How To Take Your Dream Trip Without Breaking The Bank; A Beginners Guide To Saving For Your Adventures
By Jess Carey
This is not the be all and end all list of money saving tips for travel; this is just my personal game plan. These are pieces of advice I’ve gathered from years of travelling myself, from working in accounts roles, and from people I’ve met through my work as a travel consultant. I do practice what I preach, and these are steps I follow every time I travel.
It’s hard to pay off bills, a mortgage and travel the world at the same time which can put a lot of people off following their travel dreams. But it IS do-able, and my aim here is to help other people see that they don’t have to sacrifice their dreams for their finances!
12 months (or more) out: Work out how much the trip is going to cost and making a savings plan.
· You only need a rough estimate to start off with, which you can get by doing a little research online. Say you’re looking at going to New York for 2 weeks over Christmas next year; use a website like TripAdvisor or Expedia to look up how much it’d cost for you to fly to New York and back this Christmas. Look at how much accommodation and travel insurance will cost. Add in the costs of any big tourist excursions, like a Top of the Rock pass. Guestimate how much you’ll be spending per day on food, drinks, shopping, etc. Add it all up, and divide that by the number of months you’ve got left until you want to take this trip. That’s roughly how much you’re gonna need.
· Next, create a savings plan by prioritising what your pay cheque goes towards. Write down how much you get paid each month, then list your non-negotiable expenses (rent/mortgage, bills, grocery money, petrol or public transport money, phone bill, insurance, gym membership, etc). Work out what you’ve got left each month after you’ve paid the non-negotiables, and from there you can work out how much of that you’re willing to put away to fund your travel. It might mean you have to miss a few cocktail nights with the girls or say goodbye to the monthly manicure, but think about how much it’ll be worth the sacrifice when you’re drinking a cocktail at a New York rooftop bar instead!
· Now is a good time to buy yourself a money tin, into which you should dump all the coins you have at the end of the day. Trust me, you won’t miss the collection of 20 cent coins tomorrow, but in a year, they’ll have added up to serious spending money! It’s also worth looking into opening a separate savings account with your bank for the money you decided to put away in the step above. This is something I’ve been doing for years now (along with the money tin), and it’s made the world of difference. Every time my pay cheque comes through, I immediately put my set amount into my travel savings account, and I don’t touch it until I need it to book flights, accommodation, etc. Look into an account that will generate interest as well, so that you’re earning a little more money just by saving – your bank should be able to help you choose the right account for your needs.
· Start doing a little bit of research now on where you want to go. Work out roughly where you want to go and how long for. It may be as simple as 2 weeks in New York, or it may be 3 days in London, a week in Rome, 4 days in Florence and then a week in Paris to finish up.
8 – 10 months out: Get ready to book your flights and travel insurance.
· Now is when you’ll see why it’s important to have a bit of a plan together. Sure, you can wing it and book your flights a month or two out, but that’s not going to save you money! Flights are generally released for purchase 8 – 10 months prior to your travel date. Remember if you’re taking a longer trip, this will mean 8 – 10 months prior to your return date, too. If you’re travelling in peak times like school holidays, Easter, Christmas, New Years, be prepared to book 8 months in advance – sure, you can get some great sale fares closer to the date, but not if you’re travelling at these times (HQ: Don’t forget to check out our article on how to get the best flight deals, also in this section!). If you want some professional advice, don’t be scared to speak to a travel agent – remember, you’re not obliged to book anything with them, but if you do click with them and trust them, they can be your best ally in booking your trip.
· It’s a cliché, but it’s true: if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Having worked as a retail travel agent for a few years, I’ve seen and heard all the horror stories and ridiculous amounts of money people have had to pay for injuries, thefts and the like overseas, because they didn’t think $100 for travel insurance was a good way to spend their money. Take out travel insurance the same day you purchase your flights; I speak from personal experience when I say it’s a non-negotiable.
· If you’re not 100% set on travel plans, just aim to get your international flight booked first, and worry about your internal travel later. Remember that you’re not just restricted to flights – trains can often be a great and less expensive alternative if you’re not travelling too far. They can also be a great time saver, as you’ll be skipping the airport security checks, waiting for luggage, etc.
· If you decide to book internal flights early as well, check their luggage policies – a lot of internal North American flights (ie. Flying American Airlines from LA to New York) won’t include luggage, and you’ll be paying around USD$25 per suitcase you take, so add that into your budget if need be. If you decide to book through a travel agent, ask them about booking all of your flights together and if that would be a more financially viable option than booking them all separately.
· Now is also a good time to start looking at foreign currency. Exchange rates can fluctuate so much, so if you do have a little spare cash and notice a particularly good exchange rate, change a little cash. Also consider options like a Cash Passport card to use overseas – I swear by mine!
7 months out: Consider seasonal clothing.
· I know this may seem overly organised, but this can save a ton of money. I visited North America and Canada over Christmas/January 2015, which is obviously a pretty cold time of year over there! Six months out from our trip was winter here in Australia, which meant two things:
o 1. It was almost end of season sales here, which meant I was going to be able to get some cheap winter gear in stores around August; I got a great pair of leather boots for half price (there’s no way I could have afforded them full price!), and I wore them almost every day. Great investment!
o 2. It was also early summer in Europe/America, so their winter gear was pretty cheap, too. I shopped online, getting a good water proof puffer jacket online (ASOS, I believe) on a 70% off sale, which again was worn most days and was another great investment.
It may seem a bit crazy, but trust me, it’ll save a ton of money. Especially if you are travelling in extreme weather – winter coats in New York cost a small fortune, as did sunscreen in Mexico! Stock up on out of season stuff while you can if you know you’re going to need it.
6 months out: Planning it out.
· I know it’s really common and easy to turn to guide books when you’re planning a trip – I’m guilty of this too, don’t worry! But more and more I’ve found myself turning to one of the greatest untapped resources when it comes to travel planning: travel bloggers! It wasn’t until I started blogging that I realised how much incredible information there is out there, and it’s so easily accessible! Why pay for travel books that are often not up to date, when you have a world full of people writing all about their travels from last month, last week, yesterday?! Sure, the glossy, shiny, professional photos are pretty, but I’d rather see what places are like first hand, photographed by real people. I’d like to hear about the entry prices, opening hours, what to expect, what to be wary of from someone like me who just visited a few days ago. And all of this information is FREE! Just Google “travel blogs” and you’ll have a few million to choose from!
· While you’re at it, download a solid travel app – personally, I like Tripomatic. It’s easy to use, has some good suggestions of things to do, allows you to enter your own places to visit, and most importantly, offers an offline map functionality on which you can plot all the places you want to visit on. So even if you’re out of a free wifi zone, you can still get a map up of New Orleans that’ll show you the way from Café du Monde to the Voodoo Museum! You want a great money saving tip? Don’t walk around foreign cities with a paper map! You may as well paint a target on your back! I know it’s horrible to be so pessimistic, but reality is that tourists are easy targets for theft. You don’t want to find yourself in the horrible situation of going to pay for your coffee and croissant in Paris only to realise that your wallet is gone. I really liked and heavily relied on the offline maps in North America, particularly in big cities like New York and Chicago. I just looked like another person checking Instagram while they were walking along, when in reality I had a map of the city up and was following the little blue dot from point A to point B. Amazing!
· Check if any of the places you’re going to need a visa – if they do, now is the time to start looking into how far in advance they need to be organised and setting aside the money for them. Some places offer visa on arrival – while it may be cheaper at face value, it won’t be if you turn up and are for some reason not eligible for the visa on arrival. Very expensive trip from one airport to another and then being sent back home again. Ditto for your passport – make sure it has at least 6 months expiry from the end date of your trip, or you may be denied boarding. Seriously, I’ve seen it happen while working as a travel consultant. VERY expensive mistake to try to fix!
· While you’re checking these things out, check to see if you need vaccinations. Again, annoying to fork out the money if you do, worse and much more expensive if you contract hepatitis while you’re enjoying a stay in Koh Samui.
· One final thing to consider 6 months out is making sure you have enough money to come home to. There’s not much worse than having planned in advance to have enough money for your trip, but then coming home and realising your bank account is empty and rent is due next week. Make sure you’ve planned to have a little money set aside for when you return.
While you’re away: spend smart.
· It’s hard when you want to do everything and buy it all and see it all and eat it all! Hopefully if you’ve planned and budgeted carefully enough, you’ll have enough money to get you through and allow some extravagances. If not, consider street food over fancy restaurants, discounted tickets instead of “the works” deals, saying no to the gorgeous Italian leather shoes in the window so you can see the Colosseum instead. At the end of the day, you know what you can and can’t afford, so spend smart and try not to miss out on anything you’ll regret when you get home!
As I mentioned earlier, this is by no means an exhaustive list, so please keep the conversation going and add more tips! (HQ: We’d love to see more globelle gals perspective on this too, especially in the 6 months leading up to a trip!)