It’s not just my favorite bug, it’s the only one I like: the travel bug.
I’ve had a serious case of wanderlust as long as I can remember. I’m not sure whether it’s innate or a product of how I was raised; perhaps it’s a combination of the two.
As a kid, I grew up in a family (particularly my dad and his parents) that valued travel. From age 6 or so on, my grandparents took my older brother and I on a trip every summer. We went to Texas a number of times, staying at a ranch and riding horses a few times a day through the gorgeous trails of hill country. We went to Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown. We went on cruises galore, including one to Alaska. My parents and other grandparents also made travel a priority, renting beach houses, taking even more cruises (I believe I’ve been on 9 total now), etc.
Just as often as they told us about the importance of travel for expanding your horizons and growing culturally, my grandparents told me how important it was to manage your money wisely to be able to take such trips.
Why am I saying all this?
Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling. I went to West Virginia and Virginia in February, Colorado in March and am going to Utah this month. All of these trips involved air travel, which as we all know is not cheap. I’ve gotten a lot of questions from friends asking, “How do you afford all that?” I’m here to tell you!
I decided at the beginning of 2015 to really take control of my life: doing the things I want to do and not just dreaming about someday. Someday can be today if you want it to be! You just have to be strategic.
With this decision came a realization that I needed to plan my finances accordingly. Every month, I have $300 automatically transferred to my general savings account. I don’t really have a plan for this money; I just know that I’m not going to touch it if at all possible and am, in some vague way, planning for the future and the unknown. I also have $150 transferred automatically each month into a travel savings account.
I chose these numbers rather arbitrarily and will soon up them. The beauty of automatic transfers (mine are scheduled for the day after paydays) is that you don’t miss the money in your checking account once you get into the groove. In the instances that I’ve had unforeseen expenses, I have elected to charge something to my credit card (nothing crazy, think $100) and then pay it off immediately after my next check.
Let’s look at the big picture: even if I did no other saving, I would have $1800 in my travel savings account after one year and $3600 in my general savings at that same time. Pretty solid! However, I try to beat that every month. $20 here, $60 here…every last bit adds up!
Once I’ve reached about $500 in my travel savings account, I’ll start thinking about where I want to go. This amount works for me because by the time the trip rolls around a month or two later, I’ve accumulated more spending money after using that initial amount on airfare. This is obviously going to be different for everyone, but here’s why it works for me: I’m young. I’m traveling mainly to places where I have friends (read: free accommodations). I eat (mostly) cheaply. I find cheap airfare, often flying discount airlines like Frontier or Spirit instead of the big names.
Another reason that this works for me is because right now, my focus is on short-term, mini-vacations. I spend about four days on most of my trips. I’ve found that for this stage of life (where I’m in a full-time job with limited paid time off), it makes more sense (and makes me happier) to take more frequent shorter trips than one longer trip. But again – that’s just me!
Really, I want to emphasize that travel can be accessible to you. Make it a priority in your budget (you’ll rarely find me buying drinks at Starbucks or purchasing the latest gadget). I know that seeing as much of the world as possible is important to me, so I’m doing what I can while I’m still young and independent (I don’t even want to think about how much it costs to travel with children…).
If you have any questions or tips for me, I’m all ears. Happy travels!