21 Ways to Save Money for Your Dream Trip

Husband and I started traveling together as boyfriend and girlfriend when we were just 22 years old. Our first trip was two weeks in the Dominican Republic. I was fresh out of college and worked my little booty off to save for the trip. It was the beginning of many firsts for me. Little did I know, at the time, that I was setting up habits that would help me to save for many many more travels.

first international trip
So young, so tan, so clueless

It’s no secret to our friends that Peter has always had more money than me. Most people we knew, naturally assumed that Peter paid, or helped finance, my portion of trip. However, being the stubborn, independent and proud Texas-raised girl that I am, I always refused his help, which he often offered. I’m not sure why, but I never allowed him to help pay for me for almost anything, until we were married, meaning I paid for the first 18 countries I visited all by my big-girl self.

I very often get asked how we afford to travel, while we are now in a better place (financially) at this point in our lives, we still take many measures to save money. Prior to our present situation, back in my teacher-salary “I insist on paying for everything” days I took every measure possible to save. I’ve learned what works, what doesn’t and most importantly, how to save money and still have a life!

how to save money to travel

To answer the question probably asked most often, here are “21 ways to save money for your dream trip”.

  1. Stop paying for subscriptions you don’t need. We have never had cable TV or a landline phone. Think about your magazine, gym, Birchbox (other boxes), Costco, member-based online sites, etc…which ones, if any, are really necessary? I promise, if you cancel most of these, you won’t miss them. However, don’t cancel Amazon Prime, we all need that. You may also consider splitting the cost of streaming sites like Hulu and Netflix with a friend or family member.
  2. Shop way less. Most of us way over-shop. If you think you need something, window-shop for it, don’t buy it, go home, wait and see how you feel in a day or so. In most cases, you’ll decide/realize you didn’t really need those gladiator sandals.
  3. When you do have to buy things, try to buy generic. The off-brand products are almost always cheaper and just as good as the name-brand products. Be a bargain shopper!
  4. Drop the expensive habits. We all have our poisons…. for me, it’s Starbucks, Sephora and my nails. I almost never get my nails done these days (even though I loathe doing them myself). I shop at Sephora way less and as far Starbucks…I could still use some help, but I can cut it out when necessary.
  5. This isn’t really a “saving” tip, but it’s a good tip nonetheless. Ask for trip “donations” as your holiday gifts. I have asked for money towards a trip for my Birthday and Christmas and it definitely helps! Just be sure to put that money directly until your savings account and don’t touch it!
  6. Get crafty. Hit up Pinterest and learn to make gifts for people. I have found some really cute (not too cheesy) inexpensive homemade gifts. I promise, they’re out there.
  7. Pick up a side job! I have made extra money by running after-school programs, babysitting and tutoring. Even just a few hours a week can make a huge difference.
  8. Eat at home. This should be obvious, but cooking and eating at home is way cheaper than eating out.
  9. Move. I know, I know, this one is a bit of a stretch, but if you are able/willing to pick up your life and move for a year it is SO worth it. During my third year of teaching I received tenure. One week later, I turned in my letter of resignation. I left that summer for a teaching job in Albania. It was a big scary move, and the probably the greatest adventure ever. We spent every long weekend visiting a new place in Europe. It was much cheaper to travel from within Europe!
  10. Save, save, save, save, save, save, save! Take a certain percentage of each paycheck, put it into your savings and never ever touch it . Throw all of your loose change in a piggy bank and just keep reminding yourself of the end goal.
  11. Plan ahead (and be flexible, if possible). The earlier you book, the better the deals you will find. Most flight searches give you an option for “flexible” dates too, which means you can see the prices of flights around the dates you selected. Sometimes leaving a day early, or coming back two days later can save you a couple of hundred dollars.
  12. Don’t stay in a traditional hotel. There are so many options, often better and definitely less expensive. We have stayed in hostels, love hotels and AirBnB’s, all of which were great (or mostly great). If you’re willing, you can even couchsurf!

    view from AirBNB
    The view from my bed at our cheap AirBNB on Jeju Island.
  13. Travel in the off-season. This isn’t always the best choice, for example, you may not want to go to Iceland in the dead of winter, but it’s often a fine option. If you’re willing to visit in the off-season of your destination then you are likely to get the best deals for airfar, accommodations and activities.
  14. Book train tickets in advance too. Just like planes, trains a cheaper the earlier you book them.

    Just an average London train station
  15. When trying to book your flight, always search in “incognito” mode or “private” mode in your browser. Those airline websites are sneaky little boogers and when you are searching for a particular flight for a while, they will start jacking up the price.
  16. Spend less nights out. You don’t need to become a hermit, but I’m sure you can cut back on how often you go out, have drinks, go to dinner, etc. Instead, opt for some nights in. Have friends over to watch a movie, make dinner, play cards and just hang.
  17. Choose a less popular travel destination. Paris, London, Rome, New York…everyone wants to visit these places which means they are going to be some of the most expensive destinations. If you want to spend less visit less touristy locations. Think, Cambodia, Peru, Hungary, Vietnam and even Croatia.

    Why would you NOT want to visit Croatia???
  18. Just say no to credit cards. (Unless you always ALWAYS pay it off on time.) Those interest charges are robbing you.
  19. Budget your money with an app. We use Mint and love it. It tracks absolutely everything you spend money on and lets you know how much you are spending on food, entertainment, bills, clothing, etc. It also reminds you to pay your bills on time and more. Seeing how much you’re spending and what you’re spending on, is truly an eye opener.
  20. Sell your crap. I am a pro at cleaning out closets and drawers and getting rid of stuff we no longer need/use. I used to try and sell decent items on local “buy, sell, trade” sites, but lately I have been obsessed with the Varage Sale app. It’s essentially the same as “buy, sell, trade”, but easier. Simply take a pic of the item, set a price, choose a category and post it to your location. Other people on the app can select to buy the object from you. Then select a meeting place or a “porch pick up” and voila! Easy money!
  21. Carpool. I’m not great at this, but when it’s possible try to carpool. Carpool to work, school, dinner, nights out, whatever. Gas is expensive so why not share the cost?

Whew! There you have it, my “expert” money-saving tips? What do you think? Do you already do any of these? Do you have a great money-saving tip of your own?? I’d seriously love to hear it! After all, it’s about time we start putting money away for our next adventure!



3 Replies to “21 Ways to Save Money for Your Dream Trip”

  1. All very wise tips. 😉 Don’t forget to collect your change in a change jar! 😉

    1. positivelypanicked says: Reply

      Yesss! How could I forget!? I have a piggy bank I use!

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