How to Afford Travel

/ posted in: General

This is the post I meant to write before I got distracted by discussions of privilege.

So many people think that foreign travel is a hugely expensive endeavor that they can’t hope to accomplish. I’m cheap and I do it. Here’s some things I do.

How to Pay for Flights Over Time with No Fees

I mentioned in the last post that I’m debt free. I think only bankruptcy will destroy your credit faster than being debt free. So when I decided that I wanted to get a credit card to accumulate frequent flyer miles, I couldn’t qualify for one. I had to take a stepwise approach. I applied for a poor-credit person’s credit card with a $1000 limit. I would use it for one meal a month and pay it off. After about 8 months I was able to get a card with a higher limit.

Then I booked my flights. I put them on the higher limit card. A month later I paid off half that bill from my bank account and put the rest on the old lower limit card. A month later I did it again – half on the first card and half from the bank account. Then I paid it off the next month. This only works if you remember to pay off the cards before you get any interest fees. I stretched out paying for my flights over several months.

You can do the same thing with prepaid hotel rooms or rental cars.

Stay Cheap

I don’t care where I stay. The husband is a super snob about it. Left to my own devices I’d stay in hostels or B and Bs and save more money. He won’t so we spend more than I like here. I do a lot of research to find deals.

Travel Off-Season

My job is most busy in the summer so we travel in either May or October. Prices are lower in the off-season. Rick Steves calls this the shoulder season when most things are still open but the crowds are gone.

Pick a Destination Based on Price

That’s why we went to Portugal. We looked at a map and acknowledged that Portugal was so much closer to us than Italy where we were researching. Shorter flights are cheaper usually. Lisbon in November isn’t a tourist Mecca so prices were low.

Self Serve

Public transportation instead of car rental – Americans aren’t used to combative driving so we probably shouldn’t try. We plan our trips around available public transportation. We get hotels near train stations. We look at local train routes to figure out what day trips we could take.

We don’t book with tour groups. It is so much cheaper to do your research at home and head out on your own.

Go With the Flow

There is a temptation to want to see everything if you are only going to be there once so people plan every minute. You know what our plan is for this trip to France? I know the names of the towns on the local train lines. I know what things are available to see in each area. That’s it. We’ll decide what we want to see each day. We aren’t locked into prepaid activities that we have to do even if we don’t feel like it at the time.