I have been away on quite a few trips and weekends away in the last few years and one reoccurring question I get asked is ‘How can you afford to go away all the time!?’ Often I laugh it off and say ‘Why not!?’ however what I should really be answering is ‘At this stage in my life is how can I not afford to be doing it?’ Pondering on the thought, I realised that being able to ‘afford’ is double sided in this instance; for travel you need to be able to afford both the time & money. So how have I been able to see six new cities in a year, doing it whilst in a full time job and not being the richest gal in the world (wouldn’t that be lovely though)?
A few years ago I decided to start making New Year’s resolutions, one of the first that made the cut for 2016 being ‘See more of Europe’. Specifically I said Europe as I have stumbled across a few conversations with fellow travellers who had seen far more of Europe than I had, despite the fact that they were from the other side of the world! Frankly I felt quite embarrassed when I’d divulge that I’ve only seen a few places in Europe, although it is right on my doorstep! From then on something clicked for me; I was determined to experience and make the most of only a 2 hour or so flight to cities all over Europe – and most importantly make the time to do it one way or another…
Squeeze it into a week
The first trip I planned, I managed to tick off Prague, Berlin & Barcelona in just a week and still felt as though I experienced each place and made the most of every single day (and hour!) spent in each vibrant city. It felt exhilarating visiting 3 countries in such a short space of time and was totally worth the extra flights/bus journeys between each place so I can highly recommend this way of travelling – IF you’re willing to give up the ‘rewind & relaxation’ sat on a beach concept holiday.
Long weekends away are the one
I have squeezed in a few long weekends over the last year to Madrid and Verona/Venice all of which were completely new Cities for me – and also the very first time I went to Italy…shameful considering how much I love carbs!
The boring part, let’s do some maths shall we?
I work full time with a 25 day holiday entitlement a year, I took 5 days for my week trip and 2 days off per weekend away 2×3 = 6 days. 6+5 days = 11 days – Using less than half of my entitled holiday for the year I was able to see 6 new cities in Europe including an additional chilled weekend to El Campello in Spain where I am lucky enough to have dad’s villa. But even without that luxury I experienced SIX new cities in less than a year! It’s all possible with a little willingness, flexibility on location and research.
I am a big fan of Contiki tours which I have used twice now in USA & Croatia and have an upcoming one booked to SE Asia! They are great for cramming in as many places as possible whilst meeting some amazing travel companions and keeping the trip stress free as it’s all planned for you! When I was first suggested a tour a few years ago I did think ‘Oh Gosh, will be just a dead boring coach trip with an unenthusiastic tour guide?’ however it was the complete opposite and I have been lucky enough to make some great friends through these tours. Definitely do not bash’em until you try’em! It is worth mentioning that going for a tour like Contiki is more expensive than planning it yourself as you are paying for the luxury of a tour guide 24/7 but I have never regretted it (cringe that their tag line is #noregrets but very true!).
The answer to having the time? Not all trips have to be long haul, for weeks on end or just to one destination; you can make it action packed to see more! It’s easy peasy to see Europe (assuming you live in the U.K.) in just a weekend/few days away or just simply spending your time wisely and condensing a few cities into a week trip just like I have. Trains, buses and internal flights make it very easy (and cheap) to get around from one city to the next especially in Europe.
Making it rain… Or not?
Let’s talk money. I know most people when commenting about how often I go away are really thinking how on earth I have the money to fit in so many trips abroad. I live for travelling, holidays and weekends away so at this stage in my twenty something life I couldn’t think of anything better to spend my time & money on. Some people still seem perplexed by the fact that I can afford it, but the answer for me is that travel is my motivation and it takes my priority and willingness to make it happen. My priorities right now are enjoying my twenties through travel and experiencing what the world has to offer whilst I have no other financial ties. And yes it is affordable! I have no mortgage/children and these are not on my agenda at this stage in my life so if I’m saving for anything it will most likely be for my next trip away. Number #1 most irritating statement being when people compare how much money you spend on travelling and say ‘You could get a mortgage with that!’ *face palm*
On a side note, I am in no way mocking anyone in their twenties who has taken the mortgage and/or children route, we’re all different and have different priorities in life and I have no greater respect for those people! No judgement whether it’s a mortgage, travelling or anything else that people are splurging their savings on, you’ve earned it peeps!
For all of my European trips I have always taken hand luggage to save on pricey baggage fees, my flights have been with budget airlines (Ryanair & Vueling usually) and I’ve managed to bag deals during flash sales. My trip to Prague, Barcelona & Berlin inclusive of all flights/buses cost just under £150 and my weekend to Verona & Venice the flight was only £22 return with a £12 return train from Verona to Venice!
The absolute steals I have found on flights have generally come off the back of an email advertising a flash sale so I definitely recommend signing up to airline emails so you know when they’re in sale and be flexible to go anywhere! Tip: Flying midweek is always much cheaper than weekends and one of my favourite tools is Skyscanner month view when you can afford to be flexible on dates.
It’s pretty simple to make it as cheap as you like with Hostels which I did in Prague & Berlin, also as a couple staying in private rooms in a hostel is still very cost effective and so far I have never had an issue with hostels – and even with my Prinny standards! For the other destinations I found deals on amazing hotels or Air BnB’s & was able to keep the cost under £50 per person per night which for me was affordable when wanting a bit more luxury for the long weekends away. I am one for a bit of bargain hunting & do a lot of planning/research for the best deals so I don’t have a specific favourite website I use as I scour them all to find the best price and compare deals. If I find a good hotel price on booking.com which is usually where I start, I’ll google the hotel name which shows the best prices on trivago, Expedia, hotels.com etc and I always check Tripadvisor for honest reviews
Priorities & Willingness
If you’ve made it this far, I am very impressed so thanks for listening to me blabbing on.
In conclusion, for me personally yes it is all affordable both money & time wise because most of my disposable income and holiday entitlement goes on my travels. Seeing the world and experiencing new places is a personal priority right now so having the willingness to save and just go out and do it is working for me so far (and without any looming debts!). Don’t get me wrong either, I’m not rolling in cash, I’m in quite a normal job on a comfortable salary for my age and managed to travel last year on a much lower graduate salary so it is possible if you book within your means and drop some of the prinny like standards – not all of them obviously, still gotta have some princess left.
The main desire to travel for me is that I feel extremely lucky that to live in a generation where almost every country, every place, every city is very accessible to us. So for as long as I am young, willing and able it will be my priority to ensure I make the most of seeing the world whilst I can.