For us travel bugs, it quickly becomes frustrating and overwhelming to have such a costly passion. Learning exactly how to save money for travel isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely worth it.
While others may be focusing heavily on saving up to buy a house, or to pay off student loans, we’re the type who are daydreaming about when and where we’ll take our next big trip.
But, as you know, life is expensive! It can be difficult to make a lifestyle filled with travelling work when you have other bills to deal with.
In this post, I’ll be sharing some helpful tips on how to save money for your trip, followed by ideas on how to book and plan your trip in the most cost-effective way, as well as how to continue to avoid overspending once you’re on your adventure.
Grab a paper and pen, and let’s get to business!
*Keep in mind I am NOT a professional financial planner. Some these tips are ones I’ve learned from others, and much of the saving principles are from financial advisors who have much more experience than myself. That said, these methods have worked very well for myself when I’ve needed to save money for travel*
Before Your Trip – The Saving Period
Set a Goal
First things first, before you book flights or set anything in stone, set a goal for yourself. Having a tangible amount you’re trying to reach will inspire you when you see the numbers in your bank account climbing, and keep you on track. If you haven’t already, open up a specific savings account for your trip and enjoy watching your savings build up!
I recommend choosing an amount higher than you think you’ll need. That way, if you’re hit with an unexpectedly higher expense during the booking process, you won’t be devastated and back at square one. Aim high, and give yourself some breathing room as you save money for travel.
Setting a deadline for yourself will also really help you stay on track. If you’re a competitive person like myself, it becomes a fun challenge trying to out-save myself as fast as I can.
Let’s say you want to save $3,000 in 3 months, meaning you’ll need to save at least $1,000 a month. Consider your monthly income, bills, and ask yourself if it’s attainable. The clearest way to figure out how much is possible for you to save per months is to start off by:
Keeping Track of Daily Spending
A lot of the time we get used to spending without even thinking. When you’re in saving mode, you need to train your brain to monitor your spending to make sure you’re staying on target.
Luckily there are tons of apps you can use that’ll help you track your spending. I especially recommend tracking your spending by category, it’s extremely eye-opening to find out just how much you’re spending per month on eating out at restaurants and things of that nature.
I’ve personally really enjoyed using Everydollar.com since it allows me to track my purchases, budget my spending for different categories and it shows me how much I have left at the end of each month. (And it’s completely free)!
If you’re more of a pen and paper gal like myself, get a purse-sized notebook or spending journal, and make a quick note after you make a purchase. Here’s a few great budgeting notebooks perfect for tracking your expenses and income:
(click on a notebook to view purchasing details)
I highly recommend using cash envelops if you have a hard time controlling your spending impulses. Get a few different envelopes for different categories (ie, food, clothing, fun) and put in a set amount of cash that is budgeted per week. This will definitely curb your spending and help you save money for travel, as opposed to using an “unlimited” credit card.
All this to say, if you haven’t already, make yourself a budget! Now that you’re aware of your daily spending habits, figure out what you’re monthly income is, and then list out your monthly expenses. Is there anything leftover by the end of the month? If not, you’ll need to:
Cut out Monthly Expenses
After tracking your daily spending and listing your monthly expenses in contrast to your monthly earnings, you may start to sweat.
If there’s not enough left over at the end of each month to reach your goal within the time frame that you want to, you will need to make some temporary but necessary sacrifices.
Along with continuing to track and limit your daily spending habits, you’ll also need to look objectively at your monthly expenses. Things like food are a necessity, so obviously you can’t scratch that out altogether, but challenge yourself to save as much as you can on it! Cook at home and avoid eating at restaurants too often, scour Pinterest for some cheap meals/meal prep ideas.
Perhaps your phone or internet bills are eating up your paychecks. It’s worth calling your providers and explaining that you’re unhappy with your current service. A lot of the time since they want your business, they will offer a better deal for you!
Try buying toiletries or non-perishable food in bulk to save money on a monthly basis as well.
As far as non-necessity items go, you may need to scrap them from your lifestyle if you’re really pushing yourself to reach your goal as soon as possible. Forfeit getting your nails done for a few months, limit yourself to eating meals out once a week only, cutting out your luxuries of choice for a short period will make a world of difference.
You’d really be surprised at how making as many small cuts as possible can make a huge difference as you save money for travel.
Change the Way You Shop Online
While we did discuss avoiding impulsive daily purchases and unnecessary luxuries, sometimes you do need to make unexpected purchases especially during holidays.
That said, shopping online as opposed to in store for certain items can have some great saving benefits. If you’re already an avid online shopper as it is, I highly recommend making a few little changes to how you shop online that will help you save money for travel.
First of all, download the free plugin called, “Honey”. It’s essentially a coupon code plugin, but I’ll explain:
When you’re in the online checkout on a given website, oftentimes you’ll see a space for coupon codes to be entered. Honey then scans from their selection of saved coupon codes, and automatically selects the one that provides you with the best savings! I’ve especially loved Honey when I need to buy my contacts online every few months, typically Honey has had a coupon code that’s gotten me free shipping, or 25% off.
Another great tool for online shopping is utilizing cash back websites. Ebates is a popular one for example, and what it does is it gives you a small percentage of cash back on a purchase you make with most stores. It may seem like a few dollars and cents here and there, but it adds up after a while (especially during Christmastime when you’re online shopping like crazy!)
Join a Points System
As I mentioned before, shopping with mainly budgeted cash will help you the most to stay on target, having a travel rewards-based credit card is a great way to get cheaper flights and hotels in the long run.
Just make sure you’re continually keeping track of your spending as I mentioned, and you’re golden. Think about it, making online purchases with your travel rewards credit card, all the while getting deals from Honey, and cash back with Ebates! It adds up folks.
If credit cards aren’t your thing, there’s plenty of flight memberships you can join that will offer you discounted flights over time as you continually book with them. It doesn’t hurt to sign up now, it could really help you to save money for travel in the future too.
Thrift & Sell Your Clothes
When it comes to clothes shopping, if you’re anything like me I CANNOT shop online for clothes. I just can’t do it, I need to try everything on!
That said, there’s no reason why you can’t still save, or even make money while shopping for essential clothing items as you’re in the saving period.
Personally, my go-to is Plato’s Closet, they have stores across North America. It’s a second-hand store, but they’re quite choosy about the clothes they accept so there’s actually some really great high-quality clothing for a super agreeable price. But, the reason why I really love it, is that they pay you cash for any clothes that you bring in to them!
So, whenever the seasons are changing and I’m needing to stock up on some new clothes, or perhaps my current ones are simply worn and ruined, I’ll clean out my closet and gather some things I’m willing to give away. I also ask friends and family if I can bring any of their unwanted clothes, typically they’re just glad to not have to make the trip themselves to a Value Village that they don’t mind.
Although they don’t accept everything, I typically receive around $10 which oftentimes pays for the new item of clothing I’m purchasing. Or, if you simply are selling then that cash can help you save money for travel.
So, try to not only second-hand shop, but to sell your clothes while you’re at it! There’s plenty of apps for selling clothes as well if you can’t find a store near you with a similar concept to Plato’s.
Earn a Little Extra
I’m sure we all hate the term, “side-hustle” by now, but love it or hate it, having a small extra source of income is great for when you’re wanting to save up cash.
I’m not suggesting you spend hours and start your own business on the side, but try to think of any skills you can offer, even if it just is to your friends and family members.
If you can knit or crochet, make up some great little pieces and sell them! This is especially great during Christmastime where everyone can use some gift ideas.
Crafty? Make some cards and start selling!
You don’t necessarily have to open your own Etsy shop, (although that is a great resource), even just posting photos of your work on your personal Facebook page for your friends to be able to order some works just as well.
Check out some local businesses around you. Lots of places (especially hipster coffee shops) will allow you to display and sell your products. It never hurts to ask and negotiate a deal!
Hold onto your change, it adds up!
This tip is especially great if you’ve gone the cash envelope budgeting route I mentioned earlier.
At the end of the week, chances are your envelopes will have random bits of change leftover. Stick it in a jar, and you’ll be surprised how much this adds up week after week!
(click to view purchasing details)
You can either roll it up and deposit it into your savings account towards your goal, or use it for little payments you face throughout the week (such as parking, or coffee). The less you can touch your bank account the better!
Do Your Taxes
Okay, obviously you should be doing your taxes anyways, but hear me out.
If you’re not owing any money and expecting to receive a refund back, don’t procrastinate, just get it done! I know tax time can feel daunting, but if there’s a refund waiting for you, I encourage you to be proactive and simply get it done right away and stick the extra money you receive into savings.
I’ve often received unexpected returns back which is always an exciting little bonus!
Booking Time – The Planning Period
Now that you have some awesome money-saving strategies in place for the weeks/months that you’ll spend building up your savings account, it’s time for me to offer you some tips on how to continue to save money for travel as you book your trip.
Of course if you prefer to save up long-term so you can really go all out on your vacation, more power to you! But hey, if you ask me, who doesn’t like getting the most bang for your buck?
Have you ever noticed that you search a flight once or twice, and then before you know it there are “deals” for that exact route you searched all across ads on just about every site you stumble on? Yeah, me too.
Which is why I strongly suggest not just searching around like normally for flights, but instead open up an “incognito” window on your browser.
This is a great little tip a friend offered me a while back, and I’ve noticed a difference! It makes sense, if they know you’re actively planning a trip for a certain destination based on your searches, the prices will start to inch higher and higher. Big brother is watching much?
Also, check a variety of flight booking sites. In the past I’ve had a good experience with Google Flights and Skyscanner. Using your points from either your membership card or travel rewards credit card I mentioned before will also be helping you save money for travel as you book!
If you’re wanting a great travel experience with beautiful hotels and breathtaking views, most places around the world will have you spending hundreds a day on accommodation, food, and more. Some places simply have a higher cost of living, so keep that in mind as you book.
The Philippines for example is a notoriously cost-effective place to visit, so it’s perfect for when you need to save money for travel. I wrote a post about an amazing little area I stayed while in Puerto Galera and you would not believe how inexpensive our accommodation was, while still being in an extremely desirable and beautiful location.
Of course some of the cheaper locations may not be worth it for you if the airfare costs are insane based on where you are, but it’s something to consider and research if you haven’t chosen your destination yet.
Off Season Only
To make sure you won’t be spending an unusually inflated amount during your trip, make sure you’re travelling off-season.
Research ahead of time and see when the peak travel times usually are for your destination and try to work around that. Also, make sure you look up when school holidays take place, both for Universities and regular schools.
You’d be surprised how much it can vary, especially when travelling overseas, but even when just going to a different state or province.
This is a given, if you don’t want to spend a minimum of $100 per night in a popular location, you’ll probably be needing to go the Airbnb or hostel route.
Keep in mind that one of the perks with Airbnb is that you don’t necessarily need to rent out an entire apartment for yourself. You can rent a single private room within a house for a very good price! This is a great option if you’re wanting more privacy than your typical hostel or backpacker house, but you’re not necessarily able to afford a full suite to yourself.
There’s so many resources available to budgeting travellers now which is awesome, you no longer have to stay in a sketchy 2-star hotel to save some money!
So, do some digging and see if you’re able to find a safe place to stay for a cheaper price. Travelling with a group and splitting the costs of accommodation is another great way to save too!
Become a Borrower
As you make the final plans for your trip you may be aware of things you could be needing. While it may seem like you need to go on a shopping spree, I encourage you to instead ask those around you if they have any resources you could borrow first.
For instance, if you’re an Australian heading off to Canada to experience a snowy winter, you most likely don’t have the gear for it. Instead of spending hundreds on items you’ll only use this one time, ask any friends you know who have some of the gear you could be needing. Or, check those second-hand stores first like I previously mentioned!
On my first (and so far last) backpacking trip, I didn’t have a heavy-duty hiker style backpack. I borrowed one from a friend for the few months I was gone, and thank goodness I did because I don’t see myself doing that again any time soon 😉
Also, if you like to read during trips like me, instead of buying a brand new book you may end up hating, head to the library and get a few! This way you’ll have a selection to choose from and can save some cash.
Once You Arrive – The Trip Period
Hooray, you did it! You saved up the money, booked everything and now at long last you’re on your trip.
After all that work you did to save up, chances are now your account is looking a little sad having paid for accommodations and your flight.
But, you still want to enjoy your trip, after all this is what you’ve been working towards! Here’s a few more tips on how to continue to save some money for travel even when you’re on your big adventure:
Be Your Own Guide
Thank goodness, we live in the time we do! It’s really quite simple to become your own tour guide when in a brand new location thanks to the ever-wonderful internet. I even wrote a post about Reasons Why Travellers Have Never Had it Better Than They Have Now because it’s just so stinkin’ true.
Look up some city guides and pick out what you can see for free or cheap. Find some good walking tours so you save money on transportation and enjoy an up close and personal experience while you stroll through the streets. I love giving myself little walking tours and it’s such a perfect way to save money for travel.
Print off some maps ahead of time, or download GoogleMaps on your phone if you’re worried about getting lost and losing your way.
Seriously, there’s so many great ways to plan ahead and make sure you know what you want to do and see, how much it’ll cost, and how to get to where you’re going! That’s why travel blogs like this exist, to help everyone out to ensure they have the best travel experience possible.
Rely on Public Transport
Although renting a car or using taxis is the most convenient, they can quickly become the most expensive part of your trip.
Of course this tip all depends on where you’re going, but chances are if you’re in a central location you’ll have no trouble getting around either on your feet, or with the help of public transport.
Europe is notorious for its expansive train systems, and the majority of city centres around the world have some form of train network to get you around cities.
Check out charter bus prices as well if you want to explore other areas outside of the central location, it’s definitely cheaper than paying for a rental car and gas. If you really can’t find much, Uber’s are still fairly cost effective in comparison to car rentals and taxis, so check ahead to see if you’re trip destination has Uber available.
Ease Up on Souvenir Shopping
While souvenirs are a great way to show the people you love how much you care about them, it’s easy to get carried away.
My main advice to you if you choose to souvenir shop is to keep it simple. No need to spend $20 per person, just try to find some great little pieces that you think the person would truly enjoy. I say avoid the overpriced gimmicks and aim to find things they would genuinely use or admire.
Or, a great gift if you have a group of friends or a larger family is to get a specialty food souvenir! As long as it meets customs requirements, it can be a fun way to share part of the locations culture and make it an experience to share with each other, rather than a fridge magnet that collects dust.
Having easy-to-bring snacks, or even microwavable meals stocked up in your hostel (or even your kitchen if you’ve gone the Airbnb route) will save you loads.
As you probably learned during your time of saving and budgeting, eating at restaurants too often really does add up.
So, if you’re going to be staying in one place for a few days or so, it’s worth stopping in at a grocery store and picking up a few things.
I recommend buying some snacks that are easy to take with you when you’re out exploring to avoid impulse purchases because you’re “hangry”. Apples, bananas, granola bars, all really inexpensive but easy to bring along.
If you have a kitchen/kitchenette or even a microwave there’s no reason why you can’t make some of your own meals as well! For breakfast it’s easy to microwave some instant oatmeal, or fry up an egg. You can easily make a sandwich for lunchtime, or heat yourself some soup. Same goes for dinner, you can purchase microwaveable meals if you don’t have a stove, or make a salad with filling ingredients.
It’s Always Possible to Save Money For Travel
Phew! You made it to the end of this rather long and in-depth guide!
If there’s anything I want you to take away from all of this, it’s that keeping travel incorporated in your lifestyle is totally doable, no matter your income! There are so many different avenues you can take to help you save money for travel.
All it takes is a little discipline, active planning, and inspiration to keep you going.
*This post contains affiliate links. This means at no added cost to you, I will receive a small share of the sales made on certain purchases made through this post.*
I would love to hear your advice on how you save money for travel in the comments below!