Sometimes I feel like I am torn between two lifestyles;
- The wandering traveler who takes off around the globe, meeting strangers who become friends, seeing things that fundamentally change views on life, experiencing food that surprises and delights, hoping to make it big in the flooded market of travel blogs and Instagram accounts…
- The career woman who achieves personal and financial success, fulfillment, and stability by working hard, becoming an expert in endeavors, and putting roots into one location.
Both have their obvious benefits, but both have their own downfalls; one of instability, and the other of having material things but not experiencing life.
When it comes to life, I have always thought of it as balance – everything in moderation. At the end of my life, the thing that I will carry with me is the memories I have made through my experiences. While I want as many experiences as possible, I also want a comfortable lifestyle while I am not traveling. Honestly, I am trying to have it all.
With that said, I have a career that I love that funds my travel habits, my foodie experiences, and my liking for nice things. While I would love to take off as a forever wandering traveler, I like the stability of place I can call home where my close friends and family are, and a career that I can afford the lifestyle I want and save for the future. It is an office job and I get about 2 weeks of vacation. Yep, that is right, 2 weeks of vacation. With that 2 weeks this year, I will be skiing in Santa Fe, cruising through Alaska, road tripping from Texas to San Fransisco, traveling to Thailand, floating rivers in New Braunfels, and maybe more! How do I do it and all on a budget? I will share my secrets and tips with you below:
- Negotiate! Whenever you are searching for a new job, always ask for the number of vacation, personal, sick, and holiday days given each year. Many places start with two weeks vacation and a few personal days, and will give you a third week after a few years. If you are in a place to do so, always ask for more vacation days in your job negotiations. Every day is valuable when determining your travel potential and you don’t want to have vacation day regrets.
- If you are young and don’t get sick often, use any personal / sick days you can for travel. If this means saving them to until the end of the year to make sure you don’t need to use them, do so, but make sure you utilize them before they expire! While it is nice to get money for the days you don’t use, those are days of potential enjoyment you will never get back.
- Use every 3-day weekend to your advantage! I have used Memorial Day to travel abroad for the past 3 years so I save a day. Labor Day is also a great time to do so before the holiday season gets busy. Leave on a Friday night and include both weekends in your travels and a 9 day vacation is only 4 days off!
- Don’t let peer pressure get to you. A lot of people I know or have worked with never use their vacation days and have given me grief about using my days. Vacation days are good for you! They rejuvenate you and give you a new perspective on things, benefiting you holistically in and outside of work. Never let those vacation nay-sayers get to you as they are the ones missing out.
- Priorities: My car is a 2008 and has manual windows and locks. I call her the “Party Yaris”, as my little spunky car has personality and was only $14K brand new (though I had to ask them to throw the floor mats in for free). I could definitely afford a new, more lavish car, but that’s $500 a month out of my travel savings budget. I literally compare the cost of all big purchases to how much travel I could afford with the same funds. It is all about priorities and budgets. Figure out what you really want, and make that your main spending priority. Those cute shoes are nice, but if they are the same cost as a whale watching excursion in Alaska, are they worth it?
- Budget tracking tools: I use Mint religiously to track how my finances are doing. Mint links to my bank accounts and I categorize all of my purchases so I can see how my spending is each month. I can also set up savings goals for trips and can watch my progress for saving to those goals. If I go over on any budget, this mean, red line pops up and reminds me that I need to be good. I highly recommend tools like Mint, but make sure you use a tool that is verified and safe before you give your credentials to your accounts.
- Do your travel research: While I do like being a “lazy” trip planner by finding companies that book everything for me so all I have to do is show up with my luggage and passport, the cost benefit of that is not always worth it. For example, when booking our trip to Thailand, I reached out to several agencies who put glorious, $4K per person, air-fare not included, itineraries for us. We were a little shocked that the price didn’t go down since we were sharing a hotel room and Thailand is notoriously cheap, so I did some digging. After looking for about 2 hours, I found better hotels, international flights, and activities all for under $3K per person! That is a $2K convenience fee which would basically pay for another trip. No thanks!
- Be patient when booking flights: I always get nervous that, if I don’t book that very instant, my seats and flight is going to disappear. This is not the case and I have lost hundreds of dollars for being too hasty. Use services like Airfare Watch Dog to track you flights. It will alert you when the price drops and will give you estimates on how much the cost will go down or up if you wait.
- Shop smart: I love buying new stuff for my trips. Going skiing? New ski jacket! Going hiking? I need hiking boots! Having shopping-control is such a challenge! While you will need things for your trips, there is nothing wrong with shopping outlets, finding better prices on Amazon, or waiting for the weekend’s sales. Trust me, I tried on and sent back 7 pairs of rain boots with Amazon Prime’s free shipping before I went to Seattle, but my final pick was only $25 and I walked over 19 comfortable and dry miles in them by the end of the trip! Being a bargain hunter is not only good for your budget, but super fun when you get a great deal!
Any questions or need suggestions? I am happy to help you achieve your travel dreams! Comment below or send me a message fellow traveler!