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Affording to travel

I saw something on another thread and it made me genuinely curious. A poster mentioned their 50 to 60 trips overseas and all I could think was, how on Earth can a person afford that?

We went to Germany last September and it took us 4 YEARS to save for ONE trip. No lie! How in the world do people do this multiple times?

I read in these forums all the time... 'Oh we've been to Italy 7 times' or, 'the first 3 times in England it rained every day' or, 'this was our 4th time to Paris' and I just want to know how in the world can people afford that??

I'm assuming retired, with a lot of disposable income, but is that really it? Or is there some secret of life that I missed along the way?

Anyway.... for those frequent travellers, how do you do it??

Posted by Miranda
Central Indiana, USA
285 posts

I live in a low cost of living area, make okay money, have no children, have money (including tax refunds) automatically transferred to my travel savings, and take a big trip every couple of years and stay about a week each time. I will also probably be paying my student loans til I die.

I am definitely on the budget end of travel and food tourism is not my thing, so I save a lot of money there.

Posted by JenC
Houston, TX
442 posts

Income can be a big part, but it is also prioritizing travel in your budget. It also helps if you have rewards miles or points. My husband travels a lot for work and gets airline miles and hotel rewards. We are often able to use the airline miles to fly business class for very little cost and use hotel points to cover some of the hotel stays. We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria in Rome for a few nights on one trip because it was completely free. Almost everyone else we talked to at the hotel was also there on points. We would never have paid the price to stay there. Some may also comment that its location was not as convenient or other issues but for us it is a tradeoff that we sometimes accept. For domestic trips where we use car rentals we also have points that often cover that expense or at least reduce it somewhat.

Posted by cala
Birmingham, AL
606 posts

First of all, perspective that I hope makes you feel a little better : anyone who can afford a trip to Europe by saving for 4 years is still better off than most of the world (and better off than me for much of my life.) So yes, this summer will be my 6th trip to Europe in the past 7 years. My husband travels constantly for his job (last year he made 2 trips to Europe in Mar and April without me because I was working and he also occasionally travels to Asia without me) so we have frequent flier miles and hotel points. My husband is Platinum on Delta and last year had to arrange his trips carefully to avoid Diamond status-he prefers to have points to carry over to the next year to maintain his Platinum. 3 of my trips were in conjunction with business trips for him, so his airfare and some of the hotels were paid by others. My husband spends a lot of time strategizing how to spend all our travel nights at Hilton brand hotels-this summer, he got us 4 nights in London for points and $100/night. I was impressed. Also a shout-out to Hilton's awards program-we can usually find a property where we want to go and premium awards members get free breakfast. Also, I pointed out to my daughter that I drive a Prius instead of a Lexus like some of her friends' parents. We almost never eat out except on trips. I color my own hair, seldom have my nails done, don't buy expensive shoes and purses (but I do have and love a Tom Bihn backpack), don't do jewelry. And, bless our hearts, we do not have season tickets to the Alabama games or own a lake house!

Posted by Cynthia
San Francisco California
17 posts
  1. Good education
  2. Good job (aka high paying).

I have a friend who is a London and Rome freak aka over 15 trips to England/Europe and has owned 4 new Corvettes. Big secret-nope other then owning a simple home for 30 yrs and has a $175,000 a yr government job. He doesn't eat out in fancy restaurants nor drinks expensive wine etc.. People can live a lot cheaper then they do, if and when they want to (over the last 15 yrs he has owned exactly 3 cell phones. Only gave up his flip phone 2 yrs ago when it died and could not be repaired).

Posted by celfan
Burlington, Vermont USA
82 posts

Obviously depends how much money you have. There are really low airfares out there, i subscribe to Scotts cheap airfares. I may have to drive a few hours, but there are plenty of cheap airfares to europe from $250 to $400 rt . I flew from Providence to Bergen Norway last year for $250 rt. Plenty of nice air bnbs everywhere for 60 usd if you look around. Enjoyed Norway but didn't eat at a restaurant once. Made meals in rental apartment and bought beer in supermarkets.

If you have the travel bug you can do it on the cheap.

Posted by Kaeleku
856 posts

By prioritizing travel over things and having two good incomes. But more of the first. Buying used, not buying at all, working more, getting paid more ...Even 20 years ago, when I made $25k a year as a journalist and my wife was still in college, I got a second job delivering pizzas. My friends at the time kind of raised an eyebrow at my dominoes uniform (beneath us college grads, apparently). Yet I saved $6000 in less than a year, which paid for a 3 month trip to Europe. That could just have easily been spent on new furniture in a single bedroom. Or not earned at all if I cared what others thought.

It's even easier now, there are also a lot of games you can play with credit cards these days.

Posted by Andrea
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
855 posts

Judy I've often thought the same thing. As far as budgeting and prioritizing expenses can get you, its nothing compared to having a high income. I am pretty sure I'm at the lower end of income of people on these boards. That said, we travel more (and further) than most we know. I remind myself that and also a great philosophy "comparison is the thief of joy".

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

It's even easier now, there are also a lot of games you can play with credit cards these days.

Trying that as well.

Posted by Continental
New York, NY
1019 posts

I can only speak for myself, Judy. I travel 2X per year (not 50-60 trips!) to Europe on leisure trips.

I travel weekly on business and have FF miles that I use to pay for leisure international airfare. So airfare is a minimal expense. Next, I travel to Europe in late October/early November and in March. I just returned from London. My next trip is to Paris in late October. Late fall/early spring are not only inexpensive times of year to travel, but also are in full swing of high culture like the ballet & the opera. Next, I typically stay in Hilton properties on my business trips so I can redeem points for free hotel nights. If there is no Hilton property or none I like. I go on boutique hotel websites and look for special deals 5-6 months in advance. You never know what you can find! I'll also look at 3rd party hotel websites like booking.com, hotwire, & priceline. When I see an inexpensive price, I go directly to the hotel's website and book with them. If I don't see that same low rate with that hotel, I email the hotel to alert them that I prefer to give them business but want that 3rd party rate. Those lower rates are typically honored by the hotel in my experience. If I can't find a good deal on those boutique hotels, I stay at Ibis properties. They are basic but impeccably clean.

I never rent a car as I prefer public transport. If I'm doing intra-European travel, I will consider low-cost airlines like EasyJet and Eurowings as well as the train. I would take the train if the trip were under 4 hours or the airfare is just too expensive. For example, I will be traveling from Paris to Dortmund in early November. Airfare is astronomical but rail fare is cheap. I will buy the rail tickets at the 90 day window from my date of rail trip for the advanced fares (which are often the lowest).

Food. If my hotel doesn't offer breakfast with the room price, I buy yoghurt, fresh fruit and local breads the night before (from a local grocery store, greenmarket) and have them for breakfast in my room the next day with the coffee or tea provided. Lunch are sandwiches made in grocery stores; they are FANTASTIC and stores often do lunch deals meaning a sandwich, fruit and bottled water at one low price. That makes the best picnic. If I decide to have my main dinner-type meal in the middle of the day, I'll have that picnic lunch for dinner! Dinner I have in small restaurants that are busy. I enjoy a glass of wine each night and usually order the house red; house wines are often much cheaper than other wines they sell by the glass. I also might order the prix-fixe meal as it gives me an opportunity to try things I wouldn't think to try at a good price.

I do splurge on one thing per trip. Typically going to a performance of the ballet, opera or theatre. I book several months in advance and can often get a lower price than doing so closer to my trip.

Hope this helps.

Posted by Cynthia
San Francisco California
17 posts

Judy-

Another method is to stress quality over quantity. As a teacher with summers off i have traveled a lot- many of those trips have melded in my mind into one and that is fine with me. In fact on my last 3 week trip to London I did NOTHING new but just spent time at my favorite places as if a local and not a tourist. That is the result of quantity. Now for quality:

My sister died young... beforehand she had health and money issues. But she saved and made 1 trip to Italy. This was well before the Internet. She planned well- using the public and local Junior College Libraries... she researched and researched, went through art history and museum books to pre-see what she wanted to see— she also gave herself time and didn't try to see 13 countries in 9 days — it was 1 country over 20 days..she went and saw what she had dreamed of seeing for decades. She talked about that trip as if it was yesterday for the remaining 10 yrs of her life. It always stayed fresh and vivid in her mind.

Posted by Mark
Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
1549 posts

That may have been me talking about my 50+ trips to Europe.

Of those, 38 were for work which cost me nothing. They mostly allowed me no sight seeing time either. 10 were Rick Steves tours. When I started prices were lower for all aspects of travel and I used miles to fly free for 8 of those trips. 1 trip was added onto a work trip, so the airfare was covered by work. The last of that group I got lucky because Lufthansa was having a sale to promote their new (at the time) flight from DEN to MUC and I paid less than $1000 for business class round trip.

I stay in lower cost hotels, B&B, and even hostels. Or I use points from my many business trips to stay at chain hotels usually at the start and end of my trips. I don't eat at fancy restaurants, but manage to find lower cost family dining that I feel gives me better local food than some of the fancy touristy restaurants. I also will buy bread, cheese, meat, and a cheep wine at the grocery I find near my hotel and have a picnic when the location and weather allow. I try to travel during the off season, but that doesn't really seem to exist any more at least not to the places I want to visit. I don't shop when I travel.

Also, it is just me I am paying for. So I have only my own expenses to worry about. I do occasionally travel with a friend who pays her own way. I am lucky to have a nice income and few expenses at home. I have basic cable, the lowest cost cell service I could find, I don't get a new car every 2 years. I am frugal, but not cheep.. Basically I owe nothing to no one. This in itself frees up a lot of funds to do what I want with.

Posted by jlkelman
385 posts

I've thought the same thing about others who travel every year (we don't) even though I have been to 11 European countries and some more than once and I'm 37. And I get asked this question a lot because I have 2 young children and my job is part time, my husband makes decent money but not outrageous and doesn't travel for work so no frequent flier miles or hotel points. My answer is always this:

Saving for travel is part of our monthly budget. We also forgo things that we really don't need so that we can put that money towards travel. Travelling means much more to us than a fancy car, new furniture (we haven't bought a single piece of furniture in our house), eating out a lot, finishing our basement, new smart phone every year etc...

We don't really have a lot of disposable income and I don't think there is a secret. That is just how we do it. And we don't travel abroad every year. Usually every 3-4.

Posted by aquamarinesteph
368 posts

This is a good question. I have been fortunate that I can now say that I've been to Italy 4 times, but - and this is a big but - I wasn't able to do this until MUCH later in life. I'm not retired, but when my father passed away the money we'd put together for his old age was no longer required for that purpose. The smart thing to do would be to invest all of it. (I invested part of it.) The rest? We travel in the here and now.

Even then, we can't travel on private jets and stay at fancy hotels while we eat 20 course meals. I plan ahead for flights. I have airline credit cards which earn me extra miles to use when I travel. We don't care if we stay in a grand hotel. In fact, the main things I want in a room are a clean bed, a clean bathroom, included free breakfast & maybe (if we're really lucky!) a unique view.

When we eat out, we don't look for ultra cheap or ultra expensive. We wander around a bit and find something that looks off the beaten path. We usually pay for one restaurant meal a day, and then the other will be something we picked up at a market or a sandwich shop. (I love European sandwich shops!!) This assumes that breakfast is included in the hotel room, of course.

And while we usually splurge for one private/guided tour on each trip, we aren't big souvenir hunters. I have returned with wine and olive oil as well as unique items that can only be found in one location. But those are the exception, rather than the rule.

Oh, and public transportation? It's your new best friend when you see a new city/country.

These money saving tips aren't because we're cheap. It's because this is how we like to travel.

Once upon a time, I cried that I would never even make it to see the Pacific Ocean. International travel was truly a luxury that no amount of scrimping would provide. I'll still never be that person who has been everywhere, but I'm okay with that. I have seen the places that mattered to me, and hopefully I can still see a few more.

Posted by JG
Centerville, OH
274 posts

To summarize so far....

Don't have kids.

Have a high-paying job but live (and apparently travel) like you're an undergrad.

Posted by andi
franktown, colorado
1143 posts

I have been blessed to have to the resources with which to travel to Europe several times. But our first trip wasn't until all three of our kids had graduated from college, were employed, out of our house, I had retired from teaching and my husband was a few months from retirement. So, we didn't exactly get an early start on our travels! Like some of the other posters, we economized at home with basics, and do the same when we travel. We eat simply, starting our day with a fairly large (usually lodging provided) breakfast and usually have our biggest meal of the day towards the end of the afternoon, snacking on grocery purchased food, wine and/or beer for a late(r) evening meal, if we are hungry. We stay mostly in small hotels or B&Bs. Our needs and wants are pretty simple!
We take advantage of all the free sites/sights (most museums in London request a donation, which we happily gave) and passes (Paris Museum pass, transit pass, etc), whatever we considered the best value. Also, we are careful "shoppers" and have the luxury to travel during off times or when the airline prices take a nose dive. Willingness to compromise between what you would like to have in a perfect world and what will still happily satisfy you in what might be a less than perfect world is sometimes necessary in order to travel frequently. It took me a while to learn that.

Posted by Suki
New York
1593 posts

We have found that once you are in Europe, you don’t have to spend all that much. We rent apartments and cottages which are less than something comprable in a resort area or city in the US. You don’t have to stay in a “must see” town that is one everyone’s travel radar.
We use miles for flights too. Since we’re retired, we stay at least a month to make the flights worthwhile.

Posted by Mira
Midwest
1498 posts

It is difficult. Living in a cheaper area of the country helps - no way could I afford it if I had to pay NY or San Francisco prices for housing.

Then it's a combination of good income and lifestyle choices that prioritize travel over other things. In our case, we live in a much cheaper, smaller, and less updated home than we could afford. Many of my peers at work move up to bigger houses or drastically remodel their homes frequently. I'm still in my small starter house from 15 years ago with "only" one and half bathrooms. And I have 2 kids. I maintain and decorate the house, but I don't do expensive things like remodel the kitchen - no granite, kitchen island, fancy appliances here. My car is old and not a great one to begin with. A paid off car and a much cheaper mortgage than possible can easily "save" 500-1000+ per month, which is more than enough for a trip.

Finally there are things like driving hours to a different airport to save $300/ticket on airfare (for four that $1200 matters!). Using frequent flier miles so one trip every few years has free flights (I get the miles from a credit card, and use it for all expenses I can to add miles). Then, of course, making the expenses on the trip as reasonable as possible.

I am very, very thankful I am able to do this. I do prioritize my life around it, but that is a choice I am lucky I can make.

Posted by Jill
Boulder, CO
1303 posts

We do the same as many of the other posters. The bottom line is we Live BELOW our means. We never buy new cars, we live in a smaller/older house than we could afford, I don't buy designer clothes, we rarely eat out etc.... We "retired" 4 years ago - a little young in our mid fifties, but my husband went back to work 6 months out of the year. We live by a budget which is not dependent on my husband's income so we use some of that for travel. It works as long as HE continues to work:). We only go to Europe every 3 or 4 years though. We usually take 1 or 2 domestic trips also and on the off years we mostly visit national parks in our RV.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2087 posts

I'm flying to Europe next month for the fifth year in a row on an award ticket. I don't get most of the miles by charging tens of thousands of dollars on my cards; instead, I get a new card at least once a year to get a new bonus, on multiple airlines. You can, too, if your credit score can handle it. Not a good choice for people who can't pay off their credit card balance every month, though.

Posted by Kaeleku
856 posts

JG, I don't think anybody said have a high-paying job but live (and apparently travel) like you're an undergrad. It's like everything else in life, relative. The key is saving more than you spend. When I didn't make a lot, I didn't spend, I still saved, and I traveled in a way commensurate with my income. Now that I make a lot, I still save. I no longer travel or live like an undergrad. And obviously kids don't help but frankly even there I call BS. Two of my friends just returned from a 3 month trip in Europe with their two kids. One parent was working remote part time, the other was furloughed and now back at work. But the reason when he got furloughed they could go travel for 3 months is the same concept - save more than you spend.

I don't want to harp on this, but there is a vast gap in many people's minds between what they want and actually need. When my neighbor makes a similar comment to me about how can we travel literally months out of the year, my eye traces over their three-year old Lexus SUV, new minivan, four or five expensive surfboards etc etc to my 12 year old beat up VW and think ... well ... right there alone is probably $100,000 in several generations of cars and toys that you bought and I didn't. My in-laws lived in America - legally - for I think three or so years. They worked as those cleaners in walmart. They worked 10 hours every day, 365 a year with no days off. They never went out. They lived with another family. And at the end of those three years they packed up and went back to Bulgaria with just under $100,000 saved. That is an extreme, extreme case but the point is saving that money was their priority.

Posted by Jessica
NM
458 posts

Kaeleku, I love stories like that. Yes an extreme case but the sentiment is shared. I was raised to turn the water off while I soaped and shampooed. My dad drove a very old car with a hole rusted through the floor, and when my brothers and I begged for a new car (as we did not want to drive that thing), he said "do you want a new car or do you want to go to college?". He then paid for state university for the 4 of us. We were middle class, but lived by need, not want.

I think the behind the scenes efforts are often hidden on these boards. I am embarrassed to say that we do live like undergrads. My husband was asked once by a dental hygienist what he does for a living. When he told her (he has a respected, professional job), she said "why do all the people with important jobs look like they're homeless". Lol

We have 3 kids, are not retired and are deep in the years of putting money away for retirement and college 529's. We fly out of an airport 6 hours away because the tickets cost half as much as our local airport, we start looking at flights 9 months ahead of traveling (and looking for lodging and everything else), we eat cheaply (as similarly to when we are home as we can), we stay in lodging - mostly apartments - that is as expensive/cheap as budget hotels in the US (and so far charming, clean and well-located), etc etc. For the 4 months preceding our trip last year we did not eat out once. Not a bagel, not a coffee, nothing. I told my kids that was the gelato budget. We ate scrambled eggs for dinner sometimes because I was tired, but I think we saved $1000. And our cars are falling apart, our house is too.

I have friends who do what Andrew H. does; get a new CC every January for the bonus points. We just got a credit card in January with points and I am kicking myself for not doing it to purchase our travels last summer, but Im hoping it will help for travel in the future.

I think once you get the bug, you learn quickly how to maximize the value for expense. And I think we are all so lucky too

Posted by Janet
Boise, ID, USA
987 posts

Same thing many others have said, especially being fortunate enough (or smart enough or lucky enough) to have no debt (we did have a mortgage which was eventually paid off). Our first trip wasn't until we were 52 and 54 years old. Our two cars are 10 and 15 years old. No children. Fly on reward miles. We can spend three weeks in Italy for $4400 - for a couple, not each! We average $80 a night in studio apartments, use only public transportation, eat a light breakfast in our apartment, a sandwich or snack for lunch (in or out), and always go out for dinner with house wine, to medium-priced places.

Posted by stan
Midwest USA
2728 posts

Judy, I dont think travel to Europe for a vacation has to be any more expensive than travel in the US for the same period of time. The main difference is the airfare to get there. Otherwise, you can eat and sleep and get around at the price point of your choosing. I dont stay at 4 star hotels and eat expensive restaurant meals 3 times a day, whether here or there. I think the success of Rick Steves' message - travel like a European - is that he showed it was possible to enjoy travel without having to spend big bucks.

Posted by slbdaisy
MN
37 posts

I NEVER thought we'd travel to Europe before we retired in our mid 60's, but I am in my very early 40's and we've already been a few times and plan on making a trip there every year for the foreseeable future. How? Dave Ramsey. Because of his program, we don't have debt. We are smart with our money. We don't have debt. We live below our means. We don't have debt. We don't try to keep up with the family down the street. We don't have debt! Our next two trips are already paid for with savings in the bank. And no, we don't eat rice and beans for lunch every day. We live very normally for our area, have a nice (paid for) home, and drive newer vehicles. I'm not bragging about this--I want others to know that it is possible to live life as you wish (which for us includes travel) and not go into debt to pay for it. When we go to Europe, we do not skimp on food, activities, tickets, or experiences. That is our time to splurge if we really want to! We'd rather have the memories of special experiences during traveling than a closet packed with clothing we don't wear or a latte every morning on the way to work. You have to decide where your priorities lie.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2087 posts

Jessica:

I have friends who do what Andrew H. does; get a new CC every January for the bonus points. We just got a credit card in January with points and I am kicking myself for not doing it to purchase our travels last summer, but Im hoping it will help for travel in the future.

If you get only one new card once a year, it's still going to take you a while to afford award tickets (assuming you are traveling as a couple - I'm a solo traveler).

If you really want to play the credit card game - and your credit can handle it, and you won't get into trouble with credit card debt, you need to get more than one card a year, probably more than one for each person. Let's say you want to go to Europe in the spring of 2019 and today have no airlines miles at all and are starting from scratch. Here's what you can do:

  1. Apply for an Alaska Airlines credit card - 30,000 bonus miles after first sign-up after $1,000 spend in three months; $100 statement credit too to offset the annual fee, if you know where to find the application link (google for it). (Alaska also has a nice companion fare option but for domestic travel only.)

  2. Apply for an American Airlines credit card - currently 50,000 miles after $2,500 spend in three months (this card offer varies though).

  3. Cancel your cards before the end of the first year so you don't pay the annual fee again. Plan to get new cards and a new award in up to two years, depending on each airline and bank's policy.

EACH PERSON should do both #1 and #2 - so a couple would get four credit cards between them. You'll need a separate frequent flyer account for each person. And make sure you spend enough to be able to meet the minimum spend to get each card's bonus miles! Charge EVERYTHING you can to these cards for three months to push it over. Worst case, buy gift cards for your favorite grocery store - I have been shopping at the same grocery store for 20 years, so I know I can buy gift cards for them and will always use them up.

If the $2,500 spend is too steep for three months (AA card), you can wait about four months and apply for a SECOND Alaska card and get the bonus again. (That seems to be their current policy anyway.) Again, both people do this.

So after a few months, each person will have 31K Alaska miles and 52.5K AA miles (or 62K Alaska miles if you got two Alaska cards instead). In any event, you ought to have the miles you need to fly overseas by October or so - enough time to book something for next spring. Use Alaska miles for one way, AA for the other.

Could be Delta or United works better for you than Alaska (who partners with AA, Condor, and others for overseas flights). Check each airline's website from your home city and see who has the best options to fly to Europe using miles. Delta uses Amex and allows you only one card and one bonus EVER in most cases, unlike Alaska. I'm not familiar with United at all anymore.

Disclaimer: getting multiple credit cards like this can really tank your credit score! Understand the consequences for YOU in that case - the interest rate on future loans may be higher, your may have trouble borrowing other money, etc. Also, I assume you are paying off your balances EVERY MONTH and not paying interest or finance charges!

Posted by k-anderson
Minneapolis
30 posts

I agree, it's surprising to me, too, but I think that 50-60 trips abroad (even with work travel rolled in) is an outlier. I for one am happy that I have a passport, and have made it across the Atlantic, because that's more than most people in the US can ever dream of doing. For some people, the next state over is a stretch; for others, even making it to the next closest big city is wishful thinking. I've been to Europe six times (granted those trips took place over 22 years), and if I compare my experience to people I know in real life, as opposed to on a forum dedicated to travel, I can see that I am beyond fortunate.

I love travel, and am now in a position to be able to take a carefully budgeted and planned trip abroad every year or two. I am going to Asia for the first time this year, and I'm not young. Would I like to have 50 trips abroad under my belt? Sure would! Maybe by the time I die, I'll rack them up. Until then, I am thanking my lucky stars for what I've seen and done. :)

Posted by James E.
USA
7492 posts

Judy, I answered it at the first post, but I will put it here too. Also, I make a good living, but not an exceptional one. It is about personal choices based on interests. In between trips I don't have much of a life thanks to the hours I work.

I invested in a couple apartments in Budapest back when they were cheap (cheaper than my used car). The income on the apartments finance the trips and I sleep for free in Budapest.. The trips are almost always 5 or 6 days someplace new and 10 or 11 days in Budapest. This has been going on 3 or 4 times a year for a dozen or so years thec10 years prior to that we managed maybe 5 trips total.

Still love Budapest as much now as the first trip. Unfortunately obligations at work have slowed me down the last few years.

Some hints. Go off season. The shoulder seasons are actually more enjoyable as there are fewer tourists and it's not so hot. For a typical Budapest trip that will save $400 a ticket.

Then I consider combining traditional Western Europe locations with Eastern Europe, but pick locations where the discount airlines go. Montenegro is stunning and much cheaper than anything comparable in Western Europe, but under $100 nonstop to a lot of Western Europe; you get the best of both worlds. Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine; all great no matter what your interests are.

Look for short term apartments rentals on the fringe of the tourist zones so you can experience the tourist sights and the real culture. You can get great apartments for under $60 in all of Central and Eastern Europe.

Avoid Tours (sorry Rick) and tour guides. Who cares if you miss a little, it's about the experience as much as anything else.

The world is so big and full of amazing things that you can shop for where you can get to cheaply, then research it and see if it speaks to you. Why else would I have gone to Ukraine! And I loved it and am returning next week. Think out of the box and explore.

Posted by Jessica
NM
458 posts

Andrew H.

Omg, Im rotflmao (rolling on the floor laughing my a** off). You should copy and paste that entire post under the "money saving tips" section.
We got a Chase Sapphire card and maybe we'll switch to a Chase Reserve at some point. Honestly, I don't think we are ambitious enough for 2-4 cards. There are 5 of us traveling, for now anyway, and Id be happy to get a couple of the tickets paid for. I haven't investigated the Chase card travel portal (or whatever its called), which I hear charges more for point-earned tickets than the tickets I have been buying, so that could make this whole operation moot. But we'll see. This is a year-by-year thing. So in the Fall, when I start exploring whether we want to try to swing a trip abroad summer 2019, Ill learn more about the utility of our credit card and maybe step up my game ;p

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2087 posts

Jessica:

Omg, Im rotflmao (rolling on the floor laughing my a** off). You should copy and paste that entire post under the "money saving tips" section.

Forgive me, Jessica, but because of the limitations of written communication, I don't quite understand what you find funny about my post.

Posted by Jessica
NM
458 posts

Im sorry. I just found funny the detail of credit card planning that is possible. It is a step or three beyond the detail I am ready to embark on, but I totally appreciate that you have figured all of that out, and that there are so many detailed strategies to make travel work for people

Posted by jlschandler
284 posts

Andrew, like you, we have friends who have been getting a couple credit cards every year for the miles and it's been a huge benefit for them. It pays for their fare to Johannesburg to visit their daughter, husband and grandchildren. Now that's what I call a "savvy traveler." It works for them.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
17399 posts

I think it takes a lot of planning and some lucky. Being retired and a good income source helps. We were both in education and the early days on realized we would never match the income of fraternity brothers who were in the private sector. So we adjusted. For the first ten years we put at least 9, sometimes 10 months of my wife's relatively small teacher's salary checks into the market. At least assistant professors made a little more. Kids came along later but we our keep our living expenses modest. Fortunately we had the summers off so when the boys were about 12 and 15 we started traveling. Sometime pretty spartan. Could write a book on some of our cost saving adventures but no one died or was arrested. Now that we are retired our income has increased substantially so we now can afford a hotel every night. It is all a matter of priorities and some long term planning.

Posted by Anita
Long Beach, California, USA
2693 posts

We are not retired but have been traveling ever since we got married in the late 80s. My husband and I aren't wealthy by any means but we have done some very intentional things that enable us to travel frequently. It's a priority for us so we have engineered our lives to make it happen. It's pretty simple.
We live well below our means, are not house poor, we don't buy stuff for the sake of buying stuff, and we drive cars that don't break the bank.
We watch the fare calendars of our favorite airlines for cheap dates, buy tickets on cyber Monday, and accumulate points through a Chase Sapphire card.
We home exchange so that we have no lodging costs in Europe and, frequently, no car rental costs.
Travel can be very affordable once you learn the shortcuts!

Posted by Laura B
San Francisco
3257 posts

Well, my money-saving strategy is that I pounce on an amazing airfare deal and THEN decide what to do there, rather than booking a tour and looking for a plane to a specific place at a specific time. (This may have been a Dave Ramsey idea.) Helps that we are retired and have no time constraints.

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

wow so many replies! I will read over everything in the next few days and ask some specific questions. But first: Who is this Dave Ramsey?

Posted by Raymond
Victorville, California, U.S.
151 posts

Hi Judy. The first thing is of course having a decent job where you make a good living but traveling really doesn't have to be all that expensive. I only started traveling 5 years ago when my daughters turned 12. Since then, we've been to Europe 3 times, Mexico, Canada, the East Coast of the US, and are going to Japan this year but I'm not a huge money maker like some people. I look for good deals on airlines, also I use airline miles from my credit card. However, you have to be smart about that because using a credit card, if you're not good at budgeting, can be bad, but if you have discipline, then you can accumulate points very fast. When my family and I travel, we don't stay at fancy places but we do shop around to find the best deal. A lot of times, we'll stay in apartments because it allows you to make food so that you may only have to go out to eat once a day. Also looking for deals within the place your at can save you lots of money. I would recommend that you watch videos on YouTube and traveling, tips on how to save money, and so many others. That's how I learned to travel, including Rick Steves Books, and find what works best for you. Good luck.

Posted by shoe
Grand Rapids, MI
338 posts

Dave Ramsey is a syndicated radio show host who teaches people how to get out of debt and how to manage their money. You can find out more at Wikipedia or see a broadcast on Youtube by searching for his name.

Another point: someone said earlier, "to summarize, don't have kids, have a higher income". I have to respectfully disagree: First, because having kids is the best thing you can do in this life. Second, If you forego Starbucks, having a newer car, newer clothes, the latest cell phone, etc., even a middle income person can make plenty of trips to Europe.

At one point I took each of my 3 kids to Europe, twice! (6 trips) I didn't have a high income, but saved as mentioned above. And when we did go, we camped, we cooked our own food or ate at foreign McDonalds, we stayed in hostels, we never took a taxi. Now they are all adults and we can go back and afford more, and we do.
It's all a matter of priorities. Would I rather have a newer car or go to Europe? I'll take the latter every time.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
2271 posts

It’s about priorities. Travel is a high priority for me and happily forgo what others feel they need.

Posted by Mira
Midwest
1498 posts

I still maintain that housing is the biggest thing. A family of 4 does not need 4 beds, 3 baths, 2500-3000 square feet (the norm in many places). If one could afford that but instead goes for 3 beds, 1-2 baths, 1500 square feet they save the difference in mortgage/taxes which is easily $1000/month in my area. 12k per year gets you pretty far with traveling! This is my way of doing it - that and a cheap car. Everything else is “normal” (I don’t eat rice and beans 350 days a year or wear rags! I go out to restaurants, buy clothes, donate to charity, enjoy my life in my cheap house).

Of course this requires the baseline of being able to afford the big house and choosing not to. Not everyone has that privilege.

Posted by Maggie
TN, USA
1351 posts

Judy,
Please do not compare yourself to anyone else.

I have taken some incredible high-end trips to all 7 continents, with multiple trips to Europe and the islands.

BUT, there is no way in the limited space here that I can fairly explain to you how I was able to make that happen, other than to say with years and years of being a workaholic, totally out of balance, not having a life. Sacrifices/trade-offs were made.....and the goal originally was not incredible high-end trips......that came from achievement of another goal. And, the hours and hours of work, not only from a very high-pressure career and then working on rental properties too many weekends during my "off" hours..........well, you get the picture.

Do I recommend that to anyone? Heck no!! Have I enjoyed my trips and have they provided a lifetime of memories? Heck yes. Are there other things that could have brought as much happiness (or more) and memories? Likely.

Again, do NOT compare yourself to anyone else. Set your own priorities in life. Decide what is important to you, decide what will make you happy in life and what trade-offs are necessary (and what tradeoffs you are willing to make) . And, often the answer to that question will change as you go about life.

Would I do things differently if I could go back 30/40 years..........yes, likely I would.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2338 posts

Well, we're far from rich, and I wouldn't have been able to travel so much in Europe if I didn't live here. Seriously, before I moved here at the age of 31, I'd only made two international trips in my life, and those were both to Mexico. We just couldn't afford to travel out of state much, because we spent so much on housing in the bay area, and were in our 20s, etc etc.

My husband makes a pretty modest Government salary, and I work extremely part-time for myself, but Uncle Sam pays for our housing and utilities, so the big barriers to European travel from where we used to live in California - airfare and so much of our money going to housing - has been eliminated.

This is really an option for almost anyone (although it helps to have a military background). Go to USAjobs.gov and see if there's anything international in your field. I mean, I have American friends living here who are DODS teachers, work in HR and finance, or IT. You don't have to have been a marine.

There are downsides - missing your family and friends back home, the long dark winters, learning another language and messing it up constantly, the lack of decent mexican food - but if you want to spend a few years living in Europe and being able to travel cheaply, it's worth considering at DoD job. There's also the State Department but uh, you might want to wait until the next administration for that.

Edit: Laura B's idea of finding the cheap flights and let that lead the trip is also something we do. I go on Skyscanner or Google flights and just see what's cheapest and if it's someplace appealing, we go.

Posted by Jennifer
Tunbridge Wells
1918 posts

There are 2 issues - firstly lifestyle, income etc. I am not in a position to comment on your position. Personally, I have no children, live well below my means, have never smoked, we don’t go out for expensive meals and one of our priorities is travel.

Being British, we have between 4 and 6 weeks paid holiday every year, which makes travel easier, as we can take our time. As I don’t have children, I can travel outside the expensive school holiday periods, which saves a fortune in accommodation and flight prices.

We don’t have loyalty programmes here in the UK the same as in the States, so we don’t feel obligated to use the same hotel chain wherever in the world we are. I never stay in hotels, preferring the much better value apartment rentals and self catering is cheaper than eating out most meals plus a washing machine for longer stays is useful. Travel offseason means you can stay places for much less money. For example, I have just returned from a month in Portugal, where the apartment rental for 4 weeks is about the same price as one week in August for the same place. Car rental is also much cheaper off season.

Posted by CL
Salem, Oregon, USA
1224 posts

Amen to the last post about not comparing yourself to anyone else. Chances are, you have co-workers or friends who are as envious of your one trip to Germany as you are of others' 50 trips. Choose what works for you and your personal situation. And it is all relative - I have a colleague who thinks I'm absolutely crazy pants for leaving town. His dream trip is to Disneyland because it is in the same time zone, a short flight, they speak English, and has food he will eat. To each their own.

As for myself, I employ many of the things listed above. I live in a lower cost town (though it's a dull spot, it certainly reduces costs on social life and activities). I don't buy new things unless necessary - I drive a 10 year old car and thrift shop for clothes. I also cook at home and pack my own lunch and don't buy coffee every day. I doggedly put extra toward my mortgage every month so my house is now paid off. I have slimmed down expenses to only necessities (no big cable package, minimal extras like Netflix). I will splurge on things, but it's not often.

I could travel more often, but I only take a "big" trip every other year, because that is what I am comfortable with financially. In the mean time, I travel locally (there's always something new nearby) and also travel in my mind - watch travel shows, read books, follow travel blogs for inspiration.

Posted by Tom_MN
Minneapolis, USA
1749 posts

Judy: I think anyone who has taken 50 non-business trips to Europe is a nutcase! Europe starts to repeat pretty quickly, and the overnight flights are killers. Anything more than 20 trips-- that person should seek counseling rather than renew their passport.

It probably doesn't cost as much as you think, and it is possible to travel very, very cheaply.

Posted by James E.
USA
7492 posts

Tom_MN, I am getting counseling. But not working. I leave again next Thursday. Is it still a business trip of I created the business to support the traveling?

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
2981 posts

My husband and I didn't do our first 'big' trip (to Europe) until 2008 - so I would have been 35. (He's 8 yrs older). We thought before going we'd be lucky to go every 5 yrs. While over there, it was - well, maybe we can get back in 3 yrs. Then after we got home, it was maybe we can go back in 2 yrs - which we did (every other year we'd go to the US or somewhere else in Canada). We've mostly stuck to that, but (not to get too political) I'm on self-imposed exile from the USA for...um...a few years. So we were able to go last year, going again in July, and hopefully next year. (So we've been over 6 times in 10 yrs up to now - 2008/10/12/14/15/17).

How? Well, I am a serious planner/budget traveler. We used to couchsurf some before the advent of airbnb. I use airbnb a lot, and try to keep our accoms to $75-110 a night (Cdn). Anything over that makes me break out in hives (tho I've gone there a few times). But I'll spend hours searching for just the right place/price, so I put the time into it. Buying train tickets ahead to get big savings. I've been able to use air miles to cut down some of our plane ticket costs for some of our trips. We don't do any big grand meals when travelling (tho with our cruddy exchange rate, that meal in London that was 35GBP = $70 CDN).

We don't eat out much at home (a few times a month). Hubby rarely buys coffee out (I don't drink it). We've never had a new car (usually 4-5 yrs old when we get one). Our credit cards are paid off in full every month, saving untold interest charges. When I wanted a new camera or boots or an iPad - I saved the money first. We don't worry about having the newest, shiniest, keeping up with the Joneses things. We don't buy a new tv just because they're on sale - our 15 yr old one works just fine. We don't go out drinking (our crutch is going to movies - but here cheap night is like $7, and we only go a lot when the summer blockbusters are out). We don't even have a smartphone (but that's because we have no friends and kids trying to get ahold of us - that's what the landline is for - so for us to pay $60 a month or more for a smartphone is not worth it).

BUT - we've also never had children, hubby paid off his education loans within a few years - oh, the 80's, when education was much cheaper. He has had a pretty good job with the same company for 30 yrs. And we were extremely lucky in 2013 when my in-laws sold their home and gave us the money to pay our mortgage off, which was the best gift ever and really gave us a leg up. (Hubby is an only child. His parents were very frugal - certainly not rich by any stretch - but they had a damn good financial advisor).

So for us, it's been a combination of really good luck (with the mortgage), life choices (no kids), not spending on things we don't need, and travelling within our means - budget (but still nice) accoms...knowing to buy tickets ahead to save money. Travelling is what I've always wanted to do, so...it's what we do.

Posted by JenC
Houston, TX
442 posts

Judy, you were given a brief explanation of who Dave Ramsey is but I was going to expound on it a little bit. My husband and I did a Dave Ramsey course (he has books but also classes in your local community called Financial Peace University) early in our marriage and we cannot say enough good things about it. It really put us on the same page financially and got us off to a great start. DR teaches you the tools and the steps to get out of debt and start building wealth. His motto is, "Live like no one else now so later you can live like no one else." One of DR tools is a debt snowball which is where you pay the minimum on all your debts with any extra going to the smallest debt so that it is paid off quickly. Once you pay that debt, the money from it rolls over to the next lowest debt amount to start paying it off. So your payments "snowball" and keep getting larger as you pay off some of your debts and you see progress.

These are his Baby Steps to Financial Freedom (https://www.daveramsey.com/baby-steps/?snid=start.steps):
Baby Step 1: $1,000 cash in a beginner emergency fund
Baby Step 2: Use the debt snowball to pay off all your debt but the house
Baby Step 3: A fully funded emergency fund of 3 to 6 months of expenses
Baby Step 4: Invest 15% of your household income into retirement
Baby Step 5: Start saving for college
Baby Step 6: Pay off your home early
Baby Step 7: Build wealth and give generously

Posted by Tom_MN
Minneapolis, USA
1749 posts

James: sounds like business or relocation to me. Many really can relocate to Europe if that's what they desperately want; better than taking 50 trips which sounds more like running away than vacationing.

Baby Step 2: Use the debt snowball to pay off all your debt but the house
Baby Step 3: A fully funded emergency fund of 3 to 6 months of expenses
Baby Step 4: Invest 15% of your household income into retirement
Baby Step 5: Start saving for college
Baby Step 6: Pay off your home early

Note that if you do these things, you will not get reasonable financial aid for your children's university, and will either pay $50,000/year for private colleges (after measly financial aid), or your children will attend state universities. "Clearing away the debt" is penalized with, "looks like you can assume a lot of debt."

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
17399 posts

Hate to ask ---- What is wrong with attending state universities???? Little bias showing??

Posted by christa
alameda, ca, usa
1486 posts

10 years ago I received a significant promotion at work, and the next year, when I was 46, I realized not only did I want to travel, but I could finally afford it. I'm now preparing for my 8th solo trip next month. I typically go for 12-14 nights, stay in 3 or 4 star hotels and pretty much do whatever I want. I'm frugal in some ways, but also love to shop a bit. It balances out.

I am single, no kids, and I typically charge my trips and have them paid off by the time I go, usually 7 months out. As others suggest, I make travel a priority--because I want to do as much as I can while I'm mobile and full of endless energy. I save money and keep an eye on where my discretionary spending is focused. My annual trip to Europe is very important to me and even if I got to go for just a week it would still be worth scrimping and saving to make it happen.

Posted by staynsavor
US
299 posts

Cancel your cards before the end of the first year so you don't pay the annual fee again. Plan to get new cards and a new award in up to two years, depending on each airline and bank's policy.

When I called to cancel such a card giving the reason that the annual fee was too high, they would offer to waive the annual fee.

After signing up for one card, I would receive invitation to get a second card with the same 50K bonus miles. After a year with the first card, I would get the second card and cancel the first one. IOW, getting 50K bonus miles every year with that card.

But I'm by no means an expert or a junkie.

https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-credit-card-churning-4147321

Posted by staynsavor
US
299 posts

Good education

Checked, decent.

Good job (aka high paying).

Checked, decent and long lasting.

The bottom line is we Live BELOW our means.

Lived within my means.

... get out of debt ...

No debt other than my home mortgage.

The key is saving more than you spend.

Saved. invested early, consistently, and conservatively with above average gain over time.

Last but not least, luck. Winning a lottery, getting stock options from Google, Amazon, etc., downsizing from a house in San Francisco, Boston, etc. when the market is hot. Not all, one will do.

Posted by Laurel
Lincoln City, OR
6771 posts

We started traveling late, after kids were long grown and gone. Now that we have the bug, we are aided by

  • lots of time as we are retired
  • making travel a priority above some other spending options
  • living well-within our means (house cost half of what we could “afford,” only one car, little debt) domestically
  • good health
  • modest pensions
  • having taken advantage of 401k-type plans and letting our investments grow
  • modest gifts to each other for birthday, Christmas, etc. as we’d rather travel

When we travel, we choose modestly priced lodgings, usually apartments, never fancy hotels (only occasionally in off-season when they are practically giving away rooms), cooking many of our dinners, and other budget strategies. We do not skimp on things we really want to do, like occasional guided tours, fun transportation like the lifts in Switzerland, etc. But we travel decidedly different than the average North American on vacation.

Posted by Laurel
Lincoln City, OR
6771 posts

By the way, home exchanges or house/pet sitting is a way to reduce travel overhead. We had many people sit for us in Italy that got a Roman vacation with a free apartment in exchange for their services. One such service is www.trustedhousesitters.com.

Posted by Ed
Houston, Texas
152 posts

We became totally debt free over 20 years ago. Raised two kids and got them both educated at state universities. We are not sophisticated investors, but we did save as much as 60% of our income annually in some years. Once the kids were on their own, we decided is was time to travel as much as possible given age and family. Currently we do about three major trips a year and some smaller ones around the USA.

Ed

Posted by Bob
Manchester, CT, USA
400 posts

I'm a big fan of a book called The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko.

The main message of the book is to live below your means and invest prudently. This allows one to indulge passions such as overseas travel.

Of course, education, hard work and luck play a role in affording travel.

Posted by traylaparks
925 posts

I'm with Frank - I graduated from a state university and haven't suffered too badly - but what do I know?

I had an epiphany in the early 90's on the Napa Valley Wine Train. I was going to buy a new car as soon as my husband and I returned from our vacation. I really wanted an expensive car - but as I sat drinking wine on the admittedly cheesy wine train, I realized that I could afford more vacations if I bought a cheaper car, and that I really liked vacations more than cars. My Geo Prizm gave me an excellent ride for 12 years, followed by an even cheaper Honda Element. The money I didn't spend on cars helped pay for 5 trips to Europe.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
2981 posts

Laurel mentioned about Xmas/birthday gifts...you could always ‘gift’ each other travel stuff. Xmas 2015 I ‘gifted’ my husband one of our airbnb stays. (Since I only work at Xmas time, most of the travel related stuff is paid for by hubby).

You could gift each other gift cards for airlines, you could get gift cards for hotel chains or things like that. If you are planning a vacation for the next year, gift a train ticket or car rental. Going to the Eiffel Tower or the colosseum? Pre-buy the tickets and gift them. Ask your parents or adult kids to gift you travel related items...I mean, do you really need a lot of the ‘stuff’ you get for Xmas/birthdays?

Posted by andi
franktown, colorado
1143 posts

Nicole-what terrific ideas....and we learned early on this also worked for my husband and me. We had arrived at the time of life where kids were educated and out on their own, we had all we "needed/wanted" and travel was the one thing together we wanted most. I am so happy to hear others do the same. Now there is only me and I do these sorts of thing for my grown up kids and teen grandchildren so we can all travel. It works beautifully for my family.

Posted by Silas Marner
133 posts

I'm with Frank and traylaparks - I also graduated from a state university. I won a State of Michigan competitive scholarship many years ago that paid my tuition as long as I maintained a certain GPA. I also won a President's Scholarship at my state university that paid for all of my incidentals (books, labs, etc.) And...that education enabled me to pursue an IT profession at the Big 3. That profession also enabled me to retire with a fabulous pension, 401K and early retirement. I wouldn't have the financial resources or time to travel without that state university. Of course, my ACT and SAT scores were also necessary. I thank my public education for enabling me to achieve those scores.

We are perfectly content in our 22-year ranch house that admittedly doesn't have the footprint of some of the 2 story monstrosities around us but it is paid off and it is actually better to be in middle in terms of property value. We were smart enough to make a large enough down payment to avoid PMI and to pay off the 15-yr mortgage in 9 years. We don't have any children and maintain decent transportation. We have splurged on our pets and I have a passion for music and electronics. We don't intend to leave our entire nest egg to nieces and nephews. We've made our best analysis of our life expectancies and are prepared for them but everything else will be spent on travel while we are able!

Posted by Carol
Martinez, CA, USA
955 posts

It seems like a lot of us have the same recipe: live below your means; save as much as possible; maintain a healthy lifestyle with few if any vices (no smoking, heavy drinking, or drug use); retire as early as possible, and hope for good luck in terms of accidents and unavoidable illnesses, financial setbacks etc. We rarely eat out when we're home and we stopped giving each other birthday and Christmas gifts decades ago. Our car is 18 years old - we could get a new one but it still looks good and runs fine; besides, we're too lazy to go out and shop for one! We have an RV that's 19 years old and the same applies.

I should also say that living below our means also applies to our travel budget. We could spend more on hotels but prefer to stay in small B&Bs, pensions, or hotels, using booking.com to select the least costly with the highest rating in the area we want to stay. We don't eat in fancy restaurants. We often ask shop keepers or workers where they eat. Asking in hotels often just gets us a recommendation for an upscale touristy restaurant. We try to travel in the off season and start looking at plane fares about one year in advance. We usually don't take tours but use information we've gathered from the internet and guide books but we do spend on experiences; a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey; an overnight trip to a Berber desert camp in Morocco; guided tours of certain palaces, etc.

It's worth remembering that we each have our own lifestyle and way of traveling. Those who may take longer to save for a trip may live differently than we do may want a different travel experience than those who are willing to spend less. If you want a certain kind of experience you may not be happy if you live/travel the way we do. So, if you want to do something differently, do; otherwise keep on with your life and be happy with whatever you choose to do!

Posted by Tom_MN
Minneapolis, USA
1749 posts

Frank: there's nothing wrong with state universities, but by marrying an East Coaster I also married private school snobbery.

Just to reiterate what's mostly been said:

  1. Watch car costs by buying reliability (new or used), I still drive a 21 year old Corolla we bought new, that amortizes to only $1.75/day (in 1996 dollars).

  2. Don't live on the West Coast or NE, the pay will not make up for the housing cost

  3. Bring lunch to work (eating out lunch is $2000/year)

  4. Don't visit bars and restaurants more than once a week.

  5. Do your own taxes by hand, and understand that most people don't understand tax brackets and the true tax break from debt (usually you get back about $0.20 in a tax break for each $1 of debt so building debt for a tax break is loco).

Posted by yosemite1
Placentia, CA
788 posts

I like to set goals. I am careful not to set them so high that I have a high likelihood of failure. Next I open up a credit union account that is only for travel. I try to make regular deposits to it. Finally, I try not to order a beverage when we go out to dinner unless it is a special occasion. You would be surprised how much money you can save by not buying a beverage with each meal.

Posted by Janet
Boise, ID, USA
987 posts

Years ago, a friend (about to retire) said, "I wish I had back every dollar I ever spent foolishly." That statement comes back to me every now and then. Maybe that's one of the "secrets of life" that the OP is looking for. At 73, I feel like I rarely spend money foolishly, but oh, I know that in earlier years I did. Like so many things, though, that's one that younger people don't particularly want to hear (or believe) from their elders.

Posted by ABlue
7 posts

There are lots of great blogs and forums out there about traveling with points and miles that have alerts on deals and credit card bonuses, as well as a lot of discussion about strategies to maximize the points you earn. Between the cost and the vacation time needed, my goal is an 8 or 9 day Europe trip once every 2-3 years. I’ve only been following points and miles blogs/forums more seriously in the last year, but was able to cover a significant portion of my airfare and hotel costs for a recent 8 day trip to the UK with points/miles. Definitely has changed my perspective on how to make more travel possible (the key, of course, being that you pay off all credit cards in full and meet the minumum spend requirements for any bonuses!).

As others have said on here, all the little things add up- I bring my lunch to work every day, rarely eat out for dinner, don’t buy coffee. I make sure I’m using whichever credit card will earn maximum points on each type of purchase, and use airline and hotel shopping portals to earn bonus points on anything I buy online (especially around holidays, they offer great bonuses for spending certain amounts of money on purchases through the shopping portal in addition to the points or miles earned per dollar). When I travel, I either have breakfast included or purchase supplies at a local grocery store, and often eat sandwiches from bakeries, grocery stores, etc. in Europe to maximize the money I can spend sightseeing instead of on food. I’ll never travel as much as the frequent travelers on here either, but I spend 6 months to a year planning each trip- the planning is almost as much fun as the trip itself, and it allows me to really maximize my time and enjoyment when on the trip. So to each their own- save and strategize for the trip that you want, and then go enjoy it!

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

Thank you to all who took the time to answer my question. So many things I would like to address, but first:

"comparison is the thief of joy".

THIS. ^^^^

I gave that same advice to a friend a while ago. And it's true. So thanks for that! So many comments made, so I will try to reply as best as I can.

Good Education
Good job

That's really what it all boils down to... and unfortunately for me, I have no education at all, (other than a high school diploma) a dead end job that gives me zero benefits, and a poverty level wage. I guess it's the perfect storm. Thank God my husband does quite well.

A lot of posters mentioned business travel and frequent flyer miles. This past trip we took, was the first trip I have been on in 20 years, as well as the first plane trip in 20 years.. So, that is against me too. No points or miles, it was all cash paid. We definitely didn't travel first class, we stayed in small B&B's and ate picnic style lunches and inexpensive dinners. We did rent a car for a week but I have to say it was quite inexpensive. And I would do it again, I loved the freedom. No souvenirs except a few (VERY) small items. I did buy some beer steins and had them shipped back, but the money we spent on them, was separate from the 'trip fund.'

And as for the Dave Ramsay philosophy:

Baby Step 1: $1,000 cash in a beginner emergency fund

Baby Step 2: Use the debt snowball to pay off all your debt but the house

Baby Step 3: A fully funded emergency fund of 3 to 6 months of expenses

Baby Step 4: Invest 15% of your household income into retirement

Baby Step 5: Start saving for college

Baby Step 6: Pay off your home early

Baby Step 7: Build wealth and give generously

Step 1-- Check!

Step 2-- No debt whatsoever except a mortgage

Step 3-- Check!

Step 4-- Not 15% but we make regular deposits into the retirement funds

Step 5-- No kids so no saving for college is necessary

Step 6-- In the process of doing that as we speak... our 30-yr mortgage will be paid in 21 years. Not as impressive as others, but still 9 years early.

Step 7-- Trying!! Lol

We drive 14 and 7 year old cars, and my husband has an 11 year old motorcycle. Both of our credit scores are well above 800 and what we have, we manage as well as possible. We very rarely go out to eat, and we don't smoke or drink. We always bring a bagged lunch to work. We sat on the same furniture for 28 years, until it just became 'un-sittable' and we had to buy new. I never get manicures, as another posted noted. We are 'make do' people. Maybe not as much as others here, but we don't splash out on everything we see. Much of our social life revolves around charity motorcycle rides and other events. We do like the occasional concert, and I have to admit that I buy what we need, if possible.

So maybe we are on the right track after all. Aside from my dead end job and horrendous pay, we really don't seem to do too many things differently than anybody else here. It just takes us longer. I will keep on plugging away!!!

Posted by selkie
649 posts

I also play the points & miles game. For last year's UK trip, the plane tickets were award ones rather than paid and I covered 12 of 15 hotel nights with IHG/Holiday Inn points and some Le Club Accor vouchers.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
8810 posts

Before the month is out I'll be going on my 24th (non-business) trip to Europe, flying Oakland to London Gatwick, then to the continent by EuroStar, another solo trip. I have a few of the outlines already planned for next summer's trip to Europe, the 25th one.

In terms of affording the expenses, planning and researching are very important as well as one's own travel style. I fly only Economy, I know the seat is a sardine can, just put up with it for 10 to 11 hours. Upon landing I am all right, since I can count on sleeping on the plane, the amount depends on the particular flight over.

I know I can spend even less if I choose to stay primarily, if not exclusively, in hostels (dorm rooms), university dorms such as those available at the London School of Economics instead of staying at a B&B. Since I don't do that, I end up spending more. Now I still resort to staying in a hostel, usually once on twice on a trip but not on the last two trips. I take night trains whenever that can fit into the itinerary, not only to add another day but to save on the hotel costs.

Since my "drinking days" are basically over, I save on that expense to be spent on something else. I don't buy souvenirs except for postcards. On every trip there are a few times I do the dinner picnic in the hotel room, a good number of meals I have at the train stations. On food I don't rack up that much of an expense, even with the occasional splurge, say in Berlin or Paris.

Posted by Maggie
TN, USA
1351 posts

Judy,
A college degree does not guarantee success. You absolutely can absolutely succeed in life without that degree. You may have to work harder/smarter than others, but you absolutely can succeed and enjoy much more success than the typical college graduate. Do NOT limit yourself.

If you carry yourself with the true belief that you can accomplish anything, you WILL accomplish anything you decide to accomplish. Analyze yourself (strengths/weaknesses) and gain any extra knowledge you need to do what you want to do.

If you are in a dead-end job that you do not enjoy, then find another one. Or, seek special projects at your current job (if there are opportunities for those) to SHOW what you can do (outside of your regular duties). If you enjoy your job, then no reason to find another one. It's all a matter of setting priorities, and there are trade-offs at every corner.

NEVER think "never," only think "how" and "when."

I know....been there, done that :)

Posted by Silas Marner
133 posts

Judy, I am also a Westland resident.

The routine for my team at Ford World HQ included a walk to the cafeteria every morning where we would all socialize and bond. We all purchased Starbucks coffee which amounted to $10 a week. I saved $500+ a year by bringing my thermos to work and carrying my coffee travel mug with me on the walks. I could still be a team player yet save some money. The same was true with lunch expenses - one can save money and even eat in a more healthy manner.

Perhaps you may have collected valuable items over the years that can be auctioned on eBay. I had a mint "Meet the Supremes" (stool cover) that still had the Hudson's price tag on the plastic seal. It fetched over $1,000! Scour your family's old dishes - Fiesta Ware can fetch some money!

Another means of saving is to do my own small engine repair on lawn mowers and snow throwers. The shops are surprisingly expensive and it's not difficult to learn. My brother taught me how to do my own mortar repair on my brick house - I am now an expert tuck pointer! I learned how to repair my own bathtub faucet and saved hundreds. I was surprised how much is available now to help DIY. Of course it did help that my brother had some of the expensive tools I needed. Retirement allows me the time to learn to do things I always farmed out to others. I love putting the savings towards travel.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
2981 posts

In regards to collectible items - that did work out well for us. When my in-laws sold there home, they downsized. And...they didn't throw much away. There were some gems in there - including some of my husband's old toys - especially the GI Joe stuff. He had some that I was going to send to the local 'new to you' but I decided to try ebay instead. They were in fair shape, but not mint. He even gave one of them a shave. I got around $120 for the 3 he had...BUT...he also had a box full of GI Joe accessories. I just did some groupings and listed them. Some kind-hearted soul contacted me within an hour, told me to take them off auction, told me how to group them and that some pieces were quite rare (including a squid!). Between the stuff I sold, I got another $250 or so. He had lots of other old toys (he didn't destroy them) that prob brought in another couple hundred. I even sold an old working toaster from the 50's (maybe) for $40.

My m-in-l had a china set that was valuable - I sold the teapot alone for $300. And all the other bits and pieces brought in more. Again - they didn't need the money, so in 2014, we took my mom to Italy with us (using the proceeds from the ebay sales) and other than her airfare and any souvenirs she bought, we covered all her other expenses - food, trains, admissions, accoms. I was so glad to be able to do that for her. (My m-in-l was NOT a traveler - going an hour down the road was a hardship for her).

You may be surprised what some consider valuable. Even if you don't want to pay ebay's high seller fees, you could try your local buy/sell. I was selling some stuff for my aunt that she had packed away (and giving her the $, of course). She had some Beatles gum cards that I sold for around $200. I even sold an Elvis paperback book for $30! (And that I'd almost sent to the new to you). Old Beatles magazines - another $60 or so. BUT - I have discovered that those collectible plates from the 80/90's are sadly worth pretty much nothing. And she has so many of them - and sadly they will probably just be sent to the new to you.

Posted by csu15269
Columbus, Georgia
350 posts

How to save $9750.

We save money two ways, taking our lunch to work and rarely eating out. While my coworkers eat at the cafeteria $6 for breakfast, $10 for lunch, plus another $5 for morning and afternoon snacks. I take fruit and/or yogurt from home $3 for snacks and breakfast, then $3 for leftovers. I drink only water and coffee which is provided at work. I spend roughly $5 a day saving $15 a day, $75 a week, $3750 a year.

That is than enough to cover airfare for a family of four.

My wife used to stop at Burger King and get breakfast, $6 a day. We found something similar at the grocery store and spends $2 a day now. Saving $4 a day equals $20 a week, equals $1000 a year. She now brown bags lunch but I don't have numbers so I will leave it out.

We don't eat out. We used to eat out three times a week. One Chick Fil A for four is $28, chinese $32, and one at $40 so $100 a week is not too hard to imagine. Over a year it is $5000. There is your trip. Grand total $9750. We do go out, but it is rare.

Also, my wife and I agreed not to spend money on each for other Birthday's or Holiday's but to put it toward our trips.

We tend to take two week trips since it costs so much to get there. We look at the best airfares using Kayak Explore. Put in your home airport and then pick a time then search. We have flown into Milana and visited Switzerland, Rome, and Venice. Next trip flew into Frankfurt, visited the Rhine river valley, then Switzerland, and ended up in visiting Neuschwanstein(the Disney Castle) before heading home. Our last trip was into and out of Vienna. Just because it is inexpensive to fly there does not mean they are bad places to visit. Follow the forums to keep a tab on airfare. If you understand the transportation and area you are going to you can save money. If you book early, you can get the good inexpensive hotels.

When we began, we were not very good cooks but we have improved. You can cook at home for about 1/4 of what a meal would be a restaurant. We can make at home, Chick Fil A, Crab Bisque, Spiedino Di Mare from Carrabas, and pork chops better than any restaurant.

My wife works in a daycare and I am a technician, definitely not at the upper end of the wage scale. My coworkers are amazed at the amount I travel, I am amazed at the amount of money they throw away and then they complain about being broke.

Any questions, feel free to ask!

Posted by Mira
Midwest
1498 posts

Judy, you live in Michigan, right?

Let me share a big secret with you: TORONTO. Airfare from there is usually a ton less than Detroit. Between the fact that it’s a big market with high demand and the exchange rate, a ticket can easily be 50% less than out of Detroit or even Chicago. And often direct flights to boot. Not always, but most of the time. Price it, factor in the driving costs, and it may very well be worth the time.

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

Mira, we absolutely flew out of Toronto. We live in Windsor Ontario, but my mailing address and everything is in Westland. I sort of split my time between both places. We hopped on the VIA train and we were there in 4 hours. It was almost half as much as flying out of Detroit.

Posted by Karen
Monterey County, CA
902 posts

We've been able to travel and we just retired at 60. Here are some of the things that helped us get here (some it is just dumb luck but much is intentional and planned):
1) no credit card debt. but we buy everything possible on credit cards (unless there is an extra fee) and pay off every month to earn miles and points
2) Home is close to being paid off. We've lucked out with three different homes over the 25 years that have increased in value more than our wildest dreams. Never been house poor nor spend a lot on furniture, decoration.
3) Only 1 new car (back in mid 80's). Every other car purchased was gently used. Never more than 1 car payment at a time and never more than $320/month. We've been driving the same used cars since 2010 and 2012 and haven't had a car payment in 3 years.
4) Maxed out retirement contributions for the past 18 years
5) 15% of my paycheck went into a bank account we exclusively use for travel. As I made more, we saved more for travel.
6) No kids, just a dog(s)
7) Use miles for flights (sometimes business class). Last time we paid for plane tickets to Europe was 2007. We have enough miles now for 7 round trip economy tickets to Europe.
8) We travel economically in Europe. We don't pick the cheapest hotel room, but nor the most expensive. We splurge on food a few times, but perfectly happy picnicking for lunch or dinner. We don't spend more than $20 on souvenirs. We tend to spend less time in cities and more in smaller towns (less expensive). Never used a credit card to "finance" a vacation with debt.
9) We don't have huge wardrobes, shop at outlet malls, but buy classic quality pieces that we wear for years and years. (probably too long, but fashion is not a priority)
10) Had good paying jobs for the past 20 years and survived two economic downturns and stayed employed. Savings in our budget was as important as paying bills. Had a job where I travelled a fair amount and accumulated miles and hotel points.
11) Followed Suze Orman's philosophy of buying what you need, not what you want.
12) A severance package and small inheritance allowed us to push our retirement time line up by three years (luck) and allows us means to travel.

Posted by FastEddie
Florida
760 posts

Anyway.... for those frequent travellers, how do you do it??

I make travel a priority in my budget. I keep the same car for 10 years, get used furniture, and travel frugally (mostly). I also conserve my vacation time rather than fritter it away on a seemingly endless string of wedding invitations and graduations.

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

I also conserve my vacation time rather than fritter it away on a seemingly endless string of wedding invitations and graduations.

Oh I am the Queen of sending my regrets to most invitations! Especially to those who never bother to thank me or acknowledge prior gifts. But that's another thread. Lol.

We drive older cars, ALWAYS brown bag it, and do our own home repairs. We have sold quite a bit on eBay in the past, as well as on some local buy and sell sites.

We actually do a lot of things right, just maybe not as extreme as others. We try to have a balance between having a social life and saving. The biggest obstacle by far is my salary. It is poverty level so my husband has to pick up a lot more than if I had a better paying job. I stretch it as far as I can and I do pretty well with what I do have, but it only goes so far!! There is some room for improvement so maybe I will revisit that budget and see what I can change.

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

Lol Silas, we call that the snowball effect here. One purchase snowballs into a whole new room with all new things. I totally understand that!!

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
8810 posts

One can spend that money on traveling or one can use it to pay for counseling, that is if you believe in it. That's a priority question. I choose spending it on traveling to Europe.

Affording to travel is a matter of life and travel style priorities, what you can or cannot cope with. I have a few friends, the same age as I, no health issues, who would love to go to Europe but they won't travel in the same manner as I as their "luxury" expectations are higher. They won't stay in a dorm room in a hostel, insist on a private room en suite in a Pension or small hotel, (you pay for that, all extra expenses), won't take night trains to save on hotel costs, etc. To me they're not desperate enough to go. Putting up with a 11 hour non-stop flight from Calif (for one of them) is not really appealing to him either.

The more comfort things you want, the more you pay. Going to London depending on the flight cost in Economy is cheaper than going to New York when accommodation costs are thrown in, a B&B in Kings Cross costs less than a hotel in New York or DC where I would have to spend $200 for a somewhere decent.

Posted by Kathleen
Reston, VA, USA
669 posts

Lots of great ideas on this thread; we've followed a number of them [old cars, low mortgage, not buying stuff] to afford our trips. I just want to expand on the ideas for keeping your housing costs down. A number of years ago I joined a "hosting network"; you pay annual dues of about $60 and then you can stay at homes in the network for $20-30 per night for two people. And of course you can serve as a host, too - we just had two guests who spent a couple of nights with us as they visited DC, and this morning they left for another host farther north. We've stayed in London and Tokyo for $30 per night when other folks were paying 8-10 times that amount. We have also used two B&B networks in London: London Home to Home and At Home in London. I can't find the first one on the web, so it may have shut down. In all of these networks, you are staying in someone's home so it's not a hotel, but I enjoy the connection with our hosts. I've had some great conversations and some excellent breakfasts! PM me if you'd like more information.

Posted by Dale
Chicago
213 posts

I work a part time job from home for about 10 weeks out of the year. That's in addition to my regular 40 hour/week job.

More importantly, I do a lot of research. In the past, I used to think that the only way to have a relatively inexpensive European trip was to do the backpack and hostel route, which had no appeal to me once I was past the starving student phase in my life. All the mainstream European guidebooks seemed aimed at those who thought nothing of spending $250 US per night minimum for a hotel along with expensive lunches and dinners. Now, I understand that there are plenty of mid priced hotel rooms that are perfectly comfortable and are equivalent to where I'd stay in the USA.. There's also plenty of places to eat that are a step above fast food and picnicking, but that don't set you back a fortune.

I also agree with the above poster about avoiding unnecessary weddings/funerals/graduations. I completely agree to go if the person is close to you, but I'm also not wasting $1000 to go to a graduation of an 8th cousin twice removed than I haven't seen since he was an infant. Getting ripped off in a college town paying $200/night for a room and then having to bribe the seater at Red Lobster just to get a table isn't my idea of a good vacation.

I'm also lucky that I can live carless. Yes, my rent is eye wateringly expensive, but at least it is consistent. There's nothing worse than cancelling plans because you need to dump $2000 into a money pit of a car.

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1686 posts

Hello Judy. I appreciate you for starting this discussion topic (thread). A question that is similar to your question was posted here, in the year 2007, I think it was near the end of that year (or was it in the year 2008 ?). More than 100 persons posted replies to that. Most of those persons did not have much money. Many of those persons said what they did for accumulating money for paying for expenses for a vacation trip to Europe. Some of those persons saved money for five years, for being at Europe 12 days. And they searched for the lowest price for airline tickets for flights to (and from) Europe. And many of those persons said what they did for minimizing their expenses when they were at Europe. But that question was not to "frequent travellers". Your question is "for ... frequent travellers". Am I qualified to be a replier to your question here ? I do not know. But I did travel to Europe/Britain many times. Reading the other replies here is a pleasure for me. The reply (to your question) from Cala at Birmingham in Alabama (posted 4/19/18) is wonderful ! Thank you, Cala. Many people who traveled to Europe several times, have a low income, they do not have much money. I am one of those persons. How can a person travel to Europe if he or she does not have much money ? There are ways. I registered for the Frequent Flyer program of an airline, in the year 1986. Flying from an airport located in the state Missouri in the U.S.A., if I pay for airline tickets for four trips to Europe, I accumulate a number of Frequent Flier miles that is sufficient for getting me airline tickets for flying to Europe for free. Actually, I got the free airline tickets by paying for airline tickets for less than three trips to Europe. Some airlines gave a person credit for 5000 flight miles in the Frequent Flier program if the person acquired a credit card (Visa, or MasterCard). The person was not required to charge high expenses to that credit card. And some persons got credit for 10,000 flight miles in an airline's frequent flier program when a Credit card was acquired, and the person charged moderately high expenses to that credit card. I received flight miles credit at American Airlines (AAdvantage) every time I charged anything to my MasterCard credit card. That helped me accumulate "Frequent Flier Miles". At American Airlines it is AAdvantage miles. When I started participating in a Frequent Flier program of an airline, it was at an other airline. American Airlines acquired that airline, and my Frequent Flier miles at that other airline were transferred to the frequent flier program (AAdvantage) of American Airlines. A friend of mine here in Missouri traveled to Greece for free. He was given airline tickets for that trip, for free, because he delivered a small package from the U.S.A. to a business in Greece. His free trip was provided by the business that sent the package. And his wife went with him, for free.

Posted by FastEddie
Florida
760 posts

I forgot to mention I also supplement my income while I travel in Europe. I go to pubs and the like and sing a lot of Elton John songs - Bennie and Jets mostly - and the euros flood in for me to stop.

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

Love love LOVE Elton John!! Lol at your post.... 🤣

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

I realize I forgot to add that our saving for this trip was in Canadian dollars, which has a poorer rate of exchange than USD. So, more saving required. Plus we paid in advance, our mortgage for the month, as well as any and all bills, utilities, etc. Which meant even more saving. Lol.

Posted by Brad
Belmont Bay, VA
9943 posts

For me the summary is live below your means, prioritize travel and travel cheaply.

Now the longer version:

Living below your means is something everyone should do but seems to be hard for our consumer driven society. Don't buy the most expensive house or car you can qualify for. Instead scale down your definition of "needs". I work in downtown DC. Lunch out costs a minimum of $10 (and regularly goes over $20). Instead, I make a large meal of meat and veges on Sunday, then portion it into individual meals that I'll eat all week. It's healthy and I really don't mind eating the same thing meal after meal. A typical meal might be baked chicken and green beans - which costs about $1 a meal to make. My lunches for a month cost under $50 when I could easily spend five times that, or more, eating out.

When I was a teen a good friend used to say of his family, "Everyone has money for one luxury, our luxury is food." My personal luxury is travel (though I don't travel luxuriously). I can skip a new car, bigger house, eating out, season tickets, etc. because I would rather travel than... (fill in the blank). If travel is your top priority, you can probably find the money. I also see travel as something I will only be able to do while I'm healthy. While I maybe one of the most healthy people my age, eventually that will end, so it's a little bit of a race against time.

Travel cheaply for me means skip the luxury and live like locals do. Americans generally make pretty good money compared to most of the world. If locals can survive on their salaries, you can probably travel affordably too. If your travel is limited to top rated hotels and restaurants and your sights always come with a private tour guide, you're going to spend a lot more money. Again, I scale down my definition of needs. I'm happy with a hostel and am looking forward to camping in France this June. When I traveled with my family, we stayed at hostels, pensions, and other lower priced options. I eat the same lunches that working people eat and/or buy some picnic items from a grocery store. My splurge for dinner is under 30 euro. I even plan how to avoid toll roads in a rental car when possible. Airfare to and around Europe seems to be much cheaper than flying around the US and rental cars are cheap. In many parts of Europe, trains and public transportation are both convenient and incredibly affordable.

It's possible.

Posted by celeste
ATL, GA, USA
695 posts

The notion of buying the cheap ticket then deciding why you want to go there is not from Dave Ramsey but my other favorite cheapskate, Clark Howard. I think Clark's advice is generally more practical than Dave's - although Dave is good medicine for anyone who has a debt problem.

Education and being in the right job at the right time has definitely helped us to have the money to travel, but we also live beneath our means in a house that is paid off and driving cars that are paid off. There is not much to add to the excellent comments already made here. Everyone has to make decisions about what they spend their money on unless you're richer than Warren Buffet, and even he lives in the same modest house he has lived in since the 70s.

Posted by CFiggs
Wilmington, NC
6 posts

I took my first European trip in October of 2014, it took me about 2 years to save up for that first trip. At that point I was 31 and made the decision that I've waited way too long to travel. I had just started dating my fiancée and about a year into our relationship I brought up my desire to travel. He had never travelled either and was on board.

So, we started saving and took the trip (Munich and Paris). After that two weeks I realized that there is nothing that I buy that will make me happier than a trip like that. So, my whole mental focus on spending changed. Prior to that I was clothes shopping monthly, going to movies and out to eat every week, etc. Once I took that trip all of that changed. Any time I go to make a purchase now (outside of necessities) I think about how that money could go towards a trip... Typically that thought keeps me from making any unnecessary purchases, a good portion of my paycheck goes into my travel savings account.

Now, I will say that I was single at the time I purchased my house and therefore bought it on a very conservative budget. Since I bought the house I've had several promotions and am now in a 2 income household instead of a one income household. We don't have kids, just our lab that I consider our child! So, we do have a good amount of disposable income that I didn't have before...

Since that first trip in 2014 we've been to Budapest, Vienna, Prague (one trip December 2016), London and Paris (July of 2017). We've decided that we will do a two week trip every year and typically we can have the money for that trip saved before we take one trip. As an example, our trip this October will be to Munich, Berchtesgaden, Venice and Rome. That trip is fully paid for with the exception of our costs while there (food, tickets to sites, etc.). At this point I've got about 75% of the cost of a 2019 already in savings. I just keep putting the money in there and then when I see a good flight deal to somewhere I know that the money is saved and we can go!

So, to reiterate, to me it's all about the lifestyle we live during the rest of the year. We don't spend a lot of money on things that I see a lot of our friends spending money on. We don't go out on fancy dates every week, we don't even go to the movies but once every month or two... We normally eat at home, pack our work lunches and breakfasts... We don't hire somebody to do yard work or house cleaning or anything like that. We don't need doggy daycare or kennels for our dog. She's a 4 year old lab that is perfectly fine hanging out by herself at home during the day (she's not kenneled, she has free reign of the house) and when we do go on trips she stays with my parents, which she loves. We aren't constantly buying new furniture or re-decorating the house.

When we do actually travel, we are frugal by nature, not by necessity. Neither of us enjoy going to restaurants all that much. We both prefer grabbing something casual that we can walk around with or take back to our apartment, hotel, whatnot. We typically stop at the local markets to pick up things for breakfasts/lunches and then just grab something casual for dinner. We don't really buy souvenirs, our pictures are our souvenirs!

Last thing - keep an eye out for deals, maybe let that make your decision on where you want to go. I've seen some amazing flight deals, you just have to keep an eye on it and that's how we are going to decide on our next destination. I'm going to set a price that I want and I've written out a list of 20 places that I would like to go. If I see a flight deal for a timeframe that we can travel that hits my qualifications we are going to book it! A friend of mine recently did this and scored flights to Barcelona a month out from our tiny airport for around $450 round trip!

Posted by Janet
Boise, ID, USA
987 posts

Yes, second this last thought. We rarely see bargain fares from our home airport, but last year Delta had a sale and we got $400 RT tickets to Amsterdam. Where we were actually headed was Vienna, but who cares? We flew from Amsterdam to Vienna on KLM for about $100 each. This year, I never saw RT fares from here to Europe for less than about $1200 per person.

Posted by Paul
NYC area
2482 posts

Hi Judy,

Cutting back or allocating money for travel does help, but you can not do 2 trips or more to Europe by “brown bagging” lunch, skipping restaurant meals or going out to the movies. Having a high or very good income, that’s what gets one to Europe often. With out the high income, there’s really little savings. Little savings means no trip.

We go out to dinner about once a month. That’s $40 to $50 with tip.

That’s an average $540 a year saved. Our typical trip costs about 5k for the two of us to Germany and Austria. Do the math.

You yourself say you have a “near poverty level” income. I get it. My wife gets under $950 a month on disability. Look at last year. She took in under 11k and her out of pocket, yes out of pocket, medical bills alone were nearly 7k. That’s with a very good Medicare Advantage plan. Brown bagging it isn’t working for me. I’m not setting the world on fire in income either.

You need a better than average to high income to travel. Simple.

Paul

Posted by Tom_MN
Minneapolis, USA
1749 posts

You need a better than average to high income to travel. Simple.

Not true. If you choose to live in a high cost of living area then maybe, but if you choose not to then you don't need better than average income. As I stated previously, the pay does not make up the difference for high housing cost areas. Choose to live where there is the requirement of a lot of home debt, then maybe no, you can't travel.

There are places where average housing cost is only double annual average income, i.e. a disciplined person can pay off a house in less than 5 years. https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/03/08/the-most-and-least-affordable-places-to-buy-a-home/

Posted by Paul
NYC area
2482 posts

Not to be argumentative, but I’ve heard this before. “If you choose to live in a high...”

How many truly get to choose where they live?
Doesn’t where you were raised, where you work, where your family is, where your friends are, where you’ve become part of the community, etc. come into play?

So if I pick a place with low housing costs, I’m good to start traveling? Regardless of income or savings?

Posted by Tom_MN
Minneapolis, USA
1749 posts

Not trying to stray too far from OP, but decline of mobility in US https://www.citylab.com/equity/2017/02/american-mobility-has-declined/514310/ is a huge deal. People used to move for economic reasons, better jobs or better standard of living, now people stay put. We have Trump as president partly because rural depressed areas in WI/MI/PA are full of people who refused to relocate to areas where jobs are (and like people did from the founding of the country to 2000), and seem to want jobs to locate to them, or less likely, mining and steel mill or paper mill jobs to magically reappear.

Note that during the Iowa primaries the number one concern of business leaders wasn't taxes but labor shortages https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/29/business/economy/in-iowa-jobs-are-plentiful-but-workers-are-not.html
because Americans aren't moving to where jobs are any more.

If we hadn't paid off our house in 8 years we would not now be traveling, since no mortgage freed up 30% of take home pay.

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

8 years? Omg. We are on track to pay off our 30 year mortgage in 21 years. I should hang my head in shame. Lol.

@Paul.... I get what you mean. We very rarely go out to eat. I carry my lunch daily, as does my husband. Dialing down the thermostat, rolling pennies for God's sake, we do a lot of that. And I honestly don't know the last time we went to the movies. Decades. We just don't. So I understand what you're saying. You can't save what you don't have. It's like trying to squeeze blood out of a rock. Lol

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

Not trying to stray too far from OP, 

It's fine! Stray away! Lol. I am truly enjoying the differing points of view. And.... I have already started a dedicated travel fund. If I want something, I will find a way to have it. Maybe it takes me longer than most, but I am a very determined girl.

Posted by Paul
NYC area
2482 posts

You can’t save what you don’t have coming in, exactly. How does one pay off a house mortgage in 8 years on an average salary of say 55k a year for a family?

Posted by horsewoofie
Phoenix, AZ
280 posts

Thank you Judy for starting the topic. I have always wanted to know that too. I've been slow to jump in because I don't want to sound snarky or negative. Like you and Paul, I live on a limited income. No pensions because they are becoming a thing of the past in the private sector. My husband and I cover our daily expenses on Social Security. Our IRAs (rollovers from 401k's), cover larger annual expenses. The IRA money needs to last 20 years or until the end of life expectancy. Each year we budget the "extras" and have to prioritize the needs and wants. We are debt free and live frugally to make this work and never had kids.

When we worked, we did not have high paying jobs since Arizona is usually at the bottom of pay scales. We chose the area we want to live in in 1985 and I was able to transfer with the company I was working for. Sun and warmth are much preferable to rain and cold. Housing is cheaper than the Pacific Northwest. We were able to save and have hobbies we enjoy.

Much of our "travel" for quite a few years was visiting sick or old family members. In the '80's vacations were spend with friends houseboating at Lake Shasta. I have been to Europe twice, in 1969, student tour as a graduation present, and 1992, horseback riding tour in Ireland.

Priorities play a big part in budgeting for travel. My day to day joy of riding/caring for my horse is not something I am willing to give up. I work parttime to cover his expenses. My husband has no interest in traveling except for the occasional road trip to see friends. His parttime job covers his collector car(s) expenses (none of which run but he's working on them, three at a time).

When last's years Europe trip fell through, we went to Hawaii. Plane tickets were already paid for, We were lucky to stay with friends on Oahu for part of this trip which saved on hotel bills and it made the trip much more enjoyable. This and next year's trips are road trips to Washington state for 50th class reunions. That puts my Italy trip into 2020, unless the finances show I can pull it off next spring. This doubles back to prioritizing needs and wants if there is discretionary money.

Yes, higher paying jobs help people's bottom line budget. But not everyone has those jobs. Mean Household income in the US is about $73000, not much money for European travel after taxes and living expenses are deducted. Fortunately we earned more than the mean. If we could go back in time, we may have made better education and job choices. But there is no do-over. And no regrets.

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

I've been slow to jump in because I don't want to sound snarky or negative

No worries here! I don't mind in the least. People can beat me up all they want.... I can take it. 😁

Posted by Jazz+Travels
Chicago
2977 posts

I am 49 single working middle class person no kids working in academia (so I get a lot of time off between semesters). I just got back from Berlin yesterday for my 4th trip to Europe in the past 12 months. I for the most part fly low cost carriers Wow and Norwegian and Easy Jet and stay in hotels like Ibis and Ibis Budget. When I arrive at my destination in Europe I research beforehand and take the least expensive option to get to my hotel. At home in the USA I do not own a car and as part of my employment get free transportation in the town I live to get to work and do shopping.

Posted by Tom_MN
Minneapolis, USA
1749 posts

You can’t save what you don’t have coming in, exactly. How does one pay off a house mortgage in 8 years on an average salary of say 55k a year for a family?

That's tough, according to the IRS the average US salary of married couples filing jointly was $117,795 in 2015.

Posted by Tom_MN
Minneapolis, USA
1749 posts

No, but surprised housing in Canada tends to run higher than US, maybe it's an insulated windows/basement thing. Lot's of the US has "cheap" construction.

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

Just for S&G, I looked it up and we are #14 of the top 20 cities with the lowest cost of living in Canada, with a population over 100,000. (Yes I live in Canada) So there goes the theory of choosing to live in a more expensive area.
Lol.

Posted by Silas Marner
133 posts

Using the same USAToday article, 84% of households have an AGI less than $100,000. "Married filing jointly" is truly a subset of travelers too.

Posted by Jessica
NM
458 posts

Judy - when I search for flights, I:
A. Look early - 9+ months out. B. always look for the cheapest destination, period. and C. look for the cheapest departure airport within a geographic radius around my city that we've decided we would drive for cheap airfare. The radius extends to 13 hours driving away.

Given these parameters, I start plugging in departure and arrival airports around 9 months out from when I want to leave. I use Google flights, which gives you a "flexible dates" option, that, when you click it, pops up a calendar view, so you can see the prices for your departure and arrival cities for all dates over 2 months (and the click/scroll through months if your dates are really flexible). It is remarkable to see hundreds of dollars of difference just by day! Of course I start my algorithmic play with the airport I most hope has the cheapest flight (and for us thats a 6 hour drive away), and the airport I would prefer to fly into.
My neighbor and friend who travels frequently (and who is also from Windsor ;) ) gave me the advice "just get tp the continent". He then books flights on a domestic airline to his actual destination. The domestic european airlines can be very cheap (we got tickets from Rome to Amsterdam for $50/per). Ive seen them for less, and more. Then its a matter of flexibility, which may be the hardest part. We have more flexibility than most (at least we can shift our dates by a few days here and there). Also by looking so far out (9 months or more), you realize when prices really spike, and when they are low, and you realize how much variation there is in prices. It becomes a challenge to grab the cheapest flight, so yes, I do check through my list of cities on google flights a frequently (!) for several months (it takes probably 10 minutes total) until I find a price I will pay. It is stressful for me because i am a miser. Then I start looking for lodging, which I also obsess over and penny pinch like crazy.

In our case, we do have 3 kids, so thats 5 tickets. I have decided we will only travel if I can find a price I approve of. We have the means, and are very lucky for this, but we are also very conservative financially and so don't spend lightly. Its a penny-pinching affair for sure

Posted by Paul
NYC area
2482 posts

Tom,

I’m sure that 117k figure didn’t include a permanently disabled spouse, since 1988, taking in under 11k a year and putting out 7 k in out of pocket medical expenses.

Travel is not affordable to everyone who “cuts back” or makes it a priority.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
2981 posts

Ugh. Our crappy exchange rate doesn't help. With our Cdn dollar at about 1.80 GBP and the euro pushing I think 1.60, it makes it even harder to get a deal. Unfortunately where I am, finding cheap-ish airfare isn't easy. Both WestJet and Air Canada are charging about $1200 round trip to London for our upcoming trip. No savings to fly into gatwick. Even at the cheapest, AC still charges about $850 RT per person. So we have to try even harder to stretch our vacation dollars. You really have to watch your spending in the uk. We were contemplating going into St Pauls cathedral this trip, but with the exchange rate it was upwards of $70 for the two of us. Can't justify that.

I get slightly jealous when I see Americans getting RT flights for $400 and being able to buy the euro at whatever the rate is now. (Way less than ours!)

Posted by diveloonie
Eagle River, AK
380 posts

My husband sold the company 4 years ago. It secured our financial future. Our limitation is time. Kids in school and hubby is still working for the company he sold.
To quote Gilda Radner “It’s Always Something!!”

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
8810 posts

If one is on a budget, a shoe string budget, there are cheaper places to stay in Germany than at an Ibis as referred to above. .

Staying at Ibis in Germany is not an option for me, plenty of other cheaper choices, above all in Berlin.

Nothing wrong with Ibis, if that is the luxury level you want. I stayed at one, only once, in France.

Posted by Tom_MN
Minneapolis, USA
1749 posts

Paul: let’s get creative. If you and spouse can each get 2 credit cards:

Get the American Airlines card and 50,000 points for $2500 spend, one card each, then spend enough to get 60,000 pts each person. This will get you from NY to Oslo return from Stockholm on Finnair for $30 each way for taxes. Note that if Delta Amex is offering 50,000 that works too (sometimes they only offer 30,000, right now they are offering 60,000 for a $3000 spend which works).

Then get the Choice Hotels visa each person and spend $1000 which will get 32,000 Choice hotel points each. Do you have any domestic travel? If so you can take advantage of the stay twice get 8000 points, do that four times and that's another 32,000 pts.
Book a Clarion Hotel (16,000 pts) for 3 nights in Oslo and 3 nights in Stockholm, Clarion Hotels include breakfast, afternoon pancakes, and dinner, basically all-inclusive.

Oslo: https://www.nordicchoicehotels.com/hotels/norway/oslo/clarion-collection-hotel-savoy/
Stockholm: http://www.wellington.se/en/hotel/food_och_drink.aspx (no afternoon pancakes here)

Book a flixbus between Oslo and Stockholm for 10 euros.

There you go, for about $160 plus admissions to attractions you have a week vacation in Scandinavia.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
6661 posts

This is why many people in countries like Germany avoid buying a house. They prefer to rent and then have a lot more disposable income for travel. They also aren't stuck with college fees or high medical bills/insurance.

So, even though I am way down on the scale of average income for the US, I am still able to taken 3 trips this year. Once to the US for 2 weeks (stayed with family which is a savings), a 3 week trip walking the Camino in Portugal and Spain, and an upcoming 6 week Camino walk through Spain. (truly a cheap vacation, where costs average about 30€ per day for bed and food) Perhaps that could be a way for many people to spend time over here.
We do not own a car, and save money by not going to places like Starbucks and often buy clothing from 2nd hand stores.

Sometimes you just need to set priorities. Take your lunch, cook your own dinners instead of going out, make your own coffee in the morning, don't buy any new clothes or shoes for a year, stop buying bottles of water, ride a bike and walk instead of paying for a gym membership, stop paying for cable. It is really all those little things that add up.

Posted by celfan
Burlington, Vermont USA
82 posts

Just got an email from Scott's Cheap Airfares. Boston to Barcelona round trip non stop $268. Kills me that I can't go.

There are great deals out there if you look.

Posted by Silas Marner
133 posts

Americans in general have much less vacation time than Europeans. As an IT professional I was on call 24x7 almost permanently and basically indispensable due to shortsighted management staffing practices. It would have done me little good to rent and have more disposable income if I was unable to take sufficient time off for travel. It made more sense for me to invest the income in a home and pay for it as quickly as possible. Some would argue that the mortgage deduction is important but that also almost forces one to continue purchasing larger homes. I've had years free of mortgage payments and maximum contribution to 401k with company match. A "push ahead" pension enabled early retirement with sufficient savings and 401K for whatever travel I choose.

Renting may not always be acceptable in my experience. I attempted finding the most soundproof dwellings but could never escape the constant bass throbbing of modern music permeating my life. The smells of meat burning on barbecues infiltrated clothing and surroundings from nearby residents. I much prefer allowing my dogs out my door wall into their yard with privacy fence. I don't have to walk them in the rain or snow. I also don't have the irritating thudding from neighbor's music. Renting an individual home doesn't make financial sense in my locale.

Home ownership is often the right path in some situations.

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

Oooh! Tell me more about this Scott's airfares!

Posted by Tom_MN
Minneapolis, USA
1749 posts

Some would argue that the mortgage deduction is important

Agree and as I mentioned earlier, if you crunch your own taxes and spit out different scenarios (one with a big mortgage deduction, no mortgage deduction, moderate mortgage deduction) you will see the actual value of what mortgage debt means in tax savings, like I mentioned 20 cents on the dollar is typical so absolutely not worth it. By that I mean for every $4000 given to the bank in interest, you'll get $800 off your taxes. Even smart people (like a lawyer I know, and a schoolteacher) make dumb choices here. Also dumbfounded how many people think that if an income increase pushes you into a higher tax bracket then your ENTIRE income is subject to a higher tax bracket-- no, only the amount over the threshold is subject to the higher rate.

Posted by Paul
NYC area
2482 posts

IF it really could cost as little as $160 for a trip to Europe for 2, why would anyone pay thousands upon thousands to travel? Tom, have you paid more than $160? Why? Why would you waste so much money if you didnt have to?

Jo..."Sometimes you just need to set priorities. Take your lunch, cook your own dinners instead of going out, make your own coffee in the morning, don't buy any new clothes or shoes for a year, stop buying bottles of water, ride a bike and walk instead of paying for a gym membership, stop paying for cable. It is really all those little things that add up."

I buy most clothes from the Goodwill Store. I don't buy bottles of water. Hate the plastic. I walk a LOT. Never use a gym. I do have cable. I do bring lunch everyday. I rarely eat dinner out. Maybe a movie a couple of times a year. We havent stay in a hotel/motel (away from home) since 12/2013. Sadly I do need a car. Ive always bought low end used cars. I currently drive a 2012 Honda Fit. My previous car was a 1998 Saturn SL1.

It's income. Savings. Without those two, you can cut all you want. You're not going to Europe often, if at all.

Posted by Tom_MN
Minneapolis, USA
1749 posts

Paul: Yes, people do nearly free trips all the time https://blog.asksebby.com/free-6-600-hawaii-trip-with-the-chase-sapphire-preferred-ritz-carlton-and-hyatt-cards-af6357da0138

It's work to take free vacations, a part time job like hard core couponing but yes it is possible. You have to time the cards for when you have big spends (homeowner's insurance, or I'm currently waiting for a $4200 hospital bill), then make sure you meet the time limit and the threshold, then also make sure you have spaced out bonus points, for example the Delta Amex card requires a 7 year gap between bonus awards, others only 2 years. You can find those out online. Also have to watch for points expiration if this is a multiyear effort, Delta points don't expire, but most others do, Hilton in as little as 12 months. Careful about hotel points since some US chains are not in all of Europe (no Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Holiday Inn in Norway). The most common chains in Europe for spending US earned points are Best Western and Choice (Comfort, Quality, Clarion).

My next trip, to Scandinavia, involves 5 one ways paid for with Delta and American points +$150 in taxes total (yes, I'm splitting up the family on different planes), and 5 hotel rooms paid for with Choice hotel points. So yes I could have had a short free trip for 2 with points, but instead extended it and it's for 5 people. So the points and miles are shaving about $4000 off a trip. About half of the miles were earned by work travel, the rest by card churning.

Maybe you can only bring all this together for one trip with a lot of planning, as I said it's like a part time job.

Posted by Silas Marner
133 posts

Tom_MN, I agree with you completely. We crunched every scenario years ago with our financial advisor and we definitely achieved more with a 20% down payment, a 15 yr mortgage and doubling our payment monthly. I can't understand why people think paying PMI is acceptable and why they don't see the feasibility of 15 year mortgages. We were out from under the mortgage payment in 8 years. We spent 15 years without a mortgage payment and instead made maximum 401K contributions which also maximized the company match, invested in my company's well managed and funded pension plan, and other IRA's. Paying monthly rent was the worst option of all financially and personally I wouldn't have been able to function professionally living in a rental environment.

Posted by Jessica
NM
458 posts

Judy - Scott;s is "Scott's Cheap Flights"

If you google it, you will find a subscription* email service (*there is one version you can choose that is free) that sends emails daily about cheap flights. You will get many emails per day (I only ever signed up for the free version). But what "Scott" does is what I described to you: his story is that he was surfing websites for cheap fights and then emailing his friends about great deals, which expanded and then turned into a feee-for-service model. But, he does describe his process/algorithm, which is to cross reference a bunch of departure and arrival airports on google flights, and then use a different source - he mentions Momondo - to get an even cheaper price than google-flights offers. Because the free version of SCF will send you deals on tickets from L.A. to Bangkok (that is, often quixotic locations) vs. to London, I started searching for myself. It takes more work than just getting emails, but I get the information I want instead of the pile of deals he sends that I don't want. And the way he finds deals is also because he is looking all the time. As I mentioned, I have see a price difference in the hundreds on different days, and I have also seen prices change by the hundreds in a day. His emails say "How long will this deal last" and then answer "24-48 hours".

All that said, many people recommend that you never purchase a ticket from a third party vendor (like Momondo, Expedia, etc) because if and when things go wrong with the flight, it can be much harder to resolve if you were going through a third party. So theres that to consider.

As Tom_MN indicated, all of this deal-finding takes time, sometimes a lot. It can be a part time job, or at least a part part-time job, especially in the planning stages. I would love to manage credit cards in the way Tom describes, but I think thats more of an additional part-time job than I can handle. Then again, his point is, how bad do you want it?

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

As Tom_MN indicated, all of this deal-finding takes time, sometimes a lot. It can be a part time job, or at least a part part-time job, especially in the planning stages. I would love to manage credit cards in the way Tom describes, but I think thats more of an additional part-time job than I can handle. Then again, his point is, how bad do you want it?

Well... pretty bad actually. And, the time it takes to do the work isn't really an issue, since I'm not going to the movies, out to dinner, etc. Lol. I can squeak out some free time with no issues... my problem I guess, is not knowing HOW to do this, or WHAT to do. I have actually looked at some of these sites online, and they may as well have been in Greek. I wonder if there are classes to learn this stuff??

Posted by Paul
NYC area
2482 posts

And if you already work a part time job? See. The answer is simple. Not everyone who would like to go to Europe can or ever will. Economics. To even come up with all the details in Tom's response itself requires plenty of free time. Free time not everyone that wants to travel has. So, it's not basically "how bad do you want it". Come on. You're pandering. Face it, not everyoine can.

To be able to take 50 to 60 trips, even 2 a year, yes, being in a high paying career, not job, is key. The ones who say "you don't want it bad enough", "cut back on lunches, coffees. movies, etc" are the ones that had or have good paying careers or have decent retirement benefits, penions, and so forth. Please, don't simply say someone doesn't want it bad enough. Try to know the person's situation before making such a blanket statement.

Posted by Tom_MN
Minneapolis, USA
1749 posts

As an aside, I am getting kind of tired of the games, and nothing currently matches the huge bonuses being handed out in 2009-10 after the financial crash. A person could really get some deals then, like just one conference stay in Nashville got me 2 free nights at a Hyatt Regency in WA.

Part of my inspiration came from getting back at the huge banks that don't pay their fair share in taxes and screw over lots of people. They have laid out this way to get something back on an individual basis for those willing to jump thru hoops.

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

And if you already work a part time job?

Actually I work a full time job...

decent retirement benefits, penions, and so forth. 

Ugh... I have no benefits, pensions, insurance, etc. So it's pretty difficult...

Everybody is different, I guess!!

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
8810 posts

I agree that it is mainly setting priorities but that is not the sole reason. You would be surprised at how much you can cut back or eliminate as expenses. If you are desperate enough to go to Europe, setting stringent priorities will certainly contribute to the realisation of the trip. I have certain friends (50 and 60s) who won't go unless certain "comforts" are affordable and met. If not, they won't go. That's the main reason I won't travel with them since they won't go along with my style. They're not desperate enough.

Staying in a hostel, in a dorm room (one example here) with college age kids or other 20 somethings is for them out of the question. I say to them , "you're aren't desperate enough, make the sacrifice, you're there." No night trains, well.. then you pay for the hotel room. The bottom line the more travel "comforts" you want or insist upon as in the case of these friends, the more expenses they have which they could eliminate. One of them prefers American hotel chains, Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn, Best Western, etc...these are all 3 stars in Europe. You pay more for this comfort. In Europe I don't stay in US chains at all, certainly not in Germany.

If you are willing to give up a lot with the strict priorities, the trip is doable.

Posted by Paul
NYC area
2482 posts

We are always looking to travel low to the ground. Wait for the stale pastries to be tossed and eat out of dumpsters. Ditto for dinner. Get our drinks from fountains. Bathe in a river if possible, as we will be doing our laundry at the same time basically. Sleep in the Hauptbahnhof on benches. Or maybe the Flughofen.

We are minimalists. We don’t have many needs.

Posted by Jessica
NM
458 posts

Paul, I hope you did not think I meant "anyone can travel if they want it bad enough". There are certainly several pre-conditions that need to exist in order for travel to be possible at all. I don't think anyone is denying that, or ignoring it. Sufficient health, and sufficient mobility, for a start. Sufficient income for needs with a little left. I think what people are saying is that with the essentials in place, there are ways to strategize, plan smarter, 'game the system' - whatever you call it - that can make travel more possible. But yes, it is true, not everyone can travel, full stop. Then again, I have found great joy road-tripping around the U.S. and sleeping in tents. Europe is something we have been lucky to do 2-3 times. But if we can't, Im happy to plan my next road-trip

Posted by Maggie
TN, USA
1351 posts

Perhaps this thread is still super helpful to Judy, but I am beginning to wonder if it has not turned into something else....a bit far-fetched now and not really with as much practical, actionable info as the manner in which responses began. But, Judy is the one to judge....it was her question.

For example, who is going to bathe in the river and do their laundry that way? Huh.

Posted by Paul
NYC area
2482 posts

Ok. I was over the top on that one Maggie. All in fun. But for the day old pastries, free is for me.

Posted by Laura B
San Francisco
3257 posts

Well, not quite as extreme as Paul, but we travel thinking that "en suite" bathrooms are a luxury, not a necessity. My key to more travel today is many years of aggressively funding my 401(k) while leading a low-key life -- I still own a 1984 Volvo which was only bought when the 1970 VW became unreliable.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
8810 posts

If one had traveled in Germany in 1970s, staying in small hotels, Pensionen exclusively, you would have found that en suite bedrooms, especially in singles (EZ) would have been a rarity. Even in the 1980s having the WC/shower down the hall, am Gang, / auf der Etage, was still very common.

If you wanted en suite in a double room (DZ), you certainly would have paid extra for that additional piece of luxury, otherwise the room came with just a sink and running water (mit fließendem Wasser is how the room was described).

When asked now in Germany, I turn it down.

Posted by Kathleen
Reston, VA, USA
669 posts

I wanted to add my experience with Scott’s Cheap Flights. I knew we wanted to go to Amsterdam in March 2018 and started subscribing to the free emails last fall. I get three or four emails week, many of which I delete without even looking because the subject line tells me it’s a flight to Bangkok or lima or someplace I don’t want to go. However I was able to get a nonstop roundtrip to Amsterdam on United, my preferred airline, for under $400. So I worked for me, and I’ll keep subscribing to the free emails. If you are not choosy about where in Europe you go, you’ll have a lot of options especially if you can travel outside of the peak summer months.

Good luck and best wishes!

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
16547 posts

When asked now in Germany, I turn it down.

I, too, prefer an "en suite" bathroom, but on four occasions (11 out of ~150 nights) I have had to settle for a bathroom on the hall.

  1. It was a Christmas, and everything in town was supposedly booked. (Although when I arrived there were "Zimmer frei" signs all over, even at places that had said they were "ausgebucht".

  2. The other places in town were much more expensive and less accessible than where I booked.

  3. I booked a double room (for one) in a two bedroom chateau with en suite bathrooms. The hostess wrote me and said she had two people who wanted the room and would I mind staying at her mother-in-law's across the street. Her MIL's was an old farmhouse with the WC on the hall and the shower room on the floor below. I agreed.

  4. The tourist office booked it for me (only choice). The listing said there was a single room with a private bathroom and a double room with an en suite bathroom in the house. They lied. There was a double room and a single room and one common bathroom.

In case 1, we went to bed early so we could get up early. The couple in the other room stayed out late and slept in. We never saw them.

Case 2, there were only a few rooms on the hall. I never saw anyone else at the WC.

Case 3, there was only one other couple in the house (I saw them at breakfast). I never saw them at the WC. The shower room downstairs was huge, and you could lock it when you were in it.

Case 4, the double room was unoccupied when I was there, so I had the common bathroom to myself.

The point is, while I have avoided etagende baths, when I had to take one, it has never been an inconvenience.

BTW, the MIL's house in case 3 was great. She was about 80 yo and got up at 6 am to milk the cow. The neighbors had a herd of sheep with one goat. The goat had a bell that only rang when he ate. It rang constantly. These are the things that make traveling memorable.

Posted by Peter
Fort Nelson, Canada
231 posts

Thought I would pass along that in Canada we don't get to write off mortgage interest on a principal residence. So that sucks. But on the other hand, when you sell a principal residence all the capital gains are entirely tax free.

Posted by Tom_MN
Minneapolis, USA
1749 posts

Peter: it’s better to not have the mortgage interest deduction at all. Too many (most?) abuse it such that they become mired in debt and never build wealth, eg the truck needs new tires, so let’s take out a home equity loan (it’s deductible!) and buy a new truck! And then there are the interest-only mortgages in high cost of living cities like SF. Oh well, I’m never paying off the principal, but at least all my payment is deductible! As you can see it can literally ruin your financial life.

And ultimately there’s no savings because the deduction artificially inflates house costs by 10-15%.

Which leads to another way to save money for travel: stop refinancing and cashing out money (it’s deductible!) and pay the house or condo off.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
8810 posts

I was probably unclear above on the WC/shower question. Now, when I am asked if I want en suite or not when reserving a single (EZ) in Germany, my answer is no. I'll take the room without the facilities. Let someone else take the en suite single.

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

Thought I would pass along that in Canada we don't get to write off mortgage interest on a principal residence.

No, we don't. :(

Posted by rob in cal
Greater Sacramento
193 posts

This thread is great, covering so many favorite topics of mine, travel, paying off mortgage early, avoiding pmi, the pitfalls of the mortgage interest deduction, Dave Ramsey, Clark Howard, living frugally etc.

Anyway, for Judy I have a few ideas. I don't know you or your husbands work schedule, but I would suggest one or both of you get a part time job to supplement your current income, with the idea that all or the bulk of the money goes to a trip fund. Personally, I wouldn't suggest working much on the weekends if you both are off them right now, but maybe a couple of evenings for one or both of you. How long would it take for such a job to create enough income for another nice trip to Europe? If you 2 could earn maybe an extra 7 thousand Canadian dollars doing this every 15 months or so, combined with a little savings from your current work, I think that would be enough for a trip fairly often. If it meant two very long days every week, that would be a tradeoff of course, but with a nice payoff, seeing the trip fund grow and grow week by week.

In our case I worked what was the equivalent of an extra job on Sunday nights for about 7 years, from 1999 to 2006. (it was an extra shift at the restaurant where I am a pizza delivery driver, but I was already working there Monday thru Friday lunch and dinner shifts). The extra money brought in over those years, probably about 35 to 40k total, basically went to extra savings, which in turn meant we paid our mortgage off that much earlier, which meant we started to save that much earlier, so that long story short that 35 to 40k invested that many years ago, is worth far more today, and represents a big chunk of our total passive income producing assets. This means that today travel is something we can certainly afford to do now. And yes, pizza delivery drivers can become well off, if a) they work full time at it (or a little more than that like I was doing before), b) work at a busy place in a middle to upper middle class area where they take a fair amount of deliveries per day with decent tips, c) have a frugal wife who helps keep costs down at home, and ok I admit it get a little lucky and buy their house in 1998 in a cheaper part of California, right before housing prices took off in the big price ramp up of those years.

Anyway, in terms of your situation I would definitely recommend looking for some part time work with you and your husband agreeing that it would only go to building up the travel fund. Even if its low paying per hour, it would still start a nice build up over time. Personally, I would recommend looking into any of the tipped jobs in the restaurant industry (don't know how that works in Canada though), server, busser, food expediter, delivery driver. Good luck to you and your efforts Judy.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
4981 posts

I am sitting in a bed and breakfast in the far southwest corner of Ireland as I write this note. We came across on a repositioning cruise that cost $650 for 12 days. Our return flight from Dublin to New York area is $158 on Norwegian Air Shuttle.
When at home, we lead a quiet and frugal life seldom traveling. We only eat out once weekly and that is usually to my wife's favorite places--Krystal and Captain D--where the bill is about $4.99 each. We quit drinking beer or cocktails when in the USA, but plan on hitting the local pub tonight.
My hobby is trolling the internet for exceptional travel bargains to interesting places. We only travel when the trip is really a bargain.

Posted by juliavblake
40 posts

Hi - I did not carefully read all your many replies so someone may have mentioned this before. The three biggest expenses are the flight to Europe, the lodging, and transportation. We have traveled almost every year for the past 25 at an average cost of $3000 for 3 or 4 weeks - total for 2 people, including air. How have we done it? Exchanging homes! It's a wonderful way to travel - to live in someone else's house in Europe while they stay in yours. We also drive their car and they drive ours. As for airfare, we have not paid full fare in decades - we play the "credit card game" which others have mentioned - using cards that give us 30 to 50,000 miles or points just for signing up . Usually we have to put $3000 in 3 months on the card but we put everything on it, heat, gas, groceries, ETC. The first year the card is usually free and we drop it before the fee comes due. This has not hurt our credit score but may be different for others, and we pay off the card debt fully each month. Check out homeexchange.com and homebase holidays - the two organizations we belong too. Email me if you have question.

Posted by Gundersen
351 posts

Judy is asking how people can afford to make multiple trips over the course of many years, not how to scrimp and save for one trip by eating tinned tuna every second day of the week. As Paul NYC states, it is money and the time required to spend it.

Regarding home exchanges, it helps if you do not live near an abattoir in Dumpytown, Ohio, or a nuclear power plant in Crapsville, Ontario, which has a view to die for.

Judy, I hope you loved Germany as much as my wife and I do.

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

@ Gundersen... yes! That is exactly what I was wondering. I have enjoyed and appreciated each and every reply. I have followed every link, and learned some things.

I think Paul from NYC is correct. Funny, but correct. It takes money first and foremost. You can't save what you don't have. You can't travel around Europe with what you don't have. How and what people do to save is different for each individual. For me, it's about balance. Yes, I want to go back, BUT I also want to have somewhat of a life as well. I have started a dedicated trip fund, and it may take me 4 or 5 years to get there, but I'll do it. I am a very determined girl and I always get what I want. Lol.

I can not thank everybody enough for replying to this thread. I am loving reading the ways in which people 'make it work' for them and I'm sure there are a few things I can do as well.

One more question for you credit card churners: How on Earth can you afford the minimum spends on all these cards? Get a card, hit the minimum spend, collect the points, cancel the card, rinse and repeat. Wait, don't tell me: MONEY. Lol

Posted by Jill
Boulder, CO
1303 posts

Judy - I pay All the bills I can with my CC - including our 1500 a month health insurance premium! it's no problem making that minimum for the miles.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2087 posts

Judy, I do the same as Jill: I charge absolutely everything possible to my cards. I pay my water bill, my cell phone bill, my car and home insurance, my groceries - everything. It adds up quickly! It takes money to live, too.

Posted by Laura B
San Francisco
3257 posts

What Jill said -- the regular expenses you were going to pay anyway (utilities, insurance, medical/dental bills, groceries) get put on the new card to meet the spend limit. In order to reach a really good sign-up bonus spend it might be worth paying the 3% convenience fee to put income tax or property tax on the new card. What you DO NOT do is spend extra money just to get "free miles."

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

Hmmm.... I will have to look further into this. When I checked last, we were not able to use a CC for taxes or mortgage. Maybe it's different here...

Posted by Mira
Midwest
1498 posts

My first year using credit card miles I happened to have a roof and siding damage on my house from a storm. Covered by insurance but I paid the roofer thousands on my credit card then paid it off with the insurance money. Obviously that’s not a common occurrence but if you use the card for any necessary large expense then you hit the minimum easily. Car repairs, house stuff like when you need a new water heater, all those unpleasant expenses that come up can at least benefit you in miles.

Posted by cala
Birmingham, AL
606 posts

You can often charge college tuition on your credit card- that's good for lots of miles that you can use for travel after your kids get off your payroll!

Posted by Kaeleku
856 posts

Some good ideas here in terms of what to spend on ... health insurance is a huge one for me too, one that I am shocked they take a card for. Mortgage / rent typically doesn't work because they want their full money, which they can get from ACH or a check. Taxes you can often pay, but often they charge you a percentage or convenience charge. Utilities for me some can be paid w/card and no fees, other ones they want a fee. Which brings me to another point: Charge everything you can on the card with the exception of things where they charge you to use the card, that pretty much never makes sense. And pay it off every month.

Posted by DQ
Texas, USA
13 posts

Ok, I've read (almost) all of the posts and agree with so much of what others have said it would take hours to repeat it ... but I believe (as many others have mentioned), the three keys that allow many to travel frequently are 1) get debt free, 2) spend on need not want and 3) prioritize travel. But there is one other item I don't remember seeing mentioned ... work for an airline. I am on my second stint with a major US carrier and have been fortunate to be able to use my flight benefits to travel the US (during my first stint in the 80's and 90's, both as a single guy and then with my wife and 2 girls), then Europe these past 2 years (with an upcoming 11 day trip to Budapest and Romania over Memorial Day and then 2 weeks in New Zealand next November). I put aside a decent chunk of $$$ from every paycheck into our 'Vacation Account', along with any other additional money from my 2 outside fun jobs (bartender and casino party craps/blackjack dealer), my wife's small part-time job and any other source of income. This funds our trips without impacting the funds needed for everyday life ... and will also fund my year-long GREATWAVE (Grand Retirement Expedition Around The World AdVenture Extravaganza) trip after I retire in about 4 years.

However, while this is an incredible benefit (yes you fly (almost) free ... yes you sometimes get to fly business or first class), there is also a downside ... since we fly standby there is no guarantee we get on a flight (and getting stuck in some far away city for a day or longer is very possible ... which isn't all that bad except when you are due back at work the next day) and when I do get a seat, there is a distinct possibility it will be that dreaded middle seat in the last row that doesn't recline in front of the bathroom horror (not fun on those 10 hour flights across the Atlantic) ... but with pre-planning, flexibility (might have to jump on the bullet train from Rome to Milan in order to get on a plane home) and a little luck, it can work out. I know I am more fortunate than many others and feel I have been blessed to have this job (and my dear wife, 2 grown children I couldn't be more proud of and 2 adorable grandkids) but it can be done without working for an airline ... just stop the daily Starbucks, cut the cable cord, drive the clunker, cook at home, save save save ... then get off the couch and see the world. It's over and I'm out.

Posted by James E.
USA
7492 posts

There are still many well connected cities (especially in Central or Eastern Europe) where opportunities exist to take some of that retirement money you have been saving up and investing it in a second home for a two fold return: retirement and travel.

Of course you have to love the place you are investing in. With a little planning and research you can find a town or city that you will enjoy for a week a couple of times a year and then pair it with a new place or two each trip. There are a number of very surprising discount airline hubs, or towns with well developed train service.

I know of apartment investments that have more than doubled in less than 10 years. That appreciation is the retirement money; no different than any investment in the US. But here are the travel benefits.

If you stayed just 15 days a year (traveling from there to other new places), you could save $1500 to $3000 depending on your preference in hotels.

Then, as its a business the IRS will let you write of a part of the travel there if you are indeed doing business. I find it hard to justify more than 20% of my airfare. Three trips a year that's not quite $2000 x your tax bracket in savings, lets say $500 to $750 in real cash.

Then there is the income off the apartment when you are not using it. I treat it very much like a business and i hire a management company to make sure it is run well and legally. After the management fee and maintenance, utilities, taxes, etc, I know people who clear $3000 to $6000 a year.

So, $5000 to $10000 free for travel. When retirement time comes, sell the place and take the appreciation as the return on your investment.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2087 posts

I think there are limits to credit card spending to earn miles.

First of all, your big benefit with these airline credit cards is the initial bonus. After that, you would be best to get rid of the card at some point, get another one, and get a new bonus. Every airline and card has its own rules, some more lax than others. Amex and Delta now have a "once in a lifetime" rule. (though I got around that once somehow). Chase has a "new bonus every two years" rule plus "no more than five credit cards in twenty four months (from anyone not just chase)" rule (the "5/24" rule). BofA and Alaska AIrlines seem to have the easiest restrictions: you can just wait a few months and get a second card while you still have the first one and probably just get a new card once a year if you want.

Using a credit card isn't free - SOMEONE pays an extra fee to the credit card companies. If you are using the card at a big business like a chain store or Amazon, they pay a very small percentage, because of their volume, and the cost is built into the price. But if your roof contractor accepts credit cards, she probably pays about 3% for that. So...either she is charging you 3% more, or she'll give you a cash discount (maybe 1-2%) if you ask. If I can get a 2% cash discount, I'll take that every time- UNLESS I'm trying to earn the bonus. If I'm just charging it to earn some miles or cash back? Not worth it - I'll take the 2% discount instead.

I can't imagine paying a fee (like paying taxes) to use my card. Then basically I'm just buying miles, which I can do directly from the airline. I suppose ONLY if I had a big bonus requirement to meet in three months would I do something like this, when I couldn't meet it otherwise. But I'd never do it just to "earn some miles." Why not just buy them from the airline, even if the price is close?

I do charge just about everything on my credit cards anyway - at least when I can't get a cash discount, especially with a big corporation. But locally, I do try to support small businesses. When I go to my local pizza places, I pay in cash, because I know it saves them a tiny bit in costs. But at Starbucks? I'd never pay in cash.

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

Andrew... I have never had a Starbucks in my life! And for that matter, I have never had a cup of coffee in my life. Ever.

Posted by Donna
Kennewick
245 posts

Funny, I just told the VZ customer service person that if she was envious that we were heading to France this month and that it wasn't our first trip to France that she should "not have children, get a good paying job" and wait - I was in my 50's the first time I went to Europe.

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

Hahaha sometimes these things are easier said than done right?? 😏

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2087 posts

Judy, Starbucks is not a great habit for anyone trying to save money to travel! My point though was that if I shop somewhere that is big and corporate, I don't worry about using my credit card there, but at a small mom-and-pop business I almost always pay in cash. I buy my groceries from big national chain supermarkets - why not charge everything there? It adds up. Sometimes, if I need to meet a spending requirement to hit a bonus on one of these new cards, I buy a big gift card at a place I'm going to shop anyway, like my favorite grocery store. I know I'll use it!

Posted by horsewoofie
Phoenix, AZ
280 posts

Andrew, thank you for bringing up the credit card fees that small businesses pay. Most people are unaware that the impact can be huge to very small businesses.

I work part time, two days a week, for a small specialty retail store. The minimum credit card fee the small business merchant pays is 3%. For all those cash back and rewards cards that people like, the fee can be as high as 7%. The merchant pays those rewards, not the credit card company. The store either loses 7% off the sale or marks the merchandise up that amount. To be competitive it is almost always the former. By comparison, debit card fees run about 25¢ per transaction. While the SBA considers a business with under 500 employees a small business, most have much less. We have two and a half employees and I'm the half, open six days a week, 8 hours a day.

I'm not saying don't use your credit cards. Use them at large businesses, on the internet (which is another death knell to small retailers). I just ask that you consider the impact for the survival of small businesses.
Off my soap box now.

Posted by staynsavor
US
299 posts

All kinds of comments on being frugal and saving, but almost nothing on preserving the savings and gaining from it. Do you keep your savings under the mattress, and let inflation erode it? A prudent and consistent investment strategy with the savings can achieve a financial goal far quicker than just saving nickles and dimes and do nothing with it.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2087 posts

horsewoofie:

Andrew, thank you for bringing up the credit card fees that small businesses pay. Most people are unaware that the impact can be huge to very small businesses.

I work part time, two days a week, for a small specialty retail store. The minimum credit card fee the small business merchant pays is 3%. For all those cash back and rewards cards that people like, the fee can be as high as 7%. The merchant pays those rewards, not the credit card company. The store either loses 7% off the sale or marks the merchandise up that amount. To be competitive it is almost always the former. By comparison, debit card fees run about 25¢ per transaction. While the SBA considers a business with under 500 employees a small business, most have much less. We have two and a half employees and I'm the half, open six days a week, 8 hours a day.

I don't think that's quite accurate, horsewoofie. I am self employed and accept credit cards sometimes, too, for certain payments, and I pay the same 2.9% + 30 cents on every transaction through Paypal. The type of card the buyer uses is irrelevant to me - in fact, I don't even know what type of card they use. I find it hard to believe any merchant could afford to pay 7% for a credit card transaction.

Posted by horsewoofie
Phoenix, AZ
280 posts

Andrew, the answer maybe "through PayPal." And, yes, I may be wrong but I don't think by much. Bank processing may be more. I don't do the bookkeeping but the owner and I have talked about fees and other business costs over the years. I'm surprised you don't know what type of card your clients use. The old retailer in me looks at the card and the name on the card.

Posted by Judy OP
Westland, MI
365 posts

Lots of retailers here, both large and small, won't take American Express because they say it costs them too much. Also lots of places give cash discounts. They say it's just too expensive to accept credit cards....

Posted by celeste
ATL, GA, USA
695 posts

Anytime we make a large purchase I ask if there is a discount for paying cash v. credit card. We do a lot of home improvements (bought cheap old house that is paid off) and unless I'm buying on the internet or from the big box stores, I ask for their cash price and almost always get at least 3% knocked off. I like getting points but I'd rather have $$! And in case you were not aware, Rick Steves also gives a discount for paying cash for his tours!

Posted by Tim
Stevenson Ranch, CA, USA
191 posts

One thing that will help us afford to travel for more days: When we retire, we plan on moving from a state that continues to pass legislation for a multitude of reasons, which in turn means that every year more money is taken from my wallet. There are also a few states out there that don't tax retirement income . . .that will also help.

Aside from that future plan, same as what many have stated: no debt, lots of saving, keeping our "wants" in check. CC rewards has paid for four flights so far.

Posted by diveloonie
Eagle River, AK
380 posts

@Tim-California is the most expensive state to live in in the US. Yes, google it.........definately get out if you can!

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
8810 posts

I had Starbucks once in Europe and only once....no more. That was in Berlin, a year or two after they opened at that location. In 2001 it was not there, in 2003 I came back to that location and Starbucks occupied it.

I actually found this threat as I searched "how to afford a trip to Europe". I'm new to the forums, but a European trip is something I've always wanted to do. I finally decided that I'm going to treat myself to one, by making a budget for it. I'm in the process of trying to lose weight, and I just finished off paying off some debt. So, as a win/win I'm going to try to save enough by time I reach my weight goal to treat myself for that. The upside? I'm been paying close to $400/month on that debt (credit cards, etc) and so now I should have an extra $400 each month.

That being said, I'm not rich by any means. I barely scrape by. I'm a substitute teacher (contemplating finishing my certification) so there's not much money there, as well as three months without pay, and actually closer to four once you factor in all the "forced" holidays (two weeks of nonpay for Christmas break, one each for Thanksgiving and Spring break, and then other holidays here and there) all non paid, with no paid vacation or sick days, and the fact that it's only slightly higher than minimum wage. I'm starting with a new district in the fall that pays slightly more, but it's still not much. I'm lucky if my take home pay each month (which is about 8 months a year) is $800 - so that $400 took A LOT. Luckily my car is paid for, and I don't have to worry about rent, but with insurance and other bills... it's a struggle.

Anyway, after that long speech about my life, I decided that if I can actually put my money towards something fun for once (even if it takes four years) I'll feel like I've finally accomplished something after all this time.

Also, I don't buy name brand clothes, accessories, even food. All store brand, I don't do jewelry, very little make-up (and even then it's the cheap stuff and on either BOGO sales or specials), and as part of the weight loss program I'm going to stop eating fast food (my big struggle).

Hopefully in the end all of that will pay off and it'll be worth it.

Posted by Ilja
Seattle
4163 posts

This topic is a record. Most posts. How to afford to travel. If you don't have disposable income then you can travel on bicycle assuming you have one. Or hobo but I am not sure if hobo travel is still possible. For travel to Europe or other overseas travel you need disposable income.Even with small disposable income you can travel a lot but you have to prioritize. No new car, no eating outside, shopping in Walmart and mostly groceries, clothes need to last etc.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
2271 posts

Yes, hobo style travel is still the mode for a small bit visible number. Dodging train security staff, camping rough and managing less than always ideal weather are complicating factors. Too many hobos passing through here create significant problems such as very aggressive panhandling, camping without permission next to houses, failing to use public toilets and public intoxication (drugs and alcohol). While locals are very welcoming to tourists...if you create these problems, don’t expect cheerful remarks when passing on sidewalks.

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1686 posts

Many of the people who travelled to Europe many times went to Europe in the 1990s, or 1980s, or 1970s. Travelling in Europe cost less money then. In 1984, being at a hostel in Germany cost (the equivalent of) 3 U.S.A. Dollars. And, for people travelling from the United States of America, expenses in Germany were much lower before Germany began using the Euro for money. Germany began using the Euro in the year 2002 (in the month March ?). I traveled in Germany in the year 2001 (in the month May). Exchanging money in Germany, I received many German Marks for my U.S.A. Dollars. I think one German Mark was equal to 58 cents U.S.A. At Munich in Germany I paid the equivalent of 28 Dollars (U.S.A.) per night for a good hotel room that was recommended by Rick Steves. At Salzberg in Austria I paid the equivalent of 22 Dollars (U.S.A.) per night for a room in a good hotel that was recommended by Rick Steves. And, transportation on Railroads in Europe cost less money when I was there. In the year 2001, I purchased the Germany rail pass (travel in any trains in Germany, unlimited travel, any five days) for a price of 205 U.S.A. Dollars. That five Day Germany rail pass now costs much more than 205 Dollars (U.S.A.). It was a good value. I used the rail pass for riding on a D-K ship on the Rhine River from Bacharach to St. Goar, for free. Having the Germany Rail pass, my price for riding in the sightseeing tour Bus from Munich to Frankfurt was discounted. It was a good tour Bus ride that year, it included stops at Dinklesbue and Rothenburg, and a quick stop for taking photographs of a castle that is on a hill. And Airlines tickets were lower prices in the year 2001, and earlier.

Posted by Mike L
Detroit, MI
239 posts

I don't smoke or drink alcohol; do not subscribe to cable television or anything like netflicks; my car cost under $14,000 in 2012 (that is total including takes and all fees, it was used). I keep just one lightbulb on at a time when in my apartment, never go to movie theaters or rent movies, keep my air conditioner set to 78 degrees when the weather is hot, never buy books or magazines but rely on whatever I can borrow from the library; I almost never eat restaurant food; I have no kids. Unfortunately I am a single person living alone - if I had spouse or girlfriend who was traveling with me she would contribute half the cost and we would have more money. I make about the average salary for librarians in the USA. I went to Italy or 14 days, in July 2017. It cost me just under $3,100 - this includes the airplane tickets and everything - but if I had not bought any souvenirs, I would have spent under $3,000 US dollars. If I had not done an expensive guided tour of the colosseum, which I now think was unnecessary, I would have spent under $2,900. I stayed in hostels, took public transportation and did not rent cars, did not take any taxi rides. I ate restaurant food twice, but not fancy restaurants with table service. I bough the rest of my food at grocery stores. I went to England in July 2016 and to Canada in September 2015 and I am going to Greece in October. I am just naturally cheap, and good at saving money for what I feel that want or need.

Posted by Erika J
Oklahoma
7 posts

I loved reading these posts! I have traveled to Europe or Asia every year or 2 since 2009. I am only 28 and so I was barely 19 when I started this crazy passion/ obsession with travel. My first trip I spent my entire high school savings to go to Asia and I have never looked back. Thru college I did one study abroad semester on scholarship and paid about $3000 out of pockets for extra trips while there. I work 2 jobs the summer before leaving and never spent a dime that wasn't essential like gas or food. Then following 2010 I wanted to be in London for the Olympics so when I returned in Jan 2011 I saved and saved. I didn't party during college, didn't smoke, took only trivial small trips until 2012. I saved over $3000 in that 14-16 month window by sheer determination. Following that trip I wanted to go back again in 2015 so when I graduated in 2013 from college I took a job in my home town and moved back in with my mom who was recently divorced. She charged me no rent but I tried to buy groceries or pay for meals out etc. I bought a car and that was it as far as big expenses. I lived there the whole time up to my trip. Oh and I am a Teacher in Oklahoma so we know I didn't make any damn money lol. But I managed to pull together the $5000 I needed for this trip as well. Then following that trip I was asked to take a first time traveler abroad for her graduation in 2017 so I got a second job for the next year to have the $2000 for this 10 day trip. Now I am still living in Oklahoma but I bought my own house a different car, I spend all too much on my credit card each month and I am planning a trip to NYC next year and back to Europe 2020. I work not only two jobs but one full time and one another 20 hours a week, I coach in the summer on the weekends and I take contract tasks thru one of my jobs when possible to make the money I need to live the lifestyle I have chosen. I think what I noticed about all of the people who comment on here that aren't making fabulous money is that we are determined in what we want. We set aside things in life that aren't necessary but a luxury in order for the experiences we get to have while traveling. I have friends in countless countries that I have met along the many roads I travel. I have people I knew for less than 24 hours who I think are kindred spirits to my own soul. No matter how hard some things seem when we hit a rough patch I know that when I step foot off of a plane, wherever I go, I will find a new place I call home. Because my heart leaves a piece behind in every place I have visited so far and I am sure I still have many pieces left to leave.

Posted by cala
Birmingham, AL
606 posts

Erika-your energy and work ethic are amazing and I'm glad you can enjoy the fruits of all your hard work!