Passport-sized photos are essential for any “round-the-world” backpacker looking to obtain visas for entry into certain countries. Whether it is to apply for one in advance from a neighboring country or to get one on arrival at a border crossing, many countries require one, or maybe two passport-sized photographs for reference or to be attached to the visa itself that goes inside of the passport. The style of travel I’m accustomed to requires a bit of flexibility and since I never know for certain which countries I’m going to visit until after I’ve left it important that I carry extra photos with me.
Typical Visa on Arrival
For those reading who don’t know exactly what a visa means, it is basically an additional requirement or permit needed for entry into a country for a number of reasons, whether it is tourism, business or a resident work visa. As a U.S. citizen I’m incredibly lucky to have visa requirements waived for many countries throughout the world. That being said, there are still many in which visas are required.
Yesterday afternoon I decided to run into CVS pharmacy across the street from my house to pick up about 18 passport-sized photos (2×2). It turns out that 2 photos cost $9.99. For a second I almost considered going through with it but quickly did the math and I was looking at nearly $100 for a few tiny photographs. This was completely unacceptable and I wondered how many other people have gone through and paid this much before? The cashier actually apologized as she realized it was way overpriced.
I phoned my brother and asked him what he thought was the best idea. Seeing as though all the CVS worker was going to use was a digital cam I figured no professional assistance was required. I went over to my brother’s office at Tafuro Communications and he took a few photos of me against a clear wall. He opened up Adobe Photoshop and made a 6×4 canvas where he pasted 6 2×2 photos of me. We then went on Walgreen’s website and uploaded the individual 6×4 photo and requested 3 prints. Each print cost $0.23. The total cost was under $0.70. I saved nearly $90! I waited about 30 minutes and picked them up from the store by my house. Now, all I have to do is run into kinkos and slice up the individual photos and put them in an envelope and I’m good to go!
If you’re like I was in the years leading up to taking that first step towards traveling, saving the money is probably the most overwhelming and intimidating part of the pre-planning. It really does not have to be though. I’ve learned over the last half decade of traveling and saving that it takes patience and some discipline but is not impossible even for those who don’t make a lot of money. I’ve been part time at my job and going to school full time and I still have managed to put some money aside in order to take an occasional trip. I’ll be listing some of the tips that either I picked up along the way from other people or that I have figured out for myself.
Tip #2: Envelopes!
Envelopes are a great way to divide your money up into specific savings categories. Set a small goal for yourself that you plan to meet by taking a little out of your paycheck and instead of using a savings account that is attached to a checking account where you can easily transfer money when you need it, put it into an envelope. The key is to put the envelope somewhere that you won’t be tempted to take from it. It takes discipline. I find it more tempting to transfer money from savings to checking than it is to go into my savings envelopes. If you plan to have large amounts make sure you use a safe. I have an envelope for long term goals and short term goals all of which eventually gets transferred to a savings account that is not attached to my checking and difficult to pull from with delay time between when I request withdrawals and when it actually hits my account.
If you’re like I was in the years leading up to taking that first step towards traveling, saving the money is probably the most overwhelming and intimidating part of the pre-planning. It really does not have to be though. I’ve learned over the last half decade of travelling and saving that it takes patience and some discipline but is not impossible even for those who don’t make a lot of money. I’ve been part time at my job and going to school full time and I still have managed to put some money aside in order to take an occasional trip. I’ll be listing some of the tips that either I picked up along the way from other people or that I have figured out for myself.
————————————————— Tip #1: A Little Bit at a Time
If you don’t have any idea where you want to go yet but you know you want to go somewhere it is best to start your savings now instead of waiting for a plan to pop up. It only takes a little bit at a time and before you know it you’ll have a travel fund that you can use on a destination of your choice. You can literally start today. Take a small portion from each paycheck that you remove ON your payday immediately and put it aside. When I was working full-time I was able to put much more aside each paycheck but right now I do a very modest $30-40. This means two times during the pay period I probably need to stay home and not eat out. This also means in a 6-8 month period I could have enough money saved for a flight to somewhere in Western Europe, South America or Central America. The beauty about travel to a large portion of the world is that it is cheap ONCE you get there. So another 6 months or so you’ll have enough money to last you 2 weeks in most places. (Western Europe excluded but you would just have to save for a little longer)
I just got done doing this exact process for my flight to Colombia and with out guilt I purchased a $400 round trip ticket from Tampa to Bogota and then Medellin back to Tampa for the end of this year. I’ll spend 10 days inbetween the two cities and since day-to-day expenses are some of the cheapest in this part of the world I’ll only need to save from now till December at my current rate to have a very comfortable time. Remember, the flight is usually the most expensive part of any trip so once you get that out of the way you can focus on day-to-day expenses. So don’t get caught up in feeling like you have to save for everything in such a short period of time… patience is important.