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An all-inclusive vacation just wasn’t going to cut it. To quote Thoreau, I yearned to “live deep and suck out all marrow of life.” Instead of project deliverables and timelines, I wanted to prioritize pizza-making in Naples or zip lining in Costa Rica. On my lunch breaks, I surfed the internet and drooled over safaris, seat sales, and rainforest hikes.
Fast forward to now. I’m enjoying a one-year unpaid sabbatical from my office job. I spend my days flying to new destinations to peruse markets, taste fresh foods, meet new friends, and check off an ever-expanding bucket list. At home, everyone asks me: “How can you afford it?”
The answer is simple: I planned for it.
Yes We Can!
Apparently, I’m not alone in wanting to get outside and explore. A recent TD survey found that 74% of Canadians have taken or are interested in embarking on an experiential trip that pursues new adventures or personal interests. Instead of beach bumming or guzzling eleven cocktails by noon, many Canadians dream about wildlife spotting on an African safari or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
So what holds us back? Apparently, it’s the perceived price tag: 53% of those surveyed think that experiential vacation will cost more than a normal one. So we avoid it.
“A lot of people think experiential vacations cost more than ordinary vacations, but that doesn’t have to be the case,” said Christine Hunter, Vice President, TD Credit Cards. “It all depends on where you want to go and what you want to do, but you can always find ways to help you save that could make your trip more affordable.”
A year-long sabbatical may not be your ultimate goal, but embarking on a short-term adventure is within reach. I’m not lucky, rich, or in debt. I just made experiential travel a financial priority. If I can do it, you can too. Here’s how to get started:
1. Write Your Travel Bucket List
What’s on your travel bucket list? Jot down whatever comes to mind and don’t censor yourself. Sky-diving in New Zealand? Cooking on an organic farm in Thailand? Riding motorcycles across South America like Che Guevara? Dare to dream unfettered.
2. Calculate The Damage
Next, how much will your dream trip cost?
If you build it, the trip will come. Calculate the full cost of the trip, including all associated expenses, such as transportation, accommodation, transfers, tips, activities, meals and travel insurance. The length and season of your trip may also affect prices, and make sure to talk to people who have travelled to the destination to get a realistic estimate. Use this handy tool from TD Canada Trust to start budgeting.
3. Create a “Travel Fund”
An automatic savings plan was my secret weapon. Every two weeks, a lump sum was deducted from my pay cheque and deposited into a separate bank account. I started with small amounts, and gradually increased to larger deposits. By the end of four years, I had saved one year’s salary in my “travel fund.”
I hear a lot from people: “I can’t afford to do that.” Ironically, these are often the same people who go shopping during the lunch hour. But the truth is, you don’t have to put down a mortgage payment to buy yourself the vacation you really want.
For example, saving $25 a week can generate $1,300 in a year. Put those dollars into a high-interest savings account, which can grow into an ample holiday fund, says Hunter. Treat your “travel fund” as sacred dollars, not to be touched until you’re ready to buy those plane tickets.
4. Use Your Loyalty Travel Rewards to Help Save on Travel Costs
Earn points using your credit card, and then put those rewards towards the costs of your trip. Plus, some credit cards offer travel perks that can save you some serious dough.
“Under the TD Travel Rewards Program, Credit Cardholders can have access to benefits such as travel insurance and preferred car rental rates, and other advantages depending on which card works best for you.” says Hunter.
Case in point: I don’t buy rental car or trip cancellation insurance because it’s already included on my credit card. That’s a lot of moola to blow on berets and cheese in France instead.
5. Be a Research Jedi
Take ownership over your travel destiny. Research prices online and see if savings can be made by booking hotels or activities before departing. Here are a few tips:
- Check online for flight deals and to identify route options.
- Look for a reputable local tour operator. It’s often cheaper to contract directly with a local company in the destination than at home. Plus, it keeps your cash within the local economy, so the people directly benefit from your visit.
- If you’re making multiple stops, a round the world flight might be your best bet.
Now that you’re armed with the info, go forth and travel!
For more information about saving for your dream vacation, check out tdcanadatrust.com.