Travel Blogger Toni-Ann McKenzie encourages others to go on adventures the smart way
Living true to the words of the Dalai Lama, “Once a year, go somewhere you have never been before”, Toni-Ann McKenzie gets excited at the mere thought of unearthing her passion for travelling. But the adventure seeker, history, coffee, and culture lover, who is also a creative services officer at the Jamaica Money Market Brokers, is all about being financially savvy in her planning. She encourages others who share her international interests to go about experiencing the world in a smart way.
“Travel was always a part of my life as a child. I spent many summers in the United States, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I decided to just take it ‘really’ international,” she told Saturday Living. Taking the training wheels off led her to a destination closer to home, Cuba.
Initially scheduled as a girl’s trip, circumstances beyond her control resulted in McKenzie venturing out solo. She found the silver lining in the historic sites and thoroughly enjoyed immersing herself in the culture. At that moment, life as she knew it changed for the better. “I was bitten by the travel bug and I have never looked back since,” she added.
Having travelled to 10 countries so far, across three continents, McKenzie has visited historical sites like Machu Picchu in Peru and Angkor Wat, Cambodia. She believes travel is the ideal opportunity to meet new people and enjoy new experiences, while also sharing her culture. The proud Jamaican can be typically seen ‘repping’ 876 everywhere she goes, and attests to the strong brand that Jamaica is, “Being Jamaican is always a good conversation starter,” she revealed, with a smile.
Although the global pandemic brought her international travel plans to a standstill, she instead took the adventures to her backyard, discovering the hidden gems that the land of wood and water has to offer. She loved the experience so much that she began documenting the journey and sharing her sightings and thoughts via her Instagram page, @TravelWithToniann. The reception was so phenomenal that she has gone on to be courted by several brands, and even landed herself as a Yello Content Creator.
Many believe that, in order to carry out travel plans and explore the world, one has to have lots of money. The travel enthusiast takes every opportunity to dispel that rumour, noting what is required to have your dreams take flight is applying the smart approach.
“Who says you can’t enjoy the finer things in life, and immerse yourself into new experiences without breaking the bank?” she asked. McKenzie shares her globetrotting secrets so that others may join her on the smart journey, one destination at a time:
1. Sacrifice: McKenzie has given up certain things so that she can travel. If you don’t have (unlimited) financial means, you have to find ways to sacrifice the small and big things, based on your budget and travel desires. That could mean spending less on other forms of entertainment or buying a less expensive car.
2. Generate additional sources of income: The financially savvy world traveller has several streams of income to cover her adventure expenses. “I do many freelance jobs in graphic design, photography, UX design, and my all-time favourite: planning trips for other persons to earn cash, to fund her travels.”
3. Invest consistently: The avid investor knows her way around stocks for both long term and short term, “I use my short-term trading to fund my travelling and my long-term investment towards my other goals like retirement.” This has been a rewarding strategy, since her investment in Fesco’s initial public offering (IPO), for example, paid great returns and helped to offset the cost of her recent trip.
4. Save in USD regularly: “Since US dollars is an (internationally) accepted currency, I encourage my fellow Jamaicans to buy US dollars regularly, as opposed to when you need it for a trip, as, at that time, you will be forced to buy the USD at the given interest rate at that time, which may not be in your favour.”
5. Travel off season: “This helps you to get great deals on hotels, tours, and attractions, with the bonus of fewer crowds at popular travel sites.”
6. Use a rewards card: A rewards credit card, according to McKenzie, can be your best travel friend if used wisely. “Use your rewards card as your primary spending card, so that you can accumulate more rewards. Of course, you have to pay off this card in full each month.” Your credit card is also a great travel companion for emergencies.
7. Have a travel partner: While solo travelling is the new thing, McKenzie recommended having a travel partner. Apart from having a built-in photographer and good company, your travel partner helps you to balance the budget, “because you can share the cost of accommodation, transportation, tips, and food.” She has found the ultimate travel buddy, in the form of her sister, Michelle, who shares her passion and interest in globetrotting.
8. Use AirBnB experiences: This allows you to meet and connect with locals as well as fellow travellers from all across the world, thereby widening your network and experiences. This has the added benefit of also usually being a more cost-effective accommodation, minus some of the luxury of a hotel.
9. Plan trips in advance: Planning allows you to save more on your trips, get great deals and take advantage of cheaper airfares.