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Particularly proud of this #nofilter shot in Phuket, 2019

How I afforded my Travel Goals: 4 countries in 1 year

My goal for 2019 was simple and shared by a lot of millennials — travel more. But I wanted to do it sustainably and documented my journey. Little did I know, it would lead me to then build an app to help more people do the same.

As I got ready and start packing for my fifth trip to New Haven, Connecticut, it was time for a little reflection. In no particular order, these are the habits that helped me achieve my goal.

1. Make a wishlist and watch it closely 🕵️‍♀️

Everyone has their dream vacation list, and if you don’t, start now! Having a wishlist helped me plan out my and book ahead of time. My list included Amsterdam, Tokyo, Grindelwald, Bangkok, Phuket, Mumbai, Prague, Madrid, Berlin, and Portugal. I obviously only visited four of these, mostly because they were the cheapest from this list at the time.

Apps like Hitlist and Google Flights’ map explore mode were a huge help 👀

I used to fixate on wanting to go to any one place and if that was too expensive, I’d either justify it somehow or not end up going at all. Having the list helped me a whole lot — when I knew I had three weeks off in the spring, I started looking up flight itineraries for different combinations of these cities so it gave me options to compare.

I ended up finding a $1,000 itinerary that would bring get me this trip —

2. Balance local affordability 💸

Anyone who has visited Europe knows that the flights are often cheap because the cities aren’t. I was prepared for this by making sure the flights were cheap, and balancing them with a trip to India which is ultra-cheap so I’m not bleeding cash for 3 weeks straight.

I also balanced it out knowing that I wouldn’t be going to Europe for the rest of the year, and instead kept a close eye on some flights to Thailand. While Bangkok would have been a cheaper flight, getting to the beaches and islands would be harder. So I took a hit on expensive flight tickets to Phuket knowing that a good Thai meal would be no more than $8 (yes, we overpay for all our Thai food in America), and the Grab taxis will get me around for cents on the dollar.

3. Stop thinking about budgets 🧐

There’s always a sudden influx of budgeting apps and philosophies at the beginning of the year. Cutting down on subscriptions, watching your Uber expenses, and buying cheaper clothes is an ineffective way to manage your finances. When you’re not watching TV, you’re doing something else that probably isn’t free either; when you’re buying cheaper clothes you’re buying them more often, and sometimes you need that Uber ride to work!

This isn’t spon-con for Netflix & Uber, but you determine what makes you happy, and cutting down on these things isn’t truly helping in the long run. Even popular investment gurus (Sallie) will tell you the same thing. Instead, I started to set aside money for two categories:

Obligations: e.g. rent, loan payments, other bills

Goals: Ongoing travel fund (set aside $250 every paycheck) = ~$6.5k / year

What I was left with was money I could spend wherever I wanted without feeling guilty. It was empowering to think about money this way, not having to question every oat-milk latte I bought. In a way, using the best rewards credit cards for these purchases helped since I ended up using ~35k points on my flights.

As the end of the year drew closer, I saw I still had about $700 left in my ongoing travel fund. I knew it wasn’t enough to buy peak holiday season flight tickets, but it turns out it was enough to take a train up to New Haven and drive to a cute Airbnb cabin in the woods.

What started out as hard-to-maintain mental math is now Funded — an app I designed to help me manage my money without having to budget. Try it out, and let me know what your 2020 goals are!



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