The Passionista The Traveler

#QTNA: How Can She Afford to Travel? . . . Asked and Answered!

February 21, 2018

If I told you how often I get this question, you would NOT believe me (includes those that opt to ask my family and/or friends instead)!  Clearly a Question That Needs Answers (QTNA) in a lot of people’s mind.  Let’s flip it to the question you really want answered, How Can I Travel More?  

If  you don’t follow me on social media, allow me to explain what’s normal for me:
  • 2017 Travels: Barbados, Phoenix, South Africa/Zimbabwe/Dubai, North GA Mountains, Oklahoma, Cuba, Girl’s Weekend Staycation, Italy, Spain, Vegas, Chattanooga, Chicago and Miami (OK, this year was a bit of an anomaly; 4 work trips and 3 life events (weddings and a funeral) added to trips planned in ’16)
  • 2016 Travels: Valentine’s Day Staycation,  Austin, Miami/Peru, DC, Miami/Bahamas, Hilton Head, Boston/Maine, Mexico, NYC, Istanbul/Prague, Ecuador/Galapagos Islands/Miami, DC, Cincinnati, Miami (6 works trips – 1 international!!! and 2 graduations added to deals I could not pass up!)
  • 2015 Travels: Houston, North GA Mountains, DC/Frankfurt/Kenya/Zanzibar/ Brussels, San Destin, Chicago, Miami/Key West, NC, Abu Dhabi/Joburg/Durban/Cape Town, Vegas, Miami/Key West
I’m sharing these details so you understand that this is my way of life, it is my passion (I am not new to this, I am true to this.  I’ve been to 30+ countries and 5 continents, most of which were over the last 3 years).  Travel is something I refuse to live without.  So, #QTNA: How do I make this happen?  I start each year with a goal to travel as much as possible (I have friends that travel WAY more than I do so it’s all a matter of perspective).  Okay, so what does that really mean? I am a process oriented person so I created a planning process that works perfectly for me:

  • The Who: Just Us (i.e. me and my husband), Girls Trip, Family and Couples
  • The When: I aim to take advantage of EVERY major holiday to maximize my vacation time and balance that as best I can with amazing travel deals (Vegas every other year for Halloween/my bday is pretty much non-negotiable!)
  • The Where: 1 international trip, 1 new U.S. city, 1 road trip (max 6 hours), 1 Staycation (max 2 hours)
  • The Why: Honestly, I don’t need a reason to justify a trip! Have bags? Will travel!
  • The How: Disciple!!! SAVE, SAVE and SAVE!
 If you are interested in traveling more, here are 8 tried and true tips to get you there:
  • Tip 1 – SAVE REGULARLY: I save a set amount each pay period for travel (I automatically transfer money to my Ally Bank account to take advantage of higher interest rates). This ensures I am ever ready financially for travel!
  • Tip 2 – SACRIFICE OFTEN: I effectively balance my guilty pleasures. I could spend ~$3.50 on a cup of tea daily but I’d rather make it at home and save $1,250+ in 1 yr and build up experiences that will last a lifetime (I also keep my favorite tea at work so I can avoid the office Starbucks).  I could buy lunch every day for ~$12 (What happened to $5 for lunch!!!! Am I dating myself???) but I’d rather save ~$3,000 per year (I buy a bagged salad from Costco each week for ~$5.50 and that lasts ALL WEEK and easily allows for an occasional splurge)!
Action Item: Put this into practice starting NOW: Identify the “cheap treats” you indulge in regularly.  Those dollars add up FAST, re-purpose them into savings!
  • Tip 3 – SPEND WISELY: I optimize my resources by balancing the big 3 (Flight, Lodging and Eating Out):
    • Limit trips that require all 3
    • Make trips that require all 3 girls trips to reduce the cost
    • When lodging is required seek out options with a full kitchen (options include Airbnb, Flip Key, Condotel, Service Apartment) and cook/prep one or more meals a day and save big (I typically afford eating out for breakfast, it’s so easy to pull a quick meal together!)!
    • Leverage hotel deal sites like Priceline or Hotwire to get great deals on rooms (I’ve used the name your own price option in the US & abroad.  It’s worked out great, I typically only bid on 4+ stars)!
  • Tip 4 – STRETCH DOLLARS – I leverage rewards programs to bolster my wallet. My strategy is simple (I am by no means an expert but I am disciplined so this has worked for 10+ years!), I charge everything I can to my American Express card (Please note that being fiscally responsible is imperative! My bill is ALWAYS paid off each month). This simple approach yields at least 2-3 flights per year that are covered by membership rewards points.
Alternative: Many people carry credit cards that offer companion tickets.  I have not tried this but I know several people who stand by this.  I just can’t get over the price for Amex Platinum but maybe one day.
  • Tip 5 – EXTEND WORK TRIPS:  I often add an extra day on the front and/or back-end of work trips (this works out even better if the trip is slated to end on a Friday because then I don’t have to worry about taking a vacation day).  This happens without question if it’s a destination I’ve never visited or if I have family/friends nearby which effectively eliminates lodging expenses.  I’ve done this successfully in Las Vegas, Chicago, Phoenix, Boston, Washington DC and Cincinnati.
  • Tip 6: WORK REMOTE: I take my laptop with me 99.9% of the time (Have wi-fi? Can work!).  This allows me to keep up with my work commitments while satisfying my travel itch!  Companies have different policies when it comes to remote work but if you focus on a few key things . . . 1) delivering consistent results that exceed expectations 2) establishing a “I get it done well” brand 3) developing relationships with key decision makers 4) being present when it matters (you should not go on vacation if it impacts a critical deliverable or if you will miss a critical meeting/presentation) . . . you will likely increase your odds of securing flexibility.
  • Tip 7 – TARGET STOPOVERS:  Traditional thinking is that non-stop flights are most desirable but the reality is that it depends on how much time you have and your objective.  My objective is to see as much of the world as I can each trip (Warning!  My travel companions know we are #teamnosleep when we travel so I make the most of EVERY DAY!  My motto is “we can rest when we get home” so this particular point is not for the leisurely traveler), I often target flights with overnight stopovers so I can add bonus cities to my trip (Abu Dhabi, Frankfurt, Dubai, Brussels, Amsterdam, Istanbul).  This also speaks to my need to maximize my financial outlay, it’s much cheaper for me to see another nearby city along the way vs. take the long haul to visit that city in the future (this assumes you have the finances to do so, please do not go into debt to travel).
  • Tip 8 – BOOK FLIGHT DEALS: On average, I’ve paid less than $250 for most of my international trips over the last 4 years.  There are a few sites I follow via Twitter to get UNBELIEVABLE DEALS ($330 from Washington DC to Frankfurt to Istanbul to Nairobi, $150 RT from NYC to Abu Dhabi to Joburg, $180 from Miami to Lima, $160 from Miami to Quito, $125 from Miami to Havana, $336 from Atlanta to Toronto to Milan, UPCOMING $347 from Atlanta to Toronto to Budapest)!

Before I share my sources, you must understand the rules:

  • The fares are often glitches so the best deals can be dead in minutes
  • Do not contact the airline to confirm pricing as that will likely result in re-pricing
  • Do not make any additional plans until the dust settles (there are instances where the fares are refunded and never ticketed or fares are canceled and refunded after ticketing)
  • Book first and ask questions later, you will typically have a 24 hour cancellation window (confirm this first on the booking website)
  • Get comfortable with coach and indirect flights (business class deals occur from time to time but they will be a lot more expensive; the further you go the more stops you may have to make)
  • Plan to fly out of another city, I’ve only booked 2 deals out of Atlanta (I typically use points to pay for the in-country leg so the aforementioned prices are all-in for me) so figure out which airports you can get to for $150 or less and you can still save a ton (you will notice I typically fly out of Miami.  It’s a short flight and if I have to pay for it, I typically find a deal for less than $100 RT)!

My top deal finder sites:

  1. Secret Flying
  2. The Flight Deal
  3. Fare Deal Alert

Bonus Tip – LEVERAGE GOOGLE FLIGHTS: Pick your destination via Google Flights!  You can use the map feature to determine prices to everywhere for specific travel dates.

I may not always hit all of my travel goals but starting off with a plan yields focus, discipline and execution . . . I believe in dreaming big after all (current goal: 7 continents by 2020!!!  It will all conclude in Antarctica and I can’t wait!!!)! I long for the day that my travel desires will not be limited by the number of vacation days and cash I have on hand. But until then, I will continue to leverage these tips to see the world . . . One Deal at a  Time!!!

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  • Reply Acacia Henry February 27, 2018 at 1:25 PM

    Great travel tips! I want to be included in on some of these trips, loop a sister in !


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