My new life mantra is eat the cake and travel the world! Yesterday’s burning of Notre Dame Cathedral has me reassessing my life choices. Visiting Paris and seeing Notre Dame was on my travel bucket list for as long as I can remember but I took for granted that it would always be there and now, I will never get to see the original spire or the forest of latticework that was the ceiling of the cathedral. That opportunity is gone and I can’t get it back. Today, I’ve decided not to wait anymore but to go for it. Life is not about things being perfect, it’s about getting things done. It’s better to travel the world on a budget than not at all. The thing is this life lesson applies to more than just travel.
When I was a little girl, I loved traveling. I still do. It is my favorite thing to do. My biggest dream was to travel the world and see as much of it as I could. It started with books of far off places and my imagination took it from there.
When I was in middle school, around 12-years-old, I was assigned to write a report about the place I most wanted to go. Most of the kids in my class chose the closest metropolis, some chose New York City, Los Angeles or San Francisco. I chose Paris, France.
After researching Notre Dame Cathedral, The Louvre, Sacré Cœur of Montmartre, La tour Eiffel, le Musee D’Orsay and the catacombs, I fell deep in love with the people and the culture of Paris. I decided that I need to speak the language and eventually, live there. But first, visiting Paris was a priority.
By the time I was 14-years-old, I was actively working on making the dream a reality. I learned the language. Ate the food. Became a Francophile. Dreams of putting a padlock on the bridge of love and throwing the key into the Seine, walking the city at night under the stars and writing about it all, permeated everything I did. But I never did it. Any of it.
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Instead, I got married after graduation and never made it to Paris. The bridge of love has been dismantled and the Notre Dame Cathedral has burned and I’ll never get to see the forest within or the original spire. But I’m not going to wait anymore. I’m going to plan the trip, eat the croissants and drink the espresso.
My girls are getting older now and I want to share the world with them. That is a gift that, as a parent, you can’t top. The experience of seeing the world is priceless. But how do you literally give your kids the world when you live on a budget? It’s possible with some careful planning, smart shopping and frugality. Think about it this way, is it better to see Paris now, maybe not the way you imagined it, or to wait until everything is just right and never get to see it?
I did some research and where there is a will, there is always a way.
By traveling at night, via train or airplane, you save yourself the cost of a night stay and red-eye flights are often more economical. This is a great way to save money.
We all know that staying in a huge metropolis is more expensive than staying in more remote areas. Take the chance to explore the amazing national parks of the USA. For $80, a National Park Pass allows you entry to every park in the country for a year, creating the perfect route across America for a road trip. Discover the world in a deeper, more natural and meaningful way. Enjoy the desert parks, the cool redwoods, beaches, mountains and forests for a fraction of the cost of visiting the cities.
No matter where we travel, we always hit the grocery store for water, snacks, fresh fruit and yogurts. You can save a lot of money by not eating out for every meal and then enjoy one nice meal out a day.
Shop for flights on Sunday and Tuesday nights, at least 3 months in advance or watch for specials. Often, there are flight specials to Europe for fractions of the cost, if you are flexible in your travel dates.
Make sure that you have points cards for every hotel and airline that you use. I use my favorite airline and hotel chain regularly and accumulate points to use for future trips. Also, acquiring credit cards with your favorite airlines, hotel chains and Chase Sapphire offer lots of points when signing up, sometimes for several flights and stays.
Are you a student, teacher, or under 26-years-old? Welcome to the world of 50%-off attractions and a whole lot of discounts. Get a student/teacher/youth card and save half on your travel. Always ask if there are discounts available for students or youth because you never know.
Visiting budget-friendly destinations like Asia and South America where your money goes further. Exploring India or making your way across South America can be surprisingly cheap. With a little research, you can find out where the best places to visit are. Save your money for the more expensive countries. Balancing them with cheaper destinations means you can spend a little more, without burning through your entire budget.
Get City Tourist Cards
If you plan on seeing a lot of sights in a city, you should get a city tourism card. It’s a great deal and will save you lots of money.
Most importantly, eat the cake and travel the world. Stop waiting for the time to be right. Just go.
What is your ultimate travel bucket list destination? Whether you’re visiting Paris or the Taj Majal, what is your number one tip for how to travel the world on a budget?