How to Travel More Often This Year
2020 was a difficult year, filled with change, uncertainty, and loss. One thing many of us lost last year was the freedom to travel. So many flights were canceled, so many plans became distant dreams. While we are still very much in the middle of a pandemic, vaccines are here and currently being distributed across the United States and around the world. There is hope for 2021, and many of us are feeling a renewed sense of excitement for what the new year might bring. If you’re anything like me, traveling more often is a priority for 2021, and you’re already thinking about where to go. Read on for a few recommendations to make those dreams a reality.
1. Redefine What Travel Means to You
A lot of people think “travel” equals an expensive one-week trip to Europe or a ten-day cruise. But it doesn’t have to mean years of saving up and months of planning and preparation. Travel can be a weekend getaway or even a day trip.
Once I stopped thinking I needed to save up enough vacation time and money for the big “dream vacation” I’d always envisioned, I started traveling more often. In 2020, I’ve seen more of Minnesota than in the ten years I’ve lived here. Exploring my own “backyard” is still traveling — I just needed to redefine the term.
Rethink the word “travel,” and instead ponder how you can explore and go on an adventure. If you change your mindset and start behaving like a tourist in your own city or state, you’ll find that you are actually traveling much more than you expected.
2. You Have More Time Than You Realize
We all have responsibilities in life, and traveling for weeks or months at a time is not always an option. If you live in the United States, you likely only get two weeks of vacation, or maybe a little more if you’re lucky. But if you rethink weekends (especially long holiday weekends) and the vacation time you do get, you’ll realize you have more days to explore than you initially realized. There are 52 weekends in a year — how will you use that time?
Consider traveling to places that are closer to home. Don’t spend 12 hours getting to your destination — travel to a neighboring state, or take a quick two-hour flight to another city. You’ll find that if you stop thinking about vacation only as big trips abroad and instead as quick trips to closer destinations, you’ll find much more time to travel.
As an example, from Minnesota, we can take weekend road trips to Chicago, the North Shore of Lake Superior, Des Moines, Omaha, Madison, or Milwaukee. And, being in the middle of the country, no state is really too far for a quick weekend getaway: we can take relatively short flights anywhere in the continental United States.
For longer trips, consider saving time by taking a red-eye flight and sleeping on the plane, or hopping on a sleeper train and waking up in your new destination.
Also, are you allowed to work remotely? Can you travel longer by working a bit while doing so?
3. Prioritize Travel in Your Financial Planning
It’s never too early to meet with a financial planner. Before we met with one, Nic and I were focused on paying off student debt, which was a mistake. We could have used professional help investing our money even while paying off our loans. The sooner you find a financial adviser, the better!
We also live a very minimalist lifestyle. We live in a small house outside of the “popular” neighborhoods that cost much more. I color my own hair, paint my own nails, buy drugstore makeup, and rarely go shopping for new clothing.
We also give each other experiences for birthdays and holidays instead of material items. For example, instead of a piece of jewelry, I’ll ask Nic for a weekend getaway or for time spent checking out a new brewery. As for Nic, he usually likes golfing or checking out a cool restaurant in a new neighborhood.
We also both drive the same cars we’ve had since 2009 and 2005. Of course it would be nice to have a new vehicle, but we don’t currently have car payments, and our auto insurance is very low. I see that money saved as extra we can put toward a flight or hotel.
Lastly, consider getting into travel hacking. This is something I’m new to, and I find it to be so exciting. There is a lot to learn about opening new credit cards for points, earning miles, and working the system so you can travel for cheap — or even free.
For a much more experienced perspective, check out Nomadic Matt’s article on travel hacking. He has several great blog posts if you’re just getting started, as well as a detailed guide for when you’re ready to really sink your teeth into it.
4. Be Flexible with Dates and Destinations
Some great sites to set up flight alerts are Scott’s Cheap Flights, Airfarewatchdog, and Google Flights. Thrifty Traveler is another great option and it’s a Minneapolis-based company. Check out my essential travel gear page for a special discount code for an annual subscription to Thrifty Traveler.
Also, if you can be flexible about when you go — and even where — you’ll be able to travel inexpensively, and thus more often. Keep an eye out for incredible deals and mistake fares, and you might be able to grab a cheap flight to Los Angeles, Europe, Asia, and anywhere in between.
5. Reconsider Who You’re Traveling With
Another way to travel for less is to do so with friends. That way you can split an Airbnb or a hotel room, which will be less expensive than traveling solo or just with your partner. Nic and I once went on a ski trip to Wausau, Wisconsin, and split a hotel room with several friends. It was super affordable, and we had so much fun.
If you do want to travel solo, that can open up even more possibilities, like staying in a hostel, which can be dirt cheap. You’ll also be more likely to strike up a conversation with someone new. I often find those experiences a little anxiety inducing at first, but I almost always learn something valuable, especially if it’s a local I’m chatting with.
You Can Travel As Much As You Want
The world is your oyster, and if you follow the advice above, you can travel as much as you’ve always hoped. Don’t get stuck in the rut of saying “it’s too expensive” or “I don’t have enough time off.” No, it’s not and yes, you do! The question is: what do you prioritize in your life? If you make travel the priority, you can experience anything in life you want, and then some.
For additional resources, check out my video documenting my experience flying Delta during a pandemic, or my blog post on 7 tips for staying healthy while traveling this winter.