Many times, when we’re reading travel blogs or scrolling through bloggers on YouTube and Instagram, there’s always one key detail they always seem to gloss over: How do they afford to travel?
More often than not, these “travel influencers” say something along the lines of “I decided to quit my job to travel the world and now companies pay for my trips” or “I don’t spend exorbitant amounts of money on clothes, so that allows me to travel”. Well, for those of us in the real world that only have a week or two of vacation time on top of other responsibilities (like being a parent, a caregiver or simply a functioning member of society), it’s not that simple. Joel and I would love to hear how long those bloggers lived solely off of savings, unemployment benefits or were funded by their significant other/parents, but I doubt we’ll ever see that in a blog post.
So, how did we (two 30-somethings with limited funds and limited vacation time) save up enough money to travel? Save, save save! You may be thinking “You’re being as unhelpful as all the other bloggers!”, but I am about to detail how we afforded the trip step-by-step and how much it would have cost without the Groupon deal.
It started when I received the $1,599 Groupon deal for 8-days in Europe (London, Paris & Rome) in my email. I noticed over the past year that the deals come and go in waves. For instance, if you see a stellar deal for a 10-day trip to Turkey with hotel & air included for $999, but you have to buy a new car, back to school supplies or pay unexpected medical bills, just… wait. That will honestly be one of the most difficult thing you will have to do in regards to Grouponing The Globe. Patience will truly be a virtue.
As I mentioned, deals come in waves; so although that deal may be available in March and you think you’ll miss out forever due to your responsibilities, it will be posted again within the next 3 – 12 months (if not sooner), I promise. That is actually what happened with our Europe trip; I originally took note of the posting in August 2013, before seeing it again in December 2013, March 2014 and finally in June 2014. By this time, we had saved up enough money to pay for the trip, and we still had another year before we’d ever go on the trip (but we’ll get into that shortly)!
So, how did we save? Honestly, it was very easy, but it takes LOTS of discipline. In early 2013, I paid off my student loans by taking every overtime shift I could and babysitting for a coworker on the weekends. Mind you, this took about a year-and-a-half to do, but I had a rough estimate of how much I could save in a year if I decided on my end goal ahead of time.
With a trip to Europe on our financial itinerary, we made a plan. At the time, we were both making about $1,000 every 2 weeks (or approximately $12.50 an hour after taxes). Although our financial responsibilities were different (rent, utilities, etc.), we knew that we could put aside a portion of one paycheck a month toward the trip. Here’s a calculation of the math we decided on:
- August 2013 – Decide to go on the $1,599 trip. Save $300 (August 2013 was a ‘3 check’ month)
- September 2013 – Save $150
- October 2013 – Save $150
- November 2013 – Save $150
- December 2013 – Save $150
- January 2014 – Save $300 (January 2014 was a ‘3 check’ month)
- February 2014 – Save $150
- March 2014 – Save $150
- April 2014 – Save $150
- May 2014 – Save $150
- June 2014 – Save $150
By this point, we each saved up $1,950 for our trip and had enough in the bank to purchase the trip in full before the end-of-June 2014 deadline. The price covered air, train & hotel (plus all applicable taxes) through Groupon/Gate 1 Travel and also allowed us $351 each for food, souvenirs and attractions. And the best part: we still had another year to keep saving!
Since that Groupon deal required the purchaser to pay the balance in full, we didn’t have to put any more funds toward our reservation unless we wanted to extend our trip or add-on attractions. With our trip scheduled to begin in mid-March 2015, we had at least an additional 8 months (July 2014 – February 2015) to continue with our saving model. By sticking to our financial plan of $150 every month, we saved an additional $1,200. With frugality as one of our tenets of travel, we didn’t spend the full $1,551 per person on trip add-ons; we instead purchased traveler’s insurance and planned our road trip to NYC.
Now, you may be thinking “I don’t need Groupon! I can just save up and book the trip myself through the hotels and airlines!”, but that’s where you will spend money you could have saved.
As I mentioned, our trip came to $1,599 per person (or $3,198 total). That total included airfare to and from Europe, a train from London to Paris, a flight from Paris to Rome, all hotel stays, daily breakfast and all applicable taxes and fees.
If you were to purchase each of these individually, you’d spend the following (Note: we compiled these prices for the same days of the month/time of the year that we originally traveled):
- Flight from NYC (John F. Kennedy International Airport) to London (Heathrow Airport) on Delta Airlines
- $2,125.10 per person ($4,250.20 for 2 people)
- Train from London to Paris in Standard Class on Eurostar
- $59 per person ($118.00 for 2 people)
- Flight from Paris (Charles de Gaulle Airport) to Rome (Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport) on Alitalia
- $129.50 ($259 for 2 people)
- Flight from Rome (Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport) to NYC (John F. Kennedy International Airport) on Alitalia
- $2,086.56 per person ($4,173.12 for 2 people)
- 2 nights stay at the Thistle City Barbican (London)
- $338.03 total
- 2 nights stay at the Courtyard by Marriott Paris Arcueil
- $240.65 total
- 2 nights stay at the Hotel Donatello (Rome)
- $166.03 total
That brings the total for 2 people NOT using Groupon to book their trip to… $9,415.53! If those same 2 people booked through Groupon Getaways, their total comes to $3,198 (a savings of $6,217.53)! That’s almost as much as 2 more trips to Europe for two people!
Everyone has different salaries, different responsibilities and different vacation destinations in mind, so it may take you longer or shorter to reach your goal; ours took 19 months from deciding to take the trip to wheels up at JFK. However, if you save a comfortable percentage of your paycheck, take on an extra shift every once in awhile, meal prep for a few weeks/months or bypass that daily coffee/weekly bar crawl, I believe you can save up for your first Groupon trip too!