Regular readers will know that my girlfriend and I recently moved to France for four months of sun, relaxation and culture. That’s right – we’re not talking the odd week here or there – but long term, enriching travel that we’ll talk about for the rest of our lives.
With the ever-decreasing costs of travel it’s more possible than ever before to transition to a life of overseas travel. The problem, of course, is that you’ll need to save enough in advance (or earn enough on the road) to make your dreams a reality.
So, having left British soil for an extended break that most of my friends can only dream about, here are my top tips to saving money for travel…
Appreciate That Travel Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive
Our normal everyday life in the West costs a lot of money. It’s therefore tempting to imagine that travelling will also cost a similar amount – but that just isn’t true.
Just think of all the everyday expenses that you can kiss goodbye to while travelling – from gym memberships to car ownership.
What’s more, if you’re budget-conscious and choose the right countries for travel all your other expenses can also be lower. In many countries you’ll pay far less for rent, food and transportation than you do at home – which can make travelling far cheaper than you might initially think.
My girlfriend and I visited Costa Rica some years back, and travelled extensively across the country. Excluding our flights, we spent a little over $1,000 to live there for a full month and do everything we wanted – from zip lines to night safaris in the rainforest.
Just think – we spent less while having the time of our lives in Central America than we spend on our boring everyday lives in the UK.
So the first step if you’re feeling the wanderlust is to realize that your dream journey will probably cost you a lot less than you might expect right now.
Decide on Your Budget
They say that goals are just dreams with specific targets. When it comes to saving money for travel, it’s wise to decide on both a sum of money that you’d like to take with you, and the date of your departure.
In this way you’ll have very clear goals to aim towards, which will help to keep you motivated while saving hard.
Indeed, one of the first things we do when saving for travel is to actually book our transportation – flights or ferries – well in advance so that we have an end goal in mind.
We’ve paid for our flights and we’re definitely not wasting that money. That helps to gently put pressure on you, and turn a general idea into a strict plan.
Once you’ve decided on your travel budget, the next step is to start making progress towards achieving that sum of money. Luckily, saving money for travel is actually a lot easier than you might think…
Create a Special “Travel Fund”
A common mistake that people make when budgeting is to keep all their money in one single account. All too often those savings which have been so carefully squirrelled away get mixed up and some of them get spent.
A better idea, therefore, is to set up a separate bank account into which you can save for your adventure. Every single dollar that goes in then becomes sacred.
Make a promise with yourself that this money will only be used to fund your travel, not for any other purpose. Then grow the money in this account as rapidly as possible.
Take on Extra Work
One of the easiest ways to save money for travel is to take on extra work on the months leading up to your departure. While working long hours can become a drain, it’s important to remember that this is only a temporary situation.
Soon enough you’ll be sunning yourself on the beach while your old work colleagues still continue with their boring lives back home.
So take those extra shifts, work overtime, or even take on a second job in readiness; the more you earn now, the more you’ll have to enjoy your travels. And besides, what better way to recover from some hefty shifts at work than with a long, enjoyable vacation?
Start a Side Hustle
Let me tell you a little story about the time that I visited Cuba…
Some months before I had set up a music blog, and had really enjoyed growing it and getting to know other bloggers. Keen not to let things slide while we were travelling, we made sure to book some hotels with free wifi.
As it turned out, when we arrived the Internet was down, and it was two weeks into our travels before I was finally able to get online and check my blog.
In the meantime a funny thing had happened: that blog had actually earned more than our vacation had actually cost us. Put another way, we actually came back with more money than we left with!
These days it’s easier than ever before to start a simple online business. A blog, for example, can be started for just a few dollars a month, but can quickly grow into another source of revenue.
Not only can having an online business help you save money for travel, but it also enables you to earn money while you’re away – which can extend your travel plans considerably!
If you’d like to learn more about how you can start a blog I suggest you read my full tutorial here.
Live Like a Student
One of the real benefits of long-term travel is being able to throw off the shackles of socially acceptable behaviour. We swap suits and briefcases for board shorts and flipflops. So why not start living like this sooner?
It can be quite fun to turn your everyday life back home into a game, looking to spend as little money as possible. Always be on the look-out for ways to not spend money, by going without, by repurposing or by borrowing from friends and family.
Living in this way allows you to rapidly slash your spending, and put as much money in your travel account as humanly possible. Personally, I’d rather live like a student for a few months and then enjoy all the rich and varied experiences that travel offers, than delay my travel plans just so I can buy the latest iPhone.
Sell Unwanted Belongings
Another distinct benefit of going travelling is how it forces you to minimize your possessions. This is especially so for long-term travel. After all, if you’re leaving home for months – or even years – what are you going to do with all your personal belongings in your absence?
What’s more, when you’re focused on a life of travel, it becomes easier to see that many of our belongings really don’t bring us any pleasure; they’re just eating up money that could be better invested in travel.
So save money for travel by selling as many of your personal possessions as possible. This will not only fill up your savings account rapidly, but will also mean that leaving home becomes a lot easier when the time comes.
Plan Far in Advance
The cost of travel varies over time, with demand. In many cases, booking flights, car hire, even hotels in advance has the potential to save you some serious money.
An indirect way to save money for travel is therefore to plan well ahead. Booking flights as soon as they’re available – often some 6-9 months before departure – can land you some incredible bargains along the way.
So do your planning, and then keep an eye on prices. You can afford to be picky this far in advance, and along with your growing savings account you can save money by pouncing on the best deals as they arise.
Keep the Dream Alive
Lastly, appreciate that saving money for travel takes time, effort and persistence. It’s all too easy to give up too soon, when a financial emergency arises, or you get offered a tempting promotion at work.
If your mind is made up on a life of travel then don’t let everyday experiences put a dampener on your plans. Booking that flight, or paying for a hotel, is a good way to make your travel plans feel “real”.
At the same time, consider following bloggers in the area you want to visit, and shopping around for cheap maps and guidebooks. In this way, you can spend the months leading up to your adventure not just working hard, but also planning out your travel itinerary.
By keeping yourself inspired and motivated with your travel plans it’s much easier to focus on the big picture and keep growing those savings ready for your big adventure!