Your Guide to Life After College: Landing Your First Job, Living on Your Own, Establishing Financial Independence, Paying Down Debt, and Investing for Long Term Wealth

How to Travel After College on A Budget

How to Travel After College on A Budget
Many people save up money their whole lives just to travel some day far in the future, however, every old person I’ve ever talked to has regretfully told me that they wished they had traveled earlier in life instead of “waiting until they had the money” because “they couldn’t afford it”.

This is completely understandable as travel can be pricey, but you shouldn’t let that hold you back from seeing the world while you’re still young enough to enjoy it. It’s important to save as much money as possible while you’re young (see articles on Saving & Budgeting) but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get away from time to time. Here are my best tips for traveling after college on a realistic budget:

Take Advantage of Weekend Road Trips 

Traveling doesn’t necessarily mean you have to take an expensive flight across the globe. For me, living in Charlotte, North Carolina has provided me with a myriad of great short distance getaways such as (but not limited to):
  • Asheville, NC
  • Charleston, SC
  • Savannah, GA
  • Nashville, TN

This is a list of just a few of the many places I can hop in my car and be at by bar time after work on Friday and can get a full day in Saturday as well. This is a perfect way to take a quick break from the real world and experience some awesome new places.

Sign up for an Airline Mileage Reward Program

At first, I used to just book the cheapest flight available regardless of the airline carrier but I learned overtime it’s much more cost-efficient to be loyal to just one. I signed up for an American Airlines Citi Rewards Credit Card and right away I got a $100 statement credit on my first flight booked (make sure you wait until you receive the card to book the flight) and also earned 30,000 bonus miles just by spending $3,000 within the first 3 months.

The current offer is 60,000 bonus miles which is an even better deal! A flight just about anywhere in the world costs you 25,000 miles (or more depending on dates) so this is essentially 2 free flights just for signing up and using the card. You get 2 miles for every $1 you spend on American Airlines flights and 1 miles for every $1 you spend on a thing else. I’ve disciplined myself to treat this just like a debit card and I always make sure to pay off the balance immediately. This is a great way to earn free flights overtime which can make your overseas travel exceptionally cheaper.

Book A Cheap All-Inclusive

All-inclusive resorts are a great way to get away to paradise destinations for a really cheap price.
You can travel to tropical places such as:
  • Bahamas
  • Mexico
  • Jamaica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Puerto Rico
  • Costa Rica
For as cheap as $449 or as expensive as $1,479 (depending on how long you want to stay, how nice of a resort you want to book and how much you ultimately want to spend), you can book everything for one price including the flight, the hotel plus all of your food and drinks for the entirety of your stay.
Pro Tip: I once met an Uber driver who drives on New Years Eve every year, makes $1,000-$1,500 in one night, and books an all-inclusive trip to the Caribbean the very next day using cheapcaribbean.com. Not a bad idea, right? If that’s not for you, it’s really easy to save up for a trip as you’ll see below, and once you pay for the trip, it feels like it’s free by the time you get there!

Create a Travel Savings Account

Create a passive investment savings account with a Robo Adviser such as Acorns, Stash or Betterment (or a brokerage account with low-cost ETFs) and contribute a small amount anywhere from $5-$50/week (or more if your budget allows for it) and eventually you’ll have enough money saved up to book a great vacation. Once you withdraw that money and book your travel, continue to contribute money into that account and the week before your trip take it all out and use that as your spending money. I promise you the trip will feel free at that point as you won’t even notice, for example, $10 coming out of your checking account each week. Not only that but you’ll also earn capital gains on your balance as well as dividend income which is automatically reinvested. This is a great way to afford travel without having to break the bank all at once.

Euro / Asia Trip (Going Abroad)

Obviously, an overseas trip to Europe or Asia will be on the pricier side, but that just means you’ll need to save up for a longer period of time in advanced. As long as you stay disciplined and put away money overtime, you won’t have to wait until you’re old and wrinkly to see the other side of the world. A flight will be pretty expensive but you can save up enough money or miles through a reward program to book a round trip eventually.
I recommend saving at least $3,000-$5,000 in cash for spending money so you can properly enjoy yourself and travel to different countries in one trip. If you were fortunate to go abroad during college that’s awesome (and you should definitely go again), but if not, my recommendation would be to save up a good amount of money in your early twenties and go sometime in your mid-to-late twenties.

Travel with a Group

Traveling with a group of friends or family is great way to cut down on expenses. Whether you’re going on a road trip and splitting gas or sharing hotel rooms in a foreign country, not traveling alone is a fantastic way to stick to your budget while on vacation. Not only is it more fun sharing the experience with your closest friends and/or family, you’ll also be able to do more activities for less money. For example, if you’re in Key West it will be a lot cheaper per person to rent a Charter Boat for the day with a group or if you’re in Vegas it’ll be way more reasonable to get a Cabana at the pool if you’re splitting it 8-10 ways. Lastly, a lot of travel programs offer group packages which can be taken advantage of for sizable discounts.

Don’t wait!

All in all, just remember that you’ll most certainly regret it if you wait until you’re of old age to do all of your traveling. We’ll continue to travel many years from now but it’s important not to put it on hold just because you’re sticking to a strict budget (although this is important!). Stick to these tips and you’ll soon be able to escape from the real world way more often than you’re used to.
Remember to always seize the day!