Enjoy this guest post on travel savings from longtime member and financial independence champion, Diania Merriam.
I absolutely love to travel, and after many months of staying home during the pandemic, I’m sure you’re itching to get out and explore as much as I am. While traveling might seem like a luxury, there are many ways you can be resourceful and creative in keeping your travel costs as low as possible. Read on for some of my favorite tips when it comes to budget travel.
Utilize Credit Card Rewards Points: I really can’t remember the last time I paid for a flight with cash, because I almost always utilize credit card rewards points. While some criticize rewards points because they can lead to overspending on credit cards, when used strategically, they are game-changing. My discretionary spending is very low, so it’s not really possible for me to accumulate any meaningful amount of points through my regular spending.
The key for me has been to open new credit cards that offer large signing bonuses at a time when I’m about to make a large purchase. Many cards will offer bonus points if you spend a certain amount in the first few months, so I only open cards when I have a big purchase I need to make. So for example, one of the most popular cards for travel rewards points is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Right now, they are offering 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening. It would take me forever to earn 60,000 points from my regular spending, and I would struggle to spend $4,000 in discretionary spending over 3 months. But a few times each year, I will have some kind of a larger expense, which prompts me to do research on the best credit card signing bonus offers. Next thing you know, I’ve got thousands of points at my disposal without much time or effort on my part!
Find a local host: Many times when I know I will find myself in a new city, I will post on social media and ask my network if they have friends that might want to host me. While some might find this distasteful and prefer to simply pay for a hotel room, the benefits of staying with a local extend far beyond any money you’ll save. Some of my most memorable trips were when I stayed with someone I barely knew, usually a friend of a friend who was available to spend some time with me and share what they love about their city. I myself have hosted many friends of friends and have always appreciated the spontaneity of the experience! And if you’re really wild, you could also explore staying with a total stranger through couchsurfing.com. I have done this a few times, and had some great times!
The grocery store is your friend: We all know that eating out can blow our budget, and while traveling, it’s very easy to eat out for every meal. I make sure to pack healthy food and snacks for my travel days. Yes, this saves money, but I mostly do this because I find it very challenging to find healthy food in airports and while on long road trips. Usually, when I get to my destination, the first thing I do is find a good grocery store where I can stock up on simple foods that I can eat for breakfast and lunch. Since many of my vacations include activities like hiking and walking around sightseeing, carrying my food with me adds an element of convenience in addition to cost savings. And then I can splurge on dinner guilt-free!
Download your favorite shows while on WiFi: While I am a podcast host (you can listen to me every day on Optimal Finance Daily!), I’m also a podcast listener. Listening to my favorite shows is a great way to pass the time on flights or during road trips. One way I save here is that I always download the episodes while I’m on WiFi. I made the mistake once of not downloading content, and I will never make it again! I burned through my data without realizing it during one trip. Luckily Republic Wireless offers extra GB for only $5 when I need them, but I can avoid the extra expense with better planning!
If you’re looking to add a trip to your calendar, track news about The EconoMe Conference which just finished up year 2 on November 13th & 14th. This event is rooted in the FIRE movement (financial independence, retire early) and it features incredible mainstage speakers that will guide us in questioning our assumptions about happiness, freedom, and prosperity through the lens of personal finance. But we also have many breakout sessions that are designed to facilitate discussions between attendees that can be the start of beautiful friendships. You’ve already optimized your phone expenses with Republic Wireless, but there is so much more you could be doing on your path to financial independence.