Travel Tips: Planning a Trip when Money is Tight

If you follow me on Instagram you probably saw that my husband and I bought our first house (yay!) and therefore we just spend a whole chunk of change (boo!). Even though we know this step will inevitably change our lifestyle, we felt that traveling was still an important part of our lives that we don’t want to completely give up. We did a lot of talking and compromising and are actually going to Spain with my family for a week this summer. This trip was certainly up in the air for a while, seeing if we would even be able to afford it and if we could make the timing work with other summer plans. But alas travel won out in the end!

I know that for many people travel, especially international travel, is totally out of the question because of money or other constraints. Everyone is in a different place, but if you are itching to travel and just feel that you can’t because of money, I want you to read on, there might be some surprises for you in this blog post.

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Budget your Life

Because my husband and I are teachers we don’t make as much as we would in the corporate world, but that just means that we are conscious of our budget. This doesn’t mean we spend no money on fun stuff, it just means that we are thoughtful and open with each other about our intended purchases. We tell each other everything we bought and the amount, preferably before buying something. This just means that we both are aware of where our money is going and decide on things as a team.

This helps keep you in check with little purchase that you forget about: little coffee runs, shopping trips, and quick dinners out really add up. You don’t have to stop doing those things but keeping a budget will help you realize where your money is going and then help you make informed decisions next time. We use the website Mint to keep track of our transactions online – it’s super easy and you can link all of your credit cards, banking information, and investment accounts.

A note to teachers, many teachers receive no income over the summer and that can make budgeting difficult when expenses have to be paid. As I said above, we love using Mint, however Mint is not so awesome when you don’t have a fixed monthly income (aka summertime). We keep a separate overall month-to-month in an excel file so we can predict and adjust our spending to see us through the summer. This way nothing surprises us and we can make sure we have enough in savings to cover our expenses AND squeeze in a trip!

Read more: Keeping Track of Expenses while Traveling

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Be Willing to Adjust

When I originally planned our upcoming Spain trip we were going to do Portugal for a week, Madrid for 4 days and then southern Spain for a week. However, after putting down a hefty chunk of change for our down payment we knew we could not afford this original dream trip. Rather than chucking it out the window, I adjusted our plans. We cut out Portugal and Madrid and decided just doing southern Spain for a week. This significantly cut down our costs and we were still able to go with my family.

Although I was understandably upset I could not swing our original trip, I’d prefer to do something rather than nothing. Be willing to adjust travel plans for cheaper days or flight times that can save you a bundle. For example, we are leaving FLL at 5:50am for a 9 hour layover in JFK for a red-eye to Spain. Woof!!! That’s a long day I know, BUT we saved a good deal of money on the flight, we’re arriving much earlier in Spain AND we are making a day trip of it in New York. Soooo all in all, pretty good I think!

Read more: Travel Tips: Holiday Travel

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 8.15.25 PMScreen Shot 2018-05-12 at 8.16.23 PMChoose a Cheap(er) Location

Europe in general is not a “cheap” destination but my family wanted to go to Europe this summer to meet up with my sister and her boyfriend (they live in Germany). I was doing some digging and Spain seemed like the best choice to meet up and not spend and arm and a leg while there. Choosing an inexpensive location can save you hundreds of dollars on your trip. Here are somethings I look for an inexpensive location:

  • Restaurant prices
  • AirBnb/hostel costs
  • Cost of popular tourist attractions
  • Cities to walk around
  • Transportation

So let me break it down using our Spain trip as an example: in comparison to the rest of Europe, food in Spain is not expensive, especially if you load up on tapas. I found AirBnb apartments for 6 people for about $100 a night, which includes a kitchen so we can have breakfast, make sandwiches, or cook dinner some nights thereby saving more money on food. Many of the tourists attractions are free or super cheap compared to prices in America. For example the Alhambra, one of THE most popular tourist attractions in Granada is only 14 euro per person. That’s a steal.

In addition to cheap attractions, I pick locations that are just gorgeous to walk around and take pictures because that costs no money to do. We are going to Cordoba, Granada, and Seville – all picturesque cities! And last but not least transportation, when traveling with a family rental cars are usually the way to go. I love public transport but multiplying that by 6 is not cheap! So we are renting a big SUV for about $500, when you divide that by 6 that is less than $100 per person, you cannot find train tickets for a week that cheap!

Read more: Travel Tips: Traveling with Family

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Negotiate with Family

My parents know we just bought a house and they know money is tight so we were able to work out a compromise. Because I am doing all the planning and organizing of the trip, my mom offered to pay for some of our costs in country. Meaning Will and I are only paying for the total cost of the rental car, Alhambra tickets, and our flights overseas. When I thought about it, it actually works out because my mom and dad were going to stay in AirBnbs with my sister anyways, so we don’t actually increase the cost for that and food is a small extra expense in Spain.

I know not all families can do this kind of negotiation but it doesn’t hurt to offer to do some extra work for the trip in return for splitting bill differently. The way my mom put it, I am doing all the work she would have to do if I wasn’t going to Spain with them, so it actually works in both of our favor. Hey, I am not complaining!

Read more: Travel Tips: How Not to Break the Bank for Holiday Travel

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this is how teachers make it through the summer…literally! 🙂

Live Frugally for a Short-Term

It would be impossible for me to take a permanent shopping and coffee dates hiatus, but I can totally do it for a few months! Especially if I have a fabulous goal in mind. Every time I am tempted to stop off at Starbucks the months leading up to vacation I think to myself “I could spend this $4 here or save it to sip a latte in [enter whatever destination I am heading to].” That usually helps me bypass that cup of coffee for a better experience later.

Whatever helps you save money will always be worth it on your travels! And, quiet honestly, once you start saying no to those little daily expenses, it starts to become habit. As a whole, we don’t spend that much money besides our expenses needed to live and that allows us to maximum our vacation time.

Read more: Travel Tips for Teachers

JMF


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