It’s midnight and you’re lying in bed, scrolling through pictures of Thailand, the Amalfi Coast, and Mykonos. Problem is these aren’t your pictures and those weren’t your vacations. In fact, you’re pretty sure you’ll never be able to afford a trip to any of the places in your Instagram feed. But you’re wrong.
It’s time to stop scrolling and start planning the vacation of your dreams.
I was able to spend my early 20s traveling around three different continents, and I only had a little bit of money saved from my part-time job to fuel my wanderlust.
Here are four travel hacks to help you afford the Insta-worthy vacation you need and deserve.
1) Shift your mindset.
Almost every day I have a client or friend tell me, “I wish I could travel but I can’t afford it.” Ninety-nine percent of the time, they actually can.
If you have discretionary income (money left over after covering your fixed expenses), you can afford to travel. You’re just not prioritizing your travel goals.
Travel goals are just like other goals. Your mindset is half the battle. If you believe you can make it happen, you’ll find a way to do it. But if you tell yourself that you can’t afford to travel, you never will. Probably because you’ll be too busy coming up with excuses. Or spending that money on low-value purchases.
2) Create your destination list.
Now that you’ve decided make travel a priority, it’s time to make your vacation goals concrete by creating your own “wanderlist”. Where are the top three destinations you most want to visit?
Destination usually affects the price of your vacation more than any other factor. I spent four times as much money on my trip to Spain as I did on my trip to Costa Rica. (The US Dollar goes much further in Central America and the airfare was substantially cheaper.)
Before you lock down your destinations, spend an hour or two doing research so you know which spots are both amazing and affordable. Do a quick search and find out what airfare and lodging would cost for each destination if you went next month. These two expenses are the biggest components of any vacation budget so this exercise should give you a general idea of how expensive each area is to get to and stay in.
When deciding where to get away to first, starting with the most affordable destination on the list is a smart strategy. Your first trip is always the hardest to save for because it forces you to develop new habits.
3) Automate your travel savings.
How much will your dream vacay cost? Once you’re set on a destination, calculate your budget for the trip.
You already researched airfare and hotel costs, so now you just have to add in transportation, activities, and food.
Once you have your total budget, decide how soon you want to go. Then divide your total budget by the number of months left until your trip, and that’s how much you need to save each month. For example, if you want to spend $1,000 on a New Orleans vacation in five months, then you’ll need to save $200/month.
To ensure that you save, open up a savings account specifically for your travel fund. Several banks like Ally Bank and Capital One give you the option to create a separate savings account for each goal that you have.
Lastly, automate the saving process by setting up recurring transfers on payday. This ensures that you pay yourself first and put your hard-earned cash towards your priorities, like travel, before you even have the chance to spend it on something else. So if you need to save $200/month for your New Orleans trip, set up an automatic transfer with your bank so that on payday that $200 is automatically moved to your travel fund.