How Do You Save For Travel?

Yes, talking about money is always....dangerous. But for those of us who do not live in Europe, it's the elephant in the room, so to speak. It costs a lot to get there. It requires a commitment that many people find challenging. How do you deal with it? Do you save enough to pay for it all or do you come home with debt? Are there particular things that you do without or do you do with less? Do you emphasize traveling as cheaply as possible, or do you try to save more in order to relax and splurge? Are there any unique strategies that you use, or perhaps simply a different way of looking at and valuing things? Note; I don't think it matters that much what a person's income is. Some of the people with the biggest cash flow problems are people who make more than average. So I think the challenge of how to pay for travel can cross income boundaries to some extent. I find it can be helpful (or at least cathartic) to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Please share.....and tread lightly....

Posted by Claudia
Land of La
2002 posts

I make a choice of trip at the beginning of the year. Travel keeps me sane and worth every dime I choose to invest. 9 times out of 10 the month I can travel is December so some savings already factored into the budget. It's also a carrot at the end of the stick incentive to get through the year work wise. Earmark one paycheck a month for the adventure. Book and pay for my flight early. Usually traveling solo so tend to book at a b n b. Have found the airbnb website really helps to budget realistic lodging costs. Lunch is my main meal of the day so a savings there. NOT a shopper, savings there. However, if something catches my eye and it fits in my carry on, I'll buy it. Walk, stroll, meander and use public transit. Only rented a car for Ireland. When I'm traveling I'm not trying to skimp and save. I'm where ever I am to enjoy myself and will do so. Takes a month to pay off any outstanding balance from the monies earmarked for the trip. Funds are carried over for the next sojourn. Saving for the retirement nest egg is a completely different matter.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2600 posts

For the most part I am pretty spontaneous so I do not have a giant travel fund.... all my money goes to travel.
I always make a choice between ' fancy life in the US or simple life in Europe'. I don't buy the latest gadgets and have driven an old 97 VW Golf for years, but now am forced to get a new vehicle, but it will be an inexpensive KIA Soul. I use miles for everything I can. I will travel off season and stay in mid priced places. I will keep meals reasonable and forget expensive wine and desserts. One would think I was rich for as much as I travel.....and I am, in experiences and memories.

Posted by Ross
Denver, Colorado, USA
143 posts

Hey Randy, I do keep a separate savings account for Travel and make deposits to it every payday. I don't travel as cheaply as I could (hostels and such) but I don't travel "five-star" either. I think that you miss out on the local color and meeting local people if you travel at the high-end anyway. I'd rather buy a local a pint in a pub than tip the same amount to someone carrying my bags. The Rick Steves books usually list the better value restaurants and sleeping accommodations. I notice that the really cheap and really expensive choices are usually absent from the books. I won't skimp on sightseeing expenses. Seems silly to skip a museum because the admission is 20 Euro or something. I had dinner in an amazing Michelin starred restaurant in Bourges last May. Five courses for 70E. Sounds like a lot, but it would have been twice that in Paris a few days earlier. Like to splurge for a meal every third day or so. I have to second the notion of others on this tread that spending the most money seldom guarantees the best travel experience.

Posted by Beatrix
Calgary
1974 posts

Saving for travel is no different from other types of savings. As a teenager I saved first for my driver's licence (about 2K in Germany!!!), then to be able to attend university, then for travel, then for a downpayment for a house ... You set priorities on what you need to spend money on, what you can do without or with less. And you stick to it. How you do it is a very personal decision. 80% of my clothing comes from second hand stores. There's already one air fare in those savings. I read a lot but most of that comes from the library - another air fare of savings. I have a very high budget for groceries because I cook everything from scratch and we rarely go out except for special occasions - and of course on vacation. And I have never let money go up in smoke as many others do regularly - and pulverize a couple of air fares every single year of their lives ....

Posted by Bob
Port Coquitlam, BC, Canada
623 posts

We decide on a location(s) about, but not aways, a year in advance and then buy one or two travel guides and start planning. We'll watch RS's videos on the location(s) and I set up a planning map with pinpoints at key locations. The map's sites change as we run across new ideas. Looking at this map helps us keep focused on our trip and not on spending money unwisely. My wife ALWAYS sets aside money into a vacation account. About 6 months prior we start checking airfares and once we've chosen - we pay for it and stop looking. Don't want to see any so-called specials after we're already in! About 3 months prior we start setting up some of the B&Bs/Inns, etc. and prepay room deposits or in full (depending on terms). After our trip we pay off any charges ASAP and then start saving again! WE don't own brand new cars or even the latest TV, boat, motorcycle, etc. WE don't go out for dinner every other night or buy coffees every day. We would rather have dinner or coffee in London or Madrid or Paris. Good travels to All!

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
2846 posts

Travel is our entertainment. We enjoy the consderation of places, the planning, and the remembering as well as the actual travel.
We don't go out to movies (we buy DVDs), we seldom go out to eat (usually only for special occassions. and then not to expensive places), and we don't 'entertain' much either. They money that others might use on those things goes towards our travel budget. We do like to splurge a bit on our hotel rooms sometimes. And we will eat 'nice', but usually not too expensive suppers whan we travel. Lunch is usually small, and cheaper and we often skip breakfast, but if we do it is often included. It is a matter of personal prioroties. We'd rather have the fun and memories of our trips than eat out or see movies while at home.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
468 posts

I haven't traveled to Europe for a number of years, but when I went frequently, I always saved ahead. We cut back on eating out and other entertainment expenditures. Tax refunds and any other windfalls went in the travel fund. (It was in the day before <gasp> Starbucks, etc! so no need to cut back on coffee!) Right now I am saving for a nice RS tour, altho with my current obligations I am not sure when I will be able to go. When my current duties subside, I will have the money and can throw stuff in my carryon and head for the airport. I never liked coming home to a lot of travel debt, but did on occasion before I figured it out!

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11256 posts

I wouldn't say I skimp on sightseeing, but most things I want to see are not that expensive, anyway. And I don't waste money on "profit added" tours when I can arrange my own for next to nothing. Example, we took the train and bus to Hohenschwanstein with a €29 (for 2) Bayern-Ticket and toured Neuschwanstein rather than pay €70 (for 2) for someone to escort us there. In 2009, I used my Munich transit pass, which I needed anyway, to get to Dachau by train and bus and took the memorials own guided tour for €3 instead of paying someone €21 for exactly the same thing. I paid €7 to get into the Deutsches Museum, but I've never seen a museum that would cost me €20. Sam Cooke wrote, "the best things in life are free." I prefer see the beauty of the Alps in Kleinwalsertal and pretty Fachwerk buildings in Wernigerode, all of which were free. In the last 8 years, my admissions have averaged about $5 a day.

Posted by Betty
Missouri City
201 posts

Several years ago, we started using a credit card that gives us frequent flyer miles on American Airlines, our preferred airline for Europe travel. We use it for EVERYTHING, including utilities, groceries, doctor visits, etc., and then pay off the bill in full each month. We use our miles for "free" tickets or upgrades to Business Class, if we want to pay the extra copay. Sometimes we might just upgrade one way but it's a treat that we look forward to. We usually will take a 2 or 3- week vacation each year to Europe (this year we are going to Hawaii). While we don't stay in hostels, we normally don't splurge on 4 or 5 star accommodations either. I will do hours of research trying to find the best hotel value, keeping in mind location and amenities. We aren't into fancy restaurants so we save on food costs by buying already prepared sandwiches at the local grocery store along with chips and a drink that we will eat in our hotel room or on the road. Can't imagine not being able to travel, even if I had to cut back on the length of a trip.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1960 posts

I'm half saver, half bargain hunter. My first overseas travel was to summer school at the University of Innsbruck in 1970. The flight cost $205 for a charter flight out of Memphis. I have since taken many bargain flights to Europe for under $350. This year, I'm paying an all time high of $705 leaving 3/27. We listen to Clark Howard's syndicated afternoon radio show, and he's an ex-travel agent. Clark's staff watches the internet for the biggest bargains in domestic and international travel (mainly out of the Southeast.) We also follow his website religiously. We live well, but continue to be very frugal. We don't eat out very often. We quit drinking beer except when on vacation. We don't step foot into drive in markets. Clothes come from TJ Maxx, or department stores @ 65% off sales. We don't go to the beach every year like our neighbors. We continue to make one really good trip every year in our young retirement, and it's in the off season. Overseas, we stay only in interesting accommodations and they're usually the cheapest available. We avoid chain hotels, sticking with B&B's, private rooms and agriturisimos. Most of our accommodations are now found on the internet. We don't eat in expensive restaurants, as our food tastes are simple. Up until this year, we've always traveled by rental cars in Europe. With $9 gasoline, we're covering a smaller area and traveling by train between cities. Our trip will be more expensive than normal, but we'll still be getting a bargain by any travel standards.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
707 posts

One way my husband and I save when we travel is we are part of the couchsurfing organization - we host people in our home (maybe 10-12 times a year), and have been hosted by some wonderful people in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland...some have hosted us a few times, and some were so nice, we spent much longer then expected (Augsburg, Germany was a highlight for us couchsurfing - our hostess was the BEST!). It's not for all, you don't have to host in your home and have to get over the hinky feeling of having strangers stay if you do(and you totally decide who does and doesn't stay) but on our last trip of 23 days, we surfed 8 nights, spent 2 with my sis, and did hotels/B&B for the rest - so figure average $100+ a night, we saved $800 on acom (and prob around $60-90 on meals as we did have some great suppers served we otherwise would have paid for) and met some great people. I am so passionate about travel, love meeting new people fr all over the world (Europe, US, Australia even), and have seen lots of 'backdoor' things we may have missed as we had hosts show us around.

Posted by Angela
Vancouver, Wa, Usa
232 posts

Our family manages with one 10 year old car since hubby gets a free bus pass from his workplace, and we have no cell phones or cable TV. Plus I shop at the local "bag it yourself" grocery store instead of the fancier grocery stores with good service. It's all about priorities.

Posted by Nancy
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
65 posts

I agree with some of the other posts regarding "cash back" or "Points" type credit cards. We use AX for ALL of our personal and business expenses and pay them off every month. These are expenses we are paying anyway so by using our cards for gas, groceries, cable bills, insurance, and all business expenses, the points begin to add up. We just booked our flights to Europe and points paid for 90% of the cost. That takes a big bite out of the overall cost. Then..all of the hotel and other trip charges will go on the AX card and we will earn double points for those charges and the savings start all over! I have many friends who prefer the cash back cards as opposed to points...either way...it can make paying for your trip a little eaiser!

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
1414 posts

For the past 15 years I've averaged about one overseas trip a year (Europe and other places, all over the world), with all the long-haul flights essentially free (just pay required taxes and fees) by using frequent flyer miles. That makes it easier to splurge a little when we're there. Otherwise, I just do a lot of planning - with the FF tickets, I typically book 10-11 months in advance, so I have plenty of time to research the trip and plan details. Then I go and don't worry too much about the cost - it costs real money to travel, but it's worth it.

Posted by Debra
Los Angeles, CA, USA
1001 posts

I would personally never take a trip unless I could afford it and more. That's just me and the way I was raised. That said, I save by thinking about everything I spend in terms of a trip. Travel is my priority, so when I buy something I mentally weigh it against the impact it could have on future travel. While many of my friends spend tons of money on shoes and purses and going out drinking, I put that money in a savings account and get to travel to Europe, and they don't. Yes, it requires a big commitment, but if you really want to travel, the "sacrifices" are very well worth it. Also I don't travel expensively. I stay in B&Bs and don't eat expensive meals. I do buy plenty of souvenirs, but don't overdo it. What with most places in Europe including the tax and with tipping not being customary, I find Europe to be less expensive than sometimes people perceive it to be. For me, the harder part is that I don't have enough vacation time :(

Posted by Heather
Seattle, WA, USA
30 posts

Two years ago I set up a separate bank account into which I've deposited a minimum amount of money every month. Any extra money that comes my way from odd jobs, rebates, etc goes there also. 12 years ago I bought a basic car without any frills, and I'm still driving it, while all my friends have been through 2 or 3 cars in that time. Other ways I save money while preparing for travel is to pack lunches for my kids and myself every day. Not eating out, or spending $7.00 a day for school lunches, really saves money. I also stopped "treating" myself to coffee out, and now brew my own at home and work. 25 cents a cup vs. the $3.00 I spent each time at the coffeehouse! One thing we thought we were doing right was having an airline mileage credit card. There were no "blackout dates," but guess what, they "don't release seats" for the flights we needed. We could get to Europe in the summer only by taking 5 flights each way through obscure airports over 48 hours of travel vs. 2 direct flights and 14 hours of travel. So we opted to pay for the direct flights we want, versus 48 hours of airport hopping with two young kids. Then we decided to redeem our miles for flights within Europe instead. Surprise, there are all these "booking fees" and taxes they now add on. They didn't used to do this! For using our miles with their "partners" in Europe we get to pay nearly $1000.00 in fees and taxes! That on top of having to pay $60.00 a year for the credit card for the privilege of having miles not expire. We're DONE with airline mileage cards, and looking into cash-back or other reward cards instead.

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
1964 posts

As many have written, it's a question of priorities and life style. I think many of us don't think twice about it because it's just a question of how we prefer to spend what we have. Many have mentioned the same things. We are comfortable but with one older car for the family (don't need two and it doesn't break down), still have some used and hand-me-down furniture, not interested in clothes, don't go nuts over electronics, we pack our lunches every day and eat at home 90% of the time, not to save money but because the food is better. We don't even think about it consciously or deny ourselves. The clothes, furniture, car, restaurants aren't too compelling. To answer your other question: we don't go into debt. While we were raising our children we had more expenses and less disposable income. Consequently, many years only one child would go with his father to visit his grandparents in France. The next year the other went, or my husband would go alone. We couldn't afford to all go, so we didn't. It was more important for my husband to see his parents and for the children to know their grandparents than it was for me to go, so at one point I didn't see my in-laws for seven years.

Posted by Crash
Vance, Alabama
145 posts

Hey Randy, We finally wised up and got rid of the new cars and the big truck. We totalled it up one day two years back and it came to over a twelve hundred a month for the payments and insurance, not counting gas. We don't have anyone to impress anymore, so we sold all of them. We then bought a used Honda Fit for any long distance drives. Then I bought an old car for $250 for the 6 mile round trip to work. No radio, ( it was stolen), no heat, no spare or jack, but the AC works, and the insurance runs $ 8.65 a month for liability. These moves alone saved us plenty enough for a great trip every year, splurging on extras if we wish. Also, the one and ONLY redeeming factor of our job is the 5 weeks paid vacation each year, which we can take in one lump.
It just feels good to be travelling, spending money, and still pulling down a vacation paycheck at the same time. Cheers! Also, excited here. We leave for Zurich in 3 days, and have already checked out mentally at work! Got the night train booked to Amsterdam from there, then winging it from that point, depending on weather conditions. Looking at Paris, Madrid or Croatia. "Semper Gumby." (Always Flexible).

Posted by bronwen
maplewood, new jersey, usa
750 posts

I am a vigilant frequent flier collector. I make certain that we earn the maximum miles for every dollar we spend. All medical bills, utilities, and insurance is put on a card (which earns miles). Every online purchase is made through United Shopping. I go out to eat a lot and my local pub participates in United Dining (with my bonus this month I earn 7 miles for every dollar I spend at a mileage dining spot (plus I use a Sapphire card so I earn doubles miles there on dining. You get the point ... So, I don't choose my destination until I find where I can get Saver Pass tickets to. I have a list of possible itineraries (open jaw and not) and as soon as I have enough miles I start plugging dates / destinations in until I find something that works. So - basically - we never pay for airfare. We need a triple room or a suite (two adults and a almost 13 year old) so we look at inns and smaller hotels. We don't stay anywhere too fancy. We spend our money wisely - eat in pubs and don't waste money on needless souvenirs. Bottom line - we don't ever spend more than we can pay off when the vacation is over.

Posted by D.D.
England
375 posts

I know this question was directed to those not living in Europe, but we Americans living overseas have the same problem with saving for visits back to the US. Perhaps some military members fly space available, but the rest of us have to come up with airfare. My family uses the same strategies already mentioned: living frugally, driving old cars, etc. But while we're here we're spending on trips within Europe, so that makes it hard to save. Many Americans living overseas also own propery in the US that they must maintain at the same time. We find that if we use a direct deposit of funds into a travel account before we ever see the paycheck, we don't miss those funds, but if we had to move funds after getting the paycheck it would be a lot harder. Plus, I guess we'll just have to work past retirement age once we get to that point.

Posted by Leigh
Missouri
187 posts

I like this thread because it helps me to see there are other people like me. In a few months I'll be taking my 4th trip to Europe in the last 6 years. Many people either come out and ask how I can afford that, or act like I must have some secret source of big income to be able to afford it. It's all about what is important to you, and for me, saving any extra money I can for travel is a priority. I don't buy a lot of expensive clothes, purses, shoes, I rarely eat out, don't see movies at the theater or spend much on entertainment, I haven't updated my outdated kitchen, I live in a small house, drive an old car, etc. It's easier for me to decide not to buy something I want but don't need when I think about saving the money for a trip instead. And every trip I have been on has been worth every penny saved!

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1507 posts

Crash; "semper Gumby" .... nice. Great move switching vehicles. D.D; You're right, I assumed the issue would be completely different for those living in Europe - and it is for travel IN Europe - but there are other issues unique to your situation as well and important to note. Leigh; I'm glad you found this thread helpful. That was the point. If it gives anyone an idea they had not thought of before (like trading in expensive vehicles), then great. But if it makes anyone just feel better...that's even better.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4754 posts

The mind boggles that the OP would think the situation would be different some-how for those of us who live overseas. Why should it be any different? We pay rent, health insurance, phones, utilities, transportation, and those round trip flights are the same price no matter where you start your trip. No possibilty to earn Frequent Flyer miles on credit cards here either. I don't own a car, our apt. where 3 adults live, is a deluxe 75 sq.meters, (go ahead and do the math) my washer is 25 years old, dishwasher is 17 years old, TV is 2nd hand and with no cable, and we haven't been back to the US for over 3 and a half years. Would love to make it back to see both sets of grandparents, but one set lives in Ohio and the other set in Cal. That is just how it is right now and it has always been like that since I moved here. Trips to the US happen every 3-5 years. Why are you so curious about how people finance their trips and why mention "those who do not live in Europe"? Why is this an "elephant" and how in the world is it "cathartic"? Are you just nosy, do you want to gloat, or do you want to feel superiour somehow (and to whom)? Don't misunderstand me here either, I quite like living in Germany, I just don't enjoy having the expats who live in Europe be made the focus of such threads as this one.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

D.D. and Jo bring up good points. I for one have no plans to travel back to the U.S. to see my much-missed family and friends for the 3-5 years I'm in Germany, because we have limited funds and I'd rather spend our discretionary income traveling in Europe than paying for expensive flights back to the U.S., no matter how homesick I get. And even with that, it's still fairly expensive to travel within Europe. We had a lot of family visit last year who expected us to show them around and they wanted to go EVERYWHERE, yet with different groups many went to the same places. Thus I spent a lot of money going to...Nuremberg and Munich and Paris and Salzburg and Berlin for the 3 times in one summer, that sort of thing. It may sound awesome to people living in the U.S. but since it was first-time visits for the various groups, we ended up going to the same sites, seeing the same things, and yes, spending plenty of money. It was very expensive. In the future we have decided on a firm boundary with family and friends, that we are happy to host them here but we will not be taking any major trips in Europe with them. Day-trip distance from Stuttgart only for visitors, if they want to do more they'll have to do it without the "tour guides". Now I'm focusing on saving for taking the trips my husband and I want to take. But it's not easy. A trans-Atlantic flight may not be an issue, but transit within europe, hotels, food is still the same for us as it is for you. I'm trying to not eat out and find deals for travel, finally got a Bahn card which helps a little.

Posted by Kelly
St Petersburg Florida
948 posts

Last year, money was the tightest it has been for me in a while......so to live up to my promise that I would travel every year no matter what (made this to myself 8 years ago when I first traveled to Spain for my first trip....have made it back yearly for the last 7 years) I put a lot of items on ebay to sell. We tried the garage sale thing....people want to buy things for 50 cents even if it is worth 50 bucks.....So off on ebay it went. I was able to sell about $1500 worth of stuff. then the hubby noticed that all I had on ebay, he gave to me...then I felt bad but he forgave me when we were able to go on the best honeymoon imaginable to Belgium in Nov 2011. But on another note, Nov/Dec travel can yield significantly cheaper airfare and rooms. That is one way I am able to do what I love best, plus i skip out on that summer/spring/fall crowd crush.

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
1414 posts

Heather's post above - about how she tried to use frequent flyer miles but discovered that she was unable to - is a perfect example of what most people experience. It doesn't have to be that way - you just need to do your homework and learn about the system and how to make it work. The system is designed to deceive the rubes, and the companies involved work hard to trick you - that's their job (heather even used the signature phrase that marks a dishonest company's efforts to fool the suckers - "blackout dates"). Rest assured, it is absolutely possible to fly all over the world for mere pocket change - I do it about once a year, lots of other people do. But those who actually get to use their miles at their full value all have one thing in common: they've done the homework necessary to understand the system and all the pitfalls that are designed to thwart you. This website (great tho it is for info on Europe) is a bad place to learn anything about the FF game - lots of well-intentioned disinformation is posted here and it often goes uncorrected. Flyertalk is the place to start learning. If I had to actually pay for my international flights, I'd never be able to afford traveling. Fortunately, I'm one of those guys sitting near you on the plane who didn't pay for that expensive ticket.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1507 posts

The bonus miles/airline c.card thing has always intrigued me. We don't have one yet. We use a cash-back-type card currently that nets us about $200/year. I've heard so much about the restrictions involved in using the ffmiles that I have not yet gone that route. Simply-put, I am repulsed by scams & deception, and f.f.miles seem to be built around both. I'm sure there are ways to work around the system, but I haven't yet been convinced it's worth the effort. But I admire those who have made it work for them. There is also the temptation to buy more than you otherwise would just to get the bonus miles - thus defeating the purpose. We briefly had a Sam's Club membership once and I enountered the same sort of thing. One factor we have encountered taking long trips (4-6 weeks) is that the amount of money you "save" by not being home doing your daily things becomes significant. Of course, it pales next to your expences on the trip. But still, it's a factor you can take into account when budgeting a trip. I call it our "away savings" on our spreadsheet - not eating, driving, consuming or seeking the entertainment we would normally be doing if we had stayed at home.

Posted by bronwen
maplewood, new jersey, usa
750 posts

Oh I work the system and put in a lot of effort to getting miles. www.flyertalk.com is the place to learn about all that. I have found the BEST use of miles for my family (3) is to get Super Saver Business/First with my Continental (now United miles) miles. 300,000 miles gets me $15,000 worth of plane tickets. We are now hooked on First.

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1359 posts

Randy : I am not aware of "scams and deceptions" by airlines, pertaining to use of Frequent Flyer miles. My American Airlines tickets for flying to the London Heathrow airport, and return, were free, by my using my American Airlines frequent flyer miles ("AAdvantage" miles). The Tax and airport fees that I paid were not a high amount of money. If I paid money for the airline tickets, the Tax and airport fees that I would have paid would not have been less expensive. The only restriction that applied to me was : for the number of "Flight miles" that I was using, my travel was limited to American Airlines' "Off Season" which is between October 15 and May 15. My travel to Europe is in that time frame anyway. I prefer to be at Europe or Britain in the first two weeks in May, or in the last two weeks in October, when there are smaller crowds of travelers from the U.S.A., and accomodations at hotels cost less money, and the weather is pleasant.

Posted by Beatrix
Calgary
1974 posts

my travel was limited to American Airlines' "Off Season" which is between October 15 and May 15 hmmm, that is indeed a big restriction. I've done some travel to Europe in this "Off Season" but I would have missed, for instance, the World Cup in 2006, a great concert I attended last June, and it does not allow for taking school aged kids along (yes we have taken out of school for some time but cannot do that every time we go).

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
1414 posts

The so-called "scams and deceptions" are not really fraud, they're just subtle messaging and very specific rules, which are not at all obvious until you investigate them. They don't lie, but many companies do tell misleading half-truths in their advertising, which, if you naively believe to be general truths, will leave you disappointed and frustrated. Exhibit A is anybody that trumpets "no blackout dates!". That term does not mean what you think it does (and they count on that). It's not fraud, it's just business (as spoken by Sonny in The Godfather) It's not hard to figure out what you need to know - flyertalk and other internet resources are all out there for anyone who is willing to invest a little time and effort. But you do have to make an effort - just like planning a trip to Europe. Everyone has a different level of commitment to the effort - there are people who are obsessed and will do anything to get a mile. I'm not one of them. I have a busy life and better things to do than chase down every possible mile available. But I am willing to do a little homework (just as I do when researching a trip to Europe) and put in some effort to gather large chunks of airline miles that come for free or nearly free. The return on my investment of time is huge. It lets me and my wife fly all over the world roughly once a year at virtually zero cost. It works great for us.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2600 posts

It can be a bit of work using FF miles but for me it is the only way I can travel as much as I do. Everything goes on CC (Amex, Delta Amex and Advantage) I could do better if I would give it more time. In a few weeks I am going to Antigua Guatemala for $57, and 30,000 miles. I sometimes go places off season (I would anyway) or book far ahead if I can. Last year I took a grandson to Turkey on miles (I pay for my own ticket so I get the additional miles) and I took another one to France & Germany and did the same thing. Free ticket for him. I am Gold Elite on Delta (I stick with this airline 90% of the time) So I get double miles and upgrades and free baggage. I also use Holiday Inn points when I can and Choice Hotel Points. It helps for a night here and there.

Posted by Beatrix
Calgary
1974 posts

Well, my "free" ticket to go to Europe next month costs 60,000 points AND $600 for taxes and fees. Unfortunately, I'm pretty much stuck with Air Canada which charges a hefty fuel surcharge fee. Unless I was willing to double my travel time to Europe (i.e. loose an entire vacation day) and fly through the US and get finger printed and scanned and whatnot .... and that would save me a hundred bucks maybe. No thanks. We have no problems accumulating FF points through business travel (all international) and using a points accumulating cc. But it's spending the points that's difficult. Even with advance planning it's almost impossible to get more than 1 FF ticket per flight. So we end up using them only for travelling as a single person or occasionally to rent a car when travelling in Northamerica. FF plans haven't been the most reliable tool to save on travel expenses for us. But I definitely will check out flyertalk and see if there are indeed better options.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7185 posts

For me, paying for the trip works like this. I buy the tickets and other major items with my credit card, and pay those off before the trip. I also build up a cash reserve in my checking account to cover expenses on the trip - sometimes that means I don't pay other things as quickly as I normally would. I use my credit card a little bit while I'm there so I come home with that debt. Overall, I come home with some debt (and leftover cash). I pay that off as quickly as possible after the trip. Beatrix, I often feel I'm not taking full advantage of mileage programs. I shop each time and go with the best deal, which leaves me with lots of mileage accounts with various balances in each. A roundtrip to Madrid this year cost $660, total, when I bought it. If using miles costs $600, I'm glad I don't spend any time or extra money worry about them.

Posted by bronwen
maplewood, new jersey, usa
750 posts

60,000 and $600 dollars and FF miles? That's a lot of dollars! I am flying to Germany on Lufthansa in Business class and that cost 100,000 miles and $119. I feel OK about this since the regualr airfare I have seen for my route is over $5,000.

Posted by Beatrix
Calgary
1974 posts

Lufthansa stopped flying to Calgary :-( Last year I only paid half the fees on my FF flight as one leg was with LH and only one with Air Canada. AC charges somewhere around $200 per leg as a fuel surcharge on transatlantic flights !!!!

Posted by Jill
Austin, TX, USA
532 posts

We're flying on AA ff miles to Europe this summer - cost was a total of 60,000 miles and 100.00 per person. We are flying in June, and I booked our flights last summer (the only way to guarantee you'll get them). I think American allots something like 6 seats per flight to be used by people flying on miles. I think its very generous of them! To answer the orignal post - when we moved back to Austin 3 years ago we intentionally scaled way down getting a modest house. We don't drive fancy cars or wear designer clothing (unless bought at ROSS!) and we rarely eat out. We DO put a fairly significant chunk of our budget into our "vacation" savings account every month! Like everyone says - it's our priority. I have family and friends that are jealous of our travel, but my response is always the same - we make it a priority, and that's how we afford it!

Posted by bronwen
maplewood, new jersey, usa
750 posts

60,000 miles for a summer fare is great! I am loyal to Continental (RIP - now United) because I live very close to Newark. I ONLY use my miles when we can get SuperSaver Business/First and never see any of those tickets available for summer. As we are so tied to school vacations we have been only traveling internationally during Easter Break (because summer and Christmas breaks never available). My biggest way of getting miles are through credit card promotions - I just received a Chase card which will give me 50,000 miles after $3k in three months. I do a few of these a year (or something similar) and then cancel the cards and do it all over again. Chase will cancel my old cards but keeps giving me the miles (I pay off all cards 100% each month).

Posted by Mike
Clawson, MI, USA
190 posts

I do most of the things that others have mentioned. I also never go to work with $1 or $5 bills. Why? The vending machines won't take a $10 or higher bill. Pack your own non-perishable snacks and leave them in the drawer at work. For example, instant oatmeal or granola bars for when you are running late. My last boss said I had a mini-mart in my cube. Drink coffee or tea if it's free or just water. To save gas I try to shop after work with a list before I go home. Lately if I have dinner with friends I insist on going to places that my FF credit card will give me more points. I nicely tell them before to bring cash so I can put the entire bill on this card. If they don't bring enough cash then separate checks. If an item or event cost more than $10 I think twice. My best friend is that guy named "Clearance." I put money away (when I can) into a bank account with my credit union. I also throw my change and sometimes $1-5 bills into a container. Those plastic banks that look like Coke bottles for example. Once the money is in it's very hard to get it out. Especially when it starts to get full and heavy. The last Coke bottle bank I had contained $986 when I finally sliced it open. Roll your own change unless your bank will take it without charging you. Actually seeing the money helps me to save more for a trip. This is my splurge or sightseeing cash.

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
1414 posts

This thread seems to be getting side-tracked on using FF miles (mea culpa). I'll just add this: some airlines impose stunningly high "fuel surcharges". British Airways is the worst for these - adding an $800 fee to a "free" coach ticket obviously makes it useless. The Air Canada system is also one of the tougher. However, you can almost always beat these fuel surcharges if you know which systems to use and which airlines to fly on. Once again, the key is doing your homework; if you don't, you will pay through the nose and/or waste your miles and you'll give up in frustration thinking that these FF deals don't work. But they do work, and you don't have to get soaked to use them. @Brad - rule #1: unless you're going to be able to build up huge balances in each (not practical for most of us), never spread your FF points across multiple programs - they're utterly worthless that way. Instead, concentrate all your miles in just 2 or maybe 3 programs. You can do this easily, and it makes all the difference. This is not the right place to discuss the finer points of maximizing your benefit in the FF game. Get thee to Flyertalk for that, study the basics, and budget a little time to get yourself educated. Now, back to How To Save For Travel, in progress...

Posted by Steve
Cotuit, MA, USA
17 posts

My wife and I have taken only one trip to Europe and that was last year, last week and first week of May. Anyways, I work full time plus I have a church gig, I'm a church musician, and we used my salary from my church job to pay for our trip to Germany. I also put aside $40 a week for a year so I'd have some extra money just in case. What helped for us expense wise on our trip is staying with my brother at his place. The only time we paid for a hotel was when we drove from Mainz to Garmisch for 3 nights. However, if I had to do it again, without staying at my brother's place, I'd probably put aside more than $40 a week and cut out eating breakfast out every morning. I'd also cut down on some of the extra spending I do, like buying new books every week.

Posted by Brad
Greeley, CO, USA
232 posts

Hey Randy we have above average income me being an Esquire and my wife a long time court clerk but we emphasize not buying all the crap no one needs and the kids dont need either. No expensive stereos, cell phones with ridiculous monthly bills, expensive cars, even cheap haircuts. We only have house debt. My sister asked me how we do it. I told her. We don't buy a 33k car when you are a teacher like she is. I am fifty and my wife 44 and we are 2 years from having our house paid off. We have no other debt. We still save for retirement also. The plan started at 35 though when we got married. We pay extra on your house, into our retirement accounts etc. so when you travel you can reduce the house payments for a couple months to pay for it. We stay in apartments and get at least half our airline tickets free every trip by putting everything on the united card. But i pay it every month. I hate united but love their travel partners, lufthansa and air canada. The bottom line? Your kids and you both could care less 15 years from now that you had a fancy tv, car, phone, and all kinds of stupid crap you don't need trying to keep up with the jones. your kids and you will remember though the trip to the water park in erding, GE., the top of the jungfrau, and legloland in germany, and the little electric boats in hallstatt, and the 400 pd. man in the window in budapest without his shirt on and the spas in baden baden and the disabled vet on the tram in prague and the awesome mall in Brno. put down your blackberry and cell phone and check your email once a day and enjoy

Posted by Kate
Winnipeg
590 posts

I am lucky that I work in a job where I have lots of opportunities to work overtime. I hate winter, so I will pick up extra shifts to pay for my spring/summer/fall holidays. I also am very fortunate that I get 6 weeks of holidays/year. When I do travel, I travel very cheaply. I am 36 years old and I still stay in hostels and eat cheaply. I have seen most of Western Europe and now spend my time traveling other places where it is less expensive. Next week I am heading to SE Asia to backpack around there for 4 weeks. I am using my points from Aeroplan to pay for my flights, and I will stay in hostels or cheap guest houses. As for Europe, I plan on going to Turkey in October and again, will stay in hostels and eat street food. Other places in Europe that I would like to go to are the Baltics and the Balkan countries. much more cheaper than Western Europe. And to me, just as beautiful with a cheaper price tag and less tourists. As for travel rewards go, I use Aeroplan and up in Canada, I get Aeroplan points shopping at a grocery store chain. My shopping list is purely dependent on what products are offering extra bonus points. With the points earned, it works out to one overseas flight every two years.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1507 posts

So far, I'm most impressed with those who have navigated the labyrinth of f.f.miles to fly free or at greatly reduced rates. But even that is only a fraction of the total cost of going on an extended trip overseas. I am especially excited about savings that can arise when you do big things like cut back to one older car vs two newer ones or for those who have made the long-term commitment to pay off their homes and have no mortgage. That's when you really have the opportunity to open up the flood gates and do some serious saving. Since I'm not yet at retirement age, it has occurred to me that it might be prudent to travel less and save more for retirement. But I always hear people say they want to travel when they retire and all too often when the time comes, they don't. Maybe they lose interest. Maybe their health is too fragile. Maybe they just don't feel they have enough to spend on a non-necessity. But whatever the reason, I swore I would not wait until retirement to go places for the first time. If I'm fortunate enough to be able to travel then, I'll likely start doing some repeat visits. But until then, I want to add experiences to my bucket list.

Posted by Jill
Austin, TX, USA
532 posts

Randy, I'm with you not wanting to wait for retirement. We figure we should travel now while we are still in good enough shape to do things like take long hikes in switzerland, and bike around lake constance. I think we've also given our kids a wonderful gift by traveling with them, and broadening their perspectives while they were young!

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1359 posts

Randy wants to know of other strategies for being able to afford to travel in Europe. Some people (residing at a continent or island located far from Europe), knowing the price for food in an ordinary eatery located in London (in England) would decide to not go to London, or to any place in Europe. And, food in Norway and Denmark and Switzerland is extremely high priced. (Edit) I remember the song title : "Its What You Do With What You've Got That Counts", in the Walt Disney Movie "So Dear To My Heart". People having a relatively small amount of money to spend in Europe could carry inexpensive food from home. And buy fresh vegetables and fruit at Europe. An example : people could bring dried macaroni. At Europe, the macaroni could be cooked, with water, in a small pan or Sierra Cup (made of stainless steel) above flames on a Nuwick candle (it is in a small can that has a lid). Tomato sauce from a small can could be put on cooked macaroni for two persons. The macaroni, and small cans of Tomato sauce, and a Sierra cup, and Nuwick candle, have a low weight. And people could bring nuts, dried fruit, etc.
Bringing some food to Europe, and buying some food at grocery stores and markets in Europe, rather than buying prepared food in Europe, could make the difference between being able to afford a trip to Europe, and not being able to afford a trip to Europe, for some people.

Posted by JustTravel
San Francisco/Venezia
251 posts

"People could carry inexpensive food from home." Made me smile. Some acquaintance took "cup of noodles" with them on their trip last year to save on food costs. ;-o Definitely not for me. ;-)

Posted by Pam
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
63 posts

Hi fellow travelers, I am in my early 60's and never went overseas until 2004. I returned in 2007 and now am planning a trip in 2013. I took a second job this past fall and put that money into a special bank account as the thought of never traveling again made me feel depressed. FF programs are beyond my understanding so I will save and use my cc to pay for trip expenses and then pay the card off when the bill comes. Can't wait to see London again. Happy travels.

Posted by Marilyn
Mentor on the Lake, OH, USA
251 posts

Great question, I'll have to investigate the frequent flyer miles more thoroughly. I have automatic deposit and put money aside each pay into our vacation account. I try to be sure that I have enough for hotel, airfare and car rental. I'll pay those off before we travel. My husband usually takes care of the food costs, so that comes from his savings account! If I have spent more than he, he reimburses me. We have always lived inexpensively, always by used cars, clothing on sale or TJ Maxx. Restaurants are our only spurlge but we limit that to 4 or 5 times a year. This year our daughter is getting married, so we'll be staying home!

Posted by Beatrix
Calgary
1974 posts

Here another variation on how to save on food cost when we spent a week in rural Switzerland. As we arrived by car from Germany we stopped at an Aldi grocery store on the German side of the border and stocked up on cheap groceries - cheaper than what those groceries would cost in Canada. We prepared those later on in the kitchen of our Swiss vacation rental ($600/week for the 4 of us!). We did add a bit of fresh veggies/fruit from the local coop and had 2 restaurant meals as a splurge during that week. Oh, another example on how to save for family travel in Europe: we stayed in a special Youth Hostel family program in Germany at the cost of about 900 Euro for 6 nights for 2 adults and two kids (8 and 10 at the time) - incl. accommodation in two rooms, 3 meals/day and programming for the kids every morning.

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1359 posts

Hello Just Travel. What was the price that your friend paid for "Cup of Noodles", purchased in the United States of America. Was it a high price ? My memory of seeing that kind of food is that it has a relatively high price.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4754 posts

I am pretty sure that hotels do NOT want people cooking over an open fire in their rooms.

Posted by Nate
Eureka, IL
65 posts

Great question! I am loving the responses. My wife and I are both 30. We have been to Europe 5 times, Holy Lands once, South America once, all over the US and Canada. We do what most of you have said older cars, smaller house, take lunch, eat at home, no cable, few frills and splurges. We travel in off season, stay in B & B's, lunch is our big meal. Do the research on various passes when we are traveling to a place. I am on my local City Council which pays $2K per year and am a volunteer EMT which pays $10/call or on average $1,200/year. My wife does some freelance Graphic Design and I do some construction side work. We have a seperate account and have never paid for any part of our vacations out of our base pay. With two children it has been a little more difficult the last few years but we still tend to travel more than what I think is normal for couples our age. Thanks for the question and keep responses coming.

Posted by Arnold
Denver, CO, USA
1000 posts

This will not work from the majority of folks and requires sacrifices but if you can get a job as a consultant that requires travel (plane, hotel, rental cars) every week and you can pull it off year in and year out, then traveling internationally becomes quite cheap. Caveat: One needs to learn how to plan the airlines freq flyer game to pull this off. I have found UA and AA and their partners to have the best availability.

Posted by Emily
Chicago
256 posts

I also have a job where I can occasionally pick up overtime. I have a small one-bedroom condo near a CTA stop and I work downtown, so I don't need a car. I cook most of my meals, eating out maybe once a week. I take my lunch to work every day, and only buy clothes from discount outlets or out-of-season. Many of my friends just can't fathom how I have the money, as they sip their Starbucks with their Prada sunglasses and perfectly manicured nails. I just smile and tell them I prioritize. :)

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1507 posts

$1000 = $83/month or $19/week or $2.80/day $5000 = $415/month or a car payment with high$ insurance added; or $95/week or the cost of family of 4 eating out once; or $13/day or the cost of a mocha latte, a muffin, and an extra gallon of gas. If someone says "I really wish I could travel, but I just can't afford it", they might just be surprised. Perhaps they really can.

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1359 posts

I appreciate the reply from Beatrix, dated 3/6/12 at 3:35 P.M., about buying cheap food in Germany, and bringing that food to Switzerland. At various countries in Europe I was at inexpensive and pleasant hotels and B & Bs in which there was a kitchen, equiped with cookware and kitchen utensils. I cooked my food in those kitchens. No other person was preparing food in the kitchen when I was in the kitchen. At one popular city, a small grocery store (moderate prices) was located very near the hotel in which there was a kitchen for the guests' use, on every floor.

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1359 posts

I liked reading the reply here by Brad at Greeley, dated 3/5/12 at 11:07 A.M. He said "Your kids and you could care less, 15 years from now, that you had a fancy TV, car, phone, and all kinds of stupid crap you don't need, trying to keep up with the Joneses". I agree with Brad. I remember, here at the Traveler's Helpline/General Europe, I think it was in the Spring of 2008, a woman at Kansas started a discussion thread, saying : she is experiencing a dilemma. She could choose to spend money for a vacation trip to Europe (with her husband), or she could buy a splash wall for her kitchen (at the stove top). She could not have both the Europe trip and the splash wall. One of the replies to her, from a woman at northeast U.S.A., was : When you will be very elderly, on your death bed, will you think "I have a happy memory of my splash wall, I am very glad that I bought a splash wall".

Posted by lisa
akron, ohio
98 posts

Randy, thanks for the question and to all those who replied, thanks too - I am really enjoying the posts. In addition to the pretty obvious things that many people do, I have a "fin" account. This was suggested by one of my sister's co-workers years ago as a way to save money for travel. It's simple - you never spend a $5 dollar bill. Whenever I get one I put it away in a special hiding place in the house. When I get to a couple of hundred dollars, into the savings account it goes. I am very strict about this and don't ever allow myself to dip into the account. I am so into this that if I am getting change back, say 10 dollars or so, I will ask for 2 fives. Once you get started you'd be surprised how easy it is and you won't even miss the money you are not spending. Last year I managed to save $980.00 this way and it was practically painless.

Posted by JustTravel
San Francisco/Venezia
251 posts

quoted: "Hello Just Travel. What was the price that your friend paid for "Cup of Noodles", purchased in the United States of America. Was it a high price ? My memory of seeing that kind of food is that it has a relatively high price." ....pretty cheap here in San Francisco and there are different kinds and make. ;-)

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2600 posts

@Lisa... what a great idea. I have been saving all my change for quite some time and I never use it, even though sometimes my purse gets a bit heavy because I forget to empty it. I just keep it in a big container, then take it to the change counter where I can deposit it into a savings account... no charge for the counter if you deposit it, but I really like your idea. I will start today!

Posted by Tania
Halton, Ontario, Canada
105 posts

Hello, we have yet to travel to Europe, we are in the planning stages right now, but have travelled a bit to the US. How we save is: After we paid off our mortgage (with many sacrifices for the extras to enable us to get rid of that large debt) we continue to try and put that same amount into a separate savings account. We use a bank with no banking fees for this. We call it our slush fund. We also limit our evenings out, movies, etc. and try to cut utility costs at home. We also do our best to educate our children on saving and understanding that you don't need "stuff" to make you happy. We spend a lot of 'TIME' together doing inexpensive activities in lieu of expensive day excursions. We also try to make purchases wisely (researching products for quality). Our jobs are contract jobs, negotiated through a union every 3 years, so we need to not only live frugally to save for a wonderful trip, but to make sure we can manage in hard times. It has almost become second nature to find a better and less expensive way. Everyone has their own methods, sometimes it is just deciding what works best and educating yourselves on how to save. Sometimes it is the little things, like making your own coffee in the morning to bring along, instead of buying one at the coffee shop-- that really starts to add up! Thanks Randy for starting this thread, it is encouraging to see so many people making great choices for how to save and sharing them with us.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10846 posts

Easy !! The government pays for all of our travel. Both social security checks are deposited to a savings account that is our travel account.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1507 posts

Tania; Amazing what a difference it makes in your life when you have no mortgage. I'll best most people pretty much assume a monthly mortgage payment is going to be part of their life until they either retire or expire. But it doesn't have to be that way. Buy a fixer-upper when you're 25 on a 15-year mortgage and it's paid off when you're 40. But you don't even need that dramatic savings to travel. You can save enough just in the difference between driving an older, paid-for, fuel-efficient car for modest miles vs. the opposite. Every $ counts, but big$ savings count a LOT.

Posted by Pam
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
63 posts

In response to Ron's response re: the splash wall. You are absouletly correct as I have worked in long term care for over 20 years and I have never heard anyone ever regret taking a trip. In fact a residents husband once recalled how they went to Alaska and as they were getting ready to board a plane to leave his wife said wistfully 'I never got to see an Eskimo'. He laughed as he recalled he turned them around and he made the arrangements and she got to see her Eskimoes. We both chuckled and looked at his wife deep in dementia and I said 'I bet your glad now you listened' and he just smiled. Memories are such treasures and they are priceless. Happy travels everyone.

Posted by Delecia
Maurice, Louisiana, US
31 posts

My husband gets paid every two weeks. Therefore, two months a year he gets an "extra" check. When that "extra" check comes, we put it in a different account. That's also where we put the income tax return, bonuses or gifts of money we receive from our parents. We use that money for the "extras" in our life like travel. We're headed to Italy in May!

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1507 posts

Delecia, Welcome! I always love to see post #1's! What a great point. My wife gets paid every two weeks also, and I usually wind up planning for those occasions every six months when that "extra" paycheck is usually put toward airfare or lodging deposits or car rental, etc. I'm glad you mentioned that, because it had not crossed my mind, but that's roughly 8% of your income that you/we don't "need" if you can get by on the usual two paychecks a month.

Posted by Mike
Clawson, MI, USA
190 posts

I forgot to mention in my first post. Gasoline. I calculate the distance from home to work using one of the map apps on-line. Then I multiply that by 2. Take that total and multiply by 5. This should be total miles driven to and from work for a work week. Divide the work week total by the MPG your vehicle gets in city traffic. That's how much gasoline you actually need rather than topping off the tank. Filling my tank would cost me (at today's price of 3.95) $63.20. Just using the gas I need (6.4 gallons) costs $25.28.

Posted by Beatrix
Calgary
1974 posts

Hi Mike, I don't quite understand your calculation and how it saves you money. If you get only $25 worth of gas you'll have to stop by the gas station every single week. If you get a fill-up for $62 you only have to gas up every second or third week, spending less time at gas station and the same amount of money in the end.

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1359 posts

In a discussion on this general topic, I think it is appropriate to mention that the words "afford a trip to Europe" do not have the same meaninig to all persons.
I felt astonished when I read, here at the Traveler's Helpline (in an other discussion thread) that a person recommended a "budget" hotel that cost 232 U.S. Dollars for a room for two persons for one night. I think that hotel was not in one of the extremely expensive countries (Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark) or extremely expensive city (Dublin). I guess it would be best for a person, suggesting a strategy for being frugal while in Europe, to say : that suggestion is for people who have a relatively small amount of money to spend in Europe. Having said that, I feel obliged to say : I do not have any negative attitude toward people who have more money than I. And, I do not have an attitude of envy (it is one of the cardinal sins, identified by the Catholics in the Medieval centuries) toward any person who has something that I do not have. And furthermore, if a person accomplished his/her goal of travelling to Europe, I think that is wonderful. It makes no difference to me if the trip was paid for by an other person (such as a benevolent relative), or if the traveler diligently saved money for ten years, for one trip. (I do have repsect and admiration for people who did that).

Posted by Mike
Clawson, MI, USA
190 posts

Hi Beatrix, I think what I mean is I put in $25 a week as opposed to just filling it for $62 because I can. In other words, if I know I have a full tank I'm more likely to drive more in a week and use more of the gas. If I only put in $25 I'm less likely to make side or unnecessary trips. If I have to pick-up something I always do it on the way home. I never make a special trip just to get gas. The $37 difference can immediately be put into my trip fund. :-)

Posted by Beatrix
Calgary
1974 posts

ok Mike, that is a strategy that works for people who use their vehicle mainly to drive to work. As my minivan is the one of a rather typical soccer mom it's a strategy that does not work at all for our family. Well, at the moment it's not soccer but basketball that causes a lot of driving ... but fact is that I often don't know a week ahead of time which trips I will have to do. Last week it looked as if my daughter would have a home game (10 km round trip) but instead I found out the night before that we'd end up at the other end of the city with a 70 km round trip! Car pooling is not always possible when parents want to be at the games and are coming from work in different areas of the city ... My best strategy has been to designate 1 or 2 days a week as non-driving days. That forces me to consolidate errands on the other days and limit single purpose trips. I can do that in the summer only as I'd have the option of doing some trips by bike which doesn't work now (even though we have on of the mildest winters I've seen here there's still ice on some roads).

Posted by stephen
Greeley, co, usa
244 posts

Here's what I did last year to pay for a 2 week trip to the Christmas markets in Germany/Austria I was using frequent flier miles for the airfare and I wanted to see how much money I could save from other sources for the trip. Here are my results: Ebay sales - 1782.75 Direct sales of old magazines - 100 Prepaid grocery card discount - 80.08 AAA Discount - 12.60 Coupons - 702.62 Rebates - 250.85 Change of pharmacy - 75 Senior discount - 37.02 Gas savings - 97.61 groupon - 20 Lottery winnings - 41 Student discount - 0.70 Gift card - 30 Foreign currency settlement - 18.04 Medical refund - 229.65
Vacation house rental income - 1645.46 For a total of over $5,400.

Posted by bronwen
maplewood, new jersey, usa
750 posts

I do all my online shopping using companies with links on United Shopping (for miles) or Ebates. Using Ebates I have made over $1000 since 2009 and earned tons of miles though United/continental. Not having car payments and mortgage are huge. Also, we by most of our clothes at consignment shops - honestly, I have the money to buy full price but find much better selection at local consignment shops (at least for my son and husband).

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1519 posts

No one has mentioned my system. I figure I probably will not live to a ripe old age, so I short my retirement fund. Of course, you have to have a plan of dying early for it to really work. Millions of Americans apparently use this plan to afford houses, cars, tv's, etc, so it must work.

Posted by Linda
Seattle, WA, USA
432 posts

Karen, I got a good chuckle out of your comment about the retirement fund. I too have decided to live for today (for a bit anyway) until I start freaking myself out again. Watching the funds take a dive over several years prompted me to say, what the hey...live for today. Linda

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1507 posts

Karen, You don't have to rely on avoiding old age :) You just need to be ok with doing your splurgy traveling now, while you are healthy and energetic, rather than when you are retired and....who knows. That's my plan. To me, a perfect day is a nice long walk and a good book. If that's my retirement, I'm fine with it - as long as I have already completed most of my "bucket list" for travel already. If I'm luck enough to keep traveling at that point, that's just a nice bonus.

Posted by Sarah
Chicago (formerly St. Louis), IL, USA
1311 posts

I guess my situation is different from most people's on this site. I've been lurking on this thread for a while, reluctant to respond because I was afraid of being judged even by fellow travelers. But now that I've bought my tickets for my next trip, I figured the hell with it. I work part-time (been looking for a full time job for a terribly long time) and live with my parents because I can't afford to move out. But I can afford to take one big trip a year, whether to another country or within the U.S. I save my money because travel is very important to me. It's part of my identity. I don't buy a lot of stuff, don't have a smartphone or any new electronics, have driven the same (used) car since 2000. I travel more than everyone I work with, all of whom work full time. I asked my supervisor for 2 weeks off from work (without pay, since I'm part-time) but I haven't yet told anyone at work about my trip, not even my friends. I don't want to have to justify it. And I don't want them to think, Oh, she has so much money that she can go to Europe every other year? It isn't a question of having so much money. It's a question of priorities, like others on here have said. I also don't yet want the word to get out that I'm going to Paris and London. I know people will say, Didn't she go to Germany 2 years ago? Where is she getting all this money? When I do get a full-time job, I might not be able to take off for 2 weeks or maybe not even afford to take any big trips for a few years, so I do it now, while I can.

Posted by Debbie
Sunnyvale, CA, USA
290 posts

Day to day frugal living - you get used to it after a while. If you have no money for something then don't buy it - don't charge to credit card anything unless it is paid off the follwing week or so, taking lunch to work 99% of the time, dinner out maybe once a month maximum, cook on the weekend everything from scratch for the week, don't buy junk to eat, no Starbucks (yuck anyway!), no dry clean only clothes, no manicures at the salon, dye my own hair, cheap hair cuts, buy clothes only when needed and only on extreme sale, do all my errands in one routed trip to save on gas, no new gadgets or car if the old one still works fine, 5 minute showers: get wet, turn water off, suds up, turn water on to rinse off, heat only the parts of the house that are being used, no aircon....

Posted by Go Blue
Atlanta
5 posts

We allocate our work bonuses as our vacation fund. I don't mind splurging on travel because every study discusses how travel is one of the best purchases for your happiness level.

Posted by Brad
Greeley, CO, USA
232 posts

Ok is this Debbie really responding or is it my wife. Are they twins? Yes I think they are. That is how you save. Debbie hit the nail on the head. And my wife has the pleasure or displeasure of being married to an attorney.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1507 posts

Paul, I would agree that there is no need to go overboard trying to save. But of course, everyone has a different definition of what it means to go overboard. So who are we to say what is or isn't too far. Speaking for myself, I like to live simply. I like to get lots of my entertainment for free from the public library. I don't really enjoy eating out. The whole getting waited on charade is off-putting to me. Most of the time I'm too busy dealing with my children's lives to worry much about what little luxuries I might be missing out on. As for trip length, we have determined that although staying longer on a trip is always more expensive in total, it is always less expensive per day. We get more bang for the buck on longer trips. If we could only go for 10 days to 2 weeks, we would probably stay home and spend our money in other ways. But that's us as a family of five. Others in other situations might come to a different conclusion.

Posted by Debbie
Sunnyvale, CA, USA
290 posts

Brad, I promise I'm not your wife....but I do know lots of folks in Colorado....I have to admit I'm very frugal and do like to live very simply which is not to most people's taste....but I'm proof that a corporate accounting person can do this without looking like too much of a misfit....in fact folks here actually ask for pointers...but then almost anything can be cool in California.

Posted by jennifer
brooklyn, ny, usa
118 posts

as i mentioned in another thread, i get seven weeks vacation. add on weekends and holidays.....last year i spent 87 nights in hotels. add to that, travel costs and being there costs and i have become an expert at saving. i live in nyc, i dont drive. i walk to supermarkets (like we all do here) so im never spending more than about $20/week because i have to carry everything home. when i get paid, i withdraw $100 from the atm. its going to last me for two weeks. whatever is leftover goes in the coffee can for "emergency vacations". you know, when you are at work and somthing happens to make you want to quit and you think "but i get seven weeks of vacation, i have to stay here" and you call in sick and take a short weekend trip away to remind yourself its all worth it. i dont "go shopping" ever. if i need something, i go and buy that one something. i dont waltz up and down the aisles with a cart. although i will say, i did exactly that last year at target right before my birthday and spent $150 on stuff i didnt even need. it was indeed fun, but i wont do that regularly. i dont buy bagels in the morning or coffee or lunch or go out for dinner. i bring breakfast and lunch to work and i make my own cheap dinner. when i go out socially, i dont drink. that cuts out cost. a good night out will cost me $15 tops. there was a time in my life where i didnt bat an eye at spending $50 twice a week on happy hour. thats $5200 just for that expense alone. my upcoming europe trip cost me $2150 in travel and hotel for twenty nights. i am not into fancy hotels. i have a fancy bedroom at home. when i travel, id rather see the world than my room. of course, i would never begrudge anyone who fancies themselves a five star hotel. but im answering the "how do you save money for travel" question and cheaper hotels is definitely a way i save.

Posted by Karen
Santa Rosa, CA
600 posts

Haven't been on this site much since our trip to italy last Sept. But now that we are back from our Costa Rica vacation, we are planning the next trip. And seems we are thinking Europe again, probably France.
I divert 15% of every paycheck into our "travel" capital One checking account. So at a minimum we'll have enough to cover all the ATM withdrawals and possibly enough to pay for things we charge. And since I'm lucky enough to work for a company that pays bonuses, the 15% of the bonus paycheck adds to the vacation "pot". Then since there are things like airfair and other expense paid for in advance of vacation, that spreads out the total amount over 6+ months.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
645 posts

As I read all the wonderful replies, it seems that the general theme is that when you want to travel, you figure out a way to afford it. I think what people spend their money on is a good indicator of what's important to them. Going to Europe was so important to me at around the age of 30 that I quit my job and sold almost all my possessions to generate enough money to go. (I kept a VW Rabbit, 10 boxes of stuff and a bike.) That was $2000 back in the late 70's. I thought it would last me about 2 months, but using many of the travel methods mentioned already, I was able to stretch it to 4 months. Most people thought I was nuts to leave my job and to travel alone as a single woman. It was a very freeing and life-changing experience for me. Now in my 60's with a husband in tow, we put one month in Europe each year in our budget. The ways we saved for that were to live well below our means, max our 401K contributions and travel only in the US until 2009. Then the baby boomer mentality finally caught up with us and we decided to live for today. We don't plan to leave any big inheritance for our 5 kids (all grown and with families of their own) and they've known that for a long time, so I guess that's another way we save for travel!

Posted by Barbara
Victoria, B.C., Canada
36 posts

Have been following this thread with interest and am amazed at the myriad of ways there are to accomplish the same goal. Whether it's a regular occurrence or a long-awaited once-in-a-lifetime trip, we all give up something to make our travel dreams come true. Seasons in our lives make this easier or more difficult, but the common thread in this thread is that we persevere diligently in ways that are as different as we are. Thank you for sharing your inspiring stories. It is encouraging to know that others have the same challenges as I in the hope of receiving a rich travel experience.

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1359 posts

I liked reading the recent replies here by Jennifer, and Karen, and Lo.

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1359 posts

Now, I will say my comment on a reply by Randy dated 3/5/12 at 3:04 P.M. Randy said : "...I swore I would not wait until retirement to go places (in Europe) for the first time". I think that is a wise decision, if a person can afford to travel. I do not recommend charging high expenses for travel, to a credit card account, if the traveler can not totally repay the credit card bank. Travel to Europe this year, if you can afford it. In future years, travel to Europe might not be possible, because of higher prices for airline tickets, or a war, or governmental changes, or a disease epidemic, or other crises. I do not know what will happen. I am now planning my trip to London and Vienna and train travel across Switzerland, in the month May, 2012. My airline tickets (American Airlines) were not a very high price, because the travel will be completed before May 15. And the hotel room at Vienna is not very expensive, because I will not be there in the Summer season.

Posted by PeterLuv5Terre
Wesley Chapel, NC, US
167 posts

1) Financial Priorities... will enable us to save and travel more in the future: Home size: As soon as our oldest child leaves for college we're going to greatly downsize our home--cut the square footage by half. I figure this will save our family $500/month or $6K a year. Car: I drive an 18 year old clunker Miata to save money. no new cars or car payments for me! Eating out: Minimize as much as reasonable... but that's hard being married. 2) Credit Cards: We use Costco for 4% back on gas. For everything else, to compare apples with apples (miles cards vs. pure cash cards) compare the net percentage back for miles cards. Most FF cards net at 0.5 or 1% and we've found it makes more sense just to focus on the cash back card because then you don't have to worry about all the restrictions. Incidentally, we used to have a Fidelity credit card that paid 2% and we were in heaven--they killed it. 3) Both my parents died within one year after retirement. We're going to travel as much as possible before then.

Posted by terry
Brandon
44 posts

I think it's a great question that you asked. Yes it can be a very dangerous topic. Travel is an amazing event in a persons life. I would much rather have a nice trip to say Europe than buy an over priced jacket. Then again thats just moi.. One thing I try to do is cut down on eating out,and coffees at Starbucks. Those types things add up. Yet another thing I do is look at my monthly bills,and see how much I can hold out to save. Some months are better than others. I do make sure to really check on all the travel sites about prices of trips. Not sure if what two cents were any help...

Posted by JustTravel
San Francisco/Venezia
251 posts

A few years back, I pondered about having a big party for our 25th anniversary or going on a trip. My boss then said "That's a no-brainer. Go on a trip!" And so we did - two weeks in Paris and four weeks in Italy. Fabulous! And we still had a family celebration when we returned.

Posted by Cary
Gator Country, Florida
297 posts

We just make sure that our standard of living is below our income. Of course, we will now be adding a family member, so we'll have to see how we go about navigating the new dimensions of the expense of parenthood. But in general, I think our philosophy will stay the same - pay cash for your car, buy a house that is below what you can afford, and pay cash for everything and put the rest in savings. @Jo, I'm not sure why you took this post in such a negative way. I don't think that the intention was to somehow negate the expenses of those living in Europe. We all know Europe is expensive. However, the cost of the trans-Atlantic flight is routinely 20% or more of any given trip's cost. When my wife and I went for a month, it was right at 20% of our total cost. When we went for a week, it was much closer to 50%. I don't think Randy was suggesting that somehow it was cheaper to travel within Europe if you live there, simply that getting there is half the battle for most of us. And I certainly didn't see those living in Europe as the "focus" of the thread. As a matter of fact it was the exact opposite.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1507 posts

Yes, Cary, that's it exactly! Normally the nugget of wisdom says that you must "live within your means". But we all know that this is too often interpreted to mean living equal to your means - as if spending $99 of every $100 you make defined success. In reality, it simply keeps you out of bankruptcy an/or jail. What you have to do to really live in financial freedom is to live purposefully and significantly beneath your means. That's the key. Easier said than done, of course.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1507 posts

Since this thread has reached almost 100 posts and will likely fade away soon enough, I would like to take this opportunity to say how pleased and astounded I am that so many different people have contributed here and that, even though the subject matter could be considered potentially ripe for strong opinions, almost every response here has been heartfelt, respectful and positive. It is difficult to think of another thread that has gone on so long without rancor. I congratulate you all and wish you happy (and financially wise) travels...

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9094 posts

I have nothing to add, other than to note that I've never seen a thread go so long without degenerating into a flame-war or validating Godwin's law. And just because I was so blown away by this small Dutch beach town I visited today.... Domburg. Go there.

Posted by Dan
Ocean Shores, Wa, USA
124 posts

Was great to read all the "tread lightly" comments! After 100, I don't remember if this is already covered or not, but the way we are able to go to Europe more often (Ireland 3 times since 2006....and N. Ireland, Scotland, Germany and Italy are next) is through visa rewards. Unlike a previous poster who "pays cash for everything" we do just the opposite, and put everything we can on our Visa card, and receive one point for each $ spent. Of course, the ONLY way this can work is to pay off the entire balance each month so as not to incur interest charges. You also have to be careful....it's easier to buy stuff you really don't need when you use plastic! 65,000 points gets us one nearly free round trip airline ticket to Europe. However it won't work as well with open jaw, you can get $'s credit toward an open jaw, but not too cost effective...so far, on the ones I've tried. We pay all our personal bills by cc like Sat. TV, elec, land line and cell phone, auto gas, groc, etc. We are also able to run most all of our business transactions that we can, through this same Visa card, and so it adds up fairly fast for us. If some one charges a % fee to use the card, we do not use it.
Since airfare is usually one of the biggest expenses for this type of travel, it really knocks a chunk off the total. Dan

Posted by Cary
Gator Country, Florida
297 posts

@Dan - I admire your ability to use the CC. My wife and I have discussed it a lot. We used a CC for trips and reservations and most big purchases (like the plane tickets). We of course pay it off each month. When it comes to using it for everything, I just don't know if we can be as "hawkish". As you said, it can be easy to "overbuy" when using plastic. I have a feeling we would find ourselves at the end of each month spending more than we intended. We pay attention to what we spend, but I think I might become a too OCD about it and not enjoy life. But I'm glad it works for you. :)

Posted by Karen
Santa Rosa, CA
600 posts

We also use a CC and get 1 mile for every dollar spent. Well worth the $60 a year, when we look at the thousands we save on airfare. Every purchase is entered in our "checking account" and then when we receive the bill, we pay every month's bill in full and those transactions are moved to the credit card account. In our minds, it's just like using a debit card off a checking account. So in addition to actual miles earned on flights, hotels, car rentals, the miles add up quickly. Last fall our we used 50,000 United miles + $800 to go to Europe (savings us $2200). By the time we go to Europe again sometime in 2013, we hope to have accumulated enough miles to fly business class.
For those travelers who are disciplined enough to pay off the bill every month and never pay a dime of interest, a great way to cut down the cost of airfare. Randy comes up with great thought provoking questions for the travel addicts on this site. I think the last 100+ thread I remember had to do with why people travel or what draws people the the adventure of travel.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Dan, you seem to have missed the detail that I pay cash for everything because I live in a place where I am forced to. Credit cards are not widely accepted in Germany except at very high end stores and fancier restaurants. If you live in the states, by all means, use CC rewards. The question was about how to save on fees and such when traveling WITHIN Europe, particularly in the parts of Europe that are less likely to take credit cards, and my advice was to take out larger amounts at a time because you save on the fees for withdrawal that way. That's all.

Posted by Laura
Fredericton
106 posts

I've enjoyed reading all these replies! For my husband and I, it's definitely about priorities. I spend much of my spare time planning, whether it be for a nursery (as we are expecting in July) or our next trip (which I'm starting now :)). Knowledge is power- and it allows us to focus in on exactly what we want, and ensure we are getting the best possible price. We have an airmlies credit card, but use it only for within country travel (to see family and friends, since we do that anyways), and save seperately for large trips. We try to begin saving around 9-12 months ahead, and focus all of our extra funds there. Really, our moral is we choose a priority. Recently, it was paying off our new (to us) vehicle, so we wouldn't have a monthly payment. Now, it's saving for our next trip. I find the more accurately I can budget a trip, the better we save.