10 Decisions That Helped Me Achieve My Travel Financial Goals!
More than ten years of travel within India and other countries have taught me life-long lessons on investment planning. There are no free lunches in this world. Unfortunately, there are no free trips in the world either! As an avid traveler, I always try to cut as much of costs as I can. The more I save, the more I am able to travel and longer. In fact, many of my friends who earn in lakhs keep asking me how I am able to afford so many travels with such little money. When I was in a job and earning less than INR 20,000 (USD 300) per month, even then I managed to travel extensively across India and other countries with my own money.
1. START A DEDICATED TRAVEL FUND:
Saving is very important when it comes to building funds for your travels. I did not earn well at the start of my career. I started at INR 19,000 and stayed around INR25,000 for some years. Despite a low salary, I was able to travel well within India and some other countries with my own money.
How did I created a Travel Fund?
Creating a travel fund is really simple. Travel was and is still my priority. I always saved a large chunk of my salary every month for my travel fund. I always cut down on unnecessary costs. That said, I did not live a dull boring life on an everyday basis. I had a smaller fund for parties, movies, theatre outings, exploring Mumbai etc. I would do it on a rotational basis. For example, if I spent too much on a party or restaurant on one weekend, I would go out for a movie or explore Mumbai on my own on next weekend which is much cheaper. So, I have been able to live an interesting and exciting life not only during travels to exotic locations but also on routine days.
2. TRAVEL IN PUBLIC TRANSPORT:
When I am traveling on my own, I take up only public transport. It can take more time and can be inconvenient at times, but it saves a lot of money. Taking a private cab from Bhopal to Bhimbetka may cost me around INR 3,500 (54 USD), while a Government run roadways bus will do the same job in just INR 50. (less than 1 USD) Isn’t that a huge saving? I always prefer Government run buses as they are punctual and charge the right amount. So, when I am traveling solo, I always prefer sleeper class trains, roadways buses, metro trains etc.
When I was in Dubai and Australia, I took only Metro trains which helped me save a lot. I can’t even begin to think how big a hole it would have burnt in my pocket if I took only cabs in expensive places such as U.A.E. and Australia.
I also travelled from Canberra to Melbourne on a bus and Melbourne to Sydney on a train which again saved me a lot of money.
3. CHOOSE A BUDGET ACCOMODATION WISELY:
When I am traveling on my own and not on a sponsored junket, I always book the most basic of accommodation. A passionate traveler like me hardly spends time in the hotel room even if it is a luxurious one. I am mostly out all day and return to hotel only to sleep or sometimes work, thanks to the forced ‘Digital Nomad’ lifestyle I live.
So, I try to find hotels below INR 500 only when in India. Contrary to popular belief, such hotels and home-stays are clean, serve good food and are also centrally located. These are not listed online, so many travelers are not aware of it. I have fond memories of staying with a local family in Fort Kochi for as less as INR 400. Their homestay was at a walking distance from all the points of interest in Fort Kochi.
Similarly, I always get cool beach facing wooden huts in Goa for less than INR 500 ($8) a day. A friend of mine found a cool hut on an island in Andaman for just INR 300. Andaman is considered as an expensive destination. It is not always possible to find such cheap hotels outside India. However, you can still find affordable ones in expensive destinations. For example, I thought that an expensive destination like Dubai must have really expensive hotels. But I was surprised when I booked an air-conditioned room (with attached bathroom and bathtub) in a prime location for just INR 2,500 ($38) a day.
I have still not tried living in a hostel. I prefer privacy but someday I would surely want to try it especially if I travel to Europe in future.
4. TRAVEL DURING OFF SEASON TO SAVE MONEY:
I have realized that at many places offseason doesn’t mean that the weather is too bad. It can also mean that the salaried workforce is meeting the targets at the end of the financial year. Or it is exam time for students. Such situations result in low demand of hospitality services. If you do not have such limitations to deal with, please go ahead and take advantage of lesser crowds, cheap accommodation and flights and maybe the entire restaurant to yourself.
Sometimes, when offseason at a place is due to weather such as Goa and Ladakh, I would suggest book at the far end of the season. You will still enjoy good weather and most of the hospitality services. For example, I enjoyed visiting Leh, Nubra valley and Pangong Tso in off season (October) and got cheap deals. I have been to Ladakh in both peak season and off season. Trust me, I preferred the off season for the reasons mentioned above. Also, go on weekdays, if you can manage that.
5. PLAN TRAVEL IN ADVANCE TO SAVE COST:
Though I am more of an impulsive traveler, I myself never plan accommodation or itinerary in advance when traveling within India. However, I always book tickets in advance. Rail tickets tend to be sold out very quickly in India. So, I always book at least 3 months in advance. Even if I have to cancel the trip, I will lose nothing but few rupees (negligible amount) as cancellation fees. Flights and buses are infamous for getting pricier with each day. It is always better to book months in advance. The otherwise expensive tickets to exotic places such as Ladakh and Andaman and Nicobar Islands can be very cheap if you book a year in advance. I know a friend who has done that many times.
6. FREE THINGS TO DO IN A NEW COUNTRY HELPS SAVE MONEY:
Australia is expensive. So is U.A.E. When I visited both I was worried about how I will allocate my budget. I did not want to overspend. Every small expenditure made in these countries has the potential to set you back. I played smart. I stuck to only free things to do in both the nations. And I was amazed that there was just so much to do in both U.A.E. and Australia (Melbourne and Sydney) that I did not even have any time left for doing paid things. The only money I spent on was food and metro. I did not take a single cab ride in both the nations. Most of the places of interest are near the Metro station and are at walking distance. If you are fit and healthy, then I would advise you to opt for commute by Metro. For example, Opera House in Sydney is right opposite the metro station. Burj Khalifa in Dubai is also accessed through a metro station. I will write detailed blogs on ‘Free things to do’ in Australia and U.A.E. soon.
7. TRAVELING WITH A GOOD COMPANY SAVES MONEY, DITCH SOLO TRAVEL:
I am essentially a solo traveler at heart. But I am not a Travel Snob by any means. What I am trying to say is that I will travel with a good company if we have same similar tastes and travel goals. Traveling solo is often more expensive than traveling with a company. Every time I have travelled with someone I trust and gel with, I have been able to save a lot of money on accommodation and food by going Dutch. Splitting costs at a fancy restaurant also means that I can try more (local) dishes and still pay less. And a good company is always more fun.
8. BE A MINIMALIST,
AVOID UNNECESSARY EXPENSE:
As I have mentioned above also, I do not live a dull life by shunning all the entertainment, restaurant visits and movie binge watching. I rather strike a balance and enjoy it all. Please read above to know how. I am not really frugal but a minimalist at heart. Minimalist does not mean that you have to sleep on a mattress on the floor. A minimalist, according to me, can still own an expensive camera, laptops, King Size beds, Motor Bikes and even a huge refrigerator. A minimalist can have all of this and still be called a minimalist.
What I do as a minimalist is that I never hoard things. Since more than a decade, I have only enough luggage which can fit into a small van. I keep giving away old clothes and also give away the gifts I receive to my maids and to poor people I meet during my travels. But what is more important here is that I never buy anything which I do not need. Once in a while, I shop something during my travels to support the locals. For example, I bought many Knick knacks from Rann of Kutch (India), Nepal, Bhutan and Thailand but I did not buy anything for myself. I just bought gifts for family and friends.
9. BACKYARD TOURISM. GREAT SATISFACTION, LOW COST!
Mumbai is so interesting that during my 7 years stay in Navi Mumbai, I always explored different corners of Mumbai every weekend. We often neglect our own cities in a quest to experience the exotic. I have seen more of Mumbai than many other Mumbaikars. And it cost me just around INR 500 for 2 days. How? Local trains, lot of walking, vada pao, the works! Also, Mumbai has amazing destinations like Malshej Ghat, Matheran, Naneghat Trek, Bhimashankar trek etc. I made all these trips under INR 1000. Yes, it is possible. Again, think local buses, local trains, walking, cheap stays and restaurants, etc!
10. BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE-SAFEGUARD FROM UNFORSEEN EXPENSES DURING TRAVEL
This is last but not the least. Investing wisely is the most important task if you have long term goals. I made the mistake of not investing early on when I started earning. I was rash, careless and uninformed. But a decade later, I understand the importance of investing wisely. Now I always buy travel insurance, especially when I am traveling to expensive countries. Carefully done financial planning, such as buying a term plan, goes a long way in safeguarding you from unforeseen events.
About Aegon Life:
A joint venture between Aegon – world’s leading financial services and Bennett, Coleman & Company – India’s leading media house, Aegon Life Insurance launched its pan-India operations in July 2008. Armed with a vision to be the most recommended new age life insurance company, Aegon Life adopts the power of global expertise by leveraging digital platforms to bring transparent solutions, and to prioritize customer needs. Their financial planning and investment solutions include term life insurance plans, pension plans, unit-linked insurance plans (ULIPs), health insurance plans, child education plans, and more.
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