Make Your Big Travel Dreams Reality
I am here to tell you that you can Make Your Big Travel Dreams a Reality.
We love to travel, and travel big! I had this wild idea that I wanted to go on a family vacation to Europe for a month last summer. Our kids were 6 and 7 at the purposed time of travel, so my husband thought I was nuts. Who has the money to travel around Europe for a month, let alone pay for a family of 4? Anyone can if you plan! I know, hear me out… I never use a travel agent when I am planning. It is totally fine if you do, but part of the fun for me is the hunt for the bargains. Keep reading for my list of tips and you can always go to our resources.
Determine your Budget
The most important of any trip is to set up a budget and have a separate travel account. Here is a breakdown of estimated percentages of costs:
- Lodging – 40-50%
- Food – 20-25%
- Transportation – 20-25%
- Entertainment – 15-20%
- Miscellaneous – 5-10%
Add up estimates of your costs and figure out how many payrolls you have till your trip. Put X amount of money per paycheck in this account. Don’t touch it till takeoff. If you can, have a travel account even if you have no travel plans where you can put extra in. You will have quite a start when you decide to start planning.
Once you have your budget, you can start planning!
Where are we going?
Let’s say you are interested in going to London. Did you know that the fees to fly to London Heathrow are some of the highest fees in Europe? Check out other airports that are near and take a train to your final destination.
Tip if flying to the UK: Gatwick is about a 45-minute train ride outside of London. It is less crowded and the flights are usually a quarter to half the cost. If you are not stuck on flying into a particular airport, be sure to search nearby cities. In fact, you may find that where you land is an amazing destination and you may what to spend a day or two checking out the local area. For instance, Manchester, UK is a great airport to fly into. You have so many fabulous towns less than two hours away via train from Manchester that is great for a layover for a few days. Hint, Chester and Liverpool are close and some of our favorite cities in England.
How to Avoid Fees
It seems that every time you turn around there are fees.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Getting cash: Use ATMs with your bank card is the cheapest exchange rate. I would suggest taking out a large amount so you don’t have to have the fee for multiple small withdrawals. You can then separate your cash and only carry a small amount with you daily. This will help keep you on a budget. If you know you only have $100 to spend that is all you have to spend.
- Credit Cards: Make sure you check your credit cards before you leave home. If you don’t have a card with no foreign transaction fees you need one. I use and love our Capital One card as not only do I have no fees I earn cashback on all my transactions that I can use for future travel.
- Pack smart: When we travel we have a 2 bag checked luggage limit. I know crazy with 4 people and for an entire month, but it is possible.
- First, if you pre-pay for your baggage it is cheaper than paying at the airport when checking in for your flight.
- Also, I would suggest reserve an Airbnb/VRBO with laundry or use a local cleaner for services. It is much cheaper and less to lug around as you travel from place to place.
- We always pack a collapsible or duffle bag to bring home any breakables or extras we buy as a carryon.
Be a local
Not only is it fun to pretend, but it is also really imperative to saving.
I suggest these tips:
- Shop at local markets. Everything is negotiable. If you ask for a lower price you will find yourself surprised how much you can get for less.
- As mentioned above, use the house or local laundry. Pack some tide pods and dryer sheets so you don’t have to buy any.
- Go to the grocery store and buy your own food. Make picnics or cook yourself. It saves on going out for every meal and also lets you embrace the locals,
- Use public transportation or walk. Not only is it extremely reliable, but it is way cheaper than taxis, renting a car, or Uber. Plus, you normally meet some great locals who can give you additional tips.
- If available, reserve an Airbnb or VRBO. It is a really neat experience to live like a local. Your host should be available to share nearby restaurants and attraction options that you may not have considered. They will also know where all the local transportation options are located.
Look for Discounts and Freebies
Finding free or discounts are available for the taking.
- Ask locals as most are more than happy to share tips and talk about their city with those who ask.
- Contact or visit tourism boards as they can tell you about free museums or those you can visit for a small donation, offer discounted passes to attractions, share train schedule maps.
- WiFi is usually available at restaurants and some cities offer it as you walkabout. Again, all you have to do is ask as most require a password to log on.
- Use WhatsApp to call and text home. It is the most reliable app that I have found although there are others that work such as Facebook Messenger.
When to travel?
I start by determining when can we go? Our kids are in school, so we have to utilize our breaks accordingly to travel. We try to travel internationally at least once a year, so for us that usually means a summer trip so we have more time and do not have to rush home. The bad news is summer trips are usually the most expensive. There are ways to still save.
- If you can travel before the mad rush of European holidays and travel late in May into early June it is always cheaper.
- July and August are definitely months to avoid as the crowds are quite a bit heavier and things are usually more expensive.
- Also, any times around major holidays are crazy expensive.
- If you can fly offseason, which is mid-September to early December or January to April you will see some really awesome deals.
- Watch flights on Google Flights and Skyscanner.
- Look at a whole month and compare prices and set up alerts. When you see a good deal, book! There are definitely deals to be had.
- Don’t just book the first flight you see… you don’t have to book right away watch the fares as they do fluctuate. Tuesday and Wednesday traditionally have lower flight prices.
- If you are date flexible, fly on an off day like Tuesday or Wednesday outbound and inbound. It does save money.
- Usually, about 4-6 months prior to travel is best.
Take advantage of Stopovers
Many airlines offer free stopovers. First, let me explain what a stopover is. If you have an indirect flight you may be able to grab an extra adventure in your travels by staying in that city for 24 hours or more. I think they are awesome and well worth it if you have the time.
Here are some airlines that are currently offering free stopovers:
Iceland Air – Reykjavik
Emirates – Dubai
Japan Airlines – Tokyo & Osaka
Finnair – Helsinki
Thai Airways – Bangkok
Air China – Beijing & Shanghai
Etihad Airways- Abu Dhabi
Turkish Airlines – Istanbul
TAP – Lisbon & Porto
Air Canada – Toronto
Iberia – Madrid
Qatar Airways – Doha
Hawaiian – Honolulu
Air Tahiti Nui – Tahiti
If you are interested, contact the airline for help. Usually, they are more than willing to oblige.
Before you Travel
- Pre-pay your bills (especially the credit card you plan on using). Therefore, when you are traveling you will not have to worry about your bills, plus you can come home worry-free.
- Know your phone plan (unlocked phone or we have t-mobile). T-Mobile offers Simple Global. This plan allows for low-cost calls, free text, and 2G data in 210+ destinations.
- Download WhatsApp if you don’t already have it on your phone to use for calls and video when you tap into free WiFi.
- Get a credit card with zero foreign transaction fees. I recommend Capital One Venture cards.
- Pre-pay experiences, if you know there are things that you want to do pre-book and pay for them so it is one less thing you need to do when you arrive. It helps to make sure that you have a for sure reservation as well as you typically can save money by booking online in advance.
- Have a fluid agenda written down so you make sure you don’t miss anything on your list of must-dos. This will help you budget and ease stress once you arrive at your destination.
Know that when you arrive at your destination to take it easy the first day to help with the jet lag. Try to not sleep until it is bedtime, or a bit early, in the local time, so when you wake up in the morning you are ready to explore.
If you follow the tips, I promise that your dream trip will soon be your reality!
Enjoy your journeys!