What would you do if you won the lotto? Buy a house? Perhaps a first-class ticket around the world? I could almost guarantee one of your first steps into millionaire-land would be a trip overseas. Because in Australia, we are obsessed with travel. For some reason, our island home, thousands of miles away from our big political brothers, is the first thing we want to leave when we finish high school. And unlike the US where only 35% of the country own a passport, up to 70% of Australians have a severe case of travel fever!
However, with this obsession comes the millennial struggle of FOMO and this need to advertise our business class pyjamas on a flight to Europe for a 2-month summer vacay or our bi-annual Bali trip. In my opinion, it’s just another way to peacock their bank balance and continue the over-share of a highlight reel. The fact is, being an adult, paying a mortgage and actually saving money means that I will never be able to do that. It also reaffirms I still have a love-hate relationship with social-media-land. I’m working on it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel. Our last trip was to Bali in 2015 which ended in Ben getting severe food poisoning and our flights being cancelled for 6 consecutive days due to volcanic ash. Some would say this is a blessing, but being on standby every day hemorrhaging cash, was not fun. Not even a little bit. So, when I quit my job (Read: Fearless Female Traders blog, “I’m sorry, I’m an imposter”), moved to Perth, and spent close to 9 months unemployed – thanks to Perth’s dwindling job market – I thought our days of planning a holiday would be over forever.
Alas, it wasn’t, and New York for Christmas and New Years in 2017 was our “once-er” – a once in a life time trip that we will probably never do again. It was 2 years since our last trip and came off the back of a pretty horrendous year. Many people questioned how we could afford to do this and some judgey so-and-sos even questioned the authenticity of my blog. Whatevs, I guess I understand that. But here’s my opportunity to tell you how we did it, without credit cards, without loans and with $50K+ in the bank when we got back.
First up, tough love – In a culture where instant gratification dependencies are the norm, we now have a generation of Aussies who are taking out loans and credit cards to go on holidays. Newsflash, if you can’t afford to go on a holiday with your own money, you can’t go. Simple.
Saving for a holiday – this can be tough especially when booking a year in advance. You may tend to forget what you’re saving for and make excuses for your spending habits. For us, living on one income became our motivation to save our little backsides off, and because of this, we had fully paid for the trip (including flights, accom, activities and spending money) before we even left Australia. We didn’t need a credit card or a loan which made the trip feel like a reward.
Foreign travel cash cards – we requested travel cards from our bank about 6 months (although I would suggest doing it earlier than this) out from the trip and would put money on there each time the exchange rate would improve. Travel cards are a great saving tool but also allow you to take advantage of any positive changes in exchange rates, especially when the Aussie dollar hasn’t been doing all that well lately.
Book your flights early – We took advantage of a sale and had frequent flyer points available. If you have them, use them!
Travel in low-peak season and mid-week – If you are planning on heading to Europe for summer this might mean going in the first 2 weeks or last 2 weeks to avoid surge pricing. Travelling on a Tuesday or Wednesday is also known to be cheaper.
Have a plan – this doesn’t mean itemizing every minute of your day but knowing where you will be and for how long will help to manage the spend in each location. We decided on the activities we wanted to do ahead of time, planned out when we wanted to do them and organized our daily budget around these. While you’re away, you must stick to your daily budget!
Do your accommodation research – this nugget takes time and patience. Sorry guys. We (read: Ben) researched hotels for weeks trying to find the best deal, location and offerings. Don’t be afraid to stay in multiple accommodations either. It gives you a great opportunity to explore different areas of your destination and makes it feel like multiple holidays in one! We did a few nights in Airbnb and a few in a hotel. Where possible, try and pre-pay your accom before you go. It’s an incredible feeling to arrive knowing you have already paid it in full!
Food, glorious food – most of our daily budget was allocated to food. We wanted to spend this trip eating and drinking our way around NYC and spend less time in the shops. Been there, done that, as you all know (Read: Fearless Female Traders article for Mamamia, “Ditching the debt devil”)! We conserved money by making our breakfast in the Airbnb and buying snacks from the supermarket.
Public transport in NYC is AH-mazing, and we became very friendly with the Subway. At $2.10 a trip, we avoided taxis wherever possible. When traveling, embrace public transport as part of the experience. If you have kids, I hear they love train and bus trips…supposedly!
Free fun, yes it’s a thing! Try and find activities you can do that are free. A good place to start (thanks to a recommendation from my favourite travel-guru), is TimeOut Magazine. Literally, hundreds of things (both free and $$) to do in cities all across the world. All you have to do is subscribe to their email alerts. This was a life saver for NYC.
Fearless Female Traders