When I tell people about the various places Nick and I have traveled in the short 2.5 years we’ve been married, I’m often met with some variation of this response: “Wow, I wish I could afford to travel like you do!” I think there are many people (myself included, up until a few years ago) who hold the idea of international travel up on an unattainable pedestal, always hoping to one day have enough extra cash to splurge on some over the top, globe-spanning trip of a lifetime. However, if people truly want to see and experience new places, it doesn’t have to be extravagant; actually, it can be quite possible for anyone to travel internationally! All it takes is prioritization, flexibility, and a little bit of cleverness.
Prioritization can come in the form of long term saving. My biggest advice to anyone who wants to travel regularly is open a separate savings account and start putting in a little money with every paycheck. It’s not an emergency fund so it doesn’t have to be a lot, but when you are consistent, it can really add up. We contribute to our travel fund at the same time we do with our emergency and retirement funds and before spending on dinners out or new clothes. Prioritizing saving money for travel can mean that after a few months we’ll have enough to cover an entire long weekend’s worth of expenses, like our Memorial Day weekend road trip to St. Louis to see the Arch and the City Museum, or our 3 day sprint around NYC visiting old friends and eating delicious food!
Being flexible in making travel arrangements can also help you save big bucks in the long run. We are fans of using Airbnb over hotels since its advantage can often be two fold: some places can be cheaper than a hotel, and many offer a more immersive experience into a culture. Our week long honeymoon in Ireland was essentially a road trip from city to city, stopping in Airbnbs each night. We spent time with most of our hosts who offered great advice on local places to visit and eat.
Lots of money saving opportunities can arise if you are clever enough to find and take advantage of them. For example, you could research for volunteer programs that will fund a portion of your trip. My first international trip was a english teaching program for adults in Madrid, Spain that paid for a week’s worth of meals and hotel stay in exchange for talking with native Spanish speakers. It was so much fun and I didn’t have to know any Spanish to be able to participate!
It is also very advantageous to use travel points for booking flights or hotels. Many of our larger trips have been funded, either partially or almost solely, by way of travel points obtained by credit card churning. Churning refers to the act of opening a credit card that offers a point bonus, using it long enough to earn the bonus, and then discontinuing use of the credit card by either closing it or converting it to a different type of card. Nick became a bit of an expert in this; he was always scouring Reddit for tips, staying up to date on different cards and the various bonuses offered, and signing us up for the credit cards when the best bonuses became available.
If you have a great credit score and pay your statements in full each month, you should have no problem earning points for travel purposes! Our recommendation is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card because it tends to have one of the biggest and most versatile bonuses. You have several options for using your points through Chase: 1. Redeem for cash straight to your bank account at the rate of $.01 per point (so if you get 60,000 points, that would equal $600 in your bank account); 2. Use the points to book hotels, flights or rental cars through the Chase travel portal at $.0125 per point (60,000 points would equal $750 worth of travel expenses); or 3. Transfer the Chase points into points for one of several airline or hotel partners such as SouthWest Airlines, United Airlines, Holiday Inn (IHG) or Hyatt. This is a 1:1 point transfer (i.e., 60,000 Chase points could equal 60,000 SouthWest points, redeemable for SW flights only.) Maximizing the value of the points is completely up to you and how you like to travel!
We absolutely love traveling and could talk about it all day, but I will part with this: if the desire to travel is in your heart, make it happen! There is a whole world out there just waiting for you to discover it.