The queer community has close to $1 trillion in disposable income and many of us don't have children. That's a lot of money and not a lot of responsibility. So how are we spending our discretionary income?
It's so common it's cliché: Queer people love to travel! According to 2015's 20th Annual LGBT Tourism & Hospitality Survey, "the annual economic impact of [American] LGBT travelers is over $75 billion per year in the U.S. alone."
Now is when we're trying to get away from the cold or plan our summer vacation. If that sounds like you, here are five cost-conscious tips for queer travelers to get your travel on right.
1. Use Travel Sites
We're super fans of websites and apps that make our travel planning and budgeting easier.
One of our favorite apps is Rome2Rio. It maps the most efficient routes to get from one location to the next in terms of time and cost. If you're in Brussels and want to get to get to Cape Town, for instance, Rome2Rio will get you there.
Another favorite tool is Skyscanner, which searches the sky for the cheapest flights to get from one location to the next. Skyscanner relies completely on its algorithm to find flights, and not its relationship to airlines, so its recommendations are unbiased.
Our friends Stefan and Sebastian, who blog at the The Nomadic Boys, say, "Our starting point for planning our travels is Booking.com. It not only shows the best prices for the filters entered, but after using them for a while, you'll receive discounts."
2. Less Is More
In 2012, we spent a month Down Under. For 30 days, we traveled to Sydney, Australia, to be tourists; Cairns to snorkel The Great Barrier Reef; Sydney again for Mardi Gras with Kylie Minogue as Grand Marshal; Melbourne to eat up its foodie scene; Auckland, New Zealand, to be tourists; Waiheke Island for wine; Kaikoura to swim with dolphins; and then Rotorua to sit in hot springs.
With all that travel, we each had one medium-size suitcase full of clothes. What at first seemed impossible was a lifesaver. When hopping from planes to trains to automobiles, elevators, steps, sidewalks and, yes, sand, we were all the better for our lighter load. This will also save you money because many cost-conscious international airlines charge for luggage over a certain size or weight.
3. Stay Off the Beaten Path
Sometimes the best way to contain travel costs is to take the road less traveled. Below are some LGBT-friendly destinations that are uncommon and cost-conscious:
Costa Rica is a Central American country with coasts in both the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans. Costa Rica is known for being very queer-friendly, with the heart and soul of its queer community in Manuel Antonio. In addition to seaside activities, Costa Rica boasts beautiful volcano parks, rivers and waterfalls that are great for hiking, playing and exploring.
Latvia's coast is on The Baltic Sea and boarders Estonia and Lithuania. Latvia prides itself on "green tourism" and hosts many natural and manmade wonders. It started warming to the queer community in 1992, when it broke from the Soviet Union. While same-sex marriage is still illegal, the country does prohibit discrimination against queer people.
Belize is another Central American country on the Caribbean Ocean. Belize has amazing marine and coral life, especially where we traveled, in San Pedro, which makes it great for snorkeling and scuba diving. It includes hundreds of small islands called "cayes." Though Belize is accepting of gay people, it is very much a conservative country and frowns on any public displays of affection.
4. Search Gay Travel Sites
With the popularity of travel sites, it was inevitable that the queer community would get its own.
One popular site that you've probably seen on your Facebook feed is Misterb&b. Misterb&b is not related to Airbnb. Misterb&b connects travelers with locals. You can rent the home of a queer peer while they're away or sleep on their couch while they're home. In most cases, doing so is cheaper than hoteling it.
Another travel site is Ebab.com, which stands for "Enjoy Bed & Breakfast." Ebab was the very first queer travel site, originally founded in 1996, when queer rights weren't what they are today. Ebab was founded on the principle that "everyone has the right to travel freely and without discrimination."
5. Stay Out of Trouble
Even though the queer community has made much progress in the last 20 years, especially in the U.S., homophobia still exists. Even the U.S. State Department publishes a useful page with LGBT travel information. As you're planning your next vacation alone, with your partner or family, consider these cost-conscious tools, tricks and destinations to help you save money — and stay safe.
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This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.