When Kevin and I got married on a Mediterranean cruise in 2013, we knew we loved to travel, but we figured we’d only get to go somewhere once every few years. That’s all we saw as real-life examples; I was barely paying attention to “travel bloggers and influencers” yet, and most fellow Wisconsinites just went to Florida or California every other year. That’s just the way it seemed to be, as though there was some rule everyone had to follow, as though traveling abroad was only for the elite.
Well we soon learned that is not true, and even regular joes like us can travel fairly often! The last few years we’ve figured out how to take 1-2 trips per year. Sometimes we get little side comments from friends and acquaintances along the lines of “Well we can’t travel like you because we’re not rich.” Even from coworkers who have similar incomes to us. PSA time; we’re not rich! We’re very solidly in the middle, but we prioritize travel above other things.
When incorporating travel into you regular life, there are two main limitations that non-parents have to work around (kids will make it more complicated than I know what to do with, and you’d have to find a parenting blog for that). Below are the tips I’ve found successful when dealing with the fixed commodities of time and money.
- Make each trip shorter – I think a lot of people who don’t travel as often want to get the most bang for their buck and go for 2-3 weeks. I get that. But I’ve found that a sweet spot of 7-10 days is refreshing without feeling like you’ve been away forever, and it’s still worth it. This is also extremely important for not burning through your PTO too quickly. Two 1-week trips feels like more vacation time when they’re spread out than one 2-week trip, even though it’s the same amount of days.
- Don’t waste your allocated time off from work – Don’t take off on your birthday, don’t take off around holidays, don’t take off when you are feeling just “meh.” Save, save, save it!
- Do whatever your job allows you – Work holidays, roll over PTO, do overtime in advance, etc.
- Follow flight deal websites on social media – This is my number one tip. We follow Secret Flying on Facebook, and they regularly post deals leaving from Chicago. This is how we’ve booked cheap flights to London, Norway, Morocco, and Hawaii. Without us paying attention to this site, these trips wouldn’t have happened. Period.
- Be ready to go wherever whenever – This is part 2 to the flight deals; in order to take advantage of these deals, you need to go during the deal’s time frame, which is usually several months out and during a shoulder or off-peak season. And you never know which countries will be popping up next; You have to be very flexible and ready to book. The deals are sometimes gone in a day.
- Be ruthless about your extra spending – We go shopping like anybody else, but we often remind ourselves that we can get by without something we want in order to save that money for an upcoming trip. I’ve gotten very good at saying no to large and medium purchases, but I still need to work on the smaller spending, since it feels so minor in the moment. But I’m getting better.
- Skip the memberships, subscriptions, and online ordering – I’ve tried but ultimately canceled ballet classes, a gym membership, Hello Fresh, Amazon Prime, and Stitch Fix for the sake of more travel money. These are things that can add a little spice to life, and I enjoyed them. But I determined that I didn’t enjoy them as much as I do traveling. It’s all about priorities.
- Stay in a variety of accommodations – Rather than staying at a 5-star hotel for a full week, do a few days in a hostel or cheap hotel first, and then your last 1-2 nights somewhere extra special and fun. You still get the experience for a much lower cost.
- Enjoy the culture, local food, and architecture of your destinations – These are free and cheap ways to experience a new place. You don’t HAVE to pay money for the overpriced “must-sees” if you don’t want to. You’ll still have a great time.
It probably doesn’t seem like much (or you’ve heard most of them before), but these are the basic guidelines we’ve been following for the last few years to great effect. We love cruising, but we don’t do that every year, because flights for a specific time and place are always a lot more expensive. Our spontaneous week-long trips to London, Norway, and Morocco have been much more affordable due to the trip length and flight costs.
We’ll be using these tips again on our upcoming trip to Hawaii that we just scored – we found the flights on Secret Flying at $325 each round-trip; we’re only staying a week; we’ll be staying in a fancy hotel only 1-2 of the nights; we’ll probably skip the expensive tours in favor of wandering on our own; and it’s going to be fabulous! I can definitely go another year without a new washing machine if this is the trade-off!