One of my many goals this year is to travel more. I am already planning three trips this year- one to see my sister near Traverse City, Michigan, one to take my girls to a video conference in Los Angeles, and one trip that (for me) cumulates with three days in my favorite city in the world- New York.
Given that all of these trips are pricey- especially for a group I need to make sure I am planning each trip as frugally as possible.
Frugal Travel Tips
Here are some ideas I am working on:
1. Wants versus Needs
I am trying to keep my lifestyle as close to normal as possible while adding in these extra trips, but the desire to travel has caused me to take a look at what I am spending.
The biggest struggle is going out to eat with my family. I am focusing on making quick, healthy meals at home and packing some with us on nights when we are out for multiple events.
Look at your budget and see what you can live without, focusing instead on the trips you will be taking.
2. Check Out the Fly or Drive Calculator
Over at Be Frugal, there is a section where you can document everything you plan on doing if you are going to be flying or driving. It makes you think about everything along the way- from parking garage at the airport to hotel rooms along the route.
I have found that for the three or four of us that are going, every trip we are taking will be cheaper to drive than fly- even (basically) Dallas to New York City!
3. Gas Buddy Really is Your Buddy
Gas Buddy is equally amazing. You put in your beginning destination and your ending destination, and the website will find the cheapest prices along your route that will keep you fueled up and ready to go.
You put in all the information about your vehicle and the website will tell you exactly how much you are spending for the whole trip. My trip to New York City from about an hour south of Dallas will cost me about one hundred and seventy dollars with stops in Nashville (where we are spending the night) and Raphine, Virginia. It even tells me how much I am going to spend per fill up!
4. Create a Budget and Stick to It
This is my biggest struggle. Not so much the first part- I love creating a budget and seeing how much I can save and spend.
In addition to loving to travel I am naturally a spender, mostly on my hobbies. This used to bother me, but now I budget out my money to see what I can do and find that part kind of fun.
The struggle comes from actually implimenting it and the biggest thing I end up spending money on? Food. I know where my problem lies and am starting a new budget today. Let's see how I do!
5. Set Money Aside Each Pay Check
This is something I have gotten better with. I am lucky enough to say I have both a full-time job and part time side hustle I enjoy. When I get paid with my side hustle, I immediately put fourteen dollars towards a credit card I owe money on and ten dollars into my savings account, which leaves me about ninety dollars to spend as I see fit. Within the next three weeks though, I am upping my game to fifty dollars in the savings account in order to get a bigger budget for the New York Trip.
They key here though is to be relative to what you want. If you know there are things you want or need, don't set as much money aside that day or week. Do what works for you. Focus on that budget!
6. Rethink Your Drink
Americans spend a lot of money on purchasing coffee each year and, believe me, this plays into my going out to eat budget. I currently have a Starbucks reward waiting on me right now!
So, this is where I tell you to spend money in order to save money. The best home espresso machine on the market right now runs new for about six hundred dollars while you can purchase it used for about half that (just be sure to test it before you leave with it!)
We will average that out and say you send four hundred and fifty dollars on the machine and use it everyday for three years, then you have spent about forty one cents per day on the machine, and since my students and I run a coffeeshop we know that each cup of coffee (milk and sugar included) costs about thirty cents to produce. If you add in a disposable cup it is another five cents when bought in bulk.
Think about that- you are sending five dollars for an espresso based drink that cost the company seventy-six cents to make! If you need to do more research on espresso machines, here's a link to our post.
Likewise, you should purchase a reuseable water bottle instead of purchasing the packs from the grocery store. Here's a link to a great bottle to purchase.
7. Cancel Unnecessary Subscriptions
This was something big I did this month! I decided what was important to me and what was not.
I kept Netflix for several reasons including the fact that we are not paying for cable right now and occasionally I use it at school. Amazon Prime was kept because I purchase from there a lot and need the free shipping.
I got rid of Apple music because we didn't upload songs enough to justify the price and with unlimited data now, I can use the free version of Pandora or something similar. I also got rid of Audible- at least temporarily- because I had three credits I had not used and felt that this was a sign!
This saves me about twenty-five dollars a month between the two.
When creating your budget decide what can and can't go. The key here, again, is to feel comfortable about your decisions and remember the bigger picture.
8. Money Drop
Last summer I heard about Acorns, an app that will take your change and invest it. I liked the idea, so I got on Bank of America's website to see if they offered something similar. Sure enough they did!
I spent five dollars and opened a savings account and then opted for a program that deposits spare change into my savings account.
Basically, if I spend $38.75 on gas, I write thirty-nine dollars in my check book and the bank takes the other twenty-five cents and puts it in my savings account. Believe me, it adds up quick!
9. Surround Yourself with Reminders
If you feel like you are too old to create a vision board, please refer back to the book ‘You Are a Badass' by Jen Sincero where she says, “Creating a vision board is like having a craft day with God”. How fun!
I swear that I am going to do it though and still don't get around to it. As I write this, mark my word, I will do it this week; however, I do surround myself with reminders of my goals. For example, the background picture on my phone is of the M&M store in Times Square.
This is a special symbol because it reminds me of the past and the future. When my twelve year old was four, my husband took us there on a quick one-day trip. This is the only thing my daughter remembers and I cannot wait to take her again. Every time I open my phone I remember!
Do something similar- make it your computer background at work or add it to a bulletin board in your command center at home. Put it in a place that reminds you regularly and gets you excited!
10. Do Your Research for Hotels
There are so many great places to get a good- no, great- price on hotel rooms.
My mother swears by Hotel.com‘s Secret Price deal. This is not for everyone though. Basically you put in what you need in a hotel room, they give you a price- you have no idea which hotel it is until after you pay though. She has stayed at some nice hotels this way and only spends fifty dollars a night.
Don't be afraid of looking up different options as well. Hostels are thought to be for younger crowd but doesn't have to be. On my second trip to NYC, I was thirty-one and stayed at a hostel called Pod 51. I had my own room that was tiny but comfortable and shared a bathroom with everyone on the floor. It was a bathroom just like that of a traditional hotel room and we used our key card to get in and out, just like we would if we were in our room.
There is also a website called Couch Surfing that allows you to stay at a random strangers house for free. You have to go to a couple of events before they let you couch surf but it is pretty awesome.
11. Travel in the Slightly Off Season
The closest trip I plan to take is New York City. The biggest trip I plan to take this year is Costa Rica. I want to surf, go to a coffee farm, and zipline through the Jungle with my best girl-friend who also goes by the name of (my) mother.
Slightly to save money and because it fits best with my teaching schedule, we will be going in the “off season”. The off season prices are half that of the high season. The only difference? The forest is getting drenched. Yes- even while the beaches are completely dry.
So we are getting less crowds, less cost and still have the ability to do most of the things we want to do. I consider that a win!
Make sure you do your research. This is important because you need to know what you're getting yourself into.
12. Do Your Research
I'm pretty sure I have already said this but do your research. Let me give you a great example:
My daughter will tell you I am the travel planning queen. I write things down that I want to do. When I don't we get stuck and it's frustrating for everyone. That being said, I didn't plan NYC trip number two's food very well.
Needless to say, I cannot tell you one good food place to eat at in the city that never sleeps. I ate but it wasn't for pleasure. I was so disappointed.
I plan to change that this time and I will be using a couple of resources: trip advisor will be one since there are regular people that gives advice and the other will be friends that I know who either live in New York City or have been there simply to hunt down good coffee or food.
I am blessed with people I know who fit these categories but if you do not have this for where you are headed, check out Trip Advisor. The website is good but if you plan to use your phone, it is worth it to download their app.
13. Go Somewhere that is Budget Friendly
Buzz feed did a good job of finding out where was cheap to stay and there were many beautiful, surprising places including Croatia which is beautiful and costs about twenty dollars per night. There were several areas in the United States as well, if you are looking to stay local. This goes back to: Doing your research!
Concluding Frugal Travel Tips
If you, like me, are looking to travel more and are focused on saving in order to do so, I hope this article helps. I cannot wait to share my travel journeys with you and tell you all what works and what doesn't work. I hope that you will do the same, leaving messages in the comments below!