Prepare to Travel with Calculated Traveller
Our sixteenth installment of our ongoing series, Prepare to Travel, is with Mary of Calculated Traveller. Mary is a Toronto, Canada based Travel Writer and Founder of Calculated Traveller — an online magazine offering friendly advice, informative reviews, and inspiration on all things travel. When not working as a graphic designer, Mary is either travelling with her husband or planning her next big adventure. She has been on 25+ cruises worldwide and has tripped across the USA and Asia by plane, train, and automobile. Join us as we prepare to travel with Calculated Traveller!
AfterGlobe (AG)- We hear again and again, how people can’t believe that others are able to travel the world in abundance or long term. Many can’t even imagine doing this. What travelers did before they left to travel always seems to be a hot topic. Would you agree? Do you get a lot of questions about traveling and how you are able to do something so many consider a luxury?
Calculated Traveller (CT): We don’t travel long-term but we do make it a point to travel for at least 4 weeks/year I think that people just need to make travelling a priority in life. I see travel to be similar to paying your electricity bill or buying groceries. It’s a necessity not a luxury! Travel helps me unwind and de-stress and grow as a person.
Don’t get me wrong, we can’t afford to just drop everything and leave “life”…we have jobs and responsibilities like everyone else. We save our money and our vacation time from work and do without certain things so that we are able to travel. Every penny adds up…I have friends that often say, “Wow, you are so lucky to travel 4 times/year”. My answer to them is “Yes I am lucky, but I work hard and I save for it and YOU can too!”
AG- When did you first start thinking about travelling?
CT: My travel companion of choice is my husband. Our first trip together as a couple was to Los Angeles, California. It was an easy trip because we stayed with family and they took us touring to see the major sights. We started returning every year, spending a few days with family then venturing off far and wide on our own to places like San Diego, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, even to Tijuana, Mexico!
This may sound like an odd way to start but after our road trips from Los Angeles we found a last minute cruise deal to the Caribbean. Every day brought a different island but you only have to unpack once and you don’t have to worry about where to eat or sleep because everything is provided for you on the ship. It was a trouble-free trip—no stress, no muss, and no fuss. We had a great time and the next thing you know we were doing different itineraries with different cruise lines…but always staying in the Caribbean. Then we did something crazy (in our minds at least) and ventured off on a cruise from Singapore, through Malaysia, Thailand and India. That’s when it happened—we were really travelling now!
Now, we’ve been on almost 30 cruises and have travelled by land and sea through Italy, Croatia, Turkey, Greece, Asia, France, Spain, Tunisia, Mexico, Caribbean, as well as most of the United States.
AG- Whenever you decide on where you will be traveling to next, what do you do to start planning for your trip?
CT: Oddly enough, we don’t really formally plan per se. We just save all year and then at the end of the year we figure out how much we can afford and then see what we can get for that amount! Not too calculated for this calculated traveller is it?
AG- When you decide on where you will be traveling to next, how long in advance do you plan out your trips?
CT: When it’s a big trip we usually plan about 4-6 months ahead to take advantage of plane/hotel deals. If it’s a trip within North America we can be crazy and grab a last minute deal or even hit the road and drive to our destination. For example, we’ve booked last minute cruises on a Sunday and sailed 5 days later.
AG- What do you do to save enough funds for your travels? Any advice for others saving to travel?
CT: We just watch what we spend and avoid frivolous purchases. For anniversaries and birthdays we don’t buy each other gifts or eat out at expensive restaurants. We see the future trip as our celebration and gift to each other. I know couples that will go out for dinner and spend $250+ on wine and a nice meal. I’d rather spend that money enjoying 4 nights in a 4-star hotel in Bangkok!
My advice is to get a jar or open a separate bank account. Have a destination in mind and create an inspiration board on the refrigerator or in your office to keep you motivated. Instead of the fancy cup of coffee, fancy meal out, or clothes purchase – put the cash you would have spent in the jar or account. Every penny you put in the jar or account is one step closer to your dream trip!
AG- Many times when reading travel blogs, we find ourselves thinking that we need to buy a bunch of things to be able to travel. Have you experienced this? What things do you now realize that you didn’t really need? Any recommendations on what really is needed?
CT: Absolutely, I think everyone gets caught up in the commercialism and reads/sees ads and thinks I have to have that!
I remember shopping for weeks for a specific large suitcase that had wheels and pockets and a telescopic handle. I also had to have this buckwheat neck pillow for the plane after seeing them at the airport gift shop. Not only does the large suitcase cost you extra fees to check-in but I found that I was packing way too much, not wearing half of it and then having to lug it everywhere I went! That buckwheat neck pillow? Although comfy and nice for long plane rides, it isn’t packable, it’s bulky and takes up lots of room and is a one-trick pony. It’s only good during the commute.
Essentials for travel are now 1 ultra-light rolling carry-on bag, minimal clothes that are multipurpose and wash well while on the road and a blow up pillow that you can use as a neck pillow or lumbar support or in case the hotel pillow doesn’t have enough support.
AG- What do you find is the most difficult for you while preparing to travel?
CT: Most difficult thing is narrowing down where to go [on] the itinerary. I want to see it all and I want to see it NOW! But that isn’t realistic when you don’t have the time or the money. I find it best to pick a region and see as much as you can see within that area. When we did our first land trip to Asia, we flew into Hong Kong and then took regional airlines from there to Bangkok, Phuket, Singapore then went back to Hong Kong for a few more days before returning home.
AG- Do you have any additional advice for those who want to travel the world, but haven’t?
CT: Honestly, this may sound odd, but I find a good way to break into travelling is either on a cruise or on an organized group tour. On both, you are only in 1 city/day before you move to the next location. So while you don’t get to see a lot of one particular location, the upside is that everything is normally looked after for you. Someone is there to hold your hand in terms of food, accommodations, tours etc. Think of it as training wheels for your travelling bike…once you get more comfortable, you can take the training wheels off and roam the world!
Thank you very much to Mary of Calculated Traveller for doing a Prepare to Travel interview with us today. Be sure to head over to Calculated Traveller to read all about Mary’s adventures on her travels.
What do you do to prepare to travel?
All photos provided by Calculated Traveller.