It's no secret that we love to travel. We prioritize it. I remember telling Ryan in our engagement season, "I'd eat rice and beans for every meal for a year if that's what it would take to be able to travel as a family." Here's why I value travel
It opens your worldview. Travel forces you to dream bigger than your bubble.
It opens your heart. To see different races and ages and ways of life is HUGE. I always come home with a new heart from the Harvest.
It opens your mind. Travel provides the best classroom this planet can offer because it forces self-curiosity (which is the highest level of learning because it's self initiated). I'm constantly googling names of historic figures, words I don't know on menus, and museum facts.
It opens your social skills. This is one of my favorites and why I really want to prioritize travel in my family. The courage, bravery, humility, and "street skills" you learn in travel is unmatchable. Learning how to ride a subway correctly, sitting next to strangers on airplanes, asking for directions, etc. Being a good traveler, I believe, is one of the highest life skills we can have as it forges confidence and compassion in oneself.
It also opens your wallet (ha!). It's true, travel can be pricey. But, Ryan and I view it as an investment in our family culture. We've also learned that there are lots of tips and tricks that cut the costs dramatically.
Please know everything I'm about to say is our opinion. This is what works for us. Please don't copy paste. Create what works for your family unit. We'd love to travel much more, but with our income, budget, and calendar this is what works for us in this season. We try to alternate every other year with 2 domestic trips and 1 international trip. So last year we cashed in on a 10 day trip to Europe. This year we went to California and are doing Disney in November. For our international trip in 2020 we're saving for an Asian adventure. So how do we do it? Here's some broad tips.
1. Use travel credit cards for our advantage.
2. Choose destinations with great public transportation.
3. Carry-on luggage is the way to go.
4. Eat two meals a day, instead of three.
5. Talk to locals to stay out of tourist traps.
1. Travel Credit Cards:
I know, all of you fellow Dave Ramsey fans are shocked that this is my first tip. Let me say, everyone can handle/manage money in unique ways. I'll tell you where we are coming from. Ryan and I are currently debt free (Praise the Lord! It hasn't always been the story.) We use the zero-based budget method and are pretty strict. (See, we love Dave) At the beginning of the year we set aside a percentage of our total yearly income for travel. We want to travel so we save and prioritize it. In saying yes to travel, it means we say no to a lot. As we spend through the month (we know what we're going to spend because it's budgeted out), we put it on a travel credit card. At the end of the month we pay the cards off completely. Every month. But here's where the advantage comes in; in using the travel credit cards we get points for every dollar spent/paid. We then cash in those points for big dollar discounts. It just makes sense and works for us. When we buy groceries that we are already going to buy, we are also stocking up points for free hotels and flights. There are so many travel cards with amazing benefits. Researching to see what works best for your budget/travel frequency truly pays off. We have two travel cards:
One generic travel card. Great for hotel points and international travel.
One credit card with an airline that has helped us get lots of free flights. .
Just a little peek into how this pays off. In May we took a spontaneous 48 trip to Chicago. For flights and hotel we paid a total of $27. The rest was covered by points we had. We ended up spending around $100 to take our family of 3 to Chicago. For 6 flights we booked for our Califorina trip we paid a total of $118.
This is the biggest travel hack we use. Pay for everything you buy on the card; and then have points pay for everywhere you go.
2. Public Transportation:
We purposefully choose destinations that have great public transportation or is a walking city and here's why. Taxis and Ubers will EAT YOUR WALLET ALIVE. Seriously, half of our travel budget will go out the door just from a week of ubers or lifts or renting a car. However, pick a city with a great subway system or accessible buses and you can usually pay about $30 for a pass that will last your trip. (It's really great when the city has public transportation to the airport.) I also am a big believer that you don't experience a city until you go on public transportation. Yes, it's a little gritty and gross sometimes (actually all of the time) but you get the people and culture in a whole new way. New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Washington DC, Paris, and San Fransciso are a few cities with awesome public transportation.
3. Carry on Luggage. Ask any avid traveler and they will agree carry on luggage is the way to go. This will save you those overpriced baggage costs, but honestly, it just makes things so much easier. Pack light, re-wear items, and wash items at the hotel if needed. I pack detergent and have washed items in hotel bathtubs and sinks many times. This also prevents you from buying a ton of stuff to lug home since you don't have the room. If you are a souvenir person, I've found it best to pick something small and cheap to build a collection with such as a postcard every place you go, or a magnet for your fridge. No one needs an overpriced, bulky tourist hoodie from every destination they have been.
4. Eat 2 big meals. We, the Cirkles, are food people. We research menus and restaurants more than anything else when planning a trip. (*We love watching vlogs on YouTube of destinations we are going to for food inspiration.)
We've learned eating a brunch and dinner is the way to go. I pack instant oatmeal and granola bars for breakfast, and cliff bars for snacks in between. This eliminates a whole third meal you don't have to buy, as well as gives room for a fun desert or coffee in between as you explore.
5. Talk to locals.
Maybe this is common sense to us because we love people but don't miss out on talking to locals! They give you the BEST recommendations that aren't in tourist traps. On the subway, on the street, when you're checking out at a coffee shop simply ask, "We're here for a few days, what's your top recommendations for your city?" You can save major bucks by simply eating one street over from tourist traps or skipping the "must see tourist attractions" that just isn't worth the time or money.
Overall, if you want to travel, save, plan and go. If you don't want to travel, don't go. There's no right or wrong answer here. But for those who say "I can't travel but I want to" I challenge you to plan and save and prioritize it. Even if it's just a weekend getaway to be a "tourist in your own city" or you have to save for 3 years for a bucket list destination, in my eyes travel is always worth it.
Bonus round : Travel sites and apps
Expedia. Look for bundle deals where you can get your flight and hotel together for major savings.
Moovit. Transportation app that shows you routes and rates to make sure you get the most efficient public transportation.
Google Translate. If you are going abroad this is a must. But make sure to download the languages you'll need ahead of time so you don't use data.
Hopper. This app tells you the best day and time to book a flight for the cheapest available.
TV Food Maps. This app lets you know of any restaurant near you that's been on the food network. It makes decisions easy, as you're guaranteed you'll get a good bite, and also these usually aren't tourist spots which typically equals less expensive. Want to join in on our travel adventures? Follow our hashtag on Instagram #CirklesTheGlobe or check out my Instagram highlights for some destination inspiration.
***Don't forget, the Cirkles are cheering you on!