Travel has always been a big part of my life, but over the last few years I’ve really made it a priority. I get severe anxiety when I don’t have my next plane ticket booked because I like having something to look forward to, and I’m constantly looking for new adventures I can go on. With my increase in traveling and the development of this blog, I’ve had people pop up that range from my family and friends, to friends of friends and old acquaintances that I haven’t heard from in years. All of these people always have the same questions for me: “How do you manage to travel so much?” and “How do you afford to travel so much?”.
First off, I want to preface this article by telling you that I don’t make a huge six-figure salary, so no, that’s not how I fund all my travels. I make an entry-level salary in my field, which to be honest, isn’t very much when you start to take away your monthly bills and expenses. I live in Toronto, one of the most expensive cities in the world, I make regular contributions to my retirement savings plan (start them young folks), and I recently just paid off my student loan which totalled around $22,000 CDN upon graduation.
Despite what you may think, I don’t make a killing from my travel blog, and don’t plan too. I do this for fun, and to help other people travel, not to monetize it so much that all you get is ads and content that sounds like an infomercial instead of me. I do however, do freelance writing and social media consulting, but due to my limited free time, I don’t have the ability to take on an excessive amount of projects. To give you an idea, in 2015, I brought in an additional $4,500 CDN from freelance work.
So no, I don’t have a hidden stash of money, or a scary looking negative number in my bank account. My parents don’t pay for my travels, and I didn’t quit my job to travel the world (or ever plan on doing so). So what is it that I did to manage to travel to (and in) six different countries in 2015 alone? Here are my biggest tips and how I’ve made it work.
Tip #1: Money, Money, Money
You may be shocked to know that I do actually have a life at home. I go out and try new restaurants, go out drinking with my friends, and can sometimes be a shopaholic. I don’t sit at home, sad and depressed in between each of my vacations just so I could afford to go on the next one. Instead, I have a separate account known as my “trip fund” which only $120 CDN a month automatically comes off my pay check and goes into. Believe me, this becomes so natural that you don’t even notice the money going into the account each pay day, and you learn to live without that money pretty quickly.
Now if you do the math, $120 a month for 12 months only equals $1,440 CDN, and although that is a good chunk of money, it is unlikely going to fund five different vacations in one year. So on top of this $120/month, I also put additional money in the weeks/months leading up to a big trip (an additional $20 a week can even make a difference), and I add funds into this account during times of the year that I happen to have a little bit more disposable income (like my Birthday, when I get my tax refund, or if I get a bonus at work).
The rules of this account? I can’t use the money on anything that’s not travel related and when I can pay for travel expenses from my regular every day account (even if they are small expenses), I do.
Tip #2: Vacation Days
In my current position I get three weeks vacation a year, on top of the regular statutory holidays. For me, this will never be enough! My trip to India and Nepal last year alone was three weeks, and I definitely can’t last an entire year on one trip, so what do I do?
Drum roll please…..
TAKE UNPAID VACATION!
Many people feel uncomfortable asking their employer for additional vacation days, but to be honest, when you’re spreading out when you’re taking vacation, a week or a few days here and there isn’t going to be the end of the world. I know you’re probably thinking, “But I can’t go a week without pay!!” but the truth is, you probably can. Yes, it’ll make your month a bit short, but if you plan your expenses wisely, you should have no issues. Plus, when you’re traveling, that means you are using your special “travel fund” and aren’t spending money on things like entertainment, transportation or groceries back home like you normally would.
Because of taking unpaid vacation last year, I was able to fit in traveling to England, Wales, India, Nepal, Boston, Florida, and Quebec City. Most people are lucky to even go on one vacation, and to be honest, there was people at my workplace who didn’t even use all their vacation days in 2015. I can’t even wrap my head around that concept.
Tip #3: Be Strategic
Lastly, be strategic about when you’re planning your vacation. For instance, weekend trips can become your best friend. If you have places that you want to go that you can do it in just a few days, or over a long weekend, do them! For example, when I went to Quebec City, I left on Friday night and got back Sunday night, or when I went to Chicago in March, I went over Easter weekend so I spent my long weekend in Chicago instead of at home. Start thinking about how you can make better use of your stat holidays and your weekends.
When planning longer trips, planning them over days that are already holidays can be helpful too. That way, you’re already getting the day off, and it’s one less vacation day you have to use. Or book your flights to leave at the end of a work week. For example, you can leave on a Friday night, and return on the following Sunday, and you get extra days in the destination because your trip falls on the weekend.
I’m a firm believer that travel can be obtainable to almost everyone. It’s all about what you are prioritizing in your life. Where some of my friends are prioritizing buying a house, getting married, or having kids, I’ve prioritized travel until I’m at that point.
So there you have it. My biggest “secrets” on how I make this all work.