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How Does Everyone Afford These Trips?! - FAQs

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How does everyone afford all your trips?

Most families don't go on every trip with me. They choose one trip a year, and save for that one trip.

Also, sometimes one parent will take one or two children on a trip one year, and one or two other children the next year.

We really want to join you, but we can't come up with all the money immediately when you announce a trip.

For some trips, I have a payment schedule, so you don't have to pay all at once. For others, full payment is due upfront (within 7 days of my confirmation email).

Full-payment trips are usually offered every year, so you can plan for them and save each month. When I announce the trip you want, you can register, knowing that the money for it is already waiting.

But how does everyone find the money to save? We're not rich!

Here are some answers from my travelers:

  • We value experiences more than things. We never buy new cars, or anything else that we can buy good-quality used. We use the money we save to travel.
  • I got a part-time job and put all the money from that into a separate travel account.
  • I electronically deposit a little each paycheck in a bank in another town. I don't have online access to it, and it's far enough away that it's hard for me to "borrow" money from it for other things. So when there's a trip I want to take, the money is there waiting for me.
  • We live in a house about half the size of what we could afford. I drive a 2002 car that we stay up to date with repairs on. We specifically chose to live in a region with a low cost of living.
  • Use trips for birthday and Christmas gifts. Just be careful not to fall to the temptation to double down.
  • We live simply. We don’t have many material possessions, but we have extraordinary experiences. It’s a question of priorities.
  • I do work from home in the evenings for a local family website. That money allows me to be able to do extra things every once in a while.
  • If your budget can stand it, change your filing status to single, no dependents. Your employer will keep more money from your check each week, but you’ll get a bigger refund each year. Use your refund for trips. (This is like a forced savings account - if you don’t see the money, you won’t miss it. And since the interest rate at most banks is so low, you’ll lose very little in interest.)
  • I think increasing income is better than cutting expenses, unless you have fluff in your budget, such as cell phones, cable TV, or other money hogs. When I think about the riches of our trip to Italy, the pallid entertainment that many people pay a hundred dollars a month for seem extraneous. Getting a part-time job for even ten hours a week produces travel income, as long as you don't let it stress you out so that you then order take-out because you're too tired to cook. Also, I always put ‘found money’ (inheritance, etc.) into a reserve, no matter what budget strains I am living with. Irregular money is for extras, not emergencies.
  • Use credit cards that have rewards points for airfare and other travel expenses. Charge everything (household bills, groceries, gas, medical expenses, etc.). But make sure you pay off the balance each month or you’ll lose in interest what you gain in rewards. Also, don’t use a card that charges a yearly fee - that waters down the value, too.
  • In Michigan, we have returnable soda pop bottles for 10 cents each. Bottle drives, where you pass out some flyers in your neighborhood and then go collect bottles, can raise a few hundred dollars in a weekend.
  • We had more than a year to save for the Italy trip, so in addition to spreading out the cost of the trip, we told all our family that we'd appreciate all cash/donation-to-Italy-trip as gifts for birthdays and Christmas. We put that money into our "Italy savings jar" in addition to any unanticipated funds like insurance refunds, Amex/Costco annual refund, etc., and that was our spending money. Our tax refund paid for the plane tickets. We got the best deal of $700 per person round trip by signing up for daily alerts on Kayak.com from our home airport and other airports within driving distance (Atlanta), then purchased the day the prices dropped significantly.
  • I would recommend families start saving as soon as they begin planning for a trip. We took about $300 per paycheck and put it in a special savings account. I also sold things at a yard sale and on Craig’s List, too. We used the Capital One Visa for all our expenses, like groceries and any other household expense. You can now redeem points for money for travel even if you don’t have enough points to get a whole ticket. We also used a Kayak alert to tell us when the fares to Rome were the cheapest.
  • We bought our airline tickets in advance and were able to get decent prices on them. Also, set aside some money every month straight out of a paycheck before you have a chance to spend it. Cut out cable and other entertainment money and spend the time researching wherever you’re going. Spread out your purchases of new shoes and clothes to get them on sale.
  • I travel a couple of times a year for work. I will always volunteer to stay off a flight if it’s overbooked. By doing so, I can earn up to $800 per leg. I then put that into my travel account.
  • We use my husband’s overtime for our vacations. 

I'll post more tips as people share them, but please feel free to post your own tips in this thread and I'll add them to the list!


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Updated 6/23/18 with a new tip from a traveler:

I travel a couple of times a year for work. I will always volunteer to stay off a flight if it’s overbooked. By doing so, I can earn up to $800 per leg. I then put that into my travel account.

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