Financing the trip of a lifetime: 5 tips to help you afford travel

Life is meant to be lived. That means friends, family, and experiences—including travel. Want to study abroad for a semester or spend a gap year traveling? Or maybe you just want to make sure you can afford travel once you’re a little further along your career track—something to break up the 9-to-5.
Whatever the trip, travel is a great way to broaden horizons, decompress, meet people—and keep your Instagram feed interesting. But it’s not free. To make sure you can afford that dream vacation, you’ll need to prepare. Today, we’re offering 5 tips for financing the trip (or trips) of your lifetime.
  1. Build travel into your budget. This sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed how many of us simply assume we’ll have the funds when the time rolls around. If being able to afford travel is important, pick the slightly smaller apartment or hold off another year on the new car—do whatever it takes to have a little left over each month for your travel fund. Better yet, set it aside first, so you’re not as tempted to touch it. 
  2. Make tradeoffs where you can. There are many ways you can save money without cutting out purchases that make you happy. If you’re saving up for vacation, maybe you can opt for a $15 manicure instead of your usual $30 one for a few months. You and your friends can plan a day around a matinee movie instead of going to the full-priced evening showtime. These changes may seem insignificant at first, but the savings can really add up over time – and you won’t even feel like you’re missing out on anything.
  3. Gamify your finances. There are a number of goal-based savings apps that can help you squirrel away funds for your travel. Tie your savings to other things that are important to you, like fitness. You can sync the apps to your fitness tracker and automatically drop a few bucks into your travel fund following workouts. You won’t just finance your travels, you’ll earn them—and be in better shape to enjoy them as well.
  4. It’s all about timing. Check out travel deals during the off-season or try booking flights on weekdays. You’ll get cheaper rates, helping you go farther for less cash, and you’ll avoid larger crowds, which makes for a better trip all around. Consider using a flight aggregator app to help find the best time to fly for the lowest price.
  5. Invest. Savings accounts are great, but you’ll find your dream vacation financed a lot sooner if you get more aggressive with your investments. We’re not saying to throw a big chunk of your paycheck into a seemingly hot stock—but even something stable like a Certificate of Deposit (CD) can give your savings a fair boost above the tiny fractional percentages offered by most checking and savings accounts. Just as importantly, invested funds are a little harder to spend—and avoiding expenditures is the hardest part of filling your travel fund. 
Final word of advice: commit. If being able to afford travel is important to you, put together a plan and commit to it. None of the methods above—or any others—will get you where you’re going unless you’re serious about following through and making your trip of a lifetime a reality.