How We Travel On The Cheap-ish

The other day a friend asked my husband how I can afford to drive a Lexus since I’m *just* a teacher (the friend was curious, not trying to be rude, and I welcome money talk!). Here’s how… I bought it used from a small town dealer we found on Craigslist which made it cheaper than said friend’s brand new “modest” car. I have a car payment but I can afford it comfortably (even though car payments suck) and that’s all there is to it.

Like the friend, I’ve always been curious about how people handle their finances and afford certain things/activities. I think a lot of the time it’s a pretty simple answer like how I bought my car.

My main wonder is how people travel to cool places (if you’re new here, I love to travel!).

My mind starts to wander when I see photos on Instagram of friends in Europe or Palm Springs. And you know what… I’ve been one of those people on Instagram posting pictures from my “lavish” vacations.

Because of my own curiosity and for the sake of transparency I’m going to share some ways we travel to cool places on a budget that hopefully you can use for your own “lavish” vacation.

:: 1 :: Not really a tip but taking advantage of an opportunity – The past five summers we’ve gone to Idaho with On River Time (the nonprofit my husband Greg works for part-time). This is not a vacation, this is actual work so they pay for our flights – thus they pay for our return flight. We discovered that once we’re out west, one-way flights to other western places are pretty cheap and the west is a great place for a road trip. Where can you tack on a vacation to an obligation?

:: 2 :: Flight Alerts – six months out from any potential travel I set up alerts. I use Hopper, Google Flights, & Scott’s Cheap flights emails. There are more hardcore ways but I’m not willing to work that hard. Also, we recently got a Delta AmEx so we’ll be cashing in on our miles each year too.

:: 3 :: Pay as much as you can in advance (admission, event tickets, lodging, car rental) – This is more of a mental trick. If you pay for things in advance as you’re planning it doesn’t hurt as bad! You don’t feel all uptight once you’re on vacay about all the money you’re spending because you’ve already paid for most in the months leading up to it. Also I’ve found car rentals are actually cheaper the more advance you book them… mistakes have been made on my part.

:: 4 :: AirBnb y’all – A few months out I start looking for cool AirBnbs and using the save feature on the website. I have found the majority of the time they are cheaper and more convenient than hotels. We aim for $100 a night and have found some really great places to stay. We’ve only had one “meh” not great experience. But you know what is even cheaper… friends that live in cool places! We have done that a few times too. We’re great guests. Where do you live?

:: 5 :: Pick a meal a day – Since we stay at AirBnbs/friends’ places where we have access to at least a refrigerator (usually a full kitchen), we eat two meals a day at “home.” As soon as we get to a destination we go to the grocery store for coffee, yogurt, eggs, snacks, and frozen pizzas. That way we splurge a little at dinner and don’t feel bad about it. (Though when we went on our epic road trip last year we only ate out once! That trip was more about sightseeing than eating.)

:: 6 :: Live within your means the rest of the year – Greg and I are just not big spenders. Granted we don’t have children but we bought the cheapest house in the neighborhood, have only one car payment, we eat at home 90% of the time, workout at home, and I’m constantly turning lights off (I’m not sure how much of a difference that makes but it makes me feel better). We both work multiple “gigs” too. Oh and Greg’s motto is “they can’t put you in jail for student loan debt.” So there’s that.

So that’s how we afford about two regular vacations a year. Now tell me, how do you afford the things?

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