We all dream of far off places in hopes that one day we’ll be lucky enough to visit. They don’t have to be dreams, they can become real. Before my husband and I started traveling we talked about one day visiting many different places, some so beautiful that they felt unattainable and out of reach. We couldn’t see ourselves there because we thought, how can these places possibly exist, they are postcards, places you only see in movies.
For the last 5 years we’ve traveled twice per year, and are grateful to be able to do so. We’ve been to Italy 3 times from Lake Garda, Venice, Florence and Rome, down to the Amalfi Coast. Also France, Czech Republic and Spain and all over the Caribbean to name a few. But there is no endless supply of money stashed away for us and in this economy where the cost of everything is doubling, it’s even harder to save than ever before. Through some research and experience we’ve learned a few things along the way how to set some goals and put aside enough money for those twice per year trips.
Here are a few suggestions that worked for us.
Stop dreaming and start planing – As soon as you set your mind that you’re going to travel, a cosmic shift happens. Really. A dream by definition is something not real, but as soon as you call it a PLAN, that’s real and attainable. No matter if it’s a 2 year plan, or a 6 month plan. It’s still a plan. And you’ve just taken your first step.
Skip the Starbucks – It’s trendy to have your designer coffee each day (or several times per day), but at $5 per latte of some kind, it works out to around $1800 per year. Wow, that’s some chunk of change. Actually, it’s a plane ticket to Rome and a couple of nights stay. Instead, get a Starbucks tumbler and make your own coffee. You can even make your own latte. Just microwave the milk until it starts boiling, and using a milk frother, froth the milk, add to your coffee and voila, a latte.
To Latte or not to Latte – If you still want your Starbucks, check out the menu to see how you can save. Any tea latte is about 5 bucks, but if you have JUST the tea, and add a bit of cold milk, the cost drops to about $2. Really. You’ve now cut your cost by more than half, simply by opting to have a splash of cold milk instead of steamed and frothed. That’s amazing… or should I say outrageous how much they changed for warmed up milk.
Christmas is for kids – Christmas season is the easiest for overspending, being bombarded by all the ads for the latest gadgets it’s so hard not to want them. But has the spirit of Christmas been lost. Talk to your family/extended family. Why not make this years’ Christmas about the children and buy only for the kids. Do the adults really need another piece of jewellery, or another power tool, or another sweater they’ll never wear. Probably not. Some Christmas bills can take months to pay off. Was it all necessary.
Points for credit – There are several credit cards that offer points which you can redeem towards travel. Do some research with different banks and the credit cards they offer. Many of the travel cards have bonus points upon opening an account with them. Only condition usually is that you spend a thousand dollars within 3 months of opening a new account. That shouldn’t be a problem with all the bills we all have. Also, some credit cards you can earn extra points when buying gas, groceries, drugstores and restaurants such as the CIBC Aventura card. Those extra points with your signing bonus can add up to quite a few points at the end of the year that could be enough for a flight or hotel. Be careful about singing up with a specific airline. They offer great points, but can be more pricey then other airlines or have blackout period, which won’t save you in the long run.
Don’t spend it if you don’t have it – The best way to spend needlessly is to NOT pay off your credit cards all at once. With a whopping 20% interest rate on most credit cards, those can easily add up to hundreds and even thousands of dollars. An easy rule is, don’t put your purchase on credit if you can’t pay it off. You’re going to dig yourself into a hole more and more. And let’s face it, it’s usually consumer goods that we don’t need that end up costing us the most. Re-evaluate your needs and wants.
Book as early as possible. – Last minute travel deals MIGHT work for the Caribbean to some dodgy 3* places, but usually not for Europe. Booking early is the key. If you can book at least 6 months to 8 months prior to travel you’ll be saving quite a bit. There is more availability for flights and hotel, and some airlines offer early booking bonus you should take advantage of.
Scan the sky with apps. – My favourite app for keeping track of flight prices is Skyscanner.ca . It’s a great app that compares flights of dozens of airlines to get you the best deal. You can set alerts to notify you daily or weekly if your desired flight dropped in price.
Hotel websites want you – Hotels.com is fine and dandy, but did you know that going to a specific hotel website can save you even more. Do your search on hotels.com or Booking.com, but once you found a place you want to stay in do check the hotel website. In a lot of the cases they offer an extra 10% off for booking with the hotel directly, or extra perks like breakfast. Hotels do want your business because they have to pay hotels.com for finding customers, however if you book directly the savings is transferred to the customer. Also hotel websites all over the world, from large chains to small boutique hotels, have many language options that translate website content for you so it’s easier to book than ever before. Booking early is the key as well. Most offer free cancellation up to a few days before the date of travel. So spend some time, and do a little digging. It’s worth it. I once booked a 4* hotel in Florence, penthouse suite with a terrace for 145 euros, and a week later it was triple that amount. What a find.
Buy what you eat – Food waste is money down the drain. These days there is such a huge amount of food being wasted it could probably feed a small starving country. Don’t do your grocery shopping on an empty stomach, it’s a sure way you’ll buy more than what you really need. Also try to shop twice per week. This way you’re not forced to plan the entire week. Who really knows what they’ll be eating 5 days from now. Chances are you’ll buy more if you shop once per week thinking, maybe I’ll make this… and maybe I’ll make that… Really. You’ll probably end up ordering out. But if you buy groceries only 2-3 days in advance, It’ll be less pressure on you to plan the whole week, and easier to come up with ideas. Also make enough not to have leftovers. Those can easily be forgotten and just go to waste.
I hope this gets you thinking about some ways to start PLANNING for your next vacation. What are some ways you can add to the list. Please share with all of us in the comments below.