How to Save for Your Next Great Adventure

Originally published on PassionPassport.com

Though we wish it were, travel isn’t free. 

But your next adventure doesn’t have to break the bank. It simply requires a bit of planning and research. 

So, if you’re passionate about exploring the Amazon, sailing the Caribbean, or embarking on that week-long road trip you’ve been dying to do, don’t give up! Here are some tried-and-true tips for saving for your next great adventure. 

REWARDS CREDIT CARDS

More often than not, your dream trip will require a plane ticket. And, unfortunately, airfare is generally one of the pricier expenses we incur as travelers. A great way to make this purchase cost less is to sign up for a rewards credit card that accrues travel points with each transaction you make, even on things such as groceries, gas, and other daily expenses. For instance, with my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, I receive 2x the points for each dollar spent toward travel and dining expenses (i.e. airfare, ground transportation, hotels, and restaurants). For all other purchases, I get one point for each dollar I spend (though some exclusions apply). That said, the award system differs per card, so do your research before pulling the trigger on any one card in particular. 

Additionally, certain credit card companies provide a sign-on bonus of anywhere between 20,000 to 100,000 points if you spend a specified amount within a set time frame (usually a couple-thousand dollars within three or four months). If you don’t think you will be able to spend the required amount before the deadline runs out, consider asking friends or family if they have any larger purchases they need to make, and if they’d be willing to use your card instead. You’ll obviously want to ask someone you trust so they can reimburse right away, but this is an excellent way to reach those bonus requirements.

Once, when I was planning a trip to South Africa and perusing every airfare site I could think of, I was extremely discouraged to find that the flight I wanted was an outrageous $4,000 USD. However, when I switched from checking the dollar amount to the number of points required for the same ticket, it came out to just 80,000 — a balance I was able to get to in five short months from the date I opened my new credit card account. Had I not explored this option, I would not have been able to travel to South Africa when I did. 

The points you save up on these credit cards can also be used for other travel-related expenses such as hotels, resorts, and car rentals. If you’re planning a trip far in advance, do some research and see if applying for a rewards card is a good option for you. If you need some additional resources, peruse the best rewards cards of 2018Just be careful not to go overboard — you still have a credit score to consider!

NETFLIX AND CHILL

Really, though. Simple behavioral changes such as not eating out as much, getting your favorite Starbucks drink only once a week, and slowing down on the theater outings can have a positive impact on your wallet. It might seem like these expenses are small, but when you add them up over the course of a month or a year, you’ll see just how much these indulgences cost you over time. 

To save, buy more foods in bulk. No, this doesn’t mean you have to eat poorly — it just means shopping smart. Buy fruit and vegetables that are in season; make your own coffee at home before taking off to school or work in the morning; expand your movie-watching palette by exploring more of those funky one-dollar rentals on iTunes as opposed to spending $40 USD on a single movie ticket, popcorn, and Sour Patch Kids. (Though, as a big-time moviegoer, I know this hurts.) But when you’re finally taking off in that Boeing-737 and jet-setting halfway across the world, I promise you won’t be sad you held yourself on a tighter fiscal leash over the past few months.

RESEARCH AND PLAN

One of the best things about travel is the spontaneity it allows us. But when you travel on a budget, you sometimes won’t be afforded that luxury. At least, not to the extent you might wish. When you first start to think of where to go and when, consider traveling during off-shoulder seasons. Doing so often cuts down on costs significantly when it comes to restaurants, museums, and various other sites of interest. I realize this won’t always be possible, and you probably don’t want to travel to Bora Bora at a time when you can expect constantly wet weather, but if it is possible, it’s a smart way to subtract some unnecessary costs. 

Another tip for planning is to purchase tickets for experiences online ahead of time. Before I arrived in Amsterdam, I purchased the I amsterdam City Card and saved a ton on public transportation and museums. City passes aren’t always going to be available in your desired travel destination, but that’s where the research comes in. It would be a bummer to miss out on some extra savings by not having known about these nifty cards before arriving. 

Lastly, if you’re a student or a recent graduate, don’t forget to check out which places accept student identification cards. This saved me heaps while traveling in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Although these small preparations may seem like a lot of work, they’re definitely worth the added effort.

GOOD OL’ SAVING 

While you may not have a traditional piggy bank resting on your bedside table anymore, you probably have a savings account. If you don’t, I recommend getting one. Whenever you come into some extra cash, it’s always a good idea to immediately deposit it into that savings account. If your extra cash is out of sight, it’s probably out of mind — a fact that will make it much less tempting to spend. To supplement what you’re putting into the bank, evaluate your monthly expenses and see what you can feasibly set aside. If you aren’t good with money, don’t worry! There are apps for everything these days. For help with monthly and annual budgeting, check out these budgeting and personal finance apps, or simply do a Google search to find a method or app that suits you and your needs. I’ve found them to be exceptionally helpful (and fun) to use. It’s also cool to see where your money is going each month and where you can cut costs. Make it a hobby, and you’ll be on that trip in no time!

MONETIZE THAT SIDE HUSTLE

Are you great with kids? Spend some extra time babysitting in the evenings or on the weekends. Are you a crazy math genius? Reach out to local schools or after-school programs to see if they need tutors, or check out sites such as Care.com and TutorMe. No matter what skill you have — be it singing, marketing, cooking, or writing —  you can often find ways to monetize it. Research opportunities in your area, ask family and friends, or reach out to local organizations to help others and get paid in the process. 

I personally love photography, and though I had always thought of it as a hobby, after several years of practice and experimentation, I realized that it might be a way for me to make some extra money to put toward future trips. I did this by uploading my photos to stock photography sites such as EyeEm and Adobe Stock (though the latter charges a monthly fee after the first 30 days). There are a whole slew of others to consider as well, so if you’re looking to explore this option, figure out which one suits you and your photography best. 

Another avenue I’ve explored is selling prints. I’ve discovered that by selling some of my strongest photos as large canvas prints, I’m able to set aside some extra funds toward my future trips. If you’re unsure of how to create quality prints, I would recommend Nations Photo Lab. They often have sales and produce a beautiful end product. 

It’s never a bad thing to be humble, but if you ask yourself “Could I get paid for doing X?”and can honestly answer “Yes!” then perhaps it’s an avenue worth exploring. And remember that family and friends are a great place to start in terms of marketing yourself — they’re often your biggest fans.

SELL, SELL, SELL 

You know you haven’t worn that pair of pants or those shoes in months — so why not pass it on to someone who will and get some extra cash while you’re at it? There are plenty of apps that allow you to sell unwanted clothing such as PoshmarkTradesy, and Vinted— and they make it easy. Another great option is to check out consignment boutiques and stores in your area. Places like Plato’s Closet and Buffalo Exchange will gladly pay you for your used (but well cared for) items. You can also sell electronic equipment, furniture, or larger items such as cars and trailers on your local Craigslist or eBay. When you really evaluate what you do and don’t need, you’ll be amazed at how much you can get rid of and not even miss.

There are probably thousands of ways to save money, and new methods of doing so pop up all the time, but the above are ways that are guaranteed to increase your income and contribute to your next big adventure. If ever you’re feeling stumped or discouraged, refer to these tips and see how far you can take them. If I can do it, anyone can.