Photo: The Azure Window in Gozo, Malta
“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” – Anna Quindlen
This quote couldn’t be more true for me when it comes to travel. Growing up, my family rarely took trips beyond Florida’s coastline. Who needs to when the most beautiful beaches in the world are mere hours from your driveway? It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I even took my first flight but my, how things have changed. The one question I get asked more than any other by my friends and family is: How do you get to travel so much? The answer is simple:
I make it a priority.
Travel has become an increasingly larger part of my life since my husband and I got together five years ago. Our relationship started as long distance with him living in Los Angeles and myself in Atlanta. We’d often jet to each other’s cities to see one another but then we started picking different destinations to rendezvous to and the rest is history. I had caught the bug. But now that we’re married and living in the same household, how do we do it with all of the other obligations and happenings in our lives? Making travel a priority isn’t easy but it isn’t impossible either. I’ve broken down five steps to help lead you on the journey to reaching your travel goals.
Photo: My hubs, Sam, looking off the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park (Az.)
Write Down All Of The Places You Want To Visit
There’s nothing like crossing things off of a list, but crossing destinations off of a travel list are so much more rewarding. In order to make travel a priority, you have to first envision yourself actually traveling to the places you’ve always dreamed of visiting. Make a list of all of the places you want to go to. Don’t limit yourself to what’s realistic for you right now. Go all the way in. Writing this list is the first step to setting a plan in place and committing to your travel goals.
Look At Your Year
We all have obligations, whether they are work or life related. Write down the dates for and all of the things you know you have to do for the next 365 days. Some of these may even require traveling, like visiting family during the holidays, going to a wedding or a work conference. Next, compare these obligations and dates to the destinations on your list. Are there any obligations that fall around a holiday or get you close to one of your destinations? Do you have to fly in and out of an airport that flies direct or for cheap to a place you want to visit? One time my husband and I were in Phoenix for a wedding and decided to rent a car and drive to the Grand Canyon for a long weekend. We were able to save on airfare since we already had to book flights for the wedding instead of booking a separate flight for what would have been a separate trip.
*Pro Tip – Extending your work trips for PTO (paid time off) can be a big way to save on funds as your flight is already paid for and you can often extend the company’s discounted hotel rate for the extra days you plan to stay. Some company’s will even honor their per diem through weekends.
Research & Plan Ahead
Research is key to achieving your travel goals no matter where they may take you and there are several different factors to consider when searching Google.
Things to research
When is the best time to visit your destination?
Does your airport fly to your destination?
Are there nearby airports that fly there for less or direct?
Should you book a hotel or rent an Airbnb?
How long does it take you to get from your destination airport to the hotel?
Should you rent a car or take a taxi?
How much time should you take off (remember to consider the amount of hours it will take you to travel to your destination)?
The list can go on and on and on but the moral of the story is – research, research, research. The more you know, the better decisions you can make for when to travel and what destinations you can start checking off your list. Make flight alerts on Kayak for the destinations and potential dates you want to visit somewhere (you can select to receive these once a week, once a day or even in real time). Signup for newsletters from the destination’s tourism board so you know what’s happening in the area and when. Look up deals on sites like Groupon for hotels and events happening in the city you want to visit.
Photo: Polaroid from the Colosseum, Rome
Set A Budget & Start Saving
Ah, dollar signs. Everyone’s favorite topic. Talking about money can be tough for some people (because we all wish we had more of it) but that doesn’t mean it should be pushed to the back burner. Setting aside a separate budget for travel is a great way to also prioritize your spending. Is having that extra drink at happy hour really worth $15 or should you take that cash and put it away? When it comes to questions like that I typically ask myself, “Would you rather have this Red Bull vodka here or in Puerto Rico?” The answer is always: Puerto Rico.
To start your travel savings, I recommend opening a dedicated savings account that can be withdrawn from without being penalized. If this isn’t an option for you, consider taking out a certain amount of cash with each paycheck and putting it in an envelope so you’re not tempted to spend it if it sits in your account. Since you’ve done your research, you should have an idea of how much you’ll need to get to each destination. Combine that information with your obligations and determine your first (and maybe second) destination you’ll plan to visit this year. From there, look at your finances and determine how much of your income from each paycheck you can afford to live without. This could be 5%, 20% or a set dollar amount. Start putting that money aside until you reach your goal for your trip. Even better, keep putting money aside even after you reach your goal so you have extra travel funds for future trips.
Items To Consider When Making A Travel Budget
Airfare (luggage and seat fees)
Hotel (wifi fees, resort fees, state bed tax, etc.)
Transportation (taxi, rental car + gas + hotel valet + valet tips)
Entertainment (entrance fees, concert prices, etc.)
Food & Beverage + tips
Contingency (always have extra funds for any popups like medical needs, weather changes, forgetting something at home, etc.)
Be Committed While Being Flexible
Once you’ve set all of these tasks into motion and you’ve committed to your destinations, it’s time to start monitoring and getting ready to book when the time is right. You may get an alert that your airfare has dropped $200 and need to buy at that very moment to secure the lowest rate. Being flexible and ready to pounce will ensure you’re locking in the best deals and getting the most bang for your buck. Doing all of the prep work to be able to make these decisions when they present themselves will also help that budget of yours go a lot further for the things you really enjoy.
Photo: Every shade of blue in Ocho Rios, Jamaica
I hope these tips help you make travel a priority in 2016! I’d love to hear your feedback and learn about the places you’d like to go.