It’s hard to stay on track with goals, especially financial ones. And learning ones. And really any goal. The good news is that, travel involves all three of these. Did I say good news? Yes – you’ll improve yourself AND get to travel!
I’ll divide the tools based on the goals they help you reach, whether that’s saving, learning, or anything that doesn’t fall into those categories. I will only recommend things I actually use, since it’s hard to trust someone who recommends things they wouldn’t use. Therefore, there will be no booking websites or travel rewards credit cards, as I have no experience with those. You’ll see items that affect you and your actions.
Mint is a budget tool at its core, but it does so much more than that. You can pay all your bills through it, you can set savings goals, you get a free credit score, and you can get all your accounts in one place, ready at a glance. I’ve mostly used its budget feature and disappointed myself with the savings feature by not saving as much as I should, but it’s a great tool to see what types of things you tend to spend your money on and give yourself metrics.
- Budget, Credit Score, Bill Pay, Goal Setting
- Keep track of your finances and adjust your lifestyle accordingly
Acorns / Betterment
Acorns and Betterment are both investment apps. I’m including them both because they serve similar, but slightly different functions. Both are investment apps meant for saving money and collecting interest on said money. It’s a slight gamble, as gains are dependent on the stock market, but the stock market pretty much always grows in the long run. This article explains the differences better than I do and presents some other options, but the main points are:
- Acorns invests spare change so you can slowly build an investment (and allows for periodic investments)
- Betterment lets you set periodic deposits on many potential investment portfolios and is GREAT if you have a lot of money to invest. Fees can get in the way if your account is small
The point is, invest your extra money in small increments and let it sit. You might just get some free extra cash from interest, and it helps build a habit of saving.
Duolingo / Memrise
Duolingo and Memrise are both language learning apps that work fairly similarly by gamifying your education. Duolingo has fairly comprehensive and well curated courses for learning many languages, and Memrise has a great variety of slightly less curated language courses. Generally, neither site is great for learning grammar, but if you have any knowledge foundation in a foreign language and want to improve your vocabulary and do some practice, these sites are great choices.
- Duolingo: Great vocabulary and phrase learning to practice a language you have some foundation in
- Memrise: Amazing for vocabulary practice, grammar is inconsistent
Language learning helps you reach your travel goals. For example, you might want to travel to Japan and want to be able to speak enough Japanese to get by on your trip. The goal of the trip will help motivate you to practice, and the goal of learning will help motivate you to actually go on your trip! It’s a self perpetuating cycle of improving, which is awesome.
Your Local Library or Bookstore (or Online Book Retailer)
The internet is a great source of knowledge, but learning the ins and outs of the country you want to go to can be a bit difficult to do online. And, I don’t have a good enough personal online resource list for learning about culture. Books are great, GREAT tools that often have extremely reliable, well researched information that you can use to have greater cultural understanding. If you know the culture of the country you’re going to, you’ll have a much easier time adapting yourself and your interactions to make the most of your experience, and that especially goes for international business people.
One book I highly recommend for Japanese culture is The Japanese Have a Word For It by Boyé Lafayette de Mente. It explains many Japanese words for cultural concepts they have. then compares and contrasts those cultural aspects to Western ones. It’s 20 years old, and Japan’s youth culture is drastically different than the traditional culture of the past, but it’s a great read for understanding how incredibly different and unique Japan’s culture is.
My parents also prize any travel guide by Rick Steves, the PBS travel host. When they went to Europe last year, they relied on some of these books to find destinations that were less like tourist attractions and more representative of the towns they visited. Of course, he also gave tips for the best ways to see tourist attractions, but his books give well-rounded and current tips on travel. I have not read these books myself, which breaks the rule I made for this post, but I’ve watched enough of his programs and heard enough about his books from my family to know he’s the real deal.
Seriously? Google Calendar? How will that help me travel? It’s not directly helpful, but one thing I’ve done to make sure travel doesn’t conflict with work and school is to log my school and work schedules into my calendar, log travel dates in as well, and then work out any conflicts. For example, I put down in my google calendar that I would be unavailable for the duration of Anime Expo several months in advance. I let my supervisor know as soon as I could, and I got the time off, which reduced my worries. Additionally, if you have tasks to reach your travel goals, such as setting aside work, reading, or language learning time, you can block that off in your calendar and give yourself a set time to get it done. You’ll be more productive in working towards your goals so that reaching them seems less daunting!
- Visually block out travel time and root out conflicts well in advance
- Set times to do tasks be productive enough to reach your travel goals
While you don’t necessarily need Google Calendar for this conflict management and could easily use a physical planner, Outlook, or Apple Calendar, this is what I use. Google Calendar integrates with so many different tools and devices, gives you reminders, and is a great way to visualize your schedule in both short and long terms, which is WHY I use it.
There you have it, 5 (well, 7, but 5 types of) tools to help you achieve your goals of vacation! Incorporate some of these into your days, and you’ll get closer and closer to going where you’ve dreamed of. No matter how great a tool, the person using it must be willing to put in the work to fully utilize its benefits. You’re reading an article about tools to help you travel, so I’m sure you have the desire and drive to do it!
Best of luck,