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Travelling often can quickly eat away at your bank account if you aren’t careful. Even if you’re frugal when it comes to your travel life, financial responsibilities at home can make it harder to have the best travel experiences.
Cutting back on small things at home (or replacing them with cheaper alternatives) will leave your family with more money to invest in your travel life – and who knows? Maybe you’ll have some savings left over!
Two of most common questions I get asked are “How are you able to afford this travel life?” and “How can you afford to travel so much?”. We are not rich in anyway, and we have been a one income home now for several years. Shocking right!! Yes, it is possible to travel on one income to many amazing places.
I’m going to do my very best to explain what we do and how we are able to afford our travel life as well as how we are able to afford to travel so often.
Affording Our Travel Life # 1 – 6
1. Replace Cable with Netflix
There isn’t much on cable TV that can’t be found on Netflix or Hulu. In fact, you’ll probably have more options, since Netflix and Hulu have original movies and series that you can’t find anywhere else. In 2017, the average cable subscriber spent $85 each month on their TV bill alone, while satellite dish users spent closer to $100 every month.
On the other hand, the most inclusive Netflix package costs $15.99 per month after the free trial period. Tack on Hulu for just $5.99 per month (plus $6 if you don’t want ads, but that’s the only difference in the price packages). Your savings can be put towards travel life comforts like fun activities and finer dining!
The kids and I don’t watch much TV, so Netflix and Hulu works just fine for us. It may seem hard in the beginning but after a while you’ll adjust to not having cable and you won’t miss it. Plus Netflix is also great because I can download shows for the kids to watch when we travel. And because we don’t watch much TV, the kids get a chance to enjoy the luxury of cable when we are on vacation.
2. Take Public Transportation
If you’re fortunate enough to live in an area with mass transit systems, use them! With gas prices on the rise, you’ll save tons by taking the bus or subway instead of driving everywhere.
To save even more money, try walking whenever possible. Be careful not to overuse ride-sharing apps like Uber or Lyft- those will wind up costing you more than driving yourself.
The public transportation system in Los Angeles can be iffy at times, but I’ll rather save as much as I can by taking it instead of spending money on gas.
3. Watch Your Credit Card Spending
Being mindful of your credit card spending is great financial advice for anyone, whether they travel or not. People who travel often have an extra incentive for using their credit cards sparingly, though.
If your card reaches its spending maximum (or it’s close to it), you won’t have any wiggle room during your vacation. Keep your balance-to-limit ratio in check to give you more freedom when you travel!
Credit cards have a lot of benefits and we have been able to travel more by using points and miles from our credit cards which has been a blessing. We stayed traveled to Barcelona on miles and stayed in this hotel in Puerto Vallarta on points. That’s one less travel expense.
Planning a trip and wondering how to get affordable flights? Then click the links below to read exactly how I am able to get flight deals, save on flights and more.
- How To Save Money On Flights
- How Are We Able To Travel Full Time With Kids
- How To Plan A Trip To Any Country In The World
- Best Websites To Find Cheap Flights & Error Fares
- Tips On How To Make Travel Affordable For Families
4. Don’t Eat Out
Groceries are expensive, but they’re certainly cheaper than eating at restaurants all the time! Groceries will last longer than a nice meal at a restaurant, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars a month (if you eat out enough). Save the restaurants for your vacations!
We don’t eat out at all, like ever! Unless we have away from home / on a trip with no access to a kitchen to cook. When we go out, I also make sure to pack a snack and a lunch so I don’t have to buy food.
5. Cut Back on Buying Gifts
There’s a time and a place to buy gifts for your loved ones, but let’s be honest – your elementary schooled kid does not need to show up on their last day of school with a gift for all of their friends or eight or their favorite teachers.
Gift giving often will buy you brownie points, but not buying gifts is also okay. Save buying gifts for major events that are of significance to your family. We don’t buy gifts for holidays except birthdays and even when we do buy birthday gifts we don’t spend a ton!
That alone has saved our family a lot of money. You know how kids get excited about a new toy and an hour later, they are done with it? This is the number one reason why I don’t fancy spending money on toys and things the kids don’t need.
If I really want to get it for them, I’ll buy it second hand on Offer Up, Craigslist or the Facebook Marketplace. We usually save that money and travel someplace new instead which the kids love and appreciate. Our family motto is “memories over material things.”
6. Use Coupons on Purchases
Why pay full price? Pick up the paper from your local grocery store to find great savings on things you’d normally pay full price for. Coupononing can seem daunting but once you figure it out it’ll save you a lot of money.
We only buy things when on sale, so we time our shopping and plan meals based on what food items are on sale. For deals, I use Rakuten app (previously known as Ebates) or the online extension for Google Chrome. At checkout, Rakuten will scan the web for promotional codes to apply to your purchase!
Affording Our Travel Life # 7 – 12
7. Use Groupon at Home and On Vacation
Groupon offers savings on experiences and restaurants. Not only can Groupon make your travel life cheaper, but it can save you money at home! Look for deals on local stores and restaurants, in addition to activities you might want to try on your next vacation.
8. Don’t Buy Things You Won’t Use Often
Before spending money on something that might be a waste, think of three different instances in which you’d use that item. Don’t spend money on something you’ll likely only use once! Even formal attire can be rented from websites like Rent The Runway instead of purchased to save money on clothing you’ll never wear again.
For things that we only use once a year like ski gear, I make sure to check resell sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and Offer Up to see if I can find any before purchasing them new.
9. Determine What You Need vs. What You Want
Once you have have determined the difference, buy less of the things you don’t actually need. It’s okay to treat yourself every so often, but don’t get carried away if you want to invest more in your travel life!
I have gotten this down-packed and absolutely do not buy anything that I don’t need. It is tough at first, and will be an adjustment for your family, but in the end you all will appreciate it.
This was easier for me to implement than I thought. I don’t just go to Wal-Mart or Target any more and spend hundreds of dollars on things I don’t need. Do I really need three different types of Shampoo at the same time? Do I really need all those things from Amazon? I make sure to analyze everything a few times first before I buy it.
10. Use a Savings App
Download an app like Acorns and Dosh to set aside some spare change for your next vacation! Acorns rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar, putting the difference in a savings account. Qapital is also a great app for saving money which I use often.
You can also set up monthly investments. For the best results, delete the app after setting it up and re-download it in a few months for a surprise savings fund!
I love being able to save money on every day purchases so these apps are super handy to me. Every dollar counts!
11. Downgrade Your Cell Phone Plan
If you don’t need unlimited data, don’t pay for it! Downgrade your family to a cheaper cell phone plan to save money every month. If cutting back on data is a scary concept for your family, discover local WiFi hot-spots to eliminate excuses to abuse a data plan.
It is easier to find free Wi-Fi than you think, so don’t worry about downgrading your data plan. When I’m home I make sure that I am logged on to the Wi-Fi at all times. I only use my cell phone data unless there is absolutely no Wi-Fi around.
12. Get Rid of Your Landline Phone
Nowadays, you don’t need a landline phone in your home. In 2017, 52.5% of American households did not have a landline phone, relying solely on their cell phones. Stop paying every month for an extra phone line that simply isn’t necessary anymore!
We got rid of our landline years ago and haven’t looked back since. This is such an unnecessary monthly expense for us that was easy to get rid off.
Affording Our Travel Life # 13 – 18
13. Cancel Unused Subscriptions
Sometimes, we stay subscribed to services we no longer use. See if your family is subscribed to newspapers, magazines, games, or other services that you no longer need. You might be spending money unnecessarily!
I was checking my account and found that I had been paying for a subscription to a magazine I wasn’t even reading anymore. All those little things add up.
14. Use Music Streaming Services Instead of Buying Albums
One album might cost as much as a monthly streaming service plan! Why pay the same price for 15 songs as you could for millions? Spotify Premium costs $9.99/month for an ad-free streaming experience, and Apple Music costs the same for one person or $14.99/month for a family subscription.
We have a family subscription to Spotify and that has been amazing. I have my account and my songs, my husband has his and the kids too. We can listen to music on the go and even download songs to listen to offline.
15. Skip the Movie Theater
If you already have Nefllix or Hulu, why spend money at the movie theater? Wait for the movie to come out on your favorite streaming service (or on DVD) to save on entertainment.
Even if it means you see the film a few months later, you’ll save on absurd ticket prices, popcorn, and beverages. If you absolutely have to go to the movies, then consider going in the morning for the cheaper matinee movies.
We don’t go to the movies often, however we do go once in a while. We go on days and times that are cheaper, like Wednesdays or $1 movie days. Another thing we do is buy our movie tickets from Costco which is significantly cheaper that getting it at the movie theater.
16. Follow The Sale & Travel To Wherever It is Cheap
Most families talk about the places they want to travel to, so having a bucket list of those place is quite common. Most families also make up these bucket lists without thinking of the costs of getting to these places. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a bucket list, and I love to dream of certain places however unless it gets cheaper to get there, we won’t be visiting yet.
Our family does not have a bucket list because we travel to wherever it is cheap. We’ve flown to Florida for $14, Chicago for $40 Round Trip, Morocco for $25 and Copenhagen to London for $12. We’ve taken the Greyhound Bus to Wisconsin for $20 and the Amtrak Train to San Diego.
When we took all four kids to Europe for the first time, we flew on a kids fly free deal so the kids tickets were free except for taxes and fees which wasn’t much. We travel based on deals. I will rather take twelve small trips a year than take one big expensive trip.
Traveling based on deals allows me to show my family the world and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
16. Rent Out A Room In Your Home
Renting out a room in your home or your entire home through Homeaway and VRBO is a very good option to bring down costs. This also allows you to have extra money to do whatever you need to a.k.a. travel!
Initially I thought this was odd, having people in my home. But then I realized that my vacation could be paid off and even my mortgage if we rented a room in our home or even our whole home when we traveled. So we put our home on Homeaway and VRBO and it was a success.
We had some major issues renting with Airbnb so I can’t recommend them. However the professionalism, being able to charge a deposit, and more on Homeaway and VRBO was amazing and we preferred it a lot more. We met some awesome families also and our home was very well taken care of by them each time.
17. Downsize If You Have To
If you’re spending too much in any area of your life, find a way to downsize it. If you’re eating out daily downsize how much you’re spending. If your car note is too high then downsize to a smaller car. If your car note is too high then downsize and get a smaller car.
I recently downsized my car because my car note was too high. When I initially got the car I thought that I could and wanted to pay that much. A year later, I realized that it was too expensive and that travel was more important than driving a car with a high car note, so I downsized to a much smaller car. It gets me from Point A to Point B!
Now I have no car note which means I get to keep all the money which I was spending on my car note before. Also, we only have one car as there just isn’t a need for us to have two cars.
You can also downsize your home if you are spending more than you’d like on your rent or mortgage. Get a roommate, get a shared house with family members, move to a smaller house or apartment or even better, move to a cheaper city/state/country.
I’ve really been considering moving out of Los Angeles because it is so expensive to live here and I would rather travel more than spend it on a mortgage.
The only thing keeping us in Los Angeles is the fact that Aiden acts and models and loves it so much. Moving out of Los Angeles will mean he will no longer be able to do it.
UPDATE February 2020:
We did it – we downsized!!! We sold our home and bought an RV to travel the US and become debt free. Watch my video below for more.
18. Skip the Excursions
It is common to sign up for excursions when you travel. It is a good way to see a new city with the help of a guide. Some people prefer to travel this way, and that’s okay, however every city also has lots of free things to do.
Excursions add up when traveling as a family of six. For this reason, we find very cheap to almost free tours and excursions. We learn about the area before we visit and then talk about it to the kids. Having a guide is nice, but also remember that tour guides aren’t free.
If I can get away without a tour guide or taking excursions such as horseback riding or animal encounters, then it’s a win because we get to save money that way. We do enjoy excursions and tours, however we limit it to maybe just one or two per trip versus one on each day of our trip.
Affording Our Travel Life # 19 – 24
19. Take a Cruise
Most people don’t often think about cruising as a way to vacation because they think it is expensive. However, sometimes it can be cheaper to vacation by going on a cruise. Book a cruise during off season such as when kids are in school and you’ll get the cheapest rates out there.
When you book a cruise, depending on how early you do, sometimes you have as much as a year or more to pay it off. You can make monthly payments on it up until ninety days before you cruise. Once your cruise and gratuities are paid off, and you get on that cruise ship, you have absolutely nothing to else that you are required to pay for.
On a cruise, all your food and accommodation is covered, so unless you really need to purchase a photo package, gamble in the casino or buy drinks, you won’t be spending any money when you board the ship.
We went on a Disney Cruise for Aiden’s third birthday and once the cruise was paid off, we were so excited because we knew that we wouldn’t have to spend extra money. PS: The key to booking an affordable Disney cruise like we did is to travel off season. We went in February and on a week day also. so it was significantly cheaper.
We have a Carnival Cruise planned to the Bahamas soon which is even more cheaper than a Disney Cruise. We just paid it off so I don’t have to worry about money when we go and I am excited about that.
20. Sign Up For Timeshare Presentations
A timeshare is a vacation property that is shared with others. When you purchase a timeshare, you own rights to vacation for a certain amount of time at that property. Resorts such as Book VIP offer incentives offer very highlt discounted resorts rates and incentives for people to attend timeshare presentations.
Some of these incentives include tickets to Disneyland or Disneyworld, flights and hotel stays, cruises and more. I recently attended a timeshare in Las Vegas and got a $100 gift card, 2 Disney Tickets and a cruise for two. all just for attending a 90 minute timeshare presentation.
Just make sure you know to say “No, thank you” and keep it moving. Don’t get sucked into making a purchase you aren’t ready for!
21. Go on a Short Trip
You don’t need to travel for a week or two week. You can take a short weekend trip. You can take a two or even a three day trip within your budget. Shorter trips generally tend to be cheaper.
We have taken trips as short as a day trip to Tijuana, Mexico with the kids. We also have taken two trips to Pittsburgh and we were able to do so much in that little time. The shorter the trip, the less money you spend as well as get the opportunity to visit a new place with your kids.
Traveling with kids and looking for tips, then make sure to click the links below and read more:
- Best Travel Gear For Kids
- How To Travel With Kids Internationally Alone
- Best Countries To Visit In The World With Kids
- Top Must Have Items When Traveling With Kids
- How To Keep Your Kids Entertained & Happy On Flights
- Everything You Need To Know About Traveling With A Car Seat
22. Choose Cheap Accommodation
Every traveler has something that is important to them. For some, it is accommodation and they are not willing to spend the night anywhere.
As for our family, we are not picky about where we stay. As long as it is safe and affordable, we are okay with it. We’ve stayed in a motel, hostel, hotel, all inclusive resort, vacation rental and more. We are flexible and comfortable with choosing whatever option is the most affordable, cheapest and within our budget.
23. Only Spend What You Have
It is easy to see flight tickets and get excited because a good fare has come through. It is easy to see a good sale and then splurge because it is on sale. However, do not fall in this trap. This used to be me before until I realized I was spending more than I was bringing in and so I stopped immediately!
24. Change Your Perspective of Travel
Traveling doesn’t mean getting into an airplane and going someplace fancy. Travel is as simple as experiencing something new. My favorite quote is:
All Travel Is Travel. As long as you visit someplace new, and experience something new, you have traveled.The Mom Trotter
Whether you visit a new park an hour away from home, a new children’s museum a bus ride away, a new city a train ride away, another state a road trip away, or even a short thirty minute plane ride or, one day cruise. You have traveled.
How you get there doesn’t matter, just get out and experience something new. That’s all!! So don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad about your travel experiences.
Affording Our Travel Life # 25 – 28
25. Start a Side Business
Having a side business in addition to your regular income from work, or just having a side business in general is a great way to be able to save money and have a travel life.
When I started this blog – The Mom Trotter, I had no idea that this could be a side business for me. I started it to share our family’s adventures, homeschooling, parenting, Aiden’s modeling and acting gigs, as well as share travel deals. And, before it knew it it had blossomed to so much more than just a side business and I am truly grateful for that.
Find something that you like to do and are good at, and find someone who will pay you for it. For example my sister-in-law is really good at hair and skin products and she started her own hair care line and to her surprise she has been getting so many orders already.
26. Stay Away From Student Loans
Student loans are terrible
a.k.a. the devil, and I can’t be the only person who feels this way. Unless you’re absolutely 100% sure what you want to study in college, take some time off until you figure it out.
My student loans are no joke, and to be honest, I only pay the minimum because I’m pretty sure I’m going to pay it forever
a.k.a. till I die. But really, I wish I had taken some time off before going for my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree. I may have chosen another field or maybe not even gone at all.
There are so many other ways to get an education and make a decent living in life. If you want to be a Doctor or Lawyer etc, obviously college is a must. But first, take some time to figure out what you really want to do first.
And if you have kids, make sure to start discussing these options with them not so that they too can figure it out before they graduate high school.
Another great option for young scholars heading to college is applying for grants and scholarships. Can you imagine graduating from college debt free and all the places you can travel too without worrying or stressing about your student loan?
UPDATE December 2020:
We Paid Of Our Student Loans!! My husband and I both had $40,000 and $69,510 in student loan debt respectively and we were finally able to pay it off.
27. Avoid Getting Into Credit Card Debt
Credit card debt unfortunately can make travel very difficult. Make sure you learn how to be financially savvy so that you don’t find yourself in debt of any kind.
I am speaking from experience as I have been in credit card debt myself. It makes it very hard for you to travel. I was unable to apply for any travel credit cards or get points and miles because I only had a debit card.
Of course you can travel with a debit card, however the perks of being able to build miles and points is much harder with a debit card than it is with a credit card.
Getting out of credit card debt is not easy, but it is doable. If you’d like to know how we were able to, make sure to read my post on “Easy Ways To Avoid Credit Card Debt“.
29. WHAT ARE YOU PRIORITIES?
This may seem like a crazy question to ask, but I have to ask! What are your priorities? Because travel is not a priority for some people and that is okay.
If you ask me what my priorities are, it is quite simple. As long as we have basic necessities such as shelter, food, clothes, money saved up, and funds to travel the world, I’m content!
Because travel is a top priority for us, we pay to our travel account like we do our bills. Travel is a bill, and a top priority bill for us. After our mortgage, travel is the next highest bill we pay meaning that we work hard to live below our means so that at the end of the month we can pay our bills and be fine.
Making your travel life affordable may seem difficult, but sometimes, it’s as simple as cutting out little things here and there. All these little things add up and it makes a huge difference to reexamine your spending habits and decide what is important for you.
Share with me below! What other ways do you save money to afford your travel life?
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