It’s no surprise that I read a lot of travel blogs and skim more than my fair share of travel IG accounts. Waking up to a few snaps from Japan or Egypt is a great reminder of what is to come, travel is always something to look forward to. Often, usually in the form of a meme, I get overwhelmed by bad travel advice – particularly of the financial variety. A lot of travelers like to say anyone can afford it – they just need to budget properly. This always reminds me of when my mother tried to return a candle that wouldn’t burn and they told her it was because she didn’t “hug it” (they meant fold in the wax but still). Basically it is always your fault. You did something wrong. If you spend enough hours on YouTube you’ll see people make the same declarations about $8,000 pocketbooks. The fact is you can’t take a $2000 vacation if you don’t have $2000. You also don’t have $2000 if you have zero savings, are late on rent, and haven’t saved a cent for retirement. It’s the Suze Orman buzzkill moment that goes against everything your newsfeed is telling you. So how do you afford it?
First things first is full financial honesty. Set goals that include retirement and emergency funds, cover your expenses. Plan your travel budget last – this coffer can be filled and empties at your whimsy. The Eiffel Tour will be there later unless the French order its immediate removal (I think they’ve grown fond). In the end your need for travel will never outweigh your need for good credit.
Make a travel bucket list.
The Maldives are sinking, so is Venice. The glaciers are melting. Things do disappear. A few years ago I read a travel diary about Egypt and realized my ultimate destination was gone, I didn’t want to go to Egypt now I wanted to go in 1960 when the hanging gardens still bloomed and lesser temples were open and empty during the day. This is still on my list (what’s not?) but it was lowered a notch or two. The Maldives is pretty high on my list because it may not be around long.
Next up are places that take a lot of energy. Machu Pichu is hike hike hike so I’d better be able to. My friend booked a scuba diving trip because her inner ear troubles were getting worse.
Next are places that are expensive. I’m not takin a trek through Africa with someone I found on Craigslist I want a legitimate agency and I don’t want a hostel when I’m so far from home. The expense and effort can sometimes blend at this point but best case scenario we get super rich in the future!
Retirement can be an endless boat cruise. One couple I know retired and spent a year cruise-hopping around the globe. Easy living.
Now that you have a hard- core plan and maybe a few scrapbooks filled with dream hotels and meals it’s time to save. Saving money is so boring and I’ve read a few blogs on “making it fun!” But no it’s boring. The are the obvious concessions – don’t go to movies, cook your own dinner, forget you’ve ever heard the word Starbucks. Obviously the IG approved LV luggage is out of the question. Some blogs say stop giving gifts – and this is legitimate advice for people in debt – but I disagree. Personal gifts can be very important to others and they will notice if you always put your goals above theirs. My friends and I travel together so we don’t do gifts – we go out to dinner and put the rest towards a trip. More and more people are skipping Christmas gifts in order to take a family trip instead. My friends and I also make group decisions about going to restaurants or movies. Either the entire group has to want to spend the money or it has to be extremely important to one person. There is a balance between saving money off frivolous expense and joining people you care about doing something they love.
Get a second job. There was a really depressing article a few months ago about how having two jobs is the new standard. I had four jobs at the time and wasn’t thrilled at the news. If your career or hobbies lend to a second job (graphic design, baby sitting, tutoring, bartending, coaching a sport) you can get a five month gig and then take a trip off your earnings!
Another tip is to stop dating and die alone. Ok this is drastic (and dark) but dating is expensive! So is a wedding, having kids, buying a house. These goals often seem like emotional choices but they are also financial so don’t forget to save up and don’t get bullied into blowing all you money on travel “because it’s what really makes you rich”. People matter too.