Are you the type of person who opens up Facebook or Instagram and looks through pictures of beautiful, far off places you’d like to see? You swipe through your cell phone and you see twentysomethings walking along white sand Caribbean beaches. Maybe you see a travel blogger’s perfectly edited selfie in some temple in Southeast Asia with a face as though he were the first guy to ever set foot in a Thai temple. Maybe you’ve even seen a picture of that pedantic guy from your last job who went mountaineering in the Himalayas.
“Oh,” you’ve sighed wistfully, “if only I had the money to travel.” You close your eyes and (unsuccessfully) try to shake those images of Bahamian beaches and cobbled Peruvian streets from your mind. You’re in the throes of wanderlust and the realization that you are nowhere near any of those places is painful to you.
Sound familiar? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Your plight is as human as stubbing your toe; it’s something that happens to most of us and can be quite the unpleasant experience.
I believe that traveling doesn’t necessarily have to be an expensive affair. Even so, I understand that brokepacking, hitchhiking and other aspects of adventurous travel can’t appeal to everyone out there. Money can’t buy happiness, but it does have an uncanny ability to buy airline tickets and book nights at hotels with pool bars. Traveling is something that we recommend everyone to do, no matter the age or your background.
It might sound a little daunting, but there’s no need to worry, we’re here to guide you on how to save up for your next travels.
Plan your travels so you can set a goal and commit to it
They say that where there’s a will there’s a way. If you want to travel you should find a way to do it.
The first step is to set a series of specific, measurable goals for yourself. Make these realistic, something that is achievable according to your own circumstances.
Different goals will require different plans. An around the world journey will logically require more resources than a weekend getaway to a domestic tourist spot. This is where planning your travels come in handy.
You will at least need to visualize:
- Where you want to travel. This allows you to research how cheap/expensive your travels are going to be. The prices between different places can vary widely. Be sure to calculate all the things you’ll need to maintain yourself in your destination, including but not limited to lodging, food costs, alcohol (can significantly increase the final bill), local transport, insurance, visas, etc. Doing this will allow you to calculate your daily expenses/budget.
- How you want to travel. Are you planning to stay in hostels or in five-star hotels? Will you be mixing Couchsurfing with cheap accommodations? Are you willing to move around in chicken buses and local transport or will you be taking Ubers and taxis? As a rule of thumb, the easier/more comfortable you want to travel, the more expensive it will be. Taking a moment to consider how you want to travel will help you determine how high your daily expenses will be. Saving up for a luxury trip for the same destination can take significantly more time.
- How long will you travel for? Determine how long your trip will be. Do you have a job and can only travel for a week? Will you be taking a month or two off to travel across a certain region? This will allow you to determine how many days you’ll have to sustain your daily expenses.
- What will you want to do? Determine your priorities. Remember to consider any tours or special activities you might want to undertake while you’re away. Diving, for example, might significantly increase the cost of your trip. A side trip to see the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala might set you back a day and a hundred bucks. This will help you calculate the cost of your activities.
- Will you need special gear? Based on what activities you’ll be doing, try and foresee if you’ll need any special gear for your journey. The cost of some gear, such as diving or mountaineering equipment (where your safety and maybe even your life will depend on what you take with you), can substantially increase the cost of any trip. Also, consider renting the equipment you’ll need with your tour operators as a cheaper alternative (at least in the short term), which is a common practice in most countries.
- When do you want to go? This will help you calculate how much you have to save over any period to reach your spending goal. Just divide your estimated final budget by the number of days, weeks or months between here and there to get a clear idea of how much you’ll need to save over time.
A handy tip while budgeting your travel expenses will be to save at least 10-25% more than your original numbers. The reason behind this is that there will always be unforeseen costs. While many of these tend to be small, a significant unexpected expense can seriously set you back and ruin the momentum of your trip (or even cut it short). Finding yourself penniless in a foreign country, while it might be a fun story back home, is not an experience for the faint of heart.
In light of the above, simplistic formula that could give you a general idea of how much you’ll need to save would be: (YOUR DAILY EXPENSES x NUMBER OF DAYS) + (COST OF ACTIVITIES + TRANSPORTATION) + 10-25% SAFETY CUSHION FOR UNEXPECTED EXPENSES.
Remember to multiply this by the number of persons who’ll be going along with you, if any. Don’t draw out a ten-page financial model on a spreadsheet, you’re probably overthinking it and wasting your time. Do calculate your financial goals based on your research so that you can make informed decisions.
Once you set your goals clearly, stick to your plan with pedantic stubbornness. Commit and be strong, I can guarantee you it’ll be worth it.
Start recording your expenses
You can’t really make good decisions without reliable information. As such, it follows that the first step in any savings plan will be to begin recording your expenses. Start tracking that money! Where is it going? Why is it going there?
Once you identify where the wounds are and where you’re bleeding from, you can work on damage control to keep your saving goals afloat. Tracking your expenses will show you where you can make any potential cuts. It’ll show you where you’re being a crappy administrator so that you can allocate resources more efficiently.
There are many free apps out there that can help you track your spending. Heck, just get a small notebook to write the expenses in if you’re that type of person. The important thing is to start compiling that information.
Budget your expenses
Budgeting helps combat mindless spending. Once you start keeping track of where your money is going, you can get a clear idea of the places where you could be more efficient.
If you have a fixed income, having a budget will allow you keep your spending within the limits you need to reach your goals according to your periodic income. If you have a variable income, having a budget set below your average monthly income will help you save even in the face of unpredictability.
In any case, budgeting is a good habit to have for life back home or on the road. 99% of us adventure travelers won’t carry cards linked to an unfathomable bank account or trust fund. The sooner you learn this vital skill the better you’ll fare while traveling.
This is my favorite part. There’s always something you can shave off to save a few extra bucks. Even so, I’m sure this is where most people go off the rails. The art of delaying gratification, sacrificing now with the prospect for future enjoyment, will take you a long way towards saving enough for any trip. However, be warned that this is something most of us have to constantly work at.
By making travel a priority, know that you’re going to have to make sacrifices to give it the place it deserves in your life.
But what do we mean by simplifying your life? It means removing those things that you can do without. In effect, it’s living a more efficient life.
I’ve found that the type of lifestyle you adopt is one of the most important factors. It’s easier to save money for travel if you live well within your means. If you think you’re living beyond your means, try downsizing and adopting a more modest lifestyle such as minimalism (check out this awesome post by The Minimalists).
Adopting some (or all, it’s your choice) of the principles of the minimalist lifestyle will more than likely be enough for you to save up for that trip. Not only that, it’ll be a necessary thing for when you find yourself backpacking, where you’ll essentially be living a life with only the bare necessities.
Simplifying your lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to live the ascetic life of a monk. It means that you remove the clutter and the things that don’t provide any real value in your life so that you can make space for the things that do. Do you really need those extra clothes? Can you save money by riding a bike instead of using your car for everything? Can you cut back on your food costs (and maybe even some extra calories) by cooking instead of eating out? Do you really need to drink away the equivalent of a week’s worth of lodging in Honduras in a single night?
Cut what you can live without. Make space for adventure!
Get into the right mindset
Travel and adventure are all about attitude. See every single dollar you save as another step towards your next trip. Just keep going, even if it’s little by little, until you reach your intended amount. Being constant and persistent is more important than getting there fast.
Remember to have fun planning, preparing and getting everything ready for your journey; look at this process as a great source of enjoyment and excitement. I can guarantee you’ll feel proud when you reach that goal and reap the rewards of unforgettable experiences and a well-traveled life!
Have any suggestions on how to save for traveling? Have you gone through this process before? Be sure to share your comments and experiences below!