In this post we reference a variety of products, businesses, and loyalty programs. We were not compensated in any way for these recommendations; they are solely based on our experiences and the experiences of others.
Maybe you were one of those people who made a New Year's Resolution to travel more in 2018. Maybe you decided "enough is enough, I need to explore!" Saying you're going to pack your bags and hit the road on the regular is one thing, making it a reality is quite another.
Travel can be complicated, expensive, and daunting. With a thousand different recommendations all just a Google search away it can be exhausting just trying to figure out where to go, let alone when, with whom, and how. How can you possibly start plowing through your bucket list if you only have two weeks of vacation every year?
Between business travel and personal travel we spend easily one third of our year away from home. As part of our Be Well, Do Well 2018 Resolution we also decided to start gifting experiences, not things, to others and ourselves. Over the years we've picked up a bunch of tips and tricks that allow us to travel more frequently, and today we're going to share them with you. Now we're not saying that we can get you that week in Paris for under 500 euros per person, but we CAN help you start to get out and explore the world on a more regular basis.
4 Ways to Travel More in 2018
1. Think close to home. Sure it might not be San Francisco or London or Australia, but that little town just down the road might end up being full of fun activities, great food, and gorgeous inns. For us, based in Durham, we have access to places like Richmond, VA, Asheville and Charlotte, NC, and Charleston, SC all within an easy drive. Washington D.C. can be reached in about four hours, while Atlanta, north Florida, and even eastern Tennessee are a day's drive away.
Here's an easy exercise to do at home - using the How Far Can I Travel tool from FreeMapTools.com determine how far you can go with a three hour drive at about 70mph. If you live in Philadelphia, for instance, Washington DC and New York City all are within reach, as are the rolling hills of Amish Country, the New Jersey and Delaware beaches, even the gorgeous Eastern Shore of Maryland. You don't need an expensive plane ticket and 12 hours of travel to have a great trip!
2. Think small. Along the same lines as sticking close to home, picking lesser known and lesser visited destinations can also help you stretch your dollar, making it easier to see more places, more often. That doesn't mean you necessarily have to skip that trip to London, a notoriously expensive city, but for the cost of four days in London you might be able to afford a week exploring central Great Britain, with a couple nights in London and the rest of the time spent in smaller villages elsewhere. First time visitors to South America might head straight for Rio or Buenos Aires when places like Ecuador, Colombia, and Uruguay are far cheaper. If you look just off the beaten path you might be surprised by what you find!
3. Look for deals and be ready to jump on them. Most major travel websites like Expedia, Booking.com, and Orbitz send out regular e-mail blasts with the latest deals on flights, hotels, rental cars, tours, and more. Airbnb rentals are often cheaper than hotels, and many come with a kitchen, saving you money on having to eat out. Just do a quick search for rentals in an area you're interested in visiting and see if there are any great deals! Scott's Cheap Flights, an e-mail alert service, always has insane deals on low-cost international flights. Set aside a bit of money or save room on a rewards credit card for when these deals come up. $199 airfare to Iceland doesn't come around that often, jump on that flight and figure out the rest later.
Another helpful tip is, if you can, set flexible travel dates. Sometimes the same ticket a day before or day after can be much less expensive.
4. Use those rewards credit cards and company loyalty programs. Harper & I fly Delta and the Skyteam Partners almost exclusively; we've built up seniority in the Delta Skymiles program and have banked away a number of airline miles. Since international flights often earn more miles, we pay for those in cash and use our miles to fly free domestically. The miles come in handy when we need to attend weddings, visit family, or just want a little weekend getaway for ourselves. That "free" flight can often make the difference between us being able to afford to go somewhere or not. Hotel chains and rental car companies also have similar loyalty programs (we particularly enjoy Starwood Hotel Group and their Starwood Preferred Guest program). Many programs also offer reciprocal benefits - for instance we can earn Delta Skymiles when booking through Airbnb, staying at Starwood Hotels properties, or renting a car through Hertz.
Additionally, rewards credit cards can really help you rack up the travel points. There are numerous well-researched blog posts on which credit cards are the best - just do a quick Google search to start your research. We use the Delta Skymiles American Express for business expenses (and Delta purchases--twice the points), as well as a Merrill Lynch credit card that earns us points we can convert towards airline miles, hotel stays, or rental cars. Other popular reward cards are the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and Capital One Venture card.
Look, we are very aware that not everyone has the means or ability to jet around the world at the drop of a hat. Jobs, finances, and family situations can, and should, dictate how and when you travel. That being said, by doing even just one of the four things we mentioned above, you may find that you are able to pack in that extra weekend getaway after all. Whether you find a great little mountain retreat or snag a once-in-a-lifetime airline deal to Europe, we hope that your 2018 is full of exciting explorations and great memories.