S3, E6: How to Budget for Travel, No Matter Your Income

In this week’s episode of Unpacked by AFAR, we get tips on money, budgeting, and traveling well from travel and personal finance podcaster Danielle Desir Corbett.

When we talk about travel, we don’t often discuss personal finance, beyond great credit cards for points or fantastic travel deasl. On this week’s episode of Unpacked, we speak with a podcaster who has married the world of personal finance and travel—and has excellent tips on how to spend on travel in alignment with your values.


Aislyn Greene, host: I’m Aislyn Greene and this is Unpacked, the podcast that unpacks one tricky topic every week. And this week we are digging into a topic that many find taboo: money. We’ll hear from Danielle Desir Corbett, a podcaster and writer who covers the intersection of personal finance and travel. On her podcast and website, The Thought Card, she provides travelers with the tools and resources to earn more money, pay off debt, and build wealth—all while traveling the world. Here’s Danielle.

Aislyn: Hi, Danielle, how are you?

Danielle Desir Corbett: I’m great. Thank you so much for just, you know, inviting me to chat and—

Aislyn: Yeah!

Danielle: I think personal finance and travel’s, like, really important, so can’t wait.

Aislyn: I agree. I agree. It’s interesting because I posted in our office Slack channel yesterday, What would people in our office want to know about personal finance? And it started this really big, long chain conversation. So clearly people have thoughts and questions and feelings about this.

Danielle: Yes, absolutely.

Aislyn: How did you wind up merging travel and personal finance?

Danielle: I started traveling in my early twenties, mid-twenties, after graduate school. And during that time it was, it was challenging because I had student loan debt. I had aspirations of buying a house. And I really realized the importance of travel, but the importance of finances to be able to travel. So that, that really started this, like, lifelong passion to create content around travel and personal finance.

Aislyn: That’s amazing. And I don’t think it is talked about enough, right? Like, how do you— everyone wants to travel, but how do you fund it, and how do you travel in a way that doesn’t take away from these other goals that you have? Did you see a really positive response when you, when you launched your [business]?

Danielle: Not at all. So I, I launched my site in 2015, Thoughtcard.com, and, and there was an intrigue, like, “Why are you a travel creator talking about personal finance?” And on the opposite side, “Why are you a personal finance creator talking about travel?” Because a lot of times in the content creation space, you’re like, “Niche down and pick one thing.”

And I think [it’s] to our benefit that there is an intersection of travel and personal finance where there, there are two important pieces, and for me, it’s like two sides of the same coin. I cannot talk about travel without the financial piece. And it’s, it’s one of those things that, you know, I think sometimes people are scared to talk about money ’cause there’s this negative stigma. Um, but we just have to own it. I feel like we have to own it. And once you can figure that out, travel becomes something that’s not only a hobby, but like a lifestyle, which was a big goal of mine in the beginning.

Aislyn: I think the transparency part is really important. Like you said, people don’t talk about, you know, something that’s a little taboo, I think in our culture in general—but then once somebody else gets brave in that way, I feel like it opens up so much space for other people to talk about it too.

Danielle: Absolutely, absolutely.

Aislyn: Well, I would like to just start with a very kind of simple question. How do you go about integrating your travel spending into, say, a monthly budget if you’re a budgeter, and how would you recommend that other people kind of tackle this relatively simple thing, but not easy [thing].

Danielle: Yes. Right. Sometimes things are simple when they’re, you’re thinking about them, but to actually put them on paper and conceptualize them and actually go through with them can be the challenging part.

So as with every other financial goal that we have, I think it’s a decision to prioritize travel and to say, “This is an important part that I would like to obtain.” Once you’ve decided that travel’s gonna be a financial priority of your life, now let’s add the numerical pieces and look at your spending plan, or your budget, as they say.

A lot of people when they’re thinking about travel, it’s a couple things that they think about. Either it’s like spend—like spur of the moment, “I’m gonna just put it on a credit card.” Um, typically it’s not built into your budget. So, to think about that, I like to think of travel as another bill. So it’s not discretionary. It’s like, “This is part of my lifestyle. This is something I, I put toward every month, like my mortgage, like my rent, like my gym membership.”

So instead of paying someone else, now I’m paying myself in this form of future travels. So make the commitment to treat travel like a recurring bill. There are a couple of mental hurdles, sometimes. We feel like for us to save, it has to hurt, or we have to feel like we are really slugging to like save, and sometimes we don’t value the small savings of $25 or $50, um, a month, for example. And I’m gonna encourage you to, no matter how small the amount is, just get into the habit of paying this bill to yourself every single month, regardless if you feel like it’s a lot, regardless if you feel like it’s a little bit of money. It’s really about building this habit of consistency.

And you can do that through automation. So, especially if you have a nine-to-five job. Treating travel like a bill means having its own bank account. And the reason why I like having its own separate bank account is because you could see how much money you have there at a moment’s glance. When you’re in the middle of trying to book a flight sale, like, there’s no, like, toggling. You just need to see how much money you have, so you are able to see how much money you have and you’re not commingling funds.

A lot of times we have to do mental gymnastics to kind of think, “We have this pot of money. You know what, what, what do I have allocated for this?” And just keep it simple. Separate bank account. We’d call that a travel fund, and you allocate funds toward that, um, every single month.

With automation, I really liked when I had a steady paycheck coming in. I would take out money from, directly from my paycheck and go directly to that account. So I never saw it, and I was never involved in the actual saving process. Like, I set it up once, but ’cause I oftentimes, like, I forget, and then I’m like, wait, I really wanna go to this concert, so let me not save for travel this month. Right? So these are things that come up that let’s, let’s eliminate all this mental drama and just create a financial system for ourselves, and for me, this was a system I created.

With that system, I was able to say yes to more travel opportunities. I could plan long-term for more opportunities because the money was there, and there was no shame in going to travel because I did the work. It didn’t necessarily feel like I was, like, you know, slugging through the mud to save, but I was saving, and I knew this was guilt-free money that I could just go [travel]. And I did the work. I did the work, I made the sacrifices, and travel now became something that I could pursue. And I just did this over and over and over again, and still till this day. It looks a little different now with the family and as an entrepreneur, but the system is still intact today.

Aislyn: I love that and I love the idea that you can start really small, even if maybe you have a dream of traveling somewhere for six weeks or something. You know, you wanna take an epic trip. Like, just start with whatever you can reasonably afford, even if it’s $25 a month. That’s really smart.

Danielle: And I also think that if you’ve had the opportunity to travel and you came back home with a lot of debt, or you came back home, like, not in a good financial space, you have to work really hard to pay off that debt. And, like, for me, that’s happened sometimes, where I would travel despite all my financial systems and I would come back and my finances were not in order.

And that really just motivated me to be like, “OK, for next time, how do I get 1 percent better so that I don’t have to feel this way, or [so] I don’t have to work super extra hard for paying this off.”

I also think that it’s sometimes good in personal finance to lead with your emotions. Um, I think sometimes people say, like, “Don’t be emotional.” But sometimes your emotions can really inspire you. You can be like, “I’m really not happy about this, so what can I do to change this?”

Or, “I’m really proud of myself, or I’m really happy, let’s continue doing this.” I think emotions is something that’s also really important that we don’t typically talk about in the personal finance and travel space, but it could really help you to kind of course-correct and create that system for yourself as well.

Aislyn: I mean, because I think emotion is present in the way that we often spend, right? We just don’t necessarily give it that credit. I think one of the things that leads to, sometimes, the overspending is not being able to kind of realistically budget for a trip. So how do you go about figuring out, “Really, what am I gonna spend, how do I kind of allot for flights, travel and, of course, the things that always come up or, like, cool opportunities?” How do you think about that?

Danielle: So one thing about having that travel fund and having that recurrence of saving is that now you’re building up your, your savings, and you can now consider more opportunities of spontaneous travel. However, for those who are thinking of, “OK, I have a trip coming up maybe later this year or a couple months away,” start by looking at your big spending categories, which a lot of times is airfare or transportation to get there. That’s also accommodation and lodging.

Those two are often the things that we’re looking to book and to reserve, and those are a good place to start jotting down numbers. There are a couple of sites that are very helpful when it comes to just being able to see how much people are spending. So Numbeo is one of those sites that I like to use, and it just kind of tells you like, “OK, on average, like this is how much a meal will cost in Iceland, for example.”

Aislyn: Oh, cool.

Danielle: So now you can start to put numbers together and start to imagine what it would look like for certain things like your food expenses or activities. That’s more practical, but I wanna take a step back for a second and also think about your travel style.

So your travel style is really how you like to travel. It’s valuing the things that are important to you when you’re traveling and saying no and reducing everything else. This is really important because now when we’re putting together our budget, we know, “Hey, I really wanna spend more on this accommodation because it has a spa, and I know I really love that, but maybe I’m not gonna go on any tours or I’m not gonna do any, like, museum admissions because that’s not as valuable to me.”

So that also plays an important role, is make a list of things that are very important to you. Do you like business or do you not mind economy? Two different budgets, right? Two different amounts. Uh, that’s a good place to start.

And then when you know exactly where you wanna go or you’re thinking about the options, you start actually putting pen to paper and doing the research. Last thing I’m gonna say about, uh, just kind of putting numbers on paper: You start to create a baseline for yourself. “Baseline” meaning that “this is the target number that I’m gonna save for, and I’m gonna try to book it at this price.” However, if anything comes under that, this is a deal, right?

We hear a lot of times of these travel deals or the flight deals, and they exist. But for you to know it’s a deal, you have to know what the baseline is. So I really like creating a travel budget just so I could know, What do I need to beat? Like, what are the areas that I could truly see savings? And when you see those savings, you can now reallocate those money back to the things that you value, right? So I think it’s such an important process that sometimes we kind of skip over. Like sometimes you kind of have an idea, like I kind of generally wanna spend like $2,000, you know?

Aislyn: But it’s not very realistic.

Danielle: It’s not very realistic, and there’s a lot of uncertainty and surprises that can come at the end of, at the end of the trip. So those are some of those steps that I think is really helpful. Something else to look out for: A lot of travel creators, like myself included, we include our budget breakdowns on our website.

So on my website, Thoughtcard.com, I have entire sections with trip costs breakdowns to Iceland and China and Portugal and as many places as I can put them together so that travelers can literally see, “OK, Danielle’s travel style, she’s in, you know, affordable luxury. So she’s, you know, spending and splurging and also skimping on certain things. And this is realistically how much I can anticipate to spend,” right?

So that kind of makes things a little bit more real and concrete.

Aislyn: I love it. And again, the transparency.

Danielle: Yes.

Aislyn: How do you—and I think maybe this goes back to what you were saying about evaluating your travel style and what really matters to you when you visit a place—but one thing that I find, that I fall into is, I’m there, and suddenly, like, money ceases to kind of be real in the same way that it used to be. Does that make sense? Like, “Well, I’m on vacation, like, we’re traveling. I can’t miss this opportunity. Like, I’m here. Who knows when I’ll be back.” And do you have any advice for tamping that down?

Danielle: Absolutely. I think one of the things that I’ve done to curtail that is [to] say that “I’m going to be back,” right? Is having this conviction and saying that “this isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I will have more experiences to come back [to].”

That mindset shift really allows you to say, “OK, I do wanna spend and I do wanna have an enjoyable trip, but I don’t have to go so insanely crazy that I’m, like, regretting it later on.” Another mindset shift is, if I’m able to be smart with my finances today, I can go on another trip this year or very soon. You know what I mean? So it’s like, it’s like this balance of like, “This is not a once in a lifetime. I can afford to do this in the future,” right? “I’m gonna enjoy everything I have today, and I know that there’s gonna be things that I’m not gonna be able to do.”

So, like, an example is I went to Iceland, I think in, like, 2017, and it was amazing, gorgeous, beautiful. And I said to myself, like, similar, similarly to you, I was like, “I, I, I wanna do this glacier hike. I have limited time. I have limited finances, I wanna do this.” But then in a few short years later, I’ve been to Iceland three times. And every year I’m just adding on more things that I wanna do, right?

It’s, it’s sometimes, I think we have this—we want things immediate[ly], like we wanna be able to afford everything right now, and there’s something special about working for it, uh, and knowing that, “OK, I don’t have to overwhelm myself this time, let’s just take a step back. I will be back. I will be back.” It’s something I say to myself all the time.

Aislyn: I love that, and it seems like a lot of this is about mindset shift. Shifting your mindset around how you think about trips, how you think about yourself, and then once you’re there, that mindset of like, “OK, if I’m more responsible now, I can return later and feel good about it each time.”

Danielle: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Aislyn: Are there other tools that you use? And how do you budget? Like, what’s your style?

Danielle: So I love spreadsheets and even simpler these days is literally, I have an iPhone, so I just use the Notes app on my phone. And I just start to put numbers on paper, whether that’s [by] start[ing to] researching flights or looking at blogs that share different dollar amounts. I just kind of put items down—um, with having a family and a significant other, it becomes a little bit more complicated ’cause now you have two travel styles and, and you have multiple viewpoints of things that you wanna do.

So it’s, it’s, a lot of it also is communicating—whether you’re traveling with your significant other, with your family, or with your friends—communicating and saying, “Hey, listen, here’s what I have available to spend, or here’s what I feel comfortable with, and let’s get on the same page about what that looks like.”

I think communication’s very important, and you’re traveling with these people ’cause you enjoy them and you love them, right? You cherish them. So let the financial piece not be a barrier, right? Let everyone be aware and know so that—sometimes you don’t know other people’s financial situations. They could be better off or worse off than you. But if we’re both holding our cards to our chest, we have all this tension, and we’re not really sure, and we kind of all are trying to do too much sometimes. So communication, I think, is very key, and planning together is important.

Aislyn: Wonderful. Well, that leads very nicely into another question that came up: How do you navigate traveling with friends—outside of your, you know, your, your nearest and dearest family—um, especially if there’s some income disparity? You know, if there’s a single person who’s traveling with someone who, you know, has a kid, or people who have two incomes and no children, there can be a lot of different priorities and mindsets there. So what do you do?

Danielle: Absolutely. Communication. Communication, like we mentioned, is very key and very important. And then I also think it’s about distributing roles and responsibilities. So within my friend circle, everyone knows that I’m obsessed with cheap flights, so my job is to find the cheap flight. And that’s helpful because now they don’t have to worry about that, right? I’m the one that’s tasked with that particular part of the trip.

And then I have another friend who enjoys the accommodation piece, so if she’s on that trip, we will really rely on them to be able to secure that booking. And when we say “secure that booking,” it’s really, like, to present it like, “Hey, listen, I found this deal, I found this. What are your thoughts? Does it feel good and feel right to you?”

Always be very upfront and honest about the cost of the airfare and the accommodation upfront—car rentals, these are things that we are booking early, so you wanna say very clearly, like, “Hey, it costs this and this much, and I’m gonna need this amount by this date,” right?

These are things that are very important so that there’s no expectation, expectations not met, and kind of fighting and strife and all those kind of things. So those things are really important. I would say also, if you’re in the position where, let’s say you’re booking things with points and miles, for example, so you don’t, [you] really are [not] taking anything out of pocket. There are certain times that you may, you know, say to your friend, like, “Hey, you know what? I got your flights, you know, an extra 20,000 miles is not really a big deal to me,” if that’s, you know, feasible. So that may be something that you may wanna do if you know that a person in your party may not be, um, able, you could say, “Hey, listen, I’ll pick this up for you.”

And that’s why I love points and miles, because you could be more generous because it’s not your actual cash, right? I also think as much as possible to book things, beyond the big items. So if you know you want to go to a particular museum or a particular type of tour, then get those booked early, ’cause a lot of times you can really be more free, and you’re not thinking about having to dish out cash on your trip. And a lot of times when you book early, you save. Especially on these tours: Sometimes you book online, you get discounts, you get benefits and perks and things like that. So I also try to just say, “OK, here’s the options. What are you up for? What are you not up for?”

Something else—I have all these ideas—another thing I, another thing I like to do is no-spend days. So similar to a no-spend challenge, I dunno if you’ve heard of those, but it’s pretty much where we’re out exploring a destination and our challenge is to spend no money, um, on activities and entertainment. So we are looking for a free museum, we’re maybe taking a stroll around town, or we’re, you know, going shopping. Um, there’s a lot of fun things to do for free. So that’s something that I encourage, like, and I’ve done this all over. I’ve done it in Las Vegas most recently.

Aislyn: Wow.

Danielle: ’Cause was, I was like, “Vegas is, like, it’s just spending money everywhere. But I’m like, I don’t wanna—I don’t know what I wanna spend on, so let me just kind of explore.” So I think these are things that we can do that will either curtail the expenses, make things fun, and just really be in a place of communication and being open and just trying as best as possible to make sure that no one’s feeling overwhelmed or embarrassment, shame—those emotions are not part of the conversation.

Aislyn: Yeah. I love the idea of a no-spend challenge too, because it seems like it would spark some creativity and allow you to see the place in a very different way.

Danielle: It’s fun.

Aislyn: Do you use tools like Splitwise or anything to help keep track of costs when you travel with friends?

Danielle: Not necessarily. I try, if possible, to be able to pay separately. So, um, a lot of times I’ll say something like, “Let’s just split it evenly down so we don’t have to be doing, like, mental math and gymnastics and we are able to pay with our own cards.” That, to me, is ideal ’cause I get the points and miles for it.

But, uh, you do have Splitwise, you have, like, Venmos that you can do back and forth. You have Zelle apps. These are all things that can make it, um, a lot easier for you to, like, keep track. There’s also, I know, travel budgeting apps as well. So if you wanna kind of keep your budget on your phone and you wanna kind of keep, you know, keep track of things there, those are available.

Tools are great. You know, I feel like whatever tools you need to feel comfortable and to be able to feel like, “OK, I’m managing things,” is great. But if you also just wanna be old-school, pen and paper, or you wanna have something on your phone, that’s, uh, that’s good too, as well.

Aislyn: Well, since you’re a deals pro, at least when it comes to flights, how do you decide when it’s worth investing time in finding a deal?

Danielle: So I really appreciate when deals come to me, in my inbox. I don’t have as much time, and I’ve never really been that heavy researcher where I’m, like, scouring for hours. Like, I prefer to subscribe to newsletters and have them sent to me, and every day I can just go through and see, Is this on target? Is this part of my baseline plan? Like, is this a good deal versus a great deal?

So newsletters, I think, are very, very helpful. I. You could also follow places on social media, but I think sometimes it gets cluttered on social media. You’re looking at cat memes and trying to find a deal, um, which can be very, uh, very, very difficult. So just attracting, attracting them, and having a way to organize things in your inbox, whether you have a folder specifically for your flight deals, or you have a separate email account that all your flight deals go to, that you can just check on a, you know, frequent basis.

Aislyn: Yeah. Which newsletters do you like for that.

Danielle: Oh, I have so many.

Aislyn: Yes.

Danielle: I have so many, so many.

Aislyn: Too many to list.

Danielle: Yes. So Thrifty Traveler Premium is one of, um, my favorites. And these are like cheap-flight deal alert subscription programs where they will send you dozens of flight deals every month [or] daily, and you can shift through and kind of see. And what I like about them also—Going is another one, which is formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights—they are the experts. They are the ones who are shifting through and finding these opportunities, and you get alerts as soon as they pop up. And again, now I’m in a decision. I could say yay or nay to those things.

I also, in addition to, like, flight deals, I also like resorts and hotels. So Travelzoo has a newsletter where they send out every Wednesday and they have, like, a mash of things. So it can be things like hotel sales, package deals, uh, that sort of thing. So now I, I literally actually got a deal to Azores, Portugal, uh, just through that. Just, again, receiving it and now going through it.

Something that I love about these kind of catchall newsletters is they’re gonna point you to different deals, [so] go to those websites and subscribe to their newsletters. So now you are getting, like, the main one, and then all these little niche newsletters also. It’s, it’s, as you could tell, I, I have—my inbox is full.

Aislyn: But I like the idea of maybe having a separate email address for that. If that, if you can’t deal with, like, the flood—

Danielle: Exactly, exactly. Yeah. So I kind of go down to the nitty-gritty and say, “OK, I’ll sign up for these, you know, smaller ones, and now I’m getting opportunities being sent to me. So that’s very, very helpful. Let me see if there’s anything else. Those are the main ones, like Gate 1 [Travel], also. They do package deals, like package tours. So I like their Monday newsletter because they often put a handful of their tours on sale, and I can just consider, like, “Oh, maybe Ireland sounds good.”

The, the con here is that I’m not—I’m very open, so it’s not . . . It’s like if I’m looking for, let’s say, a trip to Australia, I understand that it may not be likely that I’ll, I’ll find a deal that way. But if you’re open to opportunities and you’re not really caring about the destination as much, these are really great tactics to use because the world is your oyster. If you’re looking for something specific, though, then I think it’s gonna take more of that research.

Aislyn: That makes sense. You could just be open to serendipity, like, oh, that sounds good, and it’s a good deal. So, great.

Danielle: Exactly. Exactly. Well.

Aislyn: Before buying a deal like that, would you—if, if you hadn’t planned to go to Ireland and you didn’t already have kind of a baseline flight, would you go and just check what the average is before actually buying that deal?

Danielle: Yes. So I would typically look at the flight prices. That would be what I’d be comparing. So, an example I was able to book a couple years ago: a hotel and flight package to Ireland for like $599. When I looked at the prices from New York City to Ireland, they were like $750. So I knew that I found a really good one because now I have accommodation and flights underneath just getting there.

So that’s, like, one example. A couple years ago I found a deal to China for $299—two hundred and ninety-nine dollars. It was a 10-day trip. I, I would call it, like, luxurious backpacking, ’cause we were traveling all across the country for 10 days. Two ninety-nine! I didn’t even have to do any research or comparison because I already knew, like, getting to Asia is—

Aislyn: That’s shocking.

Danielle: Exactly. So, uh, just, there are opportunities out there that’s really interesting, and sometimes you’re like, “Is this a scam?” Like, I had to call it, and I’m like, “Are you sure?” But the government was subsidizing it at the time.

Aislyn: Ah, OK. That makes sense.

Danielle: Again, these are opportunities that were not planned, but I had the travel fund there, so I had money to pull from. And the serendipity of it all just kind of matched, and it worked really well for us.

Aislyn: Love it. What a fun trip.

Danielle: Oh, it was amazing.

Aislyn: Well, you touched on this a little bit earlier with your no-spend day, but what are your financial rules, quote-unquote, when you travel?

Danielle: I would say the excessiveness of sometimes the little things. I know that I struggle with that. So, for example, I love coffee, and for me, there’s no better joy than going to a destination and exploring all the coffee spots and all the things, right? But when I come back home, I typically do a debrief of my travel budget. So, I look at, “OK, budget versus actual,” like, what did I actually spend, and how do I feel about spending in these categories.

And a lot of times the small things like the coffees I realize become excessive because it feels minuscule at the time. I’m not thinking about it. And then at the end it’s, like, become way more than I think is necessary. Um, so I think, I think to establish rules for yourself, you have to start looking at your past travel spending and start to identify patterns that don’t feel good to you, right?

Once I realized that coffee was too much, next trip, I was like, “OK, instead of three coffees a day, let’s do one. Let’s scale it back a little bit.” Another thing that I have in terms of, like, the rules for myself, it’s just a quick check within myself or whoever I’m traveling [with] to be like, “Is this worth it?” So, for example, last summer we were in Paris, my mom, my baby, and I, and we had an option: Should we go on a bus tour around the city of Paris where they kind of take you around, but they also stop in different spaces, or should we just, like, take the metro and kind of DIY it?

And we thought about it for just a minute. And we decided this is not in alignment with our trip because all the spots that this bus wanted to take us [to] was not where we wanted to go ultimately. So it’s just really, before you swipe the card or pay for something, it’s just taking a moment and saying, “Is this an alignment with where I wanna go?”

And sometimes it’s worth it. Sometimes it’s worth it to spend more. It’s worth it for convenience, for time savings, and all the things. But if we would’ve gone on that bus, it would’ve been wasteful at that point because we didn’t get anything out of it. And that’s something that I’m, I’m still learning every trip, is to identify wasteful opportunities where it’s like, just because I’m traveling doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to spend on every little nick and cranny.

I have to really think about “Do I need this? Is this appropriate?” and then move forward. But I also have, like, things that I like to do in every city. So I like to go on free walking tours in every city. It’s a great way to get the history and the context. So I really do like those as, like, good things.

I’m also obsessed with viewpoints. So if I can hike up to a mountain or hike up to, like, the, you know, the, a viewpoint in the city, it’s something that, it’s like, “I wanna see that in, you know, in every city I get to.” So you could have rules, financial rules, but you could have things that you’re like, “I wanna do this in every city. Like, I wanna go to a brewery in every city I go to.” Uh, so it could be positive. And also, you know, just kind of thinking about your personal finances as well.

Aislyn: Yeah, absolutely. Well, would you be comfortable sharing, you know, what you, what percentage of your annual or monthly budget travel takes up?

Danielle: I would say, like, [in] a year, I’m thinking about 10 percent of my income would go toward, toward travel. So I think, more than the percentages, is thinking about how many trips can you fit into that budget? And that’s, to me, unlocked a big opportunity because I realized that I can do more within the same amount of budget if I’m strategic. So that’s something to think about too. It’s like, “OK, I have a finite amount of money. Maybe last year was one [trip], but can I fit two? And what does two look like? Can I fit three? What does that look like?” You know, just choices.

Aislyn: Um, what is your advice for people who, going back to the beginning, who toggle between that “I need to save money, this is the year I’m gonna buckle down” and “You only live once.” You know, who really struggle and kind of maybe flip-flop throughout the year.

Danielle: Yes. Uh, so for me, when I decided to be the “and” person that opened up—no more, like, struggling mentally with like, “Who am I gonna be or what am I focusing on?”—meaning when I say an “and” person, it’s like I can travel and pay off debt. I can travel and save for a house, travel and save for retirement. I can travel and work and be location-independent. Once you say “and,” you’re opening up yourself.

And I’m not saying that there aren’t moments in time when you’re buckling down where you’re like, “I need to really get a hold of this credit card debt, and every penny needs to go toward this so I could get this out of my system.” That is a moment in time, and that could be a phase in your life. But if you open yourself up to, generally speaking, you’re pursuing multiple goals at the same time.

The pros is that you’re moving forward. Like, if you had all these, like, little goals in a race, you’re all moving forward. You may not be moving as fast as you want to because you still are saving some money for travel. You’re still are saving some money for your debt payoff and your other goals, but when you look at it holistically, you are moving in the right direction, regardless of the speed.

To me, I love that because, again, society tells you you have to just buckle down and save or buckle down and pay off debt. But my life is passing by, you know. And I still, there’s so much I still wanna experience and see. So having multiple goals, but understanding that you’re not gonna be, you know, a hundred percent on everything ’cause you’re, you know, your finances are typically finite, but you are making progress, right?

You’re making progress toward all of your goals. Um, also if you are in that position where you are heads-down and you’re really focusing, think about, OK, how sweet it will be once that goal is done, how you have more freedom in your life, and that freedom can lead to more travel opportunities as well. So there’s, there’s, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to money. It’s about, What do you feel, like, is appropriate for you at this time period? ’Cause you can always change your mind. You can always—

Aislyn: True, true.

Danielle: You can always kind of rejigger things, and I actually encourage that. Um, but for me personally, I knew that when I was heads-down working on my student loan debt, the one thing that I could find, like, joyous in my life was that trip a year.

Aislyn: Yeah. Yeah—

Danielle: And, and it was worth the sacrifice. It was worth, like, not reaching the debt payoff goal as fast because I had that trip, you know, to look forward to and to enjoy. So that’s what I would, I would say: Uh, experiment with it. Like, try some of the things that we talked about today and see, like, what feels good to you and kind of, you know, craft something that’s individual to your circumstances and lifestyle.

Aislyn: I love it. Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time and your wisdom, so thank you, Danielle.

Danielle: I appreciate, you know, giving the time and space to talk about travel money. It’s, it’s, it’s very important. It’s, it’s powerful, and it can be a hobby or a lifestyle choice or and a lifestyle choice, you know, so I love the encouragement that we’re sharing with everyone else, so thank you.

Aislyn: Thank you, Danielle!

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This has been Unpacked, a production of AFAR Media. The podcast is produced by Aislyn Greene and Nikki Galteland. Music composition by Chris Colin. And remember: The world is complicated. We’re here to help you unpack it.