Alright… it’s no surprise we love to travel… LOVE to travel. I think it’s in our blood. Our grandparents were first generation Americans and traveled overseas to start their new life in a foreign country, and we grew up hearing stories about the place where our ancestors are from. It opened our eyes, hearts, and minds to other parts of the world and constantly reminded us that our planet is so much bigger than just the good ole USA. And we wanted to go see it!! So we did. Our first international trip together was a 10-day educational tour of Spain with our 8th grade class. I had already been to Europe a handful of times visiting family in Germany, but this was Justin’s first trip “over the pond” and I still laugh about the memories we have at the strange hotels we stayed in and the overall experience of encountering such a wildly different culture at such a young age. It was about 3 years later (what?!) that we started dating! (I can’t believe we’ve been together for double that length of time now!) We didn’t only go to Spain, but we also took several class trips to Florida, Pennsylvania, etc. and up and down the East Coast on multiple occassions… so my point is, traveling was in our blood before we started dating!! And after we began our relationship, well… we didn’t really stop!
Over the years, we have never really been in a financial position to drop $5,000 on a luxury vacation. Even our 3 week Europe trip cost us less than half of that!! But how?! We’ve come to learn that there are 3 very clear factors in our traveling plans that allow us to travel often and for a much lower price. And I’m sharing those tips below!! Enjoy, and I hope this encourages you to pack your bags and go see someplace new sometime soon!
1) Go where your people are. What does this mean? It means go visit your family and friends first!! Always take advantage of a free place to stay. ALWAYS. That’s rule #1. Nothing will ever top quality family time, so getting to see a beautiful place is just a bonus on top of that! Our doors will always be open for our family and friends once we have a home together, whether that’s a one bedroom apartment or a three bedroom house! I’m a firm believer that traveling needs to get back to its roots of staying with a host who calls the area you are visiting home. This is how we were able to see Germany, Austria, Italy, Indiana, and Charleston together this year and how I got to visit Hawaii for the first time! Yes, we are blessed with amazingly generous friends and family who live all around the world. But you’d be surprised how many people you know in your network, too! Reach out to that distant cousin and reconnect!! :) Mini-tip within this tip: If you don’t have a place to stay through someone you know, skip the hotel!! Check out sites like Airbnb and VRBO for a more fun (and cheaper!!!) alternative to the cookie cutter hotel room stay!
2) Go for a drive. Think of all the places within 8-10 hours driving distance that you could wake up early and arrive in time for a late lunch. It’s a lot of places! Plane tickets are rarely purchased for our travels. We don’t mind a late night or early morning drive if it means we’re saving money in transportation costs! This is also great because it saves you money by not having to rent a car at your destination! You’re free to drive as much as you want and come and go as you please for just the cost of gas. I have so many “within driving distance” places we want to explore together after we’re married. We’ll be using our holiday weekends as much as we can! :) So before you drop a few hundred dollars each on plane tickets and then another couple hundred on a rental car, ask yourself if you can get there in a day and if you can, go for it and make a fun road trip out of the time together! Mini-tip within this tip: If you do have to purchase a plane ticket to get to where you’re going, use a website like Kayak, SkyScanner, or Hipmunk for quick price searches. Just make sure you ALWAYS purchase your ticket directly from the airline’s website!!! The best time to purchase a plane ticket is 90 days out from your departure date and on a Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon. Airfare Watchdog, a website that announces airline specials and price cuts, is your best friend. And if you need to rent a car, sign up for USAA to have several fees lifted (you don’t have to be or know someone in the military to get those benefits!) and always sign up for the “membership” program available through the rental company, like Hertz Gold!
3) Visit in the off season. I can’t tell you how many times our plane tickets have cost literally half of what people normally pay for them because we were visiting during the winter! I mean… what better time to get away from the frigid weather to enjoy a tropical escape? We’ve visited Florida, Hawaii, New York City, Germany, Italy, Austria, and London during the winter and they were all such memorable trips that we were able to save money on because we weren’t there during tourist season. Now, I understand that most families travel during summer or school break because that’s when the kids are off from school. But to be honest, I think I probably missed at least 10 weeks of school during middle through high school traveling during the off season! Our senior year of high school we missed a week of classes to go on a cruise with Justin’s family… no regrets. (I should also add that I graduated Summa Cum Laude, so it’s not like my grades suffered because of this!) Just give it a try next year. Break the mold and go on a weeklong vacation in February (just not around Valentine’s Day). My plane ticket to Hawaii last March (purchased during an Alaska Airlines deal in late January) cost just $500 ROUNDTRIP and that ticket is usually at least $1,000. Winter is the time to go!! :)
So, in conclusion… if you can stay for free where you go, that’s the most ideal situation because it will save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars! If you can drive rather than fly, that’s a huge money saver as well. And if you’re able to go in the off season (whenever that is for your destination), go then! The resources I listed for accomodations if you don’t have a place to stay will be game changers! You’ll never stay in a hotel again!! And the airfare websites are incredibly helpful. There are so many more ways to save while traveling, but we’ve just come to discover that these are the most helpful factors for us! I’m sure things are going to change a little bit once we’re married, but we know we’ll always be passionate about using our spending money on experiences over material posessions (read the book Happy Money for more), so we’re pretty confident traveling will always be a big part of our life together :) I hope this blog post was helpful… wishing you fun and adventurous travels in your very near future!! :)