Even before we started full-time RVing, we have always loved to travel. Whether it’s living in Costa Rica, going on weekend getaways, or taking yearly international “bucket list” trips, we travel as often as we can. It became clear that many people assume we’re independently wealthy, or that we’re racking up credit card debt. But, that isn’t the case at all. So, if you’re ready to start traveling more and want some help finding ways to afford it, we’re here to share our “secrets”. We’ll tell you all the ways we make frequent (and now full-time) travel possible.
Here’s How We Afford to Travel Full-Time
We PRIORITIZE Travel
We hear people tell us that they “wish they could travel more” or they “can’t afford to travel”, but more often than not, they’re just not making it a priority. There are TONS of resources to travel affordably and there’s always a way to save money for travel, you just have to really want to make it happen.
It’s not exactly easy to search for deals, or make sacrifices to save, or compromise on where you can afford to stay and what you can afford to do. But, it is possible to afford a life full of travel, regardless of how much money you make. Travel the only thing we spend our money on that makes us feel richer. The experiences, perspective, and happiness you gain from traveling is absolutely priceless.
We Budget Religiously
Budgeting is the #1 way we afford to do any kind of traveling. Having a very hands on process to manage your money is the best way to truly know if you can afford a trip, or to set up a savings plan in order to make it possible. Sure, travel jars can help, but will you ever really get there just throwing a little money in here and there? Probably not. If you aren’t budgeting and are wanting to prioritize travel, you MUST start budgeting TODAY.
Don’t know where to start? You’re in luck because we created an online budgeting program and tool for this very reason. We are so incredibly passionate about budgeting because it has been the biggest factor in helping us take control of our money and spending, which in turn allows us to afford to travel.
We eliminated our debt
At one point, we had over $300,000 worth of debt, which included our mortgage, car loan, student loans, and credit cards. Each month, our bills were so high that it prevented us from traveling as much as we wanted. So we knew we needed to start aggressively paying off this debt. We started with the decision to sell our house and rent instead, use the profit from the sale towards debt payoff, and committed to not taking on more debt and no longer using credit as a form of payment.
We also lowered our cost of living and monthly expenses in order to put as much money towards debt payoff as possible. We sacrificed a lot, and cut out purchases that weren’t absolutely necessary, such as Netflix, Starbucks, cable, gym memberships, and other “privileges” that we could do without.
The more we paid off, the more money we had to put towards the rest of our debt and slowly but surely, we did it! We share more of our strategies in our online budgeting program, Finance Your Detour, but overall we knew this would be the most freeing decision we could make. It allowed Lindsay to quit her job so that we could pursue our dream lifestyle and chase after what make us happy in life. Now, instead of paying each month towards debt, we’ve freed up money to travel more, save more, and live more!
We Utilize Travel Rewards Programs & Discount Memberships
Why not get rewarded for the money you’re spending on travel so that you can in turn travel more? That’s why these programs are so awesome and we definitely take advantage of them! There are far too many for us to list, but here are our favorites and what benefits we’ve earned from them.
Capital One Venture Card
We have to start by saying we strongly believe in avoiding credit cards. We cut all of ours up when we were aggressively paying off debt…except for this one! When we signed up for the Capital One Venture Card, which is free your first year, we got 50,000 miles right away (you just have to spend $3,000 on purchases within your first 3 months). We earn 2X miles per dollar on every purchase we make and can then put the points towards ANY travel expenses, including rental cars, hotels, campgrounds, ANYTHING travel related. You can read the full details on the card on their website.
We put nearly all of our expenses on this card and pay it off at the end of every month. Therefore, it’s no different than using cash or a debit card, since we don’t have to pay interest, but we rack up rewards points pretty quickly! In fact, we used points to cover 100% our airfare to Thailand in 2016, making that bucket list trip MUCH more affordable!
Anytime we book a hotel room, no matter where it is in the world, we use Hotels.com. For every 10 rooms you book through them, you get one free! Plus, they have the best prices and if you find something cheaper, call them and they will match it! It’s also helpful to see reviews of hotels right on their website.
Miles and Hotel Points
Anytime you book a flight or reserve a stay at a major hotel, don’t forget to sign up for their rewards programs. Then for future flights and stays after that, try your hardest to use the same airlines and hotels so you can continue to accumulate points. This can be tough because if you’re like us, you tend to just book the cheapest you can find and don’t worry as much about the company. But, it can definitely be worth spending a little more up front to save in the future.
There are lots of travel hacks related to this, too. Additionally, with a quick Google search, you can find tons of tips and tricks to finding cheaper flights. When booking our Thailand trip, a quick search for “cheap flights to Bangkok” we discovered that flights from Los Angeles to Bangkok were half the price of flights from Denver (where we were living at the time) to Bangkok. In fact, the flights were only $600 round trip! So we purchased cheap one-way tickets from Denver to Los Angeles and still paid only a fraction of what we would have paid flying out of Denver (then were refunded the money when we cashed in our reward points, making our flights FREE!). If you’re willing to be flexible and creative, you can save yourselves lots of money!
We recently wrote this review about how we saved $700 in our first 6 months of RVing by using our Passport America membership. For only $44/year you can get 50% off the nightly rate at 1,900 campgrounds and RV Parks across America! With a 1,420% return on investment, there’s really no reason not to sign up for a Passport America membership if you plan to do some RV traveling this year. Some other great RV memberships that can save you a lot of money on RV stays are: Good Sam, Harvest Hosts, Thousand Trails, and Escapees.
We are Frugal When Traveling
We may travel often, but it’s usually not luxurious. But, we like it that way. We don’t stay in fancy places and dine out every single night. When we visit new places, we actually prefer to find cheap and free things to do. In a way, it feels like you get a more authentic feel for the destination. And, because we keep our trips fairly inexpensive, we get to travel more often. We’d rather make sacrifices in order to see more and go more often!
Here are ways that we are frugal:
Airbnb and VRBO are great way to save on accommodations. You can find entire apartments for less than $100 a night, in some of the best locations. It’s especially cheap if you travel with a group and split the cost of a rental. You can also find pet friendly rentals, which saves us on boarding costs for the dogs (if it’s in the U.S.). Having access to a full kitchen allows us to buy groceries and cook our meals, instead of eating out every day. This typically saves us well over $100 a day.
Paying for cabs, Lyft, or Uber, or renting a car can get pricey. Even if you road trip and drive your own car, you’ll have parking fees, and you can really burn a lot of gas exploring new places. Many U.S. and foreign cities have great public transportation and/or are very bike friendly. It pays to do a little research on transportation options before you take a trip somewhere.
For example, when we lived in Costa Rica, we would take a bus to and from the airport for only $6/person but you’d pay between $55 – $200 for a shuttle or private transfer! The the local bus around town only cost $.25/ride, as opposed to a $5.00 cab ride. Transportation can really add up, so if you’re willing to research and allow yourself extra time to get around, this is a great way to save money as well.
Free or cheap parking for RV
We will seek out free camping spots as often as we can! Whether it’s overnight stays in Walmarts on travel days, boondocking, or through sites like Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome, you can find free RV parking all over the country if you’re willing to look for it. You can read a post we wrote, called How to Find the Best Spots to Park an RV for more resources on finding cheap and free parking spots. Also, as we already mentioned, we take advantage of RV memberships for discounted rates! Staying at the same park or campground for a week or even a month can also greatly lower your rate.
We Find Free or Inexpensive Activities
Our favorite activities tend to be outdoors, which typically means they are FREE. There’s always free activities to do, even if it’s just walking around downtown and window shopping or people watching. The beach is free, hikes are free, bike rides, and scenic drives or walks are also free and those activities are all pretty amazing. When we visited Malibu, we splurged a bit on an RV park with amazing ocean views, so we decided to stick to free activities. Here’s what we did during our week stay to keep our activity expenses down.
Even when we struggle to find very many free activities, we always try to find ways to avoid over spending on activities. More than anything, we enjoy finding a place with a beautiful sunset view and enjoying a bottle of wine and a picnic, which can cost as little as $20. We also try to find more affordable ways of still enjoying the unique activities in each place we visit. For example, if we can’t afford a boat tour, we rent kayaks instead so we still get on the water. If we really want to try a popular restaurant, we’ll split a meal! It might take sacrifices, but you can still fully enjoy yourself without breaking the bank. It can even be more relaxing to do less!
We found work that is location independent
We’ve recently been able to take our life on the road and travel full-time because of our effort to find location independent work. This means we don’t have to take time off of work in order to travel. Dan landed a remote job as a software consultant by simply asking for the opportunity to work from home during his interview. Although the job wasn’t posted as a remote position, he asked anyway and they agreed!
Lindsay’s story is a bit different. She had to quit her job as a Kindergarten teacher and has sought out freelance work in order to replace her income. It’s been a slow process and has required her to invest in learning new skills, networking, and “selling herself”, but little by little she’s built up a steady income. She currently writes for Camping World, Winnebago, and Outdoorsy, while also doing some virtual assistant work on the side. After only a year, she’s nearly making as much as she was as a teacher with a Master’s degree!
We’re working hard to continue to build a passive income stream, which will allow us to earn money without exchanging our time. This will make a life of full-time travel much more sustainable and enjoyable.
Here are some ways that we are building a passive income:
Many people don’t believe you can make money from blogging, or else they just don’t understand how. The biggest way we have managed to monetize our blog is through affiliate marketing. If you want to learn more about affiliate marketing, Lindsay wrote all about it in this post, We’re Finally Making Money From Blogging and Here’s How You Can Too!
Creating products are a great way to earn passive income because although they require a lot of time and work upfront, once they are created, you can continue to make sales with little to no effort after the initial launch. If you market your product effectively, it can continue to make you money for years to come. You can also set up affiliate programs to motivate other people to sell your product in order to earn a commission. We created our very first product in November 2017 and plan to continue to create products, such as ebooks and ecourses!
There have been other perks to blogging as well. We’ve gotten to do a few paid/sponsored posts on our blog and social media. More and more companies these days are looking for influencers to pay in exchange for reviewing or promoting their products on their blogs and social media accounts! You can find opportunities like this on sites such as Markerly and IZEA, and this website has a good list of other options.
We’ve also received several free tours and activities in the places we’ve visited by reaching out and offering to provide blogging content, social media promotion, reviews, and/or quality photos. We’ve gotten complimentary cruises, kayak rentals, wine tours, and more! This is a great exchange that allows us to enjoy all the fun tourist attractions without living like we’re always on vacation.
We Have a Minimalist Mentality
It can be really easy to get sucked into materialism and accumulating “stuff” in America. At one point in our lives, we felt so much pressure to buy our own home, fill it with expensive furniture and decor, drive fancy cars, and wear brand name clothing. Yet, none of these things were bringing us the same happiness that we’d experience while traveling. We finally stopped giving in and decided to spend our money on experiences rather than junk.
The more of our belongings that we’ve sold or gotten rid of in order to live in an RV, the less we care about “stuff”. The smaller the home we live in, the less we need. We search for bargains any chance we can and live simply. We research, discuss, and sleep on big purchases to avoid impulse buying.
Ultimately, we’ve afforded to travel full-time because we’ve chosen to and we’ve done whatever necessary to make it happen. Therefore, we have no real “secrets” at all, but we sure hope we helped you in some way to understand that frequent travel is achievable for everyone! We’ve been surprised by how affordable it is to travel in an RV. It’s truly a great option for those on a tight budget looking to travel more and if you don’t own an RV, you can always rent one! Let us know if there are any other ways we can help you travel more this year!
Tell us in the comments below how YOU afford travel. Got any additional tips or travel hacks you can share with us and our readers?
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