You don't have to be rich to travel....here is how.
Folks think I am crazy when I tell them I commit myself to travel the world 6 times a year, balance a full time job as well as save to by my first property by the age of 30. International travel has always been something important to me since I was 7 years old (shoutout to the unaccompanied minor travel crew).
So many times I hear people say they cannot afford to travel, but those are things that you can overcome. I had so much fun writing this post because I was able to bring to life things that I have learned over the years. I do warn that this post is super detailed and you may need to spend some time on it to get its best value. I have also linked all resources referenced, as well as outfit and travel essentials at the end of this post.
1. Plan your travel ahead
It may seem like a no- brainer but it is super important to plan travel the year ahead. Now the interesting part is how you plan it. As mentioned, I take 6 trips a year and I plan them by size rather than place.
1 Large Trip - This is the trip that takes the most investment and requires between $1200 and $2500 of investment. I usually take these trips at the end of the year (Last year I did Cape Town and this year I will do Bali). One additional note is that for larger trips I make sure that majority of trip cost is airfare, especially since I go to places further away. I then work to find deals to make the experience on the ground better. (e.g.. group tours, local tours, eating at local spots)
2 Medium sized trips - These are the trips that range between $500 - $700 total. If you follow my travels for 2017 you will notice that I went to Mexico and Costa-Rica. These are the trips that are not too far from the USA (but are still international).
2 Local trips - I am trying to get better at exploring America, so I make sure to carve out time to travel to fun places that do not require a passport. These are spots like New Orleans, and New York.
1 floating trip (may be medium sized) - I always leave room for one floating trip. This allows me to emotionally, physically and financially prepare for the random text messages that start with "lets go to....". I mentally allow these trips to range between $500 and $800.
2. Use your days off wisely
One of the biggest reactions I get from friends is around finding the days off to travel the way I do. Believe it or not, I have taken 2 international trips this year and have only taken 3 paid days off. The key here is to understand how your job lays out the day off structure. Within my field of work, I get 24 days off work. For smaller trips, I tend to make them 4/5 days. This means I will fly out on a Thursday after work then take Friday as well as Monday off work. In some situations I will position the trips around public holidays to maximize the time. (Beware that this may affect pricing depending on where you are going on what holiday).
I use actual paid time for my larger trips. If I know I am going far eg. When I go home to Ghana or South Africa I take 10 actual days off work, but structuring around weekends means I am actually taking 6 working days off work. The trick is to spend travel time over the weekends e.g.. Going to SA takes me 24-48 hours...so I will fly out Friday night and leave SA on a Friday night when coming back home.
3. Know when to travel where
I absolutely DO NOT travel during summer high season. Which means, no July, no August...I cannot afford those peak season prices. My strategy for holiday travel is to swim against the current. For example last year, I took a 5 day trip to Lebanon during thanksgiving. One would think that the travel within that holiday would be expensive...which is true. HOWEVER, it is expensive if you are traveling for turkey within the USA. My trip to Lebanon cost me $500 (vs $1300 during summer) because no one was really flying that way. I now plan international travel during peak US holidays. The exception to this rule is 4th of July....on that day, even showing up to the airport will cost you money.
This year, I will be flying to Bali on December 26th (because who in the world wants to catch a 5am flight after Christmas dinner. A key return date is January 1st and 2nd...because everyone else is still drunk at home).
The key takeaway here is to go where no one is going, when no is going
In order to gets even better deals, I usually search for travel on Tuesday evenings and also leverage travel alerts from sites such as Travel Pirates (they post great hacker fare deals). When it comes to booking, I use Kayak to search but often times end up buying tickets on Chepofair. (My recent ticket to Mexico cost me $450 and was business class...because #aintGodgood)
For my readers in other countries: A key way to find the best deals is to work closely with a travel agent. Several of them will usually help you identify when to travel as well as may offer payment deals. For my folks in Ghana, I work with Expert Travel to plan African Travel. They offer great packages!!!
4. Use credit smartly
Did I mention that my trip to Bali will be entirely free this year?
No I don't have a sugar daddy. No it is not a blogger trip...I just used credit smartly. A couple months ago, my friend put me onto travel focused credit cards that reward you with points that are specifically geared towards travel. I am currently a member of Chase Saphire Preferred. When I signed up I was rewarded 50k points which is equivalent to $700 in travel....just for signing up. The perks do not stop there...everytime I use my card on travel or food related expenses I am rewarded with double points, (1 point per dollar)...you should have seen me volunteering my card to friends who wanted to book travel :-) Lastly, if you use the card for everyday expenses you also receive points. I am fortunate that I can pay my rent on my credit card so I use that to generate more points, and booking travel through their site is 25% cheaper than other sites.
Another great resource is airline miles. I am deeply loyal to American Airlines (for work and personal). By generating miles I use them on smaller trips. e.g. Two years ago I flew to Haiti round trip just using points from miles, and this year I plan to do the same.
PS - At the end of this post I will put a link of how to sign up and receive the same 50k point Chase Saphire offer I did...but you have to promise to use the link I share so you can take full advantage. No, Chase didn't pay me to share this offer.....I WISH!
Quick Update - The Chase Sapphire card is US based, unfortunately I am unfamiliar with the equivalent of this card in other countries.
5. Find a Travel Tribe
I cannot stress enough how important a travel tribe is. This is the most cost efficient way to travel, it saves you money on accommodations, on food, on transportation and rewards you emotionally in a way that I cannot even begin to describe, While I have taken solo trips, I find that I create some of the most amazing memories when I share it with other likeminded women.
It is super important to understand how to create a travel tribe. You need to find people who are likeminded to you. If you are crazy adventurous, you may want people who are the same way or at least willing to try things (not me). If you are the kind who wants to lay around on the beach, find someone who is in that mindset (In Costa Rica I wanted to be all up in the culture, while in Mexico I never left the hotel). It is super important to understand those dynamics ahead of a trip. I also suggest that you keep a travel tribe to three people for comfort...unless it is a super large group trip (eg. The trip I am planning to Ghana has 20 women - trip is soldout sorry :().
If you do not have a travel tribe you can create one by going on pre-planned group trips eg. Parlor Magazine Travel Fly trips, Afoko Adventures, Travel Noire are just a few.
Some of these groups may offer payment plans which also super amazing when planning a trip ahead, and allows you to pay for a dream trip in a financially responsible way.
I truly hope this post has been helpful. I had so much fun writing it and I hope it truly inspires you to create possibilities in your life that helps you travel the world. As mentioned, I have linked many of my travel related resources below.
PLEASE NOTE THAT FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE, THE BELOW LINKS WILL OPEN IN A NEW WINDOW.