’ve finished Season 6 of Game of Thrones, I don’t need to worry about the show for another year. I am no longer burdened, and can now act on my burning desire to visit the actual countries where it was filmed.
3. Apply for at least one credit card that earns you points
Unless you’re planning on throwing common sense to the wind, signing up for unneeded credit cards seems like a terrible idea. Owning too many credit cards can negatively impact your credit and make it easier to spend above your means.
But while that’s true, it’s important to remember something about spending. To credit cards, spending money on groceries is no different than spending money on a new TV you don’t need. Spending is all one big network of consumerism, and credit card points are meant to entice you to spend even more, regardless of what it is you’re buying. Because of this crude fact of life, there is no better way to reap the rewards of being a contributor to the economy by using a points-earning credit card for all your purchases. Paying for your monthly necessities like groceries and gas allows you to accumulate points without doing anything differently in your life.
And more points means earning flights, hotel stays, car rentals, and many other options that make travel financially feasible.
4. Buy an item you need for your dream trip, regardless if you currently need it or not
After you buy your item (online, of course), place it in an easily viewed, accessible area of your home.
While I was in college trying to study for midterms, I couldn’t stop thinking about backpacking through Europe. So what did I do? The only sensible thing one could do in that predicament.
I bought a fancy Victorinox backpack-rollaway hybrid. I stared at it across my room for an entire year.
And staring at that thing worked. Whenever I watched Rick Steves or Globe Trekker (which was quite often), it made it easier to imagine myself in their shoes. I made a separate bank account called “mad money” which would be for saving (see #5). A year later, I went backpacking in Europe for two months.
Suffice it to say; you don’t want to blow all your hard-earned travel money just yet. But buying an item for your big trip is an easy way to motivate you to put it to its intended use. You’d be wasting money by not doing so.
5. Don’t give up your daily latte to save money for travel. Instead, make a game of “skimming” money off your own bank account
When you think of the reasons why you’re not traveling, not having enough money feels the worst. Not only is it hard saving in the first place, but the daily drab of self-sacrifice can really bring you down. When I decided to save money by giving up my daily coffee run, I was at an ultimate low. I felt worse about working in my dead-end job, and even more, terrible that I could become seriously unraveled by a first-world problem.
So, I used a different tactic for “saving” money. I started “skimming” money from my primary checking account by transferring it to a secondary checking account. This is just like taking money from my left pocket and putting it into my right pocket.
This is how it works; As your primary checking account balance fluctuates each day, you decide how much money you can part with at that moment. Think about this like taking out your wallet when your friend asks you for money. Can you give them $5? A $20? It probably varies from time to time, depending on how much money you have in your wallet at the time. Once you decide on an amount, that money is immediately transferred online or via your bank’s smartphone app.
The point of this exercise is not to be restricted to one automatic monthly savings deposit. Instead, you’ll transfer small increments frequently.
I’ve transferred amounts as little as $5, and as high as $2500. I like to transfer amounts that round my account balance to the nearest dollar. So, if my account balance is $2515.23, I might transfer $15.23. I repeat this a few times a week, sometimes every day. It’s strangely gratifying and almost feels like a game.
This practice more than compensates for my daily coffee. It’s amazing how a few bucks and change adds up over time.
6. Explore alternate ways to take care of personal needs while away
Traveling for any length of time doesn’t have to be as disruptive as it may seem. Search thumbtack.com, and will easily find a whole network of people who would love to water your plants or do menial tasks while you’re away, and for less than you might think.
If you’d like someone watching your home for the duration of your travels, try recruiting a house sitter. Members of the site trustedhousesitters.com would relish at the chance to watch your house and pets for absolutely nothing. The incentive for the house sitter is getting free accommodation in the city you live. House sitting is an excellent way to travel on a budget. It’s a win-win for both parties.
7. Lock down a travel date by tracking airfare prices, and spontaneously booking when the price is right
It’s hard to initiate taking a trip without setting a date. We place too much emphasis on when it’s convenient for work, at home, and in the end, we never commit to anything.
Don’t think that you’d have to commit to flying the week of to snag these deals. Many of them are for travel windows months in advance so you can rest easy that you’ll have time to plan, and feel good that you were crafty enough to snag a great deal.
And now for the bazillion dollar question. How do YOU prioritize travel?