Thoughts on Travel Planning in the New Year
Planning out trips and dream locations is really fun but it's easy to get wrapped up in big ideas and Instagram photos. That being said, taking a good, hard look at the year in front of you is great way to determine where you can reasonably go given your time and budget. Once you have narrowed this down, you can lay out the steps you need to take to actually go!
For some people this is as simple as booking a plane ticket and going. However, if you're on a fairly limited budget (me) and accounting for another person's schedule (my boyfriend) then this can seem a little tedious. Specifically, while I have unlimited vacation and can work remotely, my boyfriend has to put all his vacation for the next year on his work calendar at once. Here's a look into my process for taking my wishlist into attainable goals.
Who? What? Where?
I wanted to get away for my birthday this year as a way to kickstart my last year in my 20's . Since have been planning our weekend Chicago trip since November, this was accounted for in my plans for 2017. After that we needed to make a few decisions about what we could do financially and how to use our time best. A few things were in the works:
-a wedding invite to an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica from an old friend in April
-a wedding invite to New Orleans from some old Nashville friends also in April
-the ever-looming potential Iceland trip (co-ordinating a trip for two couples in different states is hard!)
-visiting my boyfriend's best friend in San Francisco
-going to back to Memphis during baseball season
-my somewhat quarterly trip to Nashville
Break it Down
Originally, we were set on going to Jamaica. All-inclusive makes the process easy but it does mean some steep upfront costs. After researching more and how much it would cost and for the length of time we would want to enjoy it- we decided not to go. To make it affordable would have meant shortening the trip. For me, I want to go all in to make this kind of experience worth it. I'm normally a big advocate of saying yes to opportunities that will take you somewhere new. In this case though, the expense would have prevented us taking a few smaller trips. It's important to know your limits, especially after browsing Instagram or Pinterest all day!
Now my boyfriend had already called this time frame off. Not to let a week of time off go to waste, we're entertaining the idea of San Francisco. The plane tickets will be about half the price and we'll have somewhere to stay.
I should mention I spent about half my Christmas bonus on booking Airbnbs for Chicago, New Orleans, and one night in Memphis to break up the drive from New Orleans to St. Louis. Using a bonus, tax return, or any other unexpected chunk of money is great way to supplement your travel fund when you're working with a small budget. It may seem obvious but I'll be the first to admit it's been spent on clothes or other things I didn't really need in the past.
We also plan on going back to Memphis for another full weekend but this isn't something set on the calendar. It's a short drive and a reasonably priced city so that will be kept on a more flexible short list of getaways for when I get too restless. The same goes for Nashville which is typically a solo trip for me. It's good to keep in mind that not every trip needs to be an expansive, all encompassing Eat, Pray, Love type adventure. At the end of the day a new city is a new city no matter where it is in the world.
However, eliminating Jamaica from the running has left room for Iceland. This trip was originally proposed by my best friend about a year or so ago. We originally had wanted to go the following spring but we both took a step back to focus on our finances. Finally though, we are ready to commit to some dates in October. There will be more on this in future posts as visiting a country more expensive than yours takes extra care.
Make it Happen
Ultimately, planning takes time and effort. It's easy to get discouraged when you see a $600 plane ticket. The key is to breaking that amount down into digestible goals.
$600 is the equivalent of 4 months of daily $5 lattes or 2 months of $10 daily lunches
Maybe you think you take your own lunch a lot...but do you? Hold yourself accountable for these small expenses and you'll be able to save faster even if it doesn't seem like a lot at the time.
For short-term saving I recommend the app Qapital. This is similar to something like Digit but offers a lot more options. In Qapital you can set rules like the popular round-up feature that many apps have or create your own rules to help save. This can mean setting aside $10 every week or "charging" yourself a $1 every time you buy a coffee. Of course, the easiest way to save is to make reoccurring transfers for larger amounts but who has that kind of willpower? Qapital also let you break up your savings into different goals where you can upload a motivational image as well.
Bonus: Sign-up for Qapital here and we'll both make $5
I would note that I recommend apps like Qapital or Digit for short-term saving only as they make their money off interest which means your savings doesn't actually grow in the account. They're really meant as a way to stash away funds from yourself. For long-term saving, I recommend Ally banking which offers a 1% APY. This may be less than some traditional banks but I prefer the convenience of online accounts.
Hopefully this post was helpful to any one trying to focus in on some travel goals. I would love to answer any questions about goal setting or planning that you might have- feel free to comment!
Disclaimer: I am not qualified to give financial advice. I was also not sponsored by any of the mentioned companies. This is based entirely on personal experience.