How to travel if you’re young and broke
Need a vacation but don’t have tons of money?
Traveling can seem like an impossible luxury for us twenty-somethings. But with diligent planning and research, your next trip could be more affordable than you think.
1. Create a travel budget
The first step is to figure out how much your trip will cost. Be sure to factor in expenses beyond flights and hotels, such as meals, entertainment and souvenirs.
Once you have an estimate, try saving a little money from each paycheck until you reach your goal, suggests Jeana Salman, a CFP at Delta Community Credit Union.
Related: Airlines are bumping fewer passengers
“You’ll enjoy your trip so much more if you can pay for it from savings instead of acquiring debt,” she says.
2. Sign up for a credit card with travel rewards
Travel rewards credit cards allow you to earn rewards, or “points,” on purchases. You can then use those points to pay for travel and other experiences.
Some credit cards, like the new Citi Prestige, offer sign-up bonuses if you spend a certain amount during the first few months after opening your account.
Related: You could be using your credit card all wrong
These sign-up bonuses can save you money, but they can lead to excessive debt if you aren’t careful.
Instead of overspending just to achieve the bonus, try using your card to pay for items you’d purchase anyway, such as groceries, says George Galat V, a CFP at Mosaic Financial Partners.
Many of these cards come with an annual membership fee. Before signing up, Galat recommends calculating whether the potential rewards outweigh the cost.
3. Be flexible
It can pay to keep an open mind when it comes to your travel itinerary.
If you’re flexible with dates and destinations, you can take advantage of sites like Secret Flying and Skyscanner, which alert you to flight deals around the globe.
Related: Tips for surviving long flights
You might also consider traveling during the off season and on weekdays, when flights and hotels are traditionally cheaper, says Natalie Barber, a certified financial planner at Redwood Wealth Management.
If your dates are set, schedule alerts on travel search engines like Kayak.com so you’ll know when it’s cheapest to buy.
4. Live like a local
Short-term rental services like Airbnb allow you to stay in homes and apartments rather than in a hotel room — and often for a fraction of the price.
If you’re traveling with a large group, you might also consider rental sites like Homeaway.com, suggests Salman.
Related: Airbnb is labeling its most luxurious rentals to lure customers
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, try visiting local markets to save money on dining, says Leon C. LaBrecque, CFP and CEO of LJPR Financial Advisors.
“There you will find the best local foods, drinks and bargains,” he adds.
If you’re visiting a big city, LaBrecque also recommends checking out mass transit options, which are often cheaper than taxis.
5. Consider a travel agent
Yes, you heard that right.
“Many people believe the days of travel agents are gone, but they can be a great resource and big money saver for clients on a budget,” says Mychal Eagleson, CFP and president of An Exceptional Life Financial.
These agents often have relationships with travel companies, allowing them to offer deals and rates you wouldn’t be able to find on your own, Eagleson says.
Related: Luxury getaways for younger travelers
They can also offer cheap alternatives to popular destinations and recommend the most affordable dates and times.