How We Can Afford to Travel for Weeks at a Time

While most of our friends and family in the Northeast had a cold and bitter February, we were able to spend 15 days away from the cold Philadelphia weather in the Caribbean paradise of Punta Cana, DR.

Why does it seem that we could afford vacations more often than friends and colleagues?

When we returned from our trip, our colleagues wondered how we could afford to be gone for “so long” and travel “so frequently.” Aside from the fact that most of them have the same amount of vacation time and earn comparable wages, they can’t imagine being gone for so long. Is it because they’d get bored if they didn’t go out every day and spend a lot of money to have fun while on vacation?

Is it because their spending habits differ from ours when we travel?

So how come we can afford it while they don’t appear to be able to?

A generous paid time off policy

One factor in our favor for taking longer vacations is that our employer has a generous paid days off policy (by American standards). We currently have 26 days of combined personal time off, including sick days, and can “buy” up to five additional days, which is essentially giving part of our salary back. We also have nine vacation days, which we try to use when traveling.

While it is not much by other developed countries’ standards, we are better off than most by US standards. The average private-sector employee in the United States receives 16 paid vacation days and holidays, but this falls short of European standards: every country in the European Union is required by law to provide at least four work weeks of paid vacation.

Being debt free helps

Another advantage is that we are debt-free, and this is not due to good fortune or an easy life. While pursuing the “American Dream”, I struggled with debt. I was able to wipe out over $50,000 in debt in three years after becoming determined to crush it! Unlike many Americans who spend money they don’t have on frivolous purchases to impress others, I’ve learned from my wife to avoid debt. We avoid it like the plague.

If you pay off your debt, you can put some of the money you used to send to the bank in finance charges toward your travel budget. When you combine that with cutting unnecessary expenses, it becomes much easier to create a budget for discretionary spending such as travel!

With a travel budget in place, it is simple to extend a vacation by taking a few steps to make it more affordable.

No debt = travel budget! 🙂

All-inclusive resorts are optional

We’ve grown accustomed to “slow travel” after a few years of traveling together. It’s expensive and difficult to spend too many days at resorts. I like the convenience of staying in resorts, but I get tired of the same routine after a few days. We’re also no longer fans of traveling for short periods of time and cramming our vacation schedule to the point where we need a vacation from the vacation.

To “slow travel,” you need time and money, but not a lot of money. You can have a fantastic vacation at a low cost if you plan ahead of time. We’re experimenting with renting guest houses and condos instead of resorts.

We make certain that we get the most bang for our buck. For example, we can stretch the cost of a 5-day all-inclusive resort package over a 2-week period and enjoy it even more.

Take advantage of the weather and avoid peak seasons

We live in the Northeast, where the winters are bitterly cold. We try to avoid the cold weather as much as possible. We’d rather spend two weeks away from winter in DR than one expensive week at the Jersey shore in the summer. It all comes down to priorities. The weather, beach, and experiences are not even comparable.

We avoid traveling during the holidays in December due to increased demand and costs, preferring instead to take advantage of better deals in January and February each year.

On our recent trip to the Dominican Republic, we rented a car and spent our days exploring new beaches every day. One of our favorite experiences was eating fresh fried fish and drinking local Presidente beer on Macao’s virgin beach.

The fried Red Snapper we had at Macao Beach, DR. A must have when in Punta Cana.

We stay in the Northeast during the summer because of the warmer weather, but we avoid renting houses on the Jersey shore, which is our closest beach destination. During the summer, the prices are exorbitant, and once you’ve gotten used to the clear DR water, there’s no going back!

Getting drunk is optional

When you stay at an all-inclusive resort, you’re tempted to drink more to get your money’s worth, but most cocktails at regular all-inclusive resorts are terrible. When we stay at resorts, we usually order local beer, wine, or drinks with simple ingredients. We pay a la carte for awesome drinks and get to explore the local restaurants for a fraction of the price by staying in a condo instead.

This delicious margarita was served to us at Amaluna, a Vegan restaurant in Punta Cana.

Choose to cook with low-cost ingredients.

Groceries are typically cheaper in third-world countries than in the United States. Staying longer in one location allows us to establish a healthy routine that includes cooking our own meals. We take advantage of the inexpensive fresh groceries that are unique to that location. This bag of groceries cost us about $6 on our most recent trip. We were able to purchase avocados, eggs, limes, passion fruit, peppers, bananas, and a cucumber.

This bag of groceries cost us about $6 on our most recent trip to the DR.

Dining out for every meal is optional

When we go on vacation, we prepare lunch and eat out for dinner, and vice versa. We don’t eat out for every meal. Cooking gives us something to do and a nice routine that makes us feel at home. When we do eat out, we try new dishes that inspire new menu items back at home.

Exchange rate matters

We try to visit countries with better exchange rates. For example, we enjoy visiting Puerto Rico, but because they use the dollar, prices are higher than in the Dominican Republic. We go to the DR more frequently by default because our dollar goes further.

Entertainment can be free

You don’t have to spend money on expensive outings every day to have a good time. When I travel, I enjoy simply having conversations with locals. Along the way, you’ll meet some amusing characters who will brighten your day. We go to the beach with books, sports games, and a speaker to listen to our favorite music.

We take long walks along the beach or in the neighborhood where we stay. There are times when we decide to splurge, but these are deliberate decisions that do not derail us from our goals of financial independence and early retirement.

The most important aspect of getting away is the time we spend together away from the routine, exploring new places and meeting new people. Our travel style allows us to immerse ourselves in the local culture.

How do you like to travel?


After dedicating 13 years of his career to Vanguard, José retired from the corporate world at the young age of 44. During his tenure at Vanguard, he expertly coordinated the production of both electronic and print educational materials for 401(k) participants. Now, he relishes in his early retirement, cherishing time spent with his family, indulging in his favorite hobbies, seeking out new experiences, and savoring meals in the comfort of his own backyard.

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Lynn - Encore Voyage
8 years ago

Oh my gosh…I think we want to BE you!!! We have retired early, but are just starting the travel portion of our Encore Voyage. What great tips! We just returned from a Caribbean cruise, but I felt, as you mentioned, that it went waaaayyyy too fast! I would have enjoyed more time to explore the different cultures. Your post makes it all seem much more affordable. I’ll be following more closely!

8 years ago

Hi Lynn,
Congratulations on your early retirement! That’s is so exciting. You’re right the cruises don’t give you a chance to slow travel so I’m glad that you’ll have the time to enjoy it on your own. I’ll check your site. Thanks for dropping by.

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