When it comes to financial planning you may think that you have to wait until you retire to start traveling. Well, I know that the reality is we want to travel now. We want to enjoy experiences while we are young, healthy and able. We don’t want to wait until retirement to start traveling to places we have always desired to go. As a financial advisor, I am well aware of this reality and understand that it doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure that goes against preparing for your future financial goals. In this post, I am going to share how you can do both save and travel. I will provide 12 tips on traveling financially guilt free.
There is nothing like taking a trip, enjoying the resort, cruise ship, excursions and the food to come back home to a credit card bill to pay for the vacation. Ugh!
My first tip is to write out your financial goals and travel goals. You can do this on paper, in your journal, your calendar, or a dedicated place in your phone. Make sure you can refer to it quickly and easily as a reminder of what you’re preparing to achieve financially. I am a big proponent of S.M.A.R.T Goals. I’m sure you’ve heard of this acronym. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timebound. Write it down and after you write it down tell someone. When you tell someone about your goal, you activate accountability which gets you closer to achievement.
My next tip is to have an emergency fund. You may have heard that the foundation to any financial plan is an emergency fund. So you need this before you can have a guilt free travel fund. An emergency fund has many names such as a rainy day fund, a “giving me options” fund, a “guilt free travel” fund, or you can name it whatever you want. The key to this is when something unexpected happens like the A/C going out in your car, an unexpected bill, or you need a new appliance in your home, you will be able to eliminate the worry of money from the equation. You are making the best out of an unexpected situation because you planned. You are now able to travel without worrying about the unexpected.
Another tip is to set up a system for automatic savings that align with your goals. When you have a solid foundation and habit of saving in place you will be more confident in your financial decisions. Use tools like automatic savings apps (Digit, USAA Text Savings Tool, Bank of America Keep the Change Program, etc.) or setting up automatic savings from payroll to your bank. Make savings convenient and fruitful. Compartmentalize your finances by aligning the accounts with your savings goals, i.e. Emergency fund, vacation fund, or a foodie fund. By making saving painless, easy and convenient you’ll have more confidence when participating in what you enjoy.
Next tip be open to the not so typical vacations. If you are in the infancy stage of building your emergency fund then you can opt for a staycation. Staycations are vacations that you can take by staying at home or near where you live. I live in Orlando and before that I lived in Phoenix so taking a staycation is very convenient since I live in a tourist destination city. But if you are not in a “touristy” area, I am willing to bet that there’s so many fantastic things happening near you. For example, I grew up in Columbus, OH. Although, it’s a neat city, I wouldn’t call it a tourist destination. Yet, there are festivals, museums, restaurants, spas, etc that you may ignore because you live and work there. It’s an opportunity to appreciate what’s going on right under your nose, in your own backyard. Also, be willing to travel an hour or two to enjoy something new and exciting near you. So be creative and you’ll be proud of your resourcefulness. TripAdvisor is a great resource for finding local gems.
Another idea, especially, if you have flexibility in your work schedule is to take advantage of last minute travel deals. Sites like Expedia, Orbitz, Southwest airlines, Hotwire, Groupon, etc. are great resources. As with anything you buy, be sure to do your due diligence and check the reputation of these offerings. Additionally, the more flexible you are with your travel dates the lower the potential price of your airline ticket.
Also, sign up for hotel rewards programs. Some of these programs will give you points if you decide not to have housekeeping for the duration of your hotel stay. Depending on what you are willing to sacrifice you may find the reward valuable in exchange.
Choose to take a vacation opposite the peak season. For example, you may want to take a trip to the Caribbean. According to Frommers, prices may drop in the Caribbean between mid-April to mid-December. If you decide on this strategy of travel, then be sure to understand the typical weather patterns for that time of year. The lower prices usually coincide with less than ideal weather and could impede safety.
Next, if you travel a lot for work. Be sure to enroll in airline mileage programs. Although some of those programs can be restrictive with black out dates, using the points in exchange for a free or discounted flight is a great way to save money.
For those who travel for work frequently, you may be able to extend your business trip to include personal travel. Depending on your employer, there’s a possibility your flight and hotel will be offset by your business travel and all you have to pay for is the personal portion of your trip.
Although, I have never stayed at an airbnb, as of the writing of this article, I have friends who swear by it. They, especially, love the price and the “homey” feel as compared to your run of the mill hotel stay. I, recently, read an article on airbnb advantages. I like the fact that the airbnb property can offer more authenticity and give you a more feel for how the locals live in your destination. Personally, when I travel, I learn so much more from the locals and it makes my trip more genuine than the typical “touristy” vacation.
Food is always a big expense when traveling. Whether you decide to stay with a friend, rent an airbnb or reserve a hotel with a kitchenette, you can save some major bucks by cooking. Besides, it can be a healthier option than the restaurant food. If you’re with a group of friends, plan your meals and who is going to cook and wash the dishes. You can create some great memories that way!
If you’re a Facebook user, you can find an FB page entitled One Bag and You’re Out! I enjoy watching the videos and posts because you can get many ideas on how to cut your luggage needs for travel. Remember, bags don’t fly free with all airlines and if you can minimize your luggage and your clothing purchases for travel, you’ll be able to save money. I highly recommend watching a few episodes if you’re need of some inspiration and motivation for packing.
Finally, I’m well aware that your financial story needs to include the activities that you enjoy, like traveling. Why shouldn’t it? When I read an article stating that Americans left 52% of unused vacation time on the table in 2017, I realized that this is an unwise financial decision. Not only are Americans leaving hard earned vacation days on the table but they’re leaving money on the table. You need to take advantage of your work benefits. It’s both a wise decision financially and personally. Besides your 70 year old self, will thank you for the wonderful memories you created.
What tips would you add to this list? Feel free to share them with me on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter!
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Hello!! My name is Shehara L. Wooten. Since my name is unique and rare, many are unfamiliar with how it is pronounced. I will offer my assistance, it is pronounced "Sha-Hair-Rah".