If you set a goal and put your mind to it anything is possible. Start small and eventually you’ll be saving a portion of your income every month. From there it’s only a matter of time before you have enough for that great trip you’ve always dreamed about.
Remember it all starts with the first dollar! Here are the basic ways we save money for travel and stay on the road longer for cheaper.
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I know that your legs probably look killer in that new dress ladies. And perhaps that new fancy shave gel really does make your beard look better guys…however, do you really need everything you’re buying? Chances are probably not. One of the main ways to cut expenses is to cut out all the crap that you really don’t need to have a fulfilling life. How much can you cut out to just live comfortably?
Just because you make and have the money does not mean you should spend it right away on every payday. You don’t need a new TV. You don’t need a dozen pairs of shoes. This is the very first step in saving for travel – live below your means.
You can also look at more creative ways to reduce expenses such as renegotiating contracts with service providers like phone service or internet. It’s often possible to threaten to switch providers that they offer a lower rate to keep you as an existing customer.
Love To Cook
One of the easiest ways to save money on travel is to start cooking all your meals. That means breakfast, packed lunch, and dinner. No picking up a coffee and bagel on your way to work, because that cost can quickly snowball. Restaurants are always more expensive than a home-cooked meal.
In the United States, a low-cost meal out with friends runs me at least $15-$20, and then, of course, we tip in America so there is another $4-5 on top of that. The easy solution to this is to go to the grocery store, grab a cookbook, and whip up your own dishes. Not only will it help save your paycheck, but it is much healthier.
And if you absolutely must eat out make your decisions wisely. When we began saving for travel we went out once a week, to our favorite sushi spot. The meal wasn’t cheap at almost $100, but we were afforded the luxury because we cut out the bad takeout, chain restaurants, and delivery that can add up to a lot more in a week. No matter your finances it never hurts to reassess your expenses and it’s great to start with food purchases.
Cut Out the Bar
I bet you knew where this was going. First I take away clothes, then food, and now alcohol! Yep – it’s not rocket science, alcohol and bars can be very costly. Why not host your friends over for wine night?
Or invite everyone to your house with beer to watch the game instead of going to the sports bar? These choices are easy ones to make and can easily set you on your way to financial freedom.
Now that Netflix and the internet are available in almost every country in the world there is really no excuse to have cable TV. If you love staying entertained with TV shows and movies why not invest in a cheap streaming service and ditch the expensive cable premiums? We love Netflix and HBO!
Get Active Outside
I remember when we lived in NYC and gym memberships were through the roof! $150 a month to work out? Not everyone can afford that. There are plenty of ways to stay active without signing your life away to a gym. Perhaps biking to work? Maybe learn how to play basketball, volleyball, or baseball? Or just go for a run in a nice park nearby.
When I was in college I would save money for travel by utilizing my school’s free gym. When that is not available I watch YouTube workout videos in my living room or the park. There are all kinds of ways to stay active outside that is totally free. This is the one expense we give some wiggle room to, staying in shape and keeping a hobby is a crucial element to a happy & healthy life. Just keep costs in moderation!
Take Advantage of Travel Credit Cards
Anytime there is a new credit card offer with great travel incentives, I sign up. I’ve spent 11 years now building up my credit so that this is possible, but there are even great cards offered for those with no credit at all.
The real advantage takes place with a rewards credit card that garners you points with your everyday purchases. The best rewards cards offer enticing sign-up bonuses and points on every purchase that can lead to 2% cashback in your pocket. Those points can pay for flights, hotels, or even car rentals.
Make sure to be responsible with any new credit card. Pay your bill on time, pay in full, and don’t spend what you don’t have. Here are some more tips for travel banking.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
This is one of our favorite credit cards to recommend for travelers. It has a low annual fee, an easy rewards program, and a great early spend bonus. When combined with awesome perks such as 10x miles when booked and paid via Hotels.com/venture, annual credit up to $100 for TSA Precheck or Global Entry fee, and a wide range of points transfer partners it makes it a winning travel credit card. We personally love the 2 x miles on all purchases which makes this card a great all-around card.
This credit card our daily driver when we’re traveling and the first card we’ve continued to carry despite a high annual fee, $450. This is due to the great perks and benefits that come with the card. Notable features such as a Priority Pass, $300 annual travel credit, and credit up to $100 for TSA Precheck or Global Entry are awesome features. In particular, the Priority Pass has made flights much more enjoyable with easy lounge access around the globe.
The card also provides primary car rental insurance a key feature for travelers who rent vehicles. We place over the Amex because of the lower annual fee and we find a better value with Chase Ultimate rewards. On top of all that earning is easy for frequent travelers as travel charges earn 3x the points.
This is a great intro credit card is works well if you have Bank of America® accounts. It has an easy to earn signup bonus of 25,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days (worth $250 in travel credits) and the easy to earn points are great for a card with no annual fee. We love this card for an easy extra line of credit and it’s a straight forward reward system that equates to 1.5% cashback on all purchases. Sweet!
When I was in college I scoured the internet for a job that would let me work only on weekends. I ended up working as a waitress every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and brought in great tips. Years later, when Cam and I moved to NYC he worked weekends for overtime pay and I took on a second job.
It wasn’t ideal, but we definitely knew that we had the time and energy to take on extra work. Whether it be online work, bartending, blogging, or dog walking a second job will bring in extra income and most likely bring in new friends too! It doesn’t have to be your standard job either. You can also invest in yourself with classes or books that will further you in your career or as a person.
Cameron’s parent’s favorite hobby is flipping furniture they buy at flea markets and rehabbing it for a profit. On top of that, they own and manage a number of beach rentals on Airbnb. As we mature in life and find greater financial stability we’ve taken up a financial advisor to help invest in safe long term solutions to help our money grow. The next step will be to invest in more property.
Each and every year the sharing economy gets bigger and bigger. Sharing rides, apartments, and even dog sitting are now costs you can share with others. Not only is it easier, but many times sharing can save money. Try looking at sites like Airbnb, BlaBlaCar,Uber, and even Fon can help save the bank.
I hope that you are not a smoker, but in case you are one of my main tips for saving money is to cut it out. Smoking is not only harmful to you, but to others around. Okay, but I am not your mother and you can do what you want.
But I am 100% certain that not smoking will help you save money for travel. Just think about putting in an extra $10/week or day to your travel fund can do? That’s $520 or $3650 a year or in better words a plane ticket to Europe, Thailand, Ecuador, or maybe even a vacation in South Africa.
How to Save When Travel Planning
Plan to Travel in the Offseason
Traveling during off-peak times can severely reduce your travel expenses. We’ve sometimes stayed in beautiful hotel rooms that are 70-80% their normal price, simply because it is the shoulder period! Off course, each location’s offseason changes, but in general traveling during spring or fall is a great time.
During the summer many people are with their families on summer vacation, while in the winter many people travel for the holiday season. I personally love traveling during the offseason as there are fewer crowds and generally the locals are friendlier.
When it comes to rewards travel you can also save on redemption. Many airlines offer lower point redemption rates for outside of peak dates. This now extends to hotels such as Marriott’s Bonvoy program that recently released low season rates for point redemption. You can read more about traveling during the shoulder season here!
Travel Slow To Save Money
Transport costs are by far the most expensive part of traveling. It’s part of the reason we stay in certain regions for longer and generally try to get long-term apartment rentals. Not only do you get worn out by sitting on a train, plane, or car every other day, but this it is a sure way to eat up your travel funds.
The United States, Australia, East Africa, and Northern Europe are all wonderful, but they are also expensive to travel. Traveling to cheaper regions of the world will definitely help you travel longer.
Of course, we all know that traveling around India, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines is affordable by western standards. Some of the other lesser-known cheap spots are the Balkans and Eastern Europe, South Africa, Greece, Nicaragua, Peru, Uraguay, and Costa Rica. See some of the cheapest destinations in the world here.
Get a Travel Buddy
I would recommend picking up a travel buddy to cut costs while traveling if you can. Two people will come in handy if you are sharing accommodation, splitting a rental car and or cooking meals together. If you can’t find a partner to travel with you this time – that’s okay – staying in hostels is a cheap way to sleep and are a fun environment for meeting other travelers.
Or, if you are comfortable you can try Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is a website connecting travelers and locals offering up a free couch for travelers to crash on. While I think it’s a great way to meet people and stay somewhere for free it’s important to always check reviews and use common sense with strangers.
Tip: There are active Facebook groups with people always looking for travel buddies. Another good app to download is Meetup, which is great for finding people in cities to do things with.
Keep Flexible Plans
Flexibility is key to traveling on a budget. A flexible schedule will help you score cheap plane tickets and let you stay in one place for long. A flexible attitude may also lead you to cheaper countries you may not have otherwise thought to go, which is what travel is all about.
We set open dates and unknown destinations with Skyscanner, and see where we can score a low-cost flight. Once we land in a new country we travel overland by bus, car, or train to save on cost. Many times we travel for months and months on end so that we don’t have to pay for the flight to go back and forth to North America.
We know that this isn’t viable for everyone, but it is certainly a good starting point to get the most bang for your money. If all you know is that you want to travel to a certain area of the world, research different flight routes and dates to get the best deal. Some of our favorite flight booking websites are Secret Flying, Skyscanner, and Momondo.
Pack & Come Prepared
This is mainly for my American readers out there. If there is one thing we have noticed after traveling to over 60 countries it is the U.S. has the lowest prices on consumer goods I’ve ever seen.
Pack your camera, laptop, suitcase, and yes even clothing and makeup before you fly abroad because I can almost guarantee you it will be more expensive outside of the US (especially those electronics and makeup, ladies). We’ve bought a drone in Greece, a camera in South Africa, and a DSLR camera in Kenya and paid dearly for those items.
How to Save Money While Traveling
It has probably taken a few lifestyle changes to save up some money for travel so why change that when you travel.
One of our favorite things to do when we arrive at a new destination is to walk around and explore. Not only is walking essential to living a healthy lifestyle, but it’s also free! When we are in cities we literally walk everywhere even if it means taking an extra 30 minutes to an hour. Then we can get a feel and direction for the city without spending a penny.
If your destination is just too far to walk then opt for public transport instead of a taxi cab. I promise it’s more fun! Tip: We use the Google Maps app to get around in a new city, and always love its accuracy. Maps.me is also great if you are driving and don’t have access to WiFi.
Stay on Budget
I always find it helpful to set a daily budget for yourself and track it. We aim to spend less than $50 per day when traveling and that will include anything from our coffee to our hotel room.
Of course, that’s easier for Cameron and I since we are usually together and can split many costs. If you decide to partake in an activity and go over your budget one day that’s okay, just try to stay under your budget the next day. A good budget tracking tool I like to use is the Mint app.
Work While You Travel
If your goal is to travel for as long as possible then consider picking up a job on the road. There are plenty of jobs that allow you to stay abroad that include teaching English, becoming a virtual assistant, translating, and working on a yacht. Another great option is to volunteer.
Given the many jobs these days it’s also possible to work remotely. If it’s a good fit consider putting in a request with your managament to work while abroad. It won’t feel like your on vacation the entire time, but you can still enjoy life in a new city like Rome, Cape Town, or Kyoto.
While you probably won’t get paid, many volunteer programs will provide you with food and accommodation for a few hours of work each day. I’ve done this a few times in Croatia and Morocco. Websites that connect volunteers with business owners are Workaway,HelpX, and wwoofing.
Know the Rules
Ensure that you read the fine print on train tickets, airline tickets, hotel rooms, and apartment rentals to avoid extra charges. This is especially true when booking a flight and knowing each airlines baggage policy. A few hotel rooms and many Airbnb will also charge cleaning and booking fees so it’s important to read up on everything so you aren’t surprised with extra charges.
Have you read our travel banking guide? It’s a comprehensive guide that will teach you how to manage your finances on the road. Opt for a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees on every purchase abroad. Then pick up a debit card with no ATM fees so that you aren’t charged a fee everytime you pull out cash.
Always try your best to avoid using money changers and airport exchange booths at all times as they usually charge a high fee and find a way to rip you off. You can find out more about how we access our cash while abroad here.
Eat in and Do Your Research
One of the easiest ways to go over budget is dining at restaurants every night. Go to the grocery store and cook a meal in whenever possible, and ask the locals for affordable lunch and dinner spots to try out.
Stay away from the tourist areas when looking for places to eat as the food will cost twice as much and taste half as good. As a last resort, we always get on TripAdvisor and find out where we can get a great meal at an affordable price.
Join Free Walking Tours
Many big cities around the globe offer free walking tours. I love going on these not only because they are free, but also because I can learn about a new city while learning my way around, and it’s also a great way to make new friends! Just make sure to tip your guide!
Avoid any surprises and expensive trips to the hospital abroad by getting travel insurance. I know that it may seem like an unnecessary expense, even I was hesitant to buy travel insurance before my first trip abroad. However, it’s important to buy a policy for those just in case scenarios.
We like to use World Nomads. Their policies not only give you medical coverage abroad, but they also give you trip protection coverage i.e. missed flights, lost baggage, and theft. If you’ll be traveling for a full year like us, check out IMG global for long-term plans.
Don’t land in a new country and turn on your cell phone only to get hit with roaming charges. Any text, call, or Facebook message will most likely cost you an arm and a leg with your cell phone provider back home.
Instead, go pick up a local sim card so that you have a working phone while abroad – it’s always nice to be connected! In many countries, data and minutes are incredibly affordable.
It’s also worth noting that in this day and age we can find WiFi at almost any hotel, coffee shop, or restaurant (It’s true – I even found it in rural Africa). Not to mention it’s a lot safer to have a phone line for emergencies.
What do you think? Is it possible to save money for travel by implementing a few of these tips? I guarantee just reducing needless items will help your wallet out in no time.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Fodor’s, and Reader’s Digest.