Here’s how your friends afford their annual vacations abroad, and how you can save enough money to travel every year.
Listening to friends talk about how often they travel is terrible. Like sitting on thumbtacks, or using a sandpaper napkin. The humblebragging is just grating (“Oh, I so stupidly lost my passport in Venice. For the third time this year.”)
Well if you can’t beat them, join them. Here’s how they afford all those annual trips abroad, and how any Singaporean can do it too.
1. Create Small, Realistic Side Income Goals
You could try to afford travel just by strict budgeting. And if your income is at least $4,000 a month, it could be manageable with just disciplined saving. But if you’re making less, the only way you can afford to travel often is by earning a side income.
You will probably have to consider tutoring, freelancing for one-off projects, etc. But the good news is, you don’t need to make thousands in side-income. Don’t exaggerate the amount of effort involved.
All you need is a way to raise your income by a small amount–about $200 a month–to be able to travel once a year. An extra $2,400 a year will cover airfare and Airbnb accommodations in most places.
And an extra $200 is far from impossible; some of you may even be able to negotiate it as a raise. So focus your efforts on this small, realistic goal. Forget disempowering delusions, like believing you have to become a CEO, or found a million dollar startup, before you can travel regularly.
2. Keep Up-to-Date on Hotel Promotions
With few exceptions, accommodations will make up the bulk of the cost. You will note that many frequent travellers seem to make spontaneous plans. This is because they are responding to last minute deals from hotels, or have spotted Airbnb lodgings that are going for cheap.
Sign up for the mailing lists of travel aggregators, and set up a separate email address so you don’t get bombarded. Check it periodically for deals; you can save as much as 30% to 50% on last minute offers.
Stalk your credit card for promotions too, as they often partner with such websites. Currently, there are a number of Agoda credit card promotions and Airbnb credit card promos being offered for destinations around the world.
3. Have a Working Vacation
Ever wonder how some travellers seem to have unlimited leave to go on vacation, or can afford to skip work for prolonged periods?
The answer, most of the time, is that they can’t.
Most people don’t have enough leave, and can’t afford to take unpaid leave for a few weeks or a month. But many of them organise a temporary, flexible work schedule: they talk to their bosses about being able to work remotely, just for the duration of the trip.
This means they still get paid, and don’t lose out on leave. And if you think it gets in the way of a vacation, you’ll be surprised how little it interferes–how about doing some work during the night, when you’ve already retired to your hotel room? Three or four hours of skipped television isn’t a big sacrifice, surely.
Most employers can be flexible, just for a few days or weeks. Just ask.
4. Get an Air Miles Credit Card
With the right air miles credit card, like the DBS Altitude Visa Signature Card, you can rack up points (or miles) for anything you spend in Singapore or abroad. You can then use these for free seat upgrades or free tickets.
You can compare air miles cards at SingSaver.com.sg.
In addition to earning miles, these credit cards even offer access to airport lounges and discounts when you book accommodations on Airbnb, Agoda, or Expedia. This can shave hundreds of dollars off your airfare and make traveling a lot less stressful.
Another trick to maximising your air miles card is to repay the card in full every month. Not only will the interest rate overpower any savings if you fail to do so, but you can’t use your accumulated miles while you have outstanding debt.
5. Synchronise Your Trips with Your Paycheques
This is not an endorsement for you to live paycheque to paycheque. Always save at least 20% of your monthly income for emergencies. That said…
Try to time your trip so that your bank account isn’t dry when you return. For example, say you always get paid between the 27th and 31st of the month. You could time your return from your trip on the first week of the next month, so that when you come back your pay is already in.
Some people overspend while on holiday and come back to find they have two weeks to their next paycheque. They then tap into their savings or buy on credit–neither are advisable options.
6. Use Public Transport When Visiting Developed Countries
It doesn’t matter if you get lost a few times–discovery is part of the fun. Plus the next time you visit, you will know your way around better. In most countries, locals will be happy to help you with directions.
The cost of cabs or private cars can be steep, especially if you are visiting capital cities like London, New York,Tokyo, etc. Think how quickly you would deplete your pay by cabbing everywhere in Singapore – the same will be true in other major cities.
7. Try to Get Free or Discounted Travel Insurance From Your Agent
Ask your family’s trusted insurance agent for special deals on travel insurance. Some agents may flat out buy your travel insurance for you, because you’re a valued client. Otherwise, they can probably a get you a better deal.
(That doesn’t just mean cheaper–it could mean better coverage.)
Some air miles credit cards also automatically give you a complimentary travel insurance coverage when you charge your trip on them. Check to see if your air miles credit card offers this.
8. Avoid “Group” Areas When Traveling Alone
Some places are “group” areas. In other words, they are much more expensive if you go alone. The best example of this Bali–many activities are run for groups of three to four people. If you have no one else to go with, you will have to pay the cost for the entire group on your own (or find some friends, quickly).
The easiest way to do this is to check on TripAdvisor. But you can also email the tourism commissions of the countries to ask how a given activity is priced.
9. Hold Off Converting Currency When You Return
Whenever you convert your currency, there is a chance you will lose money. So if there is potential for a return visit, simply don’t convert the currency back. Leave it in your drawer for the next time you visit.
Over three or four trips, you will be surprised at how quickly these incidental “sock drawer savings” can pile up. These can partially fund your future trips.
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By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.