Why we make time for friend trips (on a budget!)

With different jobs, schedules, and personal routines, it can be sometimes difficult to carve out quality time with your good friends. Exploring new places and meeting new people is a great way to bring a friend group together and strengthen these special bonds. Since we moved to Chicago we’ve made a point of carving out time to travel together and so far have been able to do two trips, one to Miami, and the most recent to San Francisco. 

Both trips were a long weekend—about four days (luxury of being able to work remotely and also tacking them on to holidays) and despite being short, we felt refreshed and rejuvenated by the end. In addition, we spent about only about $400 total for the entire trip (including airfare!!). Here’s how we do it.

Our tips for traveling on a budget:
  • Register for a frequent flyer program. If you travel enough you can easily accumulate points and can save money on airfare. Also check out certain credit cards that automatically accumulate airline points (per dollar spent). Our personal favorite is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which includes a 40,000 miles bonus once you hit the minimum spend and includes double points on dining and travel (which just so happen to be our favorite expenses).

  • Don’t be afraid of budget airlines. Often times the only downside of these flights are the checked baggage fees, but hey, this just helps you pack light!
     
  • Find ways to cut food costs without sacrificing quality!
    • Find restaurants that serve authentic, regional food. These places are often less expensive but serve high quality food. Think outside the box. Food stands and food trucks are great ways to score amazing deals and even more amazing meals. A personal favorite of ours is La Sandwicherie in Miami, a tiny stand serving the most delicious sandwiches, salads, and smoothies at a really reasonable price. Bonus: you can take that sandwich to the beach and have seaside dining minus the price tag!  
    • If you are renting an apartment or staying someplace with a kitchen, consider cooking some meals for yourself. We are big proponents of fueling up on a big breakfast before seeing the sites. Buy some fruit, a carton of eggs, and a loaf of whole wheat bread to cook a quick and nutritious meal and cut down on expenses. Stock up on healthy snacks at a local grocery store to take with you as you explore to ward off hunger, the great destroyer of fun. You’ll also minimize the temptation to stop at touristy or subpar restaurants just to find something to eat. There is nothing worse than paying for a bad meal.
  • Take public transportation if in a smaller group, or split ubers if there are more of you. Often, if the drive isn’t too long, an uber split four+ ways can be just as inexpensive as public transportation!
     
  • Stay with friends. Plan trips in locations where you have a good buddy—she’ll be excited to see you and you can save on accommodations!
     
  • If no friends or family live in the area, find accommodations through a site like Airbnb. We’ve found some really great places, and usually the owners are friendly, hospitable, and offer great recommendations for exploring the local flavor!
     
  • If you’re craving a cocktail or a nice glass of wine, find a restaurant that is BYOB. You can still splurge on a fancy bottle at a local grocery store, and it won’t have the expensive restaurant markup!
     
  • Entertainment can get pricey as well. We recommend exploring outdoor activities such as hiking or exploring local parks. Often these don’t cost anything at all and can be a great way to orient yourself in a new city. If you’re going out for the night, consider buying your favorite adult beverages at a liquor store and enjoying them at your Airbnb prior hitting the town. You’ll be amazed by how much you can save by not splurging on $12 vodka sodas at the bar!

Often we find that people our age are so focused on getting ahead or moving on to the next phase in their lives that they breeze by their 20s. By taking opportunities to remove ourselves from societal pressures and creating time and space to just be ourselves, to have fun, and to experience what life is all about, we have found that we are healthier, happier, and more grounded. This isn’t about being irresponsible or about throwing away our futures. It’s about living. Why wait until you’re retired to start living? 

Where to next? We’re looking at a mid-January trip to Colorado to shack up by a cozy fire and drink large amounts of organic mulled wine. After that, we have international plans!