How to Afford Travel When You’re Broke

by Jeanne
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The Cove, Eleuthera, Eleuthera Island, Bahamas How to Afford Travel When You’re Broke

Tired of watching all your friends travel around the world while you live vicariously through social media? First of all, that’s not healthy (social media is complicated, isn’t it?). Second, there is something you can do about it! For all the times you haven’t been able to take that trip, I’m here to share a few tips on how to afford travel when you’re broke. 

Trying to figure out how to afford travel on a budget? This post will discuss how to find last-minute travel deals and other ways to save money on your dream vacation. We’ll also share some reviews of the most popular travel financing companies.

Before we go any further, I want to make it clear that we’re not advocating going into debt. We’re also not suggesting that people live beyond their means. At the same time, everyone deserves a break and the ability to see the world. We’re here to share some tips on how you can travel without having to break the bank or pay for everything upfront.

Have Priorities

If you’re looking for ways to afford travel when your funds are low, take a hard look at your life. Are there things that you’re wasting money on that can be cut out? Are you using your resources in a way that supports your goals?

You’d be amazed by how much date nights, fast food, or even that morning cup of drive-thru coffee can add up. At one point, we realized we were spending about $200 a month on dinner dates. Now that we’ve cut that out, we put that money towards our travel budget. 

Last Minute Travel Deals

With six kids, four of whom are still at home, we can’t just pick up and leave. Maybe some adventurous travelers can do that, but we need a little more planning. Especially, since we deal with travel anxiety. 

If you can swing it, though, this is a great way to afford travel when you’re broke. Many online booking sites and travel agencies (such as Travelocity and Expedia) have an entire section devoted just to last minute travel deals. 

Not sure where to look? Here are some resources:

Keep an open mind and see what happens. Scroll through and see what’s available and jump into an adventure. Not only could you score a fantastic deal, but you might get addicted to planning a vacation this way. Be sure to check out our post about the Best Travel Websites and Apps for 2020

Be Flexible on Your Travel Plans

You’ll probably pay a lot more if you’re very specific about your trip details, especially the destination. If you can be flexible, you’ll likely discover huge savings. Plus, rolling the dice and letting dates, destination, and dollars dictate your itinerary is kind of exciting. 

By being flexible, you’ll get the best prices on flights, hotels, and even rental cars. Rather than spending hours searching for the best dates and destinations, let technology be your guide. Using the Skyscanner search tool (this is just an example — other sites including Kayak work similarly). 

Here’s how to search for the best travel deals:

  • Enter your departure airport.
  • In the “To” field, choose “Everywhere” as your destination.
  • In the “Depart” and “Return” fields, choose “Cheapest Month.”
  • Select your cabin class and number of travelers.
  • Hit “Search Flights” and check out the results! 

Growing up in Richmond and Montreal, Josh and I, respectively, loved taking road trips. We could get to big cities like New York, Washington, D.C., and Toronto in just a few hours. Now that we live in Idaho, there’s not as much nearby. Sure, we like visiting Lagoon amusement park outside Salt Lake City (stop at Taste of India for a great meal!), but there’s only so many times we can do that without getting bored. 

We can, however, take short flights to cool cities. One time, we used this search method to plan a little getaway, and found a $14 flight to Denver! How cool (and amazing!!!) is that?

Groupon Travel Deals

Gotta be honest — we’ve never actually done this ourselves. However, we know a number of people who have booked discount travel through Groupon and loved it. So, we’re including this as one way to afford travel when you’re strapped for cash. 

After going to the site, I saw that there’s a whole section of Groupon dedicated to travel and it’s broken down into different categories. Along with selections like Romantic Getaways, Air-Inclusive Trips, and Last-Minute Travel, you might also find a collection of Under $99 hotels! 

Travel as a Group

When our whole family is together, we’re a group of eight. There are times when that’s incredibly inconvenient, and then there are times when it works in our favor. Sometimes, we’re able to save money by booking under a group rate. 

If there are relatives, friends, or even other couples who are interested in seeing the same destination, you might want to team up to save money. A word of caution — make sure you actually like each other enough for this. Traveling can be stressful, and bring out the worst in people. You don’t want to ruin a trip by going with people who are going to make you miserable… even if you might save a little money. 

Finance Your Vacation

Wondering how to travel when you can’t afford it? One of our favorite things to do is finance our trip without using a credit card. Yes, that exists! There are a growing number of options, so we’ll just talk about the two companies we’ve personally used — Affirm and Uplift

Using these sites will not impact your credit rating, and if you’re late on a payment (less than 30 days), they are super forgiving. There’s a low, one-time finance charge, but aside from that, you won’t be paying interest like you would with a credit card. 

Before you book, they will show you *exactly* how much your monthly payments will be and you can spread them out over three months, six months, or 12 months. We did a baller five-day trip to Universal Orlando Resort with hotel, flights, and park tickets and paid $112 a month. It was perfect! 

Use Credit Card Bonuses and Loyalty Programs

There are so many credit cards that will give you bonus points for opening an account. You may not want to get a new card, and we totally respect and understand that. Having used this method, though, we had to include it in our tips for how to afford travel when you’re broke. 

For example, Chase gave us 60,000 points for signing up and spending a certain amount in the first few months. The United Explorer card offers similar perks. Be sure to read our in-depth post about the Best Hotel Rewards and Credit Cards

Other Ways to Afford Travel When You’re Broke

I’m very, very picky about where I stay when I travel. After all, I’m the same person who wrote The Ultimate Germaphobe’s Guide to Hotel Stays.  As such, there are certain experiences that just would not work well for me — and that’s okay. To each their own, right?

Still, my way isn’t the only way and plenty of people have amazing trips without disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer! Over the years, I’ve seen many others share positive experiences using these resources, so you might want to check them out:

We hope these tips help you come up with a plan for how to afford to travel. Even if you’re not strapped for cash, saving money on vacation is always great. You can put more money towards souvenirs (or delicious food!) or you can add to your future travel fund. 

Need Some Travel Inspiration?

Ready to take your big vacation but don’t know where to go? Whether you’re flying solo or as a big group, we’ve got suggestions. Right now, several places are trending, so here are some links to posts where you can get more information:

No matter what you choose, keep an open mind, explore your options, and get ready to see the world. There’s so much to learn and experience out there, and I wouldn’t trade for a bigger TV or an expensive wardrobe. Stepping off a plane in a brand new place enriches the soul, and you can’t put a price on that. Actually…you can, but you know what I mean!

Figuring out how to afford travel when it feels impossible might be confusing and discouraging at first, but don’t give up. If you make it a priority, you’ll find a way. Happy travels!

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