Traveling has become one of my new fave past times! Why? Because as someone who is approaching 27 very very very soon I’ve decided to stop hiding behind my student loans as a reason why I can’t travel more and enjoy “extravagant” experiences on a budget. I’m a teacher and besides the fact that I don’t make alot of money and have a crippling amount of student loan debt, I also have a job that blesses me with some pretty sweet vacation days. So this is the inspiration behind my traveling series in which I hope to not only take you along my journey but also to help you save a quick buck as well. It does take a bit of work I’m not going to lie but outcome is worth it. Frugal is fun never cheap! Those are my words to live by!
5 Weeks To LA: Traveling On A Teacher Salary & School Loan Budget
So incase you haven’t guessed it the series will be called “5 Weeks To LA”? Why? Because in 5 weeks I’ll be making my first trip to California and I thought it was a pretty catchy name! Each week I’ll be bringing you different tips on how I’m preparing for this trip, how much I’ve spent…etc annd more. So this week I figure I’d start with the baby steps of the “booking”process. Here’s what you need to pay attention to, do, and use if you want to travel to places you’ve never been because you think they are out of your means.
Plan Accordingly: do your research! There are two things you need to pay close attention to when deciding where you want to go.
Are your travel dates flexible: If there is really a place you want to go and find it a bit pricy, look up their off season travel times. You will see prices drop drastically as opposed to attempting to go during a holiday season or the summer time. Those are prime travel times and you will have to book very very early to get good deals. However if your dates are flexible you have more time to save, and power to negotiate your budget into the mix.
And can you do much of the exploration on foot: If you have some place you love and you are dying to go (coughs London coughs) you need to check out the area. Once you’ve decided on where you are staying or have an idea of where you want to stay start mapping our your excursions so you know when and where you can cut on costs. If you can walk to a few places rather than having to take a taxi or a bus this will help keep more coin in your pocket. Also figuring out when activities are cheapest or free will also help you in the monetary aspect.
*Sign up for reward cards*: Just as a tip for preparing to prepare… signing up for rewards cards or programs with your credit cards will be a God send! I’ve been saving rewards points for about 4 years now and will be using them to travel to Brazil next year during the Olympics! That’s right four years worth of planning and saving for that one! And I still will search for the most frugal way to get there! The best cards are the ones where the points dont expire and you don’t have black out dates on when you can travel (Citi and Capital One have some of the best reward card programs I’ve experienced)
Book Frugally: Do not accept any flight/hotel at face value without looking up comparison rates/prices first!
Booking the flight is half the battle! There are several tips to remember when booking airfare and one major site to keep in mind! The Flight Deal! This website does a lot of the heavy lifting for you all you have to do is be quick and flexible. I was put on to this site not too long ago from Klassy Kinks founder Ijeoma who swears by it and has the stamps in her passport to prove its validity.
Besides catching major deals you also want to remember these steps when booking a flight in the most frugal of manners:
- Book ahead of time if possible. (This should be a part of our planning phase)
- Travel during the middle of the week (Tuesdays and Wednesdays preferably) for a cheaper flight as compared to flights over the weekend or during holidays.
- Check your options (Priceline, Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, CheapTickets are all staple sites of mine that I visit before I make a final decision or purchase). I also check the actual airline as well to see how their prices compare.
The other half of the battle is booking the place you are going to stay. Air BnB is a great option/alternative to standard hotels. If you are uncomfortable with the concept of Air BnB and want to stay in a standard hotel, you can still negotiate to get better rates and deals depending on when you are traveling (off season traveling is obviously best… which is why you must do your research and plan accordingly)
Travel Frugally: Don’t think you have to spend 1000 bucks before or during your trip for you to have a good time!
What does this mean? Well you’ve planned your trip out, you’ve booked gotten a great deal on flight and lodging… and now you are spending money like a mad person pre trip and during the trip. That was always my biggest downfall. I cut corners and save in all right places then I shop incessantly for weeks before the trip to get the perfect outfits situated, the cutest luggage…etc. I get on the trip and spend extravagantly on eating, parties, events, an worst SOUVENIRS! Here’s a few things to remember:
Travel light (you don’t want to encounter overage fees for heavy luggage going or coming back from your destination). Many times I’ve packed 30 outfits for a 4-5 day trip. You won’t have time for that many wardrobe changes so stick to the basics.
If you plan on shopping when you arrive pack even lighter! Coming home with things from your vacation is much more memorable then buying clothes in your hometown. If you must you must! But remember pack less outfits since you’ll be buying some at your vacation spot.
Eat like you would at home! Eating is necessary… obviously you are going to have to eat on your vacation. But often times we “treat ourselves” and become gluttonous for everything around us. The truth of the matter is you’re probably not that hungry and wont even finish everything you’ve ordered. Eat the way you would at home to save yourself some coin. You can use that extra money for clothes!
Souvenirs… okay I’ve gone completely over board in the past for souvenirs that were not worth it! Now my limit is 2-3 souvenirs at most. Do not promise people you will bring them back anything! Or find very cheap/ cute or DIY souvenirs that will be appreciated without taking up a chunk of your vacation money.
In closing for our first vacay chat heres’ a few things to remember:
- Do not take the first deal you see. Plan accordingly, shop around, compare (unless its The Flight Deal than grab that sucker and plan backwards!) <— JK The Flight Deal can be an ambush some times but more on that in another post!
- Plan plan plan! Map out what is most important to you and what you are willing to spend a little extra on. Everything else compromise and skimp. Your experience will still be a wonderful one even if you don’t have high speed wifi!
- Be open to not doing the popular! This is good tip I’m still trying to manage! Just because something is rated four or five stars doesnt mean it is the best option. (i.e.: restaurants!) While planning check locally for things you would like that won’t necessarily make it on a top 10 list!
- Reward cards/ loyalty points and discounts are things you should always ask about! AAA and my teacher discount come in handy every now and then in places I never thought they would (museums, car rentals, hotels…etc)
That wraps up my mini chat! Our next chat I’ll be discussing places I’m planning to to visit in LA and San Diego that I don’t plan on paying FULL price for!! As well as ways to find travel bargains! Stay tuned! Always ask the worst they could say is NO! Please please please feel free to drop some spots or ideas for activities below if you know any great ones in the LA/ San Diego area! All ideas are welcome!
MY LA/San Diego Trip Details
trip details: I’ll be flying in to San Diego from NYC (LGA to be exact) during the third week of August. I’ll be spending four days in California in which I will be visiting San Diego, LA, and a few other hot spots along the way. I won’t be needing hotel accommodations for most of my trip (perhaps only one night in LA) and most of what I’ll be doing will involve sight seeing and being very touristy! Overall my flight cost a total of 430.00 bucks including the 70 dollar insurance I opted to take (I always take the insurance!). In my four day stay I plan (plans aren’t always definite so don’t hold me to it) to spend a maximum of 200 dollars which includes eating, splitting gas money with two other friends, activities & events. That brings me to about 157.00 dollars a day spent on vacation if I include the flight and 50 dollars a day without including the flight. Fifty bucks a day may sound unreasonably low to some, or extremely high to others but that is my maximum comfort point for this trip. Anything more than that and I will start to second guess/question if I really need it.
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