A few years back I found myself in a situation where I was doing a bit of traveling each weekend. Literally, every weekend I went away for at least one night and as often as I could manage it, two or more nights. The trips were usually not too far away, I usually stayed within an hour or two radius of where I lived. No, I was not independently wealthy or able to do that traveling because of some financial windfall. Through the two and a half years I only missed going away on 3 different weekends and they were not due to financial constraints, each of those were due to external factors (snow, sickness and death). Even more incredible was the fact that I actually managed to travel each weekend on a minimal budget! It is possible to travel with limited funds! It is possible to explore the world around us without a large travel budget. It just takes planning and flexibility to make your travel plans work with little money, I travelled on a shoestring budget.
Be open to going anywhere when Travelling on a Shoestring Budget
For two and a half years I went away each weekend on a very limited budget. It was an integral part of a relationship I was in (and still am in) for those years. I coveted those weekend hours and decided very early on that I would do whatever I had to do in order to make those weekends happen. During that time, at the bare minimum I stayed somewhere for 1 night each week, but I was always trying to find ways to stretch it to a two night or even a three night get a way. I was not independently wealthy. I didn’t have a high paying job. In fact, I was working a job that paid $10 an hour. With that said, you can see that I didn’t have a whole lot of extra money to play with. Yet somehow, week after week I was able to pay for gas and hotel expenses for travel, it IS doable! It is possible to travel and explore on a shoestring budget! It just takes planning and flexibility.
Being Flexible while Travelling
The first major concept to travelling on a shoestring budget is that you have to have flexibility. When you are looking to travel on a limited budget it is important to be willing to go to whatever place is offering a deal. When I had a set place that I wanted to stay, I almost always ended up paying more money for the accommodations that I booked. But when I was open to staying anywhere, I was able to score some incredible deals. As long as I was out and about, traveling and exploring something new; I didn’t care. Most of the time, I was willing to go to the area that offered me the best deal. I managed to book us rooms at some incredible hotels at a minimal cost. We were still getting away and exploring but the open flexibility that we had to stay anywhere and have no set plans introduced us to areas and experiences that I may have never encountered.
The first thing I would do each week when I was going to make our plans was to pull up my hotel app on my phone or pull up the website on the computer. I used Hotels.com and found that site to work great for me, but any such travel website or app would work. Each week I would have a general idea of how far we were willing to travel and I would begin my search. I would first pull up the map on the website (The information is the same between the website and the phone application, but the map to find a good radius is easier to navigate on the website.) I would then filter my search results to $50 and under and check all hotels within the radius that we were willing to travel. If I didn’t have any hits, I would raise the amount I was willing to pay by slow increments until I found something. I would check the reviews of the hotel and if it looked ok, then I booked. Now don’t get the idea that we were staying in the low budget hotels. Quite the contrary. Many times, we were staying at top of the line hotels. These hotels will lower their prices if they have a lot of available rooms. They do not want an empty room and $50 or $60 for a room is better than an empty room that is earning them no income. Most of the trips took place over the weekends and that opened up quite a few business class hotels as most business is conducted on the week days. I found that weekends near an airport also seem to have better rates, for the same reason due to those business travelers. I just had to be willing to follow the deals and stay wherever and in whatever town that I could find a good deal on a hotel.
Sometimes I didn’t have as much flexibility. I may have needed to be close to a certain location due to an event or place that I needed or wanted to see. I still found some incredible deals but once again it took a willingness to be flexible. I sometimes drove 5 miles further down the road to save $20 or $30 a night. Do I really need the pool? If I had a busy weekend planned, I eliminated hotels with pools as that sometimes was enough to save me a few dollars. I looked at the trip from all angles. Distance, amenities and even the size of the bed. Seriously, changing the size of the bed you get in a room can make a huge difference in price! Look at the room from all angles. If the hotel price seems too good to be true, read the reviews. I was looking for a hotel for a three-night stay, but I was really tight on money. I was almost willing to admit defeat and only go away for 1 or 2 nights because that is what the budget was allowing. But I searched and searched and searched. FINALLY, I found a hotel room for $19 dollars a night. It was near Atlantic City, NJ. I was nervous because come on now, $19 a night. I was really nervous. I read the reviews and the hotel looked decent. The only thing that I could discern was that it was about 3-5 miles from the beach and that I was booking the room for early October which was off season. I decided to jump on the room and I booked it. The room was just fine. It was clean, comfortable and roomy. I was willing to drive a bit. I was willing to have a locally owned hotel without a lot of the amenities and I was able to explore and experience Atlantic City, NJ on a shoestring budget!
Planning your trips on a Shoe String Budget
There were moments during my two and a half year run of going to hotels every weekend that I wasn’t sure how it would work out. But each time I sat back and thought about where I could cut a corner in order to make it work with the money that I had available for the weekend. I didn’t always buy the fanciest food when I was out and about. You know you can get a pizza for $5 right at Little Ceaser’s Pizza Right? If travelling and exploring meant that I had to eat a $5 pizza, then it was the sacrifice that I made because I wanted to spend that time travelling and exploring. Sometimes the hotels would have a breakfast and I would definitely partake of that, it was already paid for in the cost of my room. But when I stayed in hotels that didn’t have a breakfast option, I would eat leftovers from the night before. (I always make sure that I have a small refrigerator in the room for the express purpose of saving my leftovers.) There were weekends that I took food with me. There is nothing wrong with taking a cooler along. Fill it with your drinks and one of your meals it will save you a fair amount of money! If you want to travel and explore you will look at all the options and act upon them.
Exploring the local sites on a budget is also an act of planning. As soon as I would book a room, I would begin to look at what museums, parks and attractions were in the area. There are some amazing local museums that are absolutely free. There are parks that have beautiful views and a variety of activities. There are attractions that cost little to no money. Sure, some things will cost. But many things will be free or quite cost efficient. If you do your research you will have a great roadmap to the activities and places that you wish to explore in the area that you are staying in. I did this every weekend. I found places to see and things to do. We discovered the New River Gorge this way. Hiking is free and we knew that there was some amazing hikes, such as the Kaymoor Miners Trail in that area! Some cost money and some were free, but they all remained well within my shoestring budget. I would just plan. If the attraction we wanted to see cost more, I would shave off some expenses elsewhere (such as food). It was totally doable and we saw some amazing things!
Traveling on a shoestring budget is quite fun. I did it for those two and a half years. I wouldn’t trade those years and those memories for anything. They opened a whole new world for me and brought me to a deeper and closer relationship with the person that I travelled with. We frequently talk about those days. When we made a leap that caused us to not need to travel as much, we both vowed that we would never give up our weekends away! I may not need to be on such a strict budget since we are not traveling quite as much, but old habits die hard. I look for the best hotel deals. I weigh out the options of what we want to see and what amenities are available to us at each hotel and compare the costs. I still look for many of the free and low-cost attractions. I still take the time to plan out our get-a-ways. We may not always be low budget anymore, but I figure the more cost efficiently we can travel each time, the more often we can do it!
We all have dreams for our futures. We all want more from life and so many times, that requires more freedom. It requires freedom from the burden of a nine to five job and sometimes it requires financial freedom. It is the act of being financially independent, living a life without the constraints of being reliant on being employed or relying on others. But how do we get there? How do we follow the dream of travelling full time? How do we attain the dream of self sufficiency and financial freedom that allows us to see the world? People are constantly searching the internet, reading books, watching youtube videos in an effort to learn how to make their dreams come true. Just type in whatever your dream is and ask how to achieve that dream and you will find hundreds and thousands of internet links for blogs, websites and videos. There are tons of different ideas out there and people are reading and searching for them. Seriously, there are a lot! Why is it so popular? It is popular because we all have dreams for our lives. It is only natural. I have tons of dreams and aspirations and I frequently spend time on the internet research how to bring them to fruition. But probably the most common dream that I research is how to afford to travel full time and how to live a financially free life. How can afford to travel the world? Your dream doesn't have to be my dream. You may be trying to figure out how to afford to buy your first hour or how to afford that dream vacation. It can be anything. That is the beauty of dreams. We are only limited by our own imagination. But what happens once we dream and actually take the first step to research and find plan to implement our dreams.
How to become Financially Independent
We gather our information and ideas from the internet and then we sit back and think. And here is where there comes a divide in the road. What are you going to do with the information? This first choice is upon you immediately. What exactly are you going to do with this information? How ambitious are you? Are you going to look at the information you gathered and think 'Yes, someday! That sounds like a good idea, but not today"? Maybe you are one of the people that lament the fact that it's not going to be easy and set all ideas and plans aside? Do you look at the information and think 'someday'? Have you gathered your information only to find yourself totally overwhelmed? Do you feel as if it's too late to start? Or maybe, just maybe you are one of the people that do your research and dive right in. No matter what type of person you are, it's ok. I just want you to remember that there is always the perfect time to start and that perfect time is right now.
Start today on the road to financial freedom
OK, when I say that right now is the perfect time to start, that is assuming that you haven't already started to put your plans and ideas into action. Because, lets be honest, the best time to put your plans into action is always going to be yesterday, last year, 5 years ago. Basically the best time some time in the past simply because the ground work would already be laid and you would be a few steps forward in the process. But if you haven't started, it's ok. You can't let that bother you. We are not looking at the past. We are dreaming about the future. And that is what makes right here, right now the perfect time to start. If you give up simply because you did not start years ago, then you will never succeed because you will always be lamenting the fact that you haven't started and now it's an uphill battle that may even seem insurmountable.
I have spent more time than I would like to kicking myself for not pushing through with ideas and thoughts that I had years ago. I started writing in what started as an online journal. It was for my own personal use. I have consistently written posts there since January of 2006. I was writing there for my own personal growth and well being and while my readership was growing, I never capitalized on that blog for monetary purposes. I resisted 'selling out' on what I considered my personal journal. I even thought about doing video vlogs to complement that as early as 2008, but it was too much work. Where would I have been had I pushed my blog/website back when blogs were just starting to gain momentum? I could have been well on my way to traveling full time and earning my living off of my website. I eventually did start a YouTube channel for vlogs and as a companion to my website. I played around with it. It was a hobby for me. I never pushed myself past the hobby stage. Yet what would have happened had I tried to turn it into a stream of income? Could that have been funding our long weekends of exploration? Could it be paying for a fabulous vacation each year? Better yet, would I be financially capable of realizing my dreams
You see, it's easy to look back and ask yourself why you didn't do something. Why didn't you start earlier? Why didn't you take things more seriously? Why didn't you put more effort into your hobbies? But that isn't going to help anything. It's time to stop looking at the past and to start looking to the future. Today is the day to start making the changes in your life that will help you achieve those ambitions and dreams. Today is the beginning of a new future where our dreams and goals come true. Today is the first day in the journey to being financially free and independent.
Belief In Living
Travel with us as we explore!