My first trip abroad was with Wesley when I was 24 years old. At the time he was still a student and I was teaching for about two years. It had been a while since he’d seen his brother, who lives in the UK, and I decided that as a Christmas present I would like to take him to spend time with his brother. I think it took more than a year to afford that trip because I wasn’t only saving for my own plane ticket but I was gifting my love with one as well.
Fast forward to two years into our marriage; We were trying to make a few decisions about the next year of our lives (as we do at the turn of each year of marriage) and we, after having bought our home and ticked a few other boxes, both felt that a trip overseas would be a great idea. It didn’t take an entire year to afford this trip because we had two stable incomes and could now afford a trip without having to cut back on our day-to-day living too much.
Because I’ve been on both sides of affordability with regards to travel that I’d write a post that could allow for your first dream holiday, even if your budget is limited. Our recent holiday was to Europe, to Spain and Malta, and we have added a few local visits thereafter. I decided that if our other goals does not allow for an overseas trip that year, that I would keep my love for travel alive by visiting parts of my own country that I haven’t seen. My spirit for adventure is so alive and I want to share how these trips are possible through the following tips.
1. Choose a destination.
Knowing where you’d like to travel to is very important because it will allow you to determine your budget. Always do enough research and find out the following:- Cost of flights – Price of accommodation – Self-catering options – Places to visit – Modes and costs of transport – Average daily spending as a visitor – Average price of meals – Cost of VISA (if required)
You also want to read reviews online and make sure that you understand how safe your destination will be. There are many countries that allow you to visit tourist spots and museums for free. Make a list of the places you’d want to visit and always check the costs involved.
2. Determining your budget.
Once you’ve done enough research on your destination, you can then do an estimate of how much the trip would cost. A few additional things to consider is whether you have friends or family that you could stay with (as this cuts some of your accommodation costs) as well as how long you plan on staying in one place/ how many different cities you would like to visit. Once you have determined your overall budget (I always add 20-30% for unexpected spending on food because I’m a foodie! And I factor in some shopping). You then need to determine how long it will take for you to make up that sum of money. We always have a date by when we’d be able to book our flights and pay for our visas and then we determine how much time we would need before we’d have the rest of the money saved. That helps us to look at the soonest possible date for travel, taking seasons and preferences into consideration. Practically, this is how it is done:
Say your trip is going to cost a total of R38000. On a monthly basis you have R2800 that you can save comfortably (I say this because you do not want to spend the next year eating crackers only to go abroad for ten days- it takes the joy out of traveling and may cause you to resent the experience because the sacrifice was too great). On average it will take you 13 months to save for your trip. Yes, it may seem like a long time but it is worth it in the end. You want to live comfortably while working towards your holiday. When I say comfortably I don’t mean that you shouldn’t make some sacrifices- like not getting takeout every Friday- but if you need to say no to every social engagement or feel that you are unable to replace your broken pair of boots, then you have over-committed to your saving plan and it can lead to a lot of frustration and, quite frankly, it would make me miserable!
3. Decide who you’d like to travel with.
I know that I’m not a group traveler. As much as Wesley and I annoy one another when we are away, I know that my bossy personality and occasional mood swings can ruin the trip for others. And yes, I’m a moody traveler on occasion because traveling is exhausting and, at times, I just want to not live out of a suitcase. But being two people can get quite lonely so decide whether having a bigger group to socialize with might not be a better idea. Invite trusted friends into your plans and see when they could meet the budget deadlines. I have friends who love traveling together and they always make the trips work.
4. Have you been vaccinated?
Recently I’ve become conscious of how important vaccination can be. Do research and find out whether your destination needs you to be immunised against certain viruses.
5. Packing tips.
International airports are really strict about liquid-based products like aerosols and skin care and hair products. You may not have more than 50ml on your carry-on luggage. So I recommend decanting into smaller bottles if your journey or lay-overs at changing airports is going to be long. That way, you are able to wash your face and freshen up along the way. Also be sure to have a bag that can be wheeled or carried on your back- I did a shoulder bag once and it was a challenge carrying in when we walked to a station or bus stop.
6. Currency exchange
You need flight details and visas to exchange currency. Once you have these sorted, wait a few days for a good exchange rate. It’s always good to have cash on-hand to pay at street vendors but be sure to carry a limited amount of cash and to rather have the bulk of your money on a credit card.
7. Be safe.
My biggest mistake was ignoring that crime happens all around the world. I was pick-pocketed on the train to the airport when we’d left Spain and my iPhone was stolen (the irony being that I’ve never had this experience in our own country, South Africa). I’d recommend a sling bag with short straps or a moon-bag when you are trekking around a new city; You want to have fun but you want to make sure your belongings are secure.
I know that it’s super exciting getting to visit a new place but don’t underestimate the effect that a change in climate, water and food can have on your body. Be sure to factor in a day of rest after the long traveling stints; it really is the worst thing to be ill on a trip. Also, find out whether it is safe to drink the water or if you need to buy bottled water. I always pack medication like pain killers and tablets for a stomach bug Incase my body does not agree with the food.
9. Be spontaneous!
This is a tip that I needed to be told prior to some of my travels. Yes, you want to plan your trips and sightseeing but allow some time for adventure; I’ve always found that the best experiences come from the unexpected moments.
10. Keep it hush.
This is one of the things Wesley has always encouraged me to do. We keep our travel plans quiet up until maybe a month or two before our travel date. It allows for us to save without pressure and it means that we get to give off the illusion that we have it all together! Please note the humour! But honestly, we often plan big things in silence because it means that, if we fail, we have nobody to explain ourselves to. We believe in working hard in silence and letting the fruits of our labour speak for themselves.
I really hope that this post has shown you that anyone can afford to travel and that you just need to plan and be patient. The first time we visited the UK we did so on a humble teacher’s Salary with an exchange rate of R14 to the Pound. Yes, the cost of living was less six years ago but it still shows that it is possible. Like I said, I paid for two people’s flights and visas on my sole income; it took longer for us to get there but it was the start of many adventures. I approach local traveling in a similar manner; the time frame, however, is obviously a lot shorter and one does not need to worry about the hassle of visas and exchange rates for money. There is also the option of driving you one’s destination when exploring one’s own country which, in some cases’ may make some of the traveling cheaper. This year, so far, we have visited Port Elizabeth and Sun City in the North West (which means that I have four provinces left to visit in South Africa!) and I know that it is not the last of our local travels this year.
Have you found this post helpful? Inspiring? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. Also, check out some of our travel pics below.
Until my next post,