So you haven’t traveled to all the fantastic places around the world such as Bora Bora or the Bavarian Alps, or even beyond your state for that matter…. Here’s some simple tips to help even the most budget-minded folks get far and not spend a ton of dough broadening your horizons.
- Get In A Car and Go! Notice that we didn’t necessarily mean your car. Weekend car rental prices can really be affordable if you make a reservation via the Internet or take advantage of discounts you perhaps qualify for such as AAA (Triple A). If you have a decent car, drive it and don’t be afraid to put some miles on it! Investing in a reliable car and avoiding putting miles on it by keeping in your garage is somewhat counterproductive ;).Traveling by car can be somewhat time consuming and even discouraging considering today’s gas prices, but I personally believe its still one of the easiest ways to get out of town with little planning (for you spontaneous bunch) and minimal money in your pocket. If you travel with friends and share the expenses, memorable trips become even more affordable. Start by identifying a range of time you are willing to drive such as 4-5 hours to arrive at your destination. Then use a map to figure out what places of interest may be within that distance. The Internet can be a valuable resource in finding things of interest outside of the typical that pique your interest. Think about the length of time you’ll be there and how you can reasonably minimize your expenses. Do you have family or friends in the area? Would an acquaintance or significant other like to come along? One 15 gallon tank of gas in a vehicle that gets roughly 20 miles per gallon is likely sufficient to get you 4-5 hours down the highway costing you roughly $40 – $50 in gas, or an estimated $100 round trip. If you figure you’ll use at least 1 tank of gas driving around town at your destination, add another $50. $150 is less than the cost of an airline ticket and if split amongst your buddies, is even more of a savings. But don’t wait all for day for someone else to be available to ride with you before making that journey!
- Invest in Maps Maps are still a wonderful tool to help you see what is around you, provide insight into navigating any particular place, and of course handy if your lost! Understanding how to read a map is an important skill especially if you find yourself in another city, state, or even country, and in need of getting from point A to B. One of the things I’ve found maps particularly useful for is helping see the bigger picture and where the things I see physically are in relation to each other. For example, unless someone looked at a map, they could easily assume that the city of Windsor in Ontario, Canada, is north of the very close-by city of Detroit, MI in the United States. In actuality, Windsor is physically south of Detroit! Maps also let you see what’s relatively close to you, and not so close easily at a glance. Perhaps you’re considering flying to Toronto, Canada for a weekend to enjoy Caribana. A map could help you realize that the amazing Niagara Falls is only a 45 minute drive away and open year round with plenty to offer!
- Be Flexible with Plans – When you travel somewhere, there are bound to be things of interest you weren’t aware of prior to your arrival. Don’t be afraid to deviate from the plan and leave yourself time to do something or nothing at all. Over planning can create stress for everyone involved and steal the joy out of trip. Being flexible also applies to when you travel. There are places around the world you can travel to for $1500 round-trip during one period of time during the year, but then also travel to that same place with the same level of service for $500 during another time period. Find out the peak travel periods to visit your destination and consider going there during the off-peak time to reduce expenses and have more money to shop when you get there.
- Use the Internet – There’s a ton of websites to help you learn, price, and plan your trips. The web has more information than imaginable at your fingertips. Make sure that the website you get information from looks reputable before you provide any information to it. A few popular sites: www.kayak.com, www.travelocity.com, www.expedia.com.
- Travel in Groups – But don’t let someone else keep you from going. Many people cite traveling alone as deterrent towards traveling. Encourage some other people to travel with you and if all else fails – LEAVE THEM. No one likes to be left behind so if you make the first move and then show off those great pictures you took when you get back, they may have a change of heart next time. If you can travel in groups, leverage the power of numbers to help split costs, get group rates, etc. Sharing is still a quality thing to do 😉 If you do travel alone, be sure to communicate your plans to those you are leaving behind so someone is aware you went “sight-seeing in Iraq”. With that said, be sensible in where you decide to venture to individually or as a group for that matter.
- Utilize Friends & Family – Many people have acquaintances all over the world and you would never know it unless you asked. You would be surprised at how accommodating your foreign friends may be when you tell them you want to visit. People are proud of where they are from and get excited about sharing that with others. Staying with them can also help offset hotel expenses and transportation costs.
- Get A Passport NOW! – You can’t go most places outside of North America without a passport and pretty soon it will be required to travel anywhere in the the U.S. Get one now before you go to airport thinking you didn’t need it and get denied from going on that trip you planned for several weeks. No excuses. If you are going on a major trip such as a cruise, ask if the travel agency or organizer is offering to pay for you to get a passport. The travel industry is doing all that it can to keep you traveling. Here’s a link to get to you going: US Department of State
- Leverage business trips – If you are one of the many business travelers out there, consider utilizing the weekends or off days around your planned work schedule to explore that destination and/or continue on to another destination. Does your significant other dislike your travel schedule? Try taking them with you sometime for company and letting them benefit from your company paid hotel room and rental car. Just take care to handle the expenses properly and NOT charge back to the company what are truly personal expenses such as the extra rental car days or hotel nights. You can also talk to a tax advisor to learn more about when travel expenses or other business related expenses not covered by your company are tax-deductible.
- Be a tourist in your own city. Every major city has plenty to offer. Although you may have lived there forever, re-commit yourself to exploring your own backyard for new interesting things to do individually or with others.
- Stop making excuses – There are a million reasons why you can’t travel. You only need one good reason why you can. Don’t lump yourself into the masses of people who say “I love to travel” but may have never even been outside of their city, let alone the country.
This list of tips certainly isn’t exhaustive, but hopefully it gets you going in the right direction. My personal recent trips included 7 different countries in the last year, and were as far away as Malaysia and Australia. I’ll see you on the plane 😉
Do you have another tip? Feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment!