Looking back at 2017, I would say it was my busiest year yet in terms of travel. Miami (twice!), Madrid, Lake Tahoe, New York City, a dream vacation in Italy, Cape Cod, Los Angeles and Boston, plus a staycation here in St. Louis. The number one question I get is, how do you get so much time off to travel, followed quickly by how do you afford to do that! I think especially when we're in our 20s, those are the two most daunting things - money and time. So I thought I’d share a little insight into my travel philosophy.
First off, and this is the biggest thing. Travel does not have to be expensive. Sure, a trip to Italy is not going to cheap, but it doesn’t have to be extravagant. I stalk travel deals almost daily (it’s relaxing for me) and really plan things out. Here are some of my best tips for saving on travel.
Airfare: This is probably one of the best ways to cut back on price. Airfare is expensive but there are a lot of ways to save. First off, if you can, start building miles using a credit card. Most offer enough free points when you sign up for a free flight. Set up an alert on Kayak and plan your travel around when flights are cheaper. Book your flights separately. For example, flights to Europe are much cheaper from New York than St. Louis. So often times I will find a cheap flight to Europe from NYC and then look up a cheaper deal on Southwest to get me to New York. This takes time. I spend several hours figuring out the best deals, making notes and checking different airlines and cities.
Hotels: I rarely stay at hotels anymore. AirBnB or VRBO are way cheaper and frankly a much better way to feel more like a local in a city. I’ve had a few bad experiences, but overwhelmingly our experience at AirBnBs have always been wonderful. I definitely feel like I have aged out of the hostel life. (I stayed in lots in my early 20s) It's by far the cheapest way to travel but I've found I am willing to pay a bit more for my own space.
Saving: It sounds simple but you can’t go on trips unless you plan for them. For me, traveling is a priority. I am very lucky that I don’t have a mortgage or children or other major expenses and that I can spend my money on travel. I know that won’t always be the case and that’s why I’m taking full advantage of it now. I try to save $100 a week from my paycheck to put towards my travel fund. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. But I always try to think about how I am spending my money and how it will impact future travel. Maybe try making your own coffee at home for a week? Or bringing your lunch every day. Do what it takes to build up that travel fund.
Prioritize: When I travel, eating out and experiencing the local cuisine is my biggest priority. That is where I know I want to spend money. Because of that I know I will have to cut back elsewhere. Perhaps that means walking a little farther instead of taking a cab, or not going to one of the museums and instead experiencing the city’s history through a free walking tour. And remember you don’t have to eat out at every meal. Stop at a grocery store and pick up some easy things for breakfast so you don’t spend another $10 on a pastry from the coffee shop. Unless you're in Paris, then absolutely splurge on a daily croissant.
The second thing I get asked about is time off. There’s a crazy stat out there that half of Americans do not use all their vacation days. Let me tell you, I am not one of them. I am fortunate to get three weeks vacation after working for my company for several years and I use every last one of them. And I have learned that three weeks vacation can go a long way (so can two! Which is what I had when I first started).
First off plan out your vacations. Would you rather take one long vacation with a few weekends here and there, or would you rather take several shorter vacations? Last year I took several shorts vacations. I spent about 8 days in Italy but everything else was a three or four day trip. You would be amazed how much you can get out of a three day trip. Yes, it can be exhausting and usually isn’t the most relaxing if you’re flying, but for me, I would rather take adventure over relaxation. If relaxing is your thing, think about taking a few days more, or using that long weekend for a staycation. This coming year I am taking longer trips so I know I won’t travel as much because I will give up some of those long weekends to ensure I have more time in France and Greece (can’t wait!). Also don’t be intimidated by the idea of going to Europe for a shorter trip. Last year I found an insane $400 round trip ticket to Madrid from St. Louis and because I didn’t have much vacation left, I essentially went for a long weekend! It was exhausting and I’m pretty sure I fell asleep at work on that Monday back, but it was 100% worth it.
Traveling is all about finding balance. Finding balance to fund the trips, finding balance between knowing what is worth the splurge and what isn’t and finding balance in seeking adventure and taking some time to relax and recharge. So if traveling more in 2018 is on your New Year’s Resolution list, I hope this helps! And I’d love to know, what’s on your travel bucket list this year?
Looking for inspiration, check out my new travel section at the top of the blog! You'll find my guides to New York, Miami, Lake Tahoe, Madrid and more!
Welcome to my blog! Here you'll find a behind the scenes look at the day-to-day life of a TV news reporter. I have a love for food, traveling and all things St. Louis. This is a place for me to write about my passions.