That’s how much a dream 9-day spa cruise vacation around Germany and Scandinavia with round-trip airfare costs for me and my husband.
Is the sticker shock hitting you yet? Unless you have a sugar daddy/momma and/or were born with a silver spoon, it probably has.
I certainly don’t have that kind of cash laying around—and if I did, I’ve got a hell of a lot better uses for it.
Nevertheless, I’ll be going on my first international trip ever this fall (Canada doesn’t count). Instead of a Scandinavian adventure, I’ll be jetsetting off to Peru for a two-week backpacking trip.
The best part? I won’t be spending anywhere near $7,354, and I’ll be fully able to save up enough cash so that I can pay for the trip in full before I go.
This hasn’t always been possible, though. I’m still not making the big bucks yet, but now that I’ve learned how to effective plan and save for travel, it’s opening new doors for me. I’ll share some of my tricks with you in this post so that you can afford to save for travel too—regardless of your current income.
Make A List Of The Places You’d Like To Go
The world is your oyster. Theoretically, you can go see anyplace you want. Think about what it would be like to go to each place—would you really be excited to go there?
Make a list of all the places you’d like to go now. It’s easy to overlook a lot of places if you’re so focused on one area, though. Ask yourself: if someone texted you right now and asked you if you wanted to go to X, Y, Z country, would you be excited? You might surprise yourself.
In fact, this happened to me:
I’d never before in my life considered Peru. But when offered the chance to go, I suddenly realized: Yes, I really would like to go to Peru! I hadn’t even really looked into it before because I’d been so focused on Scandinavia. I guess there are more things than Vikings and awesome metal bands in the world.
Moral of the story? Keep your options open.
Be as specific as possible with the countries you’d like to visit. Costs can vary dramatically from country to country in the same region (and even from city to city, but let’s keep this simple).
Keep some cheaper places in mind, like the following:
- Almost anyplace in Southeast Asia
- Parts of South America
- South Africa
- Western Europe
Consider How You’d Be Willing To Travel
Of course I’d like to take a slow lazy trip down the Nile while people fan me and feed me grapes. But let’s be real here. I prefer strawberries. 🙂
How much are you willing to sacrifice just to be able to go travel places? Would you be willing to give up the hoity-toity hotels in favor of hostels, or even couch surfing? Where do you draw the line? Are you willing to float just above it to go see places or do you require fanners and grape-feeders?
Don’t discount something you haven’t tried yet either. I’ve never in my life stayed in a hostel, yet that’s almost exclusively what I’ll be doing in South America. Honestly, I’m looking forward to it—I want to challenge myself and meet new people (a challenge for me in itself), and a hostel will let me do that.
Setting your expectations for travel now will help you in the research process so you can budget accordingly. It’ll also make your trip more fun. Maybe there are some cheaper options that you hadn’t considered before and could be an adventure in their own right!
Research Travel Costs For Each Location
Now that you’ve narrowed down your list of potential travel visits and how fancy you’d like to go, it’s time to research some prices.
For each potential travel location, make a list of the following:
- Train/Taxi Fares
- Required Immunizations
- Travel insurance
You can use the wonders of the Google machine to do this research, because I’m not sure I’ve seen a comprehensive list of average costs by country. For some of the more obscure things like tours and lodging, you can look up the prices directly of a few places and take an average. For souvenirs, just make a guesstimate.
Decide On A Target Travel Savings Goal
Once you have the costs laid out for each of your preferred destinations, tally up all the daily costs to get the average cost per day (meals, lodging, tours, souvenirs).
Ask yourself: how long do you want to travel for? A week? A month? Six months? Multiply the average cost per day by the number of days you’d like to be gone for. Then, add up your fixed costs to get there (passport, immunizations, airfare) to get the total trip cost.
Now, pick one of your destinations. You can choose the cheapest one on your list if you’re strapped for cash, and because you already identified it as an awesome place you’d like to visit, it’s not like you’re making do with less than you would have otherwise preferred. Or, if you’ve got the ability, choose one of the more expensive ones on the list. The world is ripe for the picking, my friends!
To be on the safe side, add an extra 10% to this final estimate (simply multiply your savings target by 1.10 to easily add this amount on). Who ever came in under budget when travelling anyways? You’re far more likely to go over. If you want to be uber-safe, you can also choose a 20% buffer.
What number did you get? Congratulations—this is now your savings goal. Now we just need to save up that amount of cash.
Start A New, Separate Savings Account
Go to your bank and start up a separate savings account. You can do this at most banks under your current account—you just create another bucket.
If you can, it’s a good idea to name your new savings account. Mine is named “Badass Family Reunion/Peru Trip” for a combined savings bucket for my summer trip savings. Don’t worry; you can always change it again if you have a new savings goal in the future.
Naming your account makes it easier to do two things: remember which savings account is for what (rather than remembering random strings of numbers—this isn’t a memory test and I would lose it anyways), and for making it seem more real.
Rather than contributing to a seeming black hole, you’re contributing to “Badass Peru Trip” or whatever your account is called. It breaks down that psychological barrier to saving.
Contribute To Your Savings Account Regularly
If you can swing it in your budget, set your new savings account up to autodraft a set amount each month.
If you actually have a date in mind for when you’d like to go, I highly recommend setting up an autodraft. Divide your target travel savings goal by the number of months between now and when you’ll need the cash, and autodraft that amount each month into your savings account.
Even if you don’t have a set time period in mind for when you want to travel, it’s a good idea to set up an autodraft so you can at least ensure you are making some progress towards your travel savings goal. Of course, feel free to contribute more, which is where the next section comes in…
Work Yo’ Ass Off!
If you really want to do this, you can make it happen that much faster by working harder to save up some extra dough. You don’t need to become a slave to the grindstone to do this (although that is an option), but you can do things here and there to save up more money faster.
First, you can earn more money. You can start a small side hustle by doing things like mowing lawns, baking treats, writing articles, driving for Uber or Lyft, or any number of things. You can do paid surveys in your spare time, or even get a second part-time job.
You can also cut back your current expenses. Everything in your budget deserves a hard look. Ask yourself: would you be willing to sacrifice each item in order to reach your travel savings goal that much faster?
Nix the things you’d be willing to do without and keep the stuff you can’t do without. A girl does need shred metal guitar lessons, after all.
Finally, read some success stories to motivate you. It is possible to work hard and save up a ton of money for an awesome travel adventure, no matter where you’re starting from. This dude worked a $9/hour job and saved up $14,000 for a trip in six months, and this chick saved up $18,000 as a 22-year-old, for example.
No matter where you’re starting from (or even how long it takes you), if you save up for your travel goals smartly, you’ll be able to go.
Now, off with thee! Fly! 🙂
How do you save for travel? Leave a comment below!