I am very excited to feature my very first guest blogger on The Bliss Bean! Stephanie LaFlora is the creator of Personal Finance in Your 20s, and you can read more about her at the end of the post. Without further ado:
Two years ago, I set a goal to travel to 1 new country every year in addition to my traveling in the US, and by the end of this year I would have visited 6 new countries! How the heck did I do that? Well, for starters, I re-allocated the money I was spending on stuff that I cared less about to a travel fund. And by stuff I didn’t care about, I mean -- uncanceled subscriptions, cable packages that had channels I didn’t care about, and eating out instead of cooking. It turns out, I could save hundreds of dollars a month for travel just by doing a simple audit of monthly auto-withdrawals from my bank account.
Chances are, you’ve probably got some hidden room in your budget tied up in services you meant to cancel long ago. Doing a simple audit of your automated expenses is a quick and easy way to find extra money that you can save for traveling.
Know how to score amazing travel deals
I am utterly obsessed with hunting for travel deals. In fact, very few things give me as much joy. I look for travel deals even when I’m not planning to book travel, just so I can get better at knowing where to find deals and when to look. And getting a great deal can mean the difference between one or two trips for the same price!
So I’m going to share a few of my secrets with you to get the best deals.
Best places to find cheap international flights:
Travel Zoo’s top 20: This is the first place I search for amazing travel deals. This year, my husband and I will go to Japan and we only paid $2000 for 2 round trip flights and 8 days of lodging. That is unheard of! Travel zoo is also a great way to find vacation packages and guided tours for cheap.
Vayama: Vayama allows you to search for the cheapest flights by region of the world. Just today I saw a flight from New York to Paris for $381 round trip. Yes, you read that correctly. And if you’re lucky, it may still be available here.
Google Flights: I remember when Google Flights was a clunky web app, and a major secret for travel deal hunters -- I was still using it then! But now, it’s conveniently integrated into google search. Although, you may not find the cheapest travel deals here compared to the other sites on this list, they have the best calendar view if you’re flexible on dates. Note: they do not include Southwest flights in their results.
Once you find a great deal, you’ll want to consider any additional costs of your trip and see how much it’ll cost in total.
Best places to find hotel and lodging deals:
HotelTonight app: I’ve been using this app for a few months and I love it. It’s not crazy cheap, but you can easily find boutique hotel stays for a reasonable price. Note: Lodging is something I don’t typically skimp on because the aesthetic of my stay is so important to me.
Hostel World: I haven’t used this site (as I’m not a major hostel kinda gal), but it’s a one stop shop for finding the best hostels around the world. And the site looks pretty user friendly and modern -- unlike a lot of competitors.
Airbnb: By now, everyone knows about Airbnb, and as a result, their prices have gotten a bit ridiculous in my opinion. So if I’m just booking a trip for my family (hubby + an energetic toddler) I go for the convenience of hotels. BUT….If I’m traveling with a group, Airbnb can’t be beat. You can rent a stunning house and split the cost for an unforgettable trip with family or friends.
Automate your savings
This is the absolute most important thing on this list. If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you want to save more money for traveling, but have been struggling to find a plan or develop a habit that sticks. This is the answer to your problem, and great news...it’s really easy.
Set up regular monthly or bi-weekly withdrawals to a separate account (I like Ally for this because they have great interest rates) for your travel budget. Start with a very doable amount… even if it’s $25 that’s ok. Then, each month double the amount you’re saving until it gets a little uncomfortable.
Most of the time when I talk to people about this, they look at me like I’m crazy. Double the amount every month? Yep. You’ll be surprised how much you can afford to save when you eliminate those hidden costs and don’t pay for stuff that doesn’t make you happy.
For more easy and simple ideas for reducing your spending, check out these 20 practical ways to save money.
Set travel goals
Do you dream of travel? Me too. To get serious about making it a priority in my life, I had to set a goal... 1 new country per year. To some, that’s a small goal, while for others, it’s a dream. Since this now includes my husband and 1 year old child, not only does it take financial planning, it also takes a whole lot of coordination. I created a travel planning template to help me quickly figure out a plan to book our trips.
Good news… you can use it too. To get started, you only need to know how many people are traveling, how much you can save from each paycheck, and how long you want your trip to be.
The template makes it easy for you to know:
How much you need to save
How long it will take you to save for your trip
Average and cheap budgets for US Travel, Thailand, Costa Rica, South Africa, and New Zealand
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but I hope it stirs the pot and shifts your perspective towards new -- and perhaps better -- ideas. Click here to Get the travel budget template.
What dream trip are you saving up for?
Stephanie LaFlora is a writer and marketer that is obsessed with personal finance and helping millennials save money. She’s also the creator of Personal Finance in Your 20s, a blog that shares totally doable money management how-to’s to help make adulting easy.