The fantasy of quitting the 9-to-5 in order to backpack around the world sounds alluring, but many times it won’t work for everyone. Maybe you have an aging parent to care for, pets that you can’t leave for long, or your own illness that requires you to maintain good health insurance through your employer. I have chosen to keep my full-time legal administrative assistant job yet in two years we were able to visit Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Vienna, Venice, Romania, London, Costa Rica, the Florida Keys, Cancun, Cozumel, and the Bahamas. We didn’t win the lottery, inherit a trust fund, or get a lawsuit settlement. We did it with a little planning and you can too.
Step 1: Choose your destination
Where have you always dreamed of going? If you have someone special in your life, take the time to daydream of places to visit with them. Browse travel magazines. Read travel blogs. Ask friends about their favorite places. When you have picked your top three spots, move on to Step 2.
Step 2: Select a time of year
What is the “best” time of year to go to your destination? Is there a stormy season? When are prices the highest? Fodors.com is our go-to site to get concise, accurate information on when to travel. Select your location and then check out the Travel Tips/When to Go section.
Step 3: Estimate the cost
Starting with your top pick, calculate what a one week trip will cost to go to each of your three destinations. In addition to the obvious costs of food, airfare, and lodging, don’t forget to include the costs of pet/house/child sitting, airport parking, taxis/busses, roaming data charges, tours and excursions, and any souvenirs you may want. This can be a rough estimate, but try to be as accurate as possible, and round up. After you compare your data, you may find that one of your cities is much less expensive to visit than the others, making your choice easier.
Step 4: Save the money
How long will it take you to save the amount of money you figured in Step 3? Saving just $5 per day, you will have $1,825 in a year. What small things can you do to help you reach your goal? You may be saying to yourself that you are just making ends meet as it is and there is no way you can afford to come up with the money to travel. I’m here to tell you that if you make this trip a priority, it is possible. Do a Google search for “extra income” and you will find a myriad of ideas. Quit smoking, sell unused items on craigslist or eBay, round up your purchases and save the change, sell something you created on Etsy, ask for trip cash for birthdays and holidays – these are just a handful of ways to help get you closer to your dream vacation.
Step 5: Stay on Track
This step is too important to ignore. It is very easy to become distracted and get off course. Maybe some unexpected expenses came up and you want to tap into you trip account. Perhaps you broke up with the person you planned on taking with you on the trip. Don’t lose sight of the goal and let your dream pass you by.
According to the United States Department of Labor, Americans average 2 weeks of paid vacation time a year. If that’s you, really make that time count in 2013 and go on the trip of a lifetime. You can make this happen.
Please let us know if you used any of the advice in this blog. We would love to hear about your adventures.
by Melanie Watterson
November 17, 2012