Cash, Money, Travel

Some of us love shoes, or video games, or jeans, it doesn’t matter, for most of us, we have to figure out a way to pay for what we love somehow. Unless you are independently wealthy (I can take donations at Paypal), you need to save some cash flow in order to go on vacation.

Even if you are traveling on the budget route, we still need transportation, food (and hopefully drink) and shelter in order to have a good time at said destination.

There are a couple of techniques I’ve been using and working on over the last few years to always make sure I have some money in the bank to be able to comfortably enjoy my vacations.

My #1 suggestion: find someone who can give you points or miles. OK, I’m kidding, well not really, I happen to be extremely lucky in that my dad travels maybe about 30 weeks a year, and racks up hundred of thousands of points. So, for a few trips I have been able to ask for miles, which I will now spin into a win for both of us. Him, because the miles go to use, and me because I get trips for a 90% discount, since I usually just pay the taxes and fees. For example, my most recent trip I have planned to England and Scotland in August, costs $1,125 on USAir, but with my gifted miles, I paid $193. As you can imagine, that takes a huge load off both my mind and my wallet.

But seriously, building up miles and points can be huge for future traveling. Make sure you sign up with as many airlines and hotels as you can, even if you don’t travel a ton, something is always better than nothing. I keep track of all my accounts using Award Wallet, a really useful website, so take the time to plug in your information.

If you aren’t actually traveling, there are still a few ways to build up some miles. I use e-Miles, its basically just a site where you can earn miles by viewing marketing ads and answering questions. I’ve earned 600 Delta miles just by using this site for about a year, going once a week or so, and spending about 15 minutes clicking, not fantastic, but I’m up 600 miles, and I can transfer those to anyone within the SkyTeam group.

The other biggie for getting miles without actually setting foot on a plane is with debit and credit cards. Most of the major carriers have their own cards, and basically within a few months of making some purchases (DON’T go crazy here, practice fiscal responsibility) due to the huge mile boosts many of the cards offer after the first purchase, you have yourself a free domestic flight.

There are a couple of ways you can do this with debit cards. I, for example, have an Alaskan Airlines Bank of America debit card (they also offer a USAir card), you won’t get the huge bonuses that a credit card can get you, but you also won’t plummet into debt either. I got 500 miles for getting an Alaskan Air account online, and then another 3,000 miles after I made my first purchase on the card, with 1 mile for every $2 I spend, plus 5 miles for every $1 I spend at select restaurants on the dining program. So, if I can get at least a good chunk of miles by mid 2012, then boom, Alaska here I come (they are also a SkyTeam member).

Now, if you are set with the miles, the next thing is to start saving. I do this with automation, it works perfectly for me, I get paid, next day I have automatic withdrawal from my BoA account into my high yield ING Direct Orange Savings, I stick that in my travel bucket.

Then the next thing I use is Smarty Pig, where I have a savings goal of a certain amount set aside. You have the option of advertising this goal online, so if Grandma and Gramps are looking for something to get you for your birthday, they could deposit some funds right into your Smarty Pig travel account. The other cool thing about Smarty Pig is that when you hit your goal, you can actually get some cash rewards, so if you save $2,000 and want to put those savings on a Marriott gift card you will get an additional $100 from Smarty Pig.

As far as any other tips I can offer, there are always the old standbys, 2nd job, or selling stuff you don’t use anymore on Craigslist or EBay, hey all those baseball cards can be a few nights in a hostel after all. But, be creative, open up a lemonade stand, shovel some driveways (if you live anywhere close to Boston, you can make A LOT of money with that), if you want to travel badly enough, you will find a way to do it. But it can’t hurt to have a little bit of planning in place to help smooth the ride. e

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