You’d love to get more stamps in your passport, but unfortunately your bank account isn’t on board. Even if you’re a budget traveler, the costs of flights and hotels can definitely add up.
So if you’re dying to explore somewhere new, spend some time saving up for your trip. Even though it could take months or even years, eventually you’ll have enough in your travel fund to hit the skies.
And you won’t have to worry about overspending or racking up credit card debt, because you’ll already have money set aside to cover your trip.
How to save money for travel and make your travel dreams a reality
Ready to learn how to save money for travel effectively? Let’s get started.
1. Give yourself permission
If you’re going to achieve anything, you first need to believe your goal is valid and worthy of your time and effort. And when it comes to travel, you might have some naysayers (external or internal) questioning your decision.
You’ve got bills to pay, responsibilities to take care of, and career milestones to meet, they say. Your budget is already tight, so why waste money on travel? Wouldn’t you rather put that money toward paying off debt or saving for a down payment on a house?
Although you don’t want to ignore other financial goals, I believe life is all about balance. It’s important to build an emergency fund, tackle debt, and save for the future, but you also want to enjoy yourself along the way.
And traveling is one of the best ways to learn about the world, immerse yourself in other cultures, break out of routines, and discover things about yourself that you might not have otherwise. Call me idealistic, but I love that quote that says traveling is one of the few things you spend money on that makes you richer.
If you’re worried your desire to travel is selfish or wasteful, you probably won’t make a ton of progress toward your savings goals. So before trying the rest of these tips, figure out if any psychological obstacles are standing in your way.
If you find some, give yourself permission to let them go and work toward what you really want.
2. Set a goal
Before you can think about how to save money for travel, you need to know how much you need for your trip.
How much will the flight cost? What about transportation once you get there? What’s a realistic food budget? Are there any activities you definitely want to do once you’ve reached your destination? Do you need a shopping budget to buy some souvenirs for yourself, friends, and family?
Don’t forget to factor in often overlooked expenses like a bus or taxi to and from the airport or meals you might purchase on travel days.
This is also a chance to compare prices among different airlines and accommodation types, whether you’re going for a hostel, Airbnb, or hotel. Everyone’s preferences and travel style are different, so be realistic about your wants and needs when you’re in a new place.
Although you can’t predict exactly how much your trip will cost, you can get a general estimate to help you plan.
3. Come up with a plan and open a separate savings account
Now that you’ve got a number in mind, it’s time to come up with a plan for achieving it. Let’s say you estimate you’ll need $2,000 for your trip.
If you set aside $40 per week into your travel fund, you’d reach that goal in just over a year. If that approach is too aggressive, you could save less and extend your timeline.
It could also help to open a new savings account specifically earmarked for travel. Some banks offer high-yield savings account that accrue interest at a rate of about 2.00%, such as Ally Bank.
Along with your efforts, this high-yield account will help your money grow. Once you’ve set up the account, consider automating a transfer from your checking account on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis.
That way, you can “set it and forget it,” tucking your money safely aside until it’s time for your trip.
4. Create (and stick to) a budget
Now on to everyone’s favorite topic: budgeting! Ok, maybe budgeting is everyone’s least favorite topic.
But even though budgeting sounds boring, it’s useful for taking control of your finances — so they don’t end up controlling you.
Once you have a clear sense of where your money is going each month, you won’t end up feeling helpless or broke with no clue where your last paycheck went.
It’s useful to take a bird’s-eye view of your spending and figure out how much you need for major categories, such as housing, utilities, student loan bills, and food.
And you can work in your travel fund as a category in your budget to make sure you’re staying on track.
By understanding your cash flow from month to month, you’ll be able to more clearly identify how to save money for travel in a way that works for your wallet.
5. Find ways to spend less
Do you feel like you’re spending too much on shopping, restaurants, or other fun but not totally necessary expenses?
If so, look for ways to spend less on a daily basis. One of the golden rules of personal finance is this simple axiom: Spend less than you earn.
If you spend more than you earn, you’ll be in debt. If you spend less than you earn, you can save.
And if you’re looking for how to save money for travel, spending even less than you are now means more money to funnel into your travel fund.
So take a hard look at your spending habits, and figure out just how much that daily latte or biweekly trip to the manicurist is costing you.
Outside of small expenses, you could also take bigger steps, such as downgrading your lease to a less expensive car or living with roommates instead of spending half your income on an apartment for one.
I’ve interviewed some travelers who sold their house and got rid of their car in favor of traveling the world. One couple even house-sits on a full-time basis, so they never have to spend money on rent or a mortgage.
Of course, you don’t have to take such drastic steps, but chances are you could find ways to reduce your spending, if only temporarily, so you can save more for travel.
6. Get creative about boosting your income
Reducing spending is just one side of the personal finance coin: increasing your income is the other. You can only cut corners so much; at some point, you might need to make more money to live the life you want to live.
If you’re stuck in a low-paying job, consider changing jobs or even careers to pursue a higher paycheck. You could work toward a promotion, or you could switch companies altogether to start off at a higher paycheck.
Considering a total career change? You could gain new skills with a continuing education program, such as the ones offered by Udemy or General Assembly.
Another approach could be setting up a side hustle, such as freelancing online, selling crafts, driving for Uber, providing services on TaskRabbit, renting out a parking space, or renting out a room on Airbnb.
Have lots of old clothes lying around that you don’t wear anymore? Consider selling them online to make money and boost your travel account.
Think about where your interests lie, and get creative about making extra money so you can build your travel fund faster.
7. Use a rewards credit card to earn points
Are you earning points back on your spending? With a travel rewards credit card, you could earn points that you can use to buy flights, book hotels, or simply redeem for cash back in your bank account.
Plus, most of these cards don’t charge a foreign transaction fee, so you won’t have to waste money on fees when buying items in another country.
That said, you don’t want to overspend for the sake of racking up points. Credit cards come with sky-high interest rates, so it’s never a good idea to get into credit card debt.
Instead, only spend as much as you can afford to pay off each month. By paying off your statement in full every month, you won’t have to spend a cent on credit card interest and can accumulate points along the way.
Some credit cards even offer awesome bonuses that are worth hundreds of dollars in points. If you qualify, a sign-up bonus could even cover the full cost of a flight.
8. Stay on top of travel deals
Finally, be on the lookout for special flight or hotel deals that pop up throughout the year.
Sign up for alerts from Scott’s Cheap Flights, for instance, a site that curates amazing flight deals from various cities around the U.S.
SecretFlying.com is another good one to find awesome deals, especially if you can be flexible with your dates or location.
Plus, many travel websites let you set up alerts so you can see if flight prices drop. If they do, you might go ahead and book before they increase again.
Don’t drive yourself crazy, but make sure to shop around to find low-cost flights, accommodations, and other travel deals.
Traveling the world is within your reach
Between responsibilities and expenses like student loans, you might feel that traveling is a luxury you simply can’t afford.
But if you can find ways to save money for travel, it is possible to turn your travel dreams into a reality.
World travel is especially within reach if you’re willing to think outside the box, whether by taking a road trip, flying a budget airline, or couch-surfing or WWOOF-ing your way across the world.
For more on how to travel the world at the lowest possible costs, check out this guide on traveling while broke.