You fantasize about pursuing your dream of traveling the world instead of slaving away for someone else’s dream at a grueling nine to five, but then you remember why you’re huddled in that emotionally comatose state at this cramped and constricting cubicle in the first place: the paper chase. How can you afford to travel? You can barely afford to stay in an empty, gridded box. We’re all searching for ways to balance a fulfilling life with earning the funds necessary to support it, but no matter who you are or how much money you make answers are not as elusive as they seem. Here’s a guide of accumulated tips and suggestions for saving and planning the extended travel that you long for—a vision and some dedication are all you need. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Set Parameters for Your Trip
How long will you be traveling? Is this a one-time trip? How long would you like to spend in each location, and where do you want to travel? When? Traveling is not an exact science, nor should it be. Part of fulfilling travel is experiencing an area as deeply and authentically as only spontaneity will let you. Don’t feel chained to your initial framework; it’s just a starting point. Most importantly, do not under any circumstances let money dictate your plans at this stage of the game. Choose what you want to do.
Step 2: Estimate Costs and Work Towards a Goal
Travel is all about estimation, and the estimate of how much it will cost to make your vision a reality is a very important one. Begin by researching your destinations and looking up exchange rates, and don’t let favorable ones fool you. Even if the dollar is worth £5 (I’ll let you down easy by telling you now—it’s not), the price of a delicious English muffin that may cost you $1 in the Australia could cost you £5 in London (it doesn’t). No cheaper in this hypothetical buttered goodness dimension despite the seemingly favorable Australian exchange.
Don’t forget the cost of transportation and airfare, which if purchased well in advance (or surprisingly at the very last minute) will save you hundreds. Your airfare is likely to be your biggest initially our outlay so do your best to keep it low. Set up fare alerts on Kayak.com and monitor the route you're looking for before you jump in and buy.
Step 3: Create a Plan for Increasing Funds
The best way to save for travel is to work out ways in increase your income. Money that wasn't a part of your pre-savings psyche is a lot easier to save.
Consider working a second job. This can be logistically challenging, but very financially rewarding.
Sell, sell, sell. If you're going away for an extended period of time, you're not going to need or want all your stuff hanging around. Get rid of all your non-essential items and sell them online using a site like QuickSales.com.au. Be ruthless - clothes, DVDs, furniture... everything must go! Make room for the lasting memories and newly inspired plans for future travels that will follow you home.
Move back in with Mum and Dad. Not paying rent and bills will mean more of your income is available. Even if you can manage this for only a few months pre-trip, it's well worth it.
Ditch your car. Unless it's an absolute essential to your daily life (and it probably isn't as essential as you think), selling your car will free up a good chunk of cash initally plus save you money in the long run. A monthly bus or train ticket will probably only cost you what you usually spend on a month's car insurance. If you're a couple or a family, try downsizing to just one vehicle.
Step 4: Build a Detailed Budget
It’s time to map your spending, which may be a new concept to you if you’ve never lived on a budget. It’s easy. Divide your current expenses into four categories:
This part can be hard. Looking at the first three categories, establish a monthly minimum that you feel you can live on (depending on how aggressively you want to save) and calculate your grand budget. Make sure to really look at each item and decide if you’ll genuinely be less happy without it. The minimalist movement can be annoyingly overhyped, but there’s a reason that it’s gotten so much attention: fewer possessions means fewer things to worry about. Oh, and a boatload of saved money. Make sure to find a balance between the benefits of traveling lightly and the drawbacks of potentially selling (or not bringing) some essentials.
Step 5: Set a Date
With a calculated budget and savings goals, you should be able to estimate your earliest possible departure date (the big payoff). How aggressively you want to save is up to you. Remember: be realistic about what you want to do with your travels and what’s important to you, and budget accordingly. If you’re a foodie, don’t plan on cutting costs by staying in and making meals at the hostel every night. If you’re a wine connoisseur, don’t plan on limiting yourself to one glass of fine Italian wine a week (you know darn well that you’re going to be drinking wine with breakfast, lunch, and dinner). And don’t even try to pull that one—we both know that you’re not going all the way to Barcelona to turn down a few (very expensive) drinks at the nearest absinthe bar. Be realistic in your budgeting, diligently track your expenses pre- and post-departure, and adapt accordingly.
The Bottom Line
It’s easy to save once you’re inspired by how incredible your travels will be, and if researched, planned, and executed well your budget will last as long as you intend it to. Follow these simple guidelines. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat.