Traveling is Expensive: How I Minimize Costs

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.

Mindful spending

Killarney, Kerry Ireland

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, but I’ve cut down on purchasing multiple cups in a day.

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.

Mindful travel

Kite Festival at Cesar Chavez Park in Berkeley.

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.

These include:

Kerry, Ireland

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

This is what Chase sent me and I thought it summed up 2017 so perfectly. As you can see, it was all about travel! (The other categories got cut off in the screen grab, but everything was zero except for travel.)

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 trips to Australia and New Zealand, but I ended up using it all year for everything, and scored some flights from all the points I’ve racked up.

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.