Saturday, January 3, 2015

Practical tips to make 2015 the Year of Travel

New Year is all about change and it's my second favorite holiday next to Christmas because almost everyone feels refreshed, energized, and renewed after January 1. 

The magical feeling of having second chances, correcting mistakes or unpleasant routines/behaviors and to start something new is very evident especially in social media, news, magazines, and the internet. Articles or posts about New Year's Resolutions, 5 things you need for that post-holiday detox, 10 abs exercises for a fitter you, where to invest your money, how to save for an early retirement, or what auspicious color, month, or symbol to use in the Year of the Sheep in Fengshui--these topics are all over my Facebook feed and as I reflect on my personal goals for 2015, travel remains on top of my yearly list.

However, there are "2 universal truths" about traveling according to most people:

1. It is almost always part of their bucket list because traveling is a life goal and it produces so much positive emotions like feeling of freedom, accomplishment, relaxation, and happiness.
2. It is expensive therefore the usual scenario for this "truth" is that people work hard to save for future travels (note: the operant word is FUTURE travels), retire, then travel! BUT people usually travel when they're already very old or when their knees or backs are already weak and can't last a day strolling around a foreign city.  

The latter is one of the greatest myths about traveling. Traveling is not that expensive! it can be affordable if you want it to be. 

3 years ago when I created this blog, my long time boyfriend and I explicitly decided to travel to a different country at least once every year because at that time, I was experiencing an "early" quarter life crisis. But 3 years years later, we've been to almost a dozen of countries averaging 3-4 countries in one year despite not earning a lot in our early professional years. So how did we do it? Here are some tips we've experienced in 3 years worth of travel (in no particular order):

Practical Tips to make 2015 the Year of Travel:

1. Patience is a virtue. The airline industry is very competitive and so many seat sales are being offered frequently especially by Cebu Pacific, Air Asia Philippines, and even by Philippine airlines so WAIT FOR A PROMO FARE BECAUSE IT WILL DRASTICALLY REDUCE YOUR TOTAL EXPENSE! Imagine, we were able to book the following before and the cost is the net amount and 2 way ticket already per person!

Php 900 ticket to Taiwan
Php 1,500 ticket to Shanghai
Php 1,900 ticket to Korea

2. Research. Research. Research. You need extensive research to be able to maximize your travel. You don't want to waste your precious time on things that will not add value to you such as commuting time. Researching will also help you plan everything including cost, time, and how many days you need while making sure you achieve your goals in travelling to a particular location. There are numerous blog reviews in the internet that will help you decide if the place or activity is worth it or not. In my blog, I review the places we visited, the accommodationfoodexpenses, and itineraries.

In our experience, research has helped us spend exactly how much we wanted to spend based on how much we planned to bring (ex. in China we only brought Php 20,000 each and spent less than that). Research can help you identify activities you can do for free, places that will not cost you entrance fees, or attractions that you can get for discounts (ex. bringing school ID to Bangkok will help you get student discount fees). Research also allows you to weigh several options that can really make a significant difference in your total experience in travelling (ex. ride a bullet train in Japan while spending Php 13,000 or just ride a single bus ride for less than Php 2,000 while saving a day of hotel cost?).

Time and time again, research has enabled us to travel the way we want to travel, hence, I've put up this blog as well so it's easier for people to research and have a better travel experience than we've had.

3. Hunt for deals but always be careful of scams. You can try, and other sites for cheap accommodation deals. Whenever we travel, we always stay in local Inns, Guesthouse, Youth Hostels, or Dorm Type rooms because these places can already meet your needs of having a decent place to sleep in.

Lately, we've become fond of Airbnb--another alternative to hostels because it's a bit cheaper and it has less strict rules regarding check ins and outs. These are private accommodations of like-minded travelers who are willing to monetize their extra space at home. For example, we booked a listing in Osaka Japan for only Php 400 per night/person, Php 800 per night/person in Beijing, and Php 250 per night/person in Shanghai. 

4. Avoid unnecessary expenses. If you can pack light, then you don't need to purchase a bag allowance or check-in bag anymore which saves you Php 800 already. If you have a tumbler, bring it with you and refill your water whenever you see a drinking fountain.

5. Choose your travel tours wisely. Not all tours are good deals so always weigh your pros and cons first before booking. And not all tours you see especially in the internet or deal sites are accurate so do not be gullible. I often see offers like Php 200,000 worth of tours in Europe and you only need to pay just Php 30,000 for an all in travel...well, that sounds scary for me. But personally, I'm not a fan of arranged tours which is why in all my travel experiences, I've availed only 1 travel tour which is in DMZ in South Korea as this is required to get to DMZ.

6. Find a travel buddy. Travel with someone to divide the cost especially for transportation (if you need to ride the Taxi), accommodation, and even food if the serving is big enough for 2.
7. Have a travel fund. My boyfriend and I allocate funds for travel monthly which we set aside as soon as we get our monthly salaries. We've started by having Php 3,000 travel fund monthly 3 years ago and it has steadily increased to Php 6,000. Saving Php 6,000 amount will enable us to save Php 72,000 yearly which is already equivalent to 3 international travel yearly within Asia. Having travel funds are extremely helpful as it enables you to prioritize travel every year instead of just travelling whenever you have excess money. It also helps you become flexible on when you want to travel or book for tickets since you don't have to think about whether you have money for travel or not. This has helped us save a lot of money as well as every time there are seat sales, we immediately book airline tickets without thinking about money at all as we already know that we have money for the whole year to spend on travelling. The amount of fund you want to set aside differs based on how much disposable income you have and what your travel goals are. Our goal is to travel 3-4 Asian countries a year or 1 long distance travel which is why we've set aside Php 6,000. You can save as low as Php 1,000 and travel once every 2 years but the key really is to know how much you can set aside and what your travel goals are.

In summary, I've shared a lot of the practical tips that helped me to travel continuously for the past 3 years. However, I also want to share some of the key learning I got in a seminar I've attended a couple of years ago by famous travel bloggers in the country entitled Exciting Travels on a Shoestring Budget. These are key insights that we've put into heart and practiced over the past years.

1. “Mix cheap and some luxury during your trip. Do not deprive yourself all the way!” –Nina Fuentes, Just Wandering

2. “Try to save money but don’t be stingy because if someone will ask you “what did you do?” you will not be able to share anything. Just make a lot of your money!” 
–Ivan Henares, Ivan about Town

And more importantly….
3. “Measure your Experience VS Cost. This is the formula to know if your trip and your decisions are worth it… Return of Experience = value of experience divided by Cost” –Anton Diaz, Our Awesome Planet

Because at the end of everything… what matters most is that “you were able to go after the things you want while you’re still in your prime.” –Anton Diaz, 2008


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  2. Your blogs are very inspiring. I've always wanted to travel around the world, but now I have to save for 4 heads/trip since I already have 2 kids and a husband. hehe!

    1. Hi, thank you very much for your kind words! :) good luck on your future travels with your family :)

  3. Thanks for the Ate Tin :D especially on how to earn for your travel expenses


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