This post is brought to you by Hotwire.
In my day-to-day life as an editor at TFD, I come across a lot of different budgeting stories — a lot of which include what people don’t spend their money on. And the thing that gets the shaft more than anything else? Travel.
Here at TFD, we want one thing above all: for you (yes, you) to live the life you want to live without sacrificing your present or future stability. We want you to experience everything that’s joyful and exciting, but not at the expense of your bank account. So if you’re still trying to save an emergency fund, have yet to set up a retirement account, or are deep in debt, some fun spending like travel has to take a back seat for a while.
I get it: traveling can get expensive. It’s ignorant to think international travel is accessible to everyone, and the same goes for even domestic travel to most places, especially when you live in a country as big as the U.S. But I also think there are tons of people who could travel more than they currently think. Even when I was a brand-new New Yorker fresh off the bus from college, my roommates and I still managed to take a weekend trip each year — even with some student debt and plenty of work responsibilities between the three of us.
That’s why we’ve partnered with Hotwire to show you that yes, you can take that much-needed vacation this summer — whether or not you think you can. In fact, Hotwire is even offering a special on hotel rooms in eight popular American cities on and around 4th of July weekend. You can book participating 4- or 5-star hotels the weekend before, during, or the weekend after Independence Day for a set price of just $49 per night — click here to learn more! And read on for the top three misconceptions that are keeping you from traveling.
1. You think you can’t travel and also pursue other financial goals.
In case this wasn’t clear: no, you should not sacrifice your financial future in order to jetset to a new location every month. You do need to be working towards building an emergency fund, contributing to a retirement account, and paying down debt.
But if you’re already doing those things, and you have some budget wiggle room left over? You can totally afford to travel. The only truth you need to accept is that you (most likely, if you’re reading this blog) simply can’t have everything. Maybe you can’t travel and spend a hundred dollars on new clothes every month. Maybe you can’t take a vacation and buy your lunch out every day. Maybe you can’t go to Miami and attend a music festival this summer. It’s all about sorting out your priorities.
So if you’ve decided that, yes, travel is important to you, it’s time to go over your bank accounts with a fine-tooth comb. The average cost of a four-night vacation in the U.S. is around $581, though yours may cost more or less depending on where you want to go. Going over your spending will give you an idea of what kind of trip you can afford to save for. After your non-negotiables (rent, food, debt payments, long-term savings and retirement, etc.), how much is left over? How much do you tend to spend on things you could go without — restaurants, subscriptions, shopping, etc.? Figure out where you can start cutting back, and see how much it’ll save you each month. Start putting that amount in savings, and watch your little travel fund grow.
If you’re wondering where to start, here are some super-useful tools for budgeting for travel, and here are some of the best ways you can score a cheap flight without too much hassle. And if you’re saving money on travel, like taking advantage of Hotwire’s Fourth of July special, the amount you have to set aside each month may not even be that much of a stretch.
2. You think you need to fly far away and for a long time for it to be “worth it.”
Some people think you need to hop on a plane that takes you somewhere you don’t speak the language for it to be considered “traveling.” But here’s the thing: you don’t. Yes, experiencing different places and cultures can be completely life-changing, but it’s not the only way to travel. If you’re American, you’ve got nearly 3 million square miles of land at your fingertips in the continental states alone — maybe it’s time to take a roadtrip.
For example, I went to school in New England and have lived in New York state for the past four years, but I didn’t check out the beautiful Finger Lakes region until this spring, when I went there for a friend’s bachelorette weekend. It was an extremely easy trip to make, and a super affordable one — just a few hundred dollars on accommodations, food, a few wine tours, and a rental car (shared with friends). Yet even the mere four hours of driving took me somewhere completely different from the city I live in. Getting away does not have to be a big to-do. Even if you can only make it a few hours away for a couple of days at a time this summer, travel is still well worth your time.
Also, you do not need to go away for weeks at a time for it to count as “proper” traveling. If you’re in a salaried job in your twenties, you might be experiencing the sad state of affairs that is far too few vacation days. You might also not be able to afford to take a super-long trip — and that’s okay. Taking an occasional break from work is a non-negotiable, but that looks different for everyone. In fact, some psychologists have argued that taking more frequent, shorter vacations is actually better for reducing stress than fewer long trips, citing that fact short trips tend to be less expensive, and require less planning and preparation. Research suggests that any amount of time off is beneficial to health, with one study showing that for every ten hours of vacation time employees took, their performance ratings improved by eight percent (!) So in short, a simple long weekend away is still traveling, and screw anyone who says otherwise.
3. You think you need a travel buddy.
One of my biggest regrets currently is that I’ve never traveled alone, at least not overnight. I love having the rare day to myself to grab a meal and hit up a movie solo, and when I first moved to New York, I’d take an occasional day trip to one of the many charming Hudson Valley towns along the Metro North. But I’ve never spent several days at a time all on my own in a new city, and it’s one of the biggest goals I have for the rest of my twenties. There are so many places I’ve never seen, even in this country — I want to eat amazing Cuban food in Miami and go to all the breweries I know I’d love in Austin. Considering I can work from literally anywhere, there’s no reason not to put these on my list in the coming years.
In fact, Chelsea and Annie have both done pretty extensive solo travel in Europe. It’s amazing that I don’t even have to look outside one of my closest circles to find inspiration for traveling on my own. I love what Annie had to say about traveling by herself for the first time:
“The first day I was ever completely alone in a foreign city, I’d just turned 23 and had gone to Europe with no smartphone, no laptop, no plans. I also had no boyfriend or job waiting for me at home, and that immediate wave of freedom was both terrifying and intoxicating. It made me realize I’d never really known the feeling of not looking to others for permission or direction. Even with the safety risks, I think it’s especially meaningful for women to travel alone at least once, because so many of us are conditioned to feel that we can’t fully take care of ourselves. And it’s true you need to be more on guard. But there are so many experiences you’d miss out on if you’re too afraid, and that are statistically no more dangerous than driving in your own neighborhood.”
Learning to be happy in your own company is a cornerstone of growing up. You may think you need a travel companion for a lot of reasons — you need someone to share costs with, you’re afraid of doing things like going out to eat alone, or maybe you think it’s unsafe. But here’s the thing: you can cut back on costs if you have no one to split them with, by booking an inexpensive room or getting most of your food from local markets. Spending time alone in public is something you should get comfortable doing anyway, so why not start now? And as long as you read up on safe practices when traveling alone (especially as a woman, sadly), you should be all set.
Image via Unsplash