When you set the expectations for spending, you’ll never waste brain space mulling over what to do, and what to do usually entails having to spend money.
I admit I don’t stick to a strict budget, but with every new trip, I try to be mindful of what I’m doing, how much it costs, why I need to do it, and what level of joy it’ll bring.
It’s all a part of making my travels more meaningful and focusing on learning and growing. It’s called mindful spending, or value-based spending.
There’s a reason why there are so many travel blogs dedicated to thrifty spending. When you travel, money just falls out of your pocket.
As many people who tend to travel a lot, I started creating rules for myself so that I’m being more money conscious.
Some of these things are still evolving, but here’s how I usually spend:
If it’s under $20 for an activity I can learn something from, usually of the arts — museums, historical tour, theater, music, I’ll always say yes.
If it’s on the pricier side, I’ll usually consider it, but it depends on what it is. In Alaska, for example, I splurged on all outdoor activities (horseback riding and fishing), because I really enjoy both.
Uber and Lyft are only used if I’m completely lost or really tired and it’s late.
I’m a morning person, so by default I love breakfast and brunch. I usually treat myself to a local cafe or diner for breakfast, and then skip eating at restaurants for lunch or dinner, if I’m traveling alone. I’ll eat whatever I’ve purchased from the local supermarket.
Coffee — doesn’t matter if it’s a large bag of beans to take home from a local coffee shop, or a latte that I’m ordering while working. I splurge freely on coffee and no one can tell me otherwise.
Souvenirs and shopping — I usually don’t buy anything, unless it’s a magnet for my sister. I once bought a wine stopper in Alaska. That’s about it.
While money is important to keep track of while traveling, there are so many free things I’ve learned to enjoy while exploring a new city.
Long walks around town — I love going on epic walks when I’m in a new place. I use Google maps to scope out a general route, and hope that the parts I’m walking through aren’t sketchy. So far, it’s worked out well. If a city has a waterfront, that’s the route I take, since it’s the most scenic.
Public transportation — I’ve learned to really embrace public transportation. I know, I sound like a weirdo, but hear me out. When I’m traveling, I’ll hop on a bus that takes you to the other side of town and grab a window seat. It’s my poor man version of a hop on hop off bus.
Here’s a few of the more recent buses and trains I’ve been on. Exciting stuff, I know.
The park — a city always has a park, or botanical garden.
Hikes — if the weather permits, and if it’s close enough to get to.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Speaking of spending, I use my Chase Sapphire Reserve for everything. I signed up last year when they were offering a ridiculous 100,000 bonus offer for people who signed up. I was like hell yes.
I mainly got the card, thinking I’d use it to pay for my epic trip to Australia and New Zealand later this year, but turns out I ended up using it all year for everything, and scored some flights from all the points I’ve racked up since then.
Does the $450 annual fee scare you? If you travel a lot, you’ll easily recoup that, and then some. I use it mostly for restaurants and groceries and always book through the Chase portal for flights and sometimes hotels.
I use a mix of points and money for hotels sometimes. It just depends on where I am and what the Airbnb situation looks like in the area. In Hawaii, for example, I wanted to stay close to the beach and have amenities at my fingertips, so it made sense to use my points for a hotel.
Here’s what I love about this card:
The lounges — this is such a huge perk. Free coffee, snacks, tea, food, TV, WiFi, and awesome bathrooms? Yes, please. The only drawback is if the lounge is in a different terminal — this happens mostly in really big airports, but if I have the extra time, I check my Chase lounge app to see where the closest one is located.
Global Entry reimbursement — Chase gives you $100 for this. I finally got mine this year, which came just in time because my TSA Pre-check is ending in 2018. Global Entry just means that if you travel internationally and come back to the U.S., you won’t have to stand in a long line at immigration. This is if the airport uses Global Entry. It also comes with a TSA Pre-check for domestic travel, so, score!
Customer service is great — I once left my card at a restaurant at Kirkwood after a long day of boarding, and when I called Chase, I received my new card in two days.