Spoiler alert! Travel is not free.
There are a ton of claims out there that you can travel the world for free or nearly free, but that isn’t realistic. Luckily, you don’t have to rich to travel either. There are many tricks and hacks that frequent travels learn through experience that allow them to keep traveling at a fraction of the cost most people are paying. Travel may not be free, but doesn’t have to be out reach.
I recently was asked by a friend and fellow bartender how I afford my lifestyle. I stared blankly for minute trying to think of the simplest way to answer this complex question. Truth is there are no simple answers. There are a lot of factors that provide me the opportunity to travel frequently with my family. However, this question made me think. As I explained to her how am I able to take so many family trips a year, I thought this is probably something many of you would like to know as well! Travel may not be free, but it can be frequent if you have the right tools.
The type of work you do for a living can have a huge impact on your style of travel. Some people have quit good paying jobs to take off and travel the world sacrificing luxury to strap on a backpack and couch surf. That might work for some, but it probably doesn’t work for many. Truth is, you don’t need to quit your job to travel and you also don’t need to make a ton of money travel comfortably. You just need to be flexible and adjust your travel to your lifestyle needs.
An easy and most affordable way to see the world is to find a job that offers travel opportunities or are directly related to the travel industry. Obviously, there are various degrees in training required for certain travel jobs such as flight attendants, but there many industries that are great for anyone. For instance, yachts and cruise ships are perfect for those with service or entertainment industry experience. You don’t need a degree and you don’t need a ton of experience. Speaking of cruising, there is a plethora of ways to cruise for free. I just reviewed an awesome eBook that reveals some really great opportunities. Check out Intelligent Cruiser, by David Kirkland.
Many bloggers teach English in various countries, affording them to live aboard while earning an income. The also find ways to make money online through blogs or freelance writing to keep them traveling. There are travel agencies, tour guide companies and many more travel work options out there for those who might be single and/or able to live and work while any from home a majority of the year.
For us with families it can be a little bit trickier. Some jobs may not be directly related to the travel industry, but still offer opportunity for travel. My girlfriend is a recruiter and is sent all over the country to recruit graduates to work for the company. Some jobs participate in conferences that are held all over the world. This is one of the ways we travel as a family. HotDaddy has to attend many conferences with all his expenses paid, which gives us as a family an opportunity to tag along at a fraction of the cost. The Vision Science Society conference is what facilitates us visiting St. Pete, Florida every year.
You don’t need to be a professional to travel often either. Service jobs are great for travelers, because they are so flexible as far as scheduling. Now the pay is usually not great, but that’s where travel hacks become useful. As I always say, there is no point to make a ton of money a year, if you don’t have time to spend it. This is why I love bartending so much. I don’t have to put in a lot of hours to make decent money and I can take off whenever I want to leave town. I can also pick up more shifts if I need more money for a upcoming trip. It is all about the hustle. I also am able to travel during the week vs. expensive weekend travel. I also freelance, which doesn’t make a ton, but it is a little extra here and there and the schedule is completely up to me. Plus I am a travel writer, which opens up its own travel opportunities.
Universities and school districts are great too! They usually offer decent pay with a great schedule. There are holidays, school breaks and no corporate pressure. I LOVED when HotDaddy worked in the UC system, because the schedule was super flexible, he could work from home or on the road and there were a ton of opportunities to travel the world. For example, we were able to visit Scotland thanks to a collaboration project between HotDaddy’s lab at UCLA and the University of Glasgow.
Bottom line, really look into all possible jobs. Weigh and measure the pros and cons like money vs. flexibility or constant travel vs. some travel. Know what your personal needs and responsibilities are and what you are willing to sacrifice to travel.
I’m in a new arena myself these days. I’m learning to navigate and adjust to my new travel restrictions. HotDaddy started a new job with a tech company, which is a more corporate-style work schedule and FireCracker started school. Although I am free as a bird to travel any day during the week, my family is not, putting a cramp in my style.
At first I was grumpy, but now I am findin my rhythm. I’m becoming a staycation expert and a weekend warrior. I have learned to embrace local travel. You don’t need to get on a plane to have a great travel experience. We are so busy planning big trips that we forget to notice how awesome local treasures can be. Luckily, I live in Southern California, which is a tourist destination anyway. I have to say, I have been enjoying my weekends getting a deeper connections with cities I took for granted.
People tend to cringe when they hear the word credit cards, but they don’t have to be a scary thing. If you want to start traveling often and saving money, then you have start earning travel rewards. Nomadic Matt has a great post about how to best utilize travel rewards credit cards safely. I started using his advice and I have earned a lot of air miles, which encourages me to take more trips.
Although it is not free, it is getting rewarded for money you are spending anyway that month. The key is to use your travel credit cards for your everyday purchases and bills, then use the money in your account to pay the balance. Calculate what your living expenses are a month and set that aside in your account and use your travel credit as a debit card. It is a mental trick to do this and takes some practice. It is so easy to take advantage of your credit limit. Self-control is a must.
Look for cards that offer a large number of miles to apply. This gets you started off on the right foot. You also need to pay attention to emails alerting you of bonus miles opportunities. This will help you earn miles faster and make spending decisions for the month.
In addition to earning rewards, travel credit cards can also save you money and frustration while traveling. Apply for cards that offer No Foreign Transaction Fees and cards that are widely accepted worldwide. This is easy way to pay for your trip without managing cash, it saves you a lot in unnecessary fees and you earn travel rewards while you already traveling.
Having a wealth of travel knowledge at your finger tips will save you a ton of money in the long run. Learning special travel tips from bloggers and travel experts will help you best plan your trips in the most cost-effective and efficient way possible. For instance, understanding how airfare works can help you know the most affordable time to buy your next flight. Knowing the best time to travel to a desired destination can help you avoid crowds, enjoy weather and save on accommodations. The list goes on and on. I wrote a more detailed post on Money Saving Tips that explains how I spend less for awesome vacations.
That’s A Wrap:
So how does this bartender/writer afford for a family of 6 to travel? It is not easy. I strategize, I plan, I plot, I research and I work my butt off. I live my everyday life frugally, so I have more room in the budget for travel. I am flexible and take advantage of travel opportunities that come my way. Lastly, I have a good support system. My family including, HotDaddy, Grams, Papa and Sis, all work together to accomplish travel and lifestyle goals. For instance, RVing is collaboration vacation and we all pitch in to make those trips happen. Travel is not free, but if take a second to look at your spending habits, find out your budget for travel and be willing to make some changes, you can travel frequently and affordably no matter what your income.