I’m asked fairly often about the most budget friendly ways to travel. I was scrolling through Travel & Leisure this week and came across this quote: “Nothing breeds ingenuity like a tight budget.” Gosh, did this resonate with me. As long as I can remember I’ve been the girl in my friend group that “finds” the deals. I’ve gotten reaalllly good and setting alerts with all the airlines and monitoring a variety of destinations. I’m constantly digging through google flights, I follow flight deal twitter accounts and even keep an eye out for the occasional glitch-priced flights. If I already have a destination in mind, I search each leg of potential flights - for example: going to Maui? I’ll search every single airport that connects into Maui and then reverse search back to my home airport from those connecting airports.
Exhausted yet? Yeah. It can be.
There’s got to be a better way right? There is, and I’m going to let you in on that little secret shortly.
But first a little backstory.
I decided to take on this life as a traveler back in 2014.
If you’re a long time reader you may know a bit about my story - I grew up in a family of frequent travelers. My favorite gifts at holidays and birthdays? Maps, globes, atlases and books about exotic places. I decided as soon as I was old enough, I’d take off to travel gypsy style around the world.
So that was my dream as a ten year old girl - but here’s what happened next: I graduated from high school and went to college. I took out student loans, I spent four years considering my dream job, and I can tell you - this job, the one I have now: writing, creative directing and traveling along the way - that wasn’t even kind of a “job” that existed when I was picking a major. The short version of what happened next is this: I got an amazing job after college, spent many years working my way up the corporate ladder and I can distinctly remember, with crystal clarity this one specific day. I was sitting at my desk - maybe 55 hours into the work week - and I called home to tell my family I wouldn’t be able to go on the trip to Paris they were planning.
I had two reasons: the first - there was no way I could even fathom asking for vacation time (I’d created a lifestyle in which the social acceptance of my working world was that the more time you put in the more validated you were). And the second reason: the budget. I’d bought a new house, invested in expensive clothing, enjoyed going out to nice restaurants, and even if I could ask for time off, a ticket to Paris would run me upwards of $1200 right?
Fastforwarding a bit - I didn’t go on that trip.
Or the next one, and didn’t make my way across the ocean for quite a few years after that. After years of that lifestyle I was (surprise!) missing a connection to myself and a higher purpose. In 2014 I left my corporate job - packing up my camera, books and journals I booked a one way flight to the Mediterranean. I’d spend the next season of life traveling. I found a deep adoration for the world at large and I committed to making up for lost time.
Here’s where my skill set as a budget traveler took root.
The way I plan my travel now is basically like this:
1. I dream up the feeling of the next places I want to go - you know - peaceful vibes in the wilderness, relaxation on an island in a seaside village, energy lifting in a bustling city…
2. I dream up what I want to happen when I get to whatever that place might be: horseback riding in an old forest, meandering through local markets and old cafes, catching concerts in divey rock clubs - you get the gist of what the dream looks like.
And then, the next step?
3. I wait.
Whaaaa, Tell Me About Next Vacay!
Next Vacay is a family run business from founders Naveen & Shaylee Dittakavi. They are entrepreneurs who like me, have been short on time and tight on budget (Shaylee went straight from undergrad to med school to residency and Naveen worked as a software developer). A few years ago Naveen wanted to give his wife the opportunity to travel to see family in India. Besides a honeymoon trip to Cambodia they hadn’t really had an opportunity to travel very often.
They were facing the same challenges I had: it was hard to get away and the type of trips they wanted to take were expensive! By a stroke of luck Naveen stumbled across a flight deal on a friends Facebook page on Christmas Day of 2014. With that deal the two of them - and several family members too - were able to travel to India round trip for $300. Of course, after that Naveen was hooked, and that’s where the idea for Next Vacay began.
I spoke to him recently and asked him a little more about how it all got started, here’s what he told me:
“We started this at our own house, on the dining table, and every single thing was hand assembled. I was copying and pasting …
all these people live in Atlanta... copy, paste, and dispatch.
These all live in Los Angeles... copy, paste, dispatch. “
Eventually they built a formal system around the whole process. It's still the same approach in that the Next Vacay team finds the deals, they hand verify them, and they go through the booking process to confirm that the flights can actually be booked - because, hey! they’re committed to making sure it all works and is easy!
So how does it work?
- Sign up for the month free trial.
- Input the airport nearest to you.
- Check your email. You’ll receive emails that only relate to your chosen airport, airports nearby and flights that are truly deals.
- Click on the deals you’re interested in, and move forward in booking your flight from there.
If you like it, you pay the $25 annual fee… which is wayyyy beyond what you’ll save. Don’t find a deal you like in 6 months? You can cancel and receive a refund.
I learned about the service through another travel writer and decided to give it a go. This past fall Ben and I took off on our real vacation in years. We booked round trip flights to Barcelona for $633 each that we found using the service. From there I found flights to Mallorca. I’d dreamed up the destination I wanted for our experience, dreamed up what we’d do when we got there and here were my requirements:
When I got the email to travel to Barcelona I immediately began looking for island or beach destinations nearby, and that’s how we landed on Mallorca. Our trip was technically in the off-season so we applied the money we’d saved into a gorgeous home we’d spend 10 days in: 3 stories with a rooftop deck, solarium and heated stone floors, a whirlpool bathtub in the bedroom and 3 terraces for dining. We explored different restaurants, wine from local vineyards, visited beaches and island coves and didn’t even kind of break the bank doing it.
Checking for my Next Vacay email had become a daily ritual for me.
Now I’m working on my next book and future travel features for Oui We. I’m constantly dreaming up what those destination might feel like and Next Vacay is basically serving as my personal travel consultant giving me new recommendations every day.
Here’s a few flights that came in this week:
Before I began traveling the world, I realized I’d been stuck. I lived a life many fashion-loving, career-climbing women in their 20s do. And then when I made that decision to travel - the world opened up for me. Now it’s something I crave more than anything in the world, and to make travel happen doesn’t have to be hard.
I’m certainly not advocating that everyone leave their job to explore a new path, however I AM suggesting that you make the time for yourself and time to explore. With Next Vacay you can experience places that you never even considered before. Or maybe places you have considered but thought were out of reach.
I asked Naveen about the most rewarding part of creating a company like this.
One of the most gratifying customers that we have is someone probably in their 40s or 50s. They write to me and say, "I've never been outside of the United States. Neither has my mom. And because you sent me a $400 deal to London, we're going to London. We're getting our passports. I can't believe that this is happening.
That’s what travel is all about you guys.
To sign up for Next Vacay, you can do so through my link here. And, hey! Let me know when you book something! I love hearing stories from you guys, travel truly lights us all up.
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This post was created in collaboration with Next Vacay. Opinions, as always, are my own.