I was recently interviewed by Travel Latina, a platform that features women of the Latin American and Caribbean diaspora traveling the world. One of the questions, Alexandra of TL asked me was what advice I would give to those who have traveled a bit and want to travel more but don’t feel like they have the money to spend on traveling. How to save money for travel?
This is such a common question that merits its own post or maybe even five. There are so many ways to save money for travel and during traveling. It’s all a matter of finding the best way that works for you. I’ll give suggestions for both, all of which I use myself. But first, I want to give you a helpful tool that has helped me since I invented it.
I’ve made many mistakes with money in the past. I used to spend all my hardworking paychecks on clothes and going out. I always paid full price for everything. I didn’t care to save or put myself on a budget, but my perspective began to change when I decided I wanted to buy my own car at 20 years old.
At the time, I was working a $10 an hour job at a bank. Surely, one would think that wasn’t enough to buy a car and maintain it in New York City but I did. I wasn’t rollin’ in a BMW but I had my very own ’98 Toyota Corolla and I was extremely proud. In fact, it only took me a few months to save the money because I learned to budget strategically.
When we think about achieving a goal such as going on a travel vacation or buying a car and we don’t have the money or have other priorities, we think it is impossible to accomplish it. This can overwhelm us. Instead, I’ve come to find it’s better to break down the goal into steps. This idea works especially with money. Saving over time while having a plan is the best method. Here is my special money-saving formula on how to save money for travel!
For those who are working/have a steady income, you will need:
1. Amount of money you earn per week
2. End goal amount to make your trip happen
3. Number of weeks you have until you quit your job…ahem, you go on your vacation
Then calculate everything:
Divide the End Goal by the Number of weeks until your trip which will equal the Amount of money you’ll save per week
Let’s say I plan to backpack Cuba for two months. My goal is to save $3,000 in 19 weeks. If I plug it into the formula, it would be:
End Goal ÷ Weeks until your trip = Amount of money to save per week
$3,000 ÷ 19 weeks = $157 per week
I would need to save $157 per week to meet my goal. If you subtract this amount from your average paycheck weekly, the money left over will be for your usual living expenses. If your end goal amount is unrealistic, then either adjust it to fit your reality OR keep reading below.
Okay, so what if you don’t have a job? Let’s say you’re in between jobs, or maybe you don’t earn enough money in your current job. We can brainstorm:
Sell unwanted things on eBay or Craigslist: If you have valuable items such as classic vinyl or old college textbooks, that you don’t want, sell them! Or you can create something people would buy like handmade jewelry or comic books.
Start an Indiegogo or GoFundMe campaign: This may be a great way to have family, friends, and strangers support your travel journey but you do have to think of a real and persuading campaign story to get people to donate. It may be because you want to visit your grandparents in your home country that you haven’t seen in ten years. People probably wouldn’t fund it if you want to lay out on the beach with a cocktail and catch a tan!
Work an odd job: babysitting, dog walking, or house cleaning. A job that pays will help you closer to your goal – whatever it may be. These jobs can be found on popular sites such as SitterCity.com, and Care.com.
Limit your usual unnecessary expenses: We can spend so much money on food, coffee, cable television, and going out! Eat breakfast at home, make lunch to go and snacks, and eat dinner when you return home. Make your own coffee at home or stop drinking it altogether. Eating a banana actually boosts your energy just like coffee. Replace your monthly cable bill with a one-time Apple TV purchase and get Netflix for $7.99 a month. And finally, when you go out, put yourself on a budget – a strict one! Stick to it no matter what happens.
After taking many, many trips I’ve found the traveler, especially the backpacker, spends most of her/his money on flights, accommodations, food, and ground transportation.
Prices of flights vary according to the season you are traveling in. I think flight scanner is one of the best flight search websites/apps that exist because it’s easy to navigate, they pull up the cheapest flights possible and their ‘Everywhere’ feature can come in handy. As you can see below, you can select the home country and the destination to ‘Everywhere.’ Skyscanner will search for the cheapest flights around the world! You can also do this with countries. Let’s say you’re going to Spain and want to know the least expensive city to fly into, select the whole country and you’ll get exciting results.
Booking Buddy is another great option but is not as liberal. Priceline has the Name Your Own Price feature where you do exactly that for your flight, hotel, and/or rental car! If you have some time before booking a flight, you can get daily price alerts from the Airfare watchdog.
Hostels: I hardly ever book through third-party websites because I like dealing with the hostel itself. Instead, I’ll look through HostelWorld.com or any other hostel listing website, choose which one I want to book with, and then go to the hostel’s website to book.
Airbnb: If you are staying in a certain place for a long period of time – a month or longer – it would be better to rent a room. Hostels get really uncomfortable after a while. At an AirBnB you would pay a consolidated whole price instead of per night. However, sometimes hostels offer a whole price for their private rooms for longer stays (if they have any). Just ask.
Couchsurfing: It’s a website where you can meet people in different cities all over the world. They can host you as a guest at their home for free. YUP! I’ve used it a few times and it has been a rewarding experience because I’ve met long-time friends I’m still in touch with today.
Stay with a friend: I’ve made friends around the world so when I think of wanting to go to a specific place I ask myself if I have a friend there and if I do, I reach out to them to ask if I can stay with them. Plus they are local and can take you to all the cool spots.
Food gets expensive especially if you’re eating out all day, every day during your trip. I would say cook. Choose a hostel/accommodation that has a kitchen and cook breakfast and dinner. Shop locally to support the local economy. If you’re eating out, choose local, authentic restaurants and not the franchised, commercial ones. Take note though, in some parts of the Caribbean, it is cheaper to buy prepared food outside than in the supermarket.
Make sure you know what your airline’s rules are for baggage and any fees that may apply. Bringing less is better.
Try not to do packaged excursions unless you really need to like, for example, if you are river rafting in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic. You’ll be spending a lot more than if you do it the local way.
Today: Get a jar, label it, and start saving all your loose change and dollars at the end of each day. Look back in one or two months and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.