“Oh Leah!!! How the heck do you afford all of this! Do tell! I’m willing to do anything!” was a comment left on our Facebook page recently which made me think, you really do want to know how do we afford to travel. I hope this helps.
The two biggest expenses most households have is there house and car. T and I have been together for 17 years and purchased our house just after we married, way before the Sydney boom. This means that our mortgage is quite manageable. As our priority is travel, we haven’t upgraded the family car since Striker was born 10 years ago. It’s regularly maintained, still fuel efficient and has no problems. We’ve driven to a few car yards over the last few years to test drive a new car, but again I’ve calculated where we could go instead of buying the car and we’ve decided to take the holiday.
This has also extended to what I buy for our house and ourselves. Our lounge room still lacks any wall paintings because each time we go hunting I decide that the cost could be moved across into our travel fund. Yep, we’ve been living here for over 10 years without a single painting on the wall!
Our philosophy is that we only have now to do things. We don’t know what the future has in store for us, especially health wise so we are doing what we can now. There is no way I am going to wake up in 20 years and ask where time has gone, and then start living. But we are realistic. We know we have to work to help us follow our dreams, and luckily we love our jobs. But that takes up 8 hours a day – set aside sleep and we have another 8 hours each day to explore, plus the weekends and our holidays. Winning. I should also add, that I do have a strong belief in service, so I don’t want to leave my job in education.
So how do we afford travel? It’s all about priorities, right?
Identify Your Non-Negotiables
When it comes to travel there are a number of things I know we can’t do. We do travel with a chronic health condition so we have a list of destinations we can’t travel to together. Despite lots of attempts at negotiating, camping and cruising are also off the list of possibilities at this time. I don’t even look at destinations that will feature these components anymore, I know it’s not going to happen. Our accomodation must have private bathing facilities – we don’t share toilets, and our preference is for a queen bed for T and I (we are both quite tall). The other caveat on all our travel is that we can’t be away from home for more than 3 months at the request of our medical specialist.
As a family, work out your non-negotaibles. You may decide that you won’t fly more that 10 hours away or that you must have access to a beach every day if you’re going to invest in a holiday. Knowing your limits is really important because you can then source destinations that fit your requirements but are places you hadn’t thought of before.
Create Your Bucket List and Learn to Trawl
When it comes to our next trip we don’t usually have one destination in mind, we have a number. We only decide upon our destination once we have found airfares within our budget. If you want to really afford to travel with a finite budget you need to develop skill in trawling the airlines for their best prices. Remember our trip to Tasmania back in January? That trip only happened when I found $29.00 flights from Melbourne to Launceston (we usually spend Christmas in Victoria so extended our stay until our departure date). Our Darwin trip occurred when I finally found tickets for under $1000.00 return and our upcoming trip to Macedonia was only confirmed once Qatar Airlines went on sale dropping our overall price by $4,000 for five of us. So how do we afford travel? Bargain finds!
Travel off peak
I laugh at this as both my kids are at school and T and I work within the school calendar. School holidays and weekends are the only times that we can travel. Travelling off peak is something that isn’t possible for us unless I snatch time out of my Long Service Leave and leave T at home. Knowing when you can travel is a crucial element to your planning. If your workplace closes over Christmas, perhaps that a good time for you; if it’s the busiest time, maybe a July is a good time. If you can only travel during peak times, work out what destinations are off peak at that time.
Before the conception of the Kid Bucket List I subscribed the major family travel magazines and followed their Facebook pages. I also followed my favourite museums and attractions. Truth be told, I still do. Every week I would check in to see what competitions and giveaways they were running. I would then enter them all. Every now and again I would win tickets to an attraction or site. If you are serious about exploring places with your kids I highly recommend this strategy. So how do we afford travel? Sometimes we win tickets!
I have a few little savings strategies on the go most of the time. I’m not sure if they are particularly good for everyone but they work for me. Firstly, I have a Travel Card from my bank. Each fortnight I direct $100.00 onto the card. Its primary use is spending money on our school holiday adventure. Our travel card has a currency convertor, so I am currently transferring my Aussie dollars across into it as Yen.
My next savings strategy is the good old money box by the door trick. Every night when T showers, I rifle through his discarded pants and remove all the coins. I put all of these into the money box. Sometimes I take the $5.00 notes. Just before each school holiday period I get the kids to empty it and count the money. It usually provides a few hundred dollars that can be used on outings.
A proper savings account is key to our travel. Just like my travel card, I have set up a savings account that redirects funds into an account that I can’t easily touch. We agree on the set amount each year and draw from it for flights and accomodation. After we have secured flights, I like to stagger the purchase of accomodation so we use savings rather than credit. Don’t get caught in the credit spiral! So how do we afford travel? We save!
Whilst most of you know that T and I work full time in education, many of you would be unaware that I also work for two other companies at night time. I write articles and manage some of their social media (although I am reducing this as the Kid Bucket List needs more time). I draw a small income from this endeavour. Not enough to retire from teaching (not that I would ever consider this) but the right amount to need to pay tax on it every quarter. This supplements our travel goals or picks up the slack in other areas where I have redirected funding onto travel at some stage. Not everyone can manage a second job, I’m just fortunate to have been in the right place way back in 2009! So how do we afford travel? We work bloody hard!
The Kid Bucket List
The success of the Kid Bucket List does mean that on occasion we are invited to new attractions. On the rare occasion we are asked to stay. Of course we always clearly identify which of our trips these are as we want to be transparent with our readers. Accepting these opportunities does mean a lot of work and I am not just another anonymous customer. We have to be on our best behaviour throughout the trip. This has helped us to further increase what we do during the year around our adventures.
One of the downsides of these opportunities is that you have limited choice around the dates, the rooms are chosen for you and you are obligated to really look and absorb every little detail of the site or accomodation. What I am trying to say is that you can’t just rock up at the hotel and sleep – you need to try everything out so you can maintain you integrity with your readers – you don’t want to rave about all the features if you haven’t actually tried them out, what if they’re actually quite terrible! But it does give us a few extra opportunities to travel, right? I wrote about our life as part time travel bloggers here if you want to read more.