People have all sorts of reasons for why they don’t travel. But for people my age (20-somethings), the reason I hear most often is “I can’t afford it.” Well my friends, I’m here to tell you that you can afford to save up enough money and travel. I’ll show you what I did, and tell you how I saved money to backpack Europe, and I’ll tell you what you can do in order to save up for that amazing vacation.
First, you need to establish your goals. The cost of traveling around Europe for two weeks is going to be different than taking a cruise to the Bahamas. So decide where you want to go, and for how long. My goal was to go to Europe, and because of money, I decided that I wanted to go for around 3 weeks.
Also, decide how you would like to travel. Staying in a four star hotel is going to be more expensive than staying in hostels. Eating out every meal in expensive restaurants is going to cost you more than trying to make some of your own meals. Decide on what you can and cannot compromise. For me, I knew that I could stand being in hostels (I lived with two sorority girls in college, noise doesn’t bother me), so that helped my budget. But I know that I do not cook, so I allotted myself more money for food with a strict promise that I will try and find cheap food wherever I am. The biggest thing that deters my personal budget is souvenirs. I buy so many…I have a problem. So there is quite a bit of wiggle room in my budget for buying extras wherever I go.
Budget for Traveling:
Round Trip Plane Ticket: $1000
Hostels for 9 nights (I will be staying with friends for the rest of the time): $350
Transportation (1 flight, 3 trains): $500
Entrances to Attractions/Tours: $500
I purposefully budgeted more than I thought I would need. And it has come in handy now that my trip date is getting closer. For example, I didn’t budget for the $400 equipment that I would need as a first time backpacker (eg, backpack, daypack, ect). $5000 has been the perfect amount to save. We’ll see if my budget works after my trip.
Number two, come up with a monthly budget! I sat down with pen and paper and figured out how much I wanted to save, and then how much money per paycheck I needed to put away in order to make my goals a reality. So, in my case, I was making $2000 a month for one of my jobs, and then my weekend job was making me about $400-$500 a month depending on how much I worked. Altogether I was pulling in about $2500 a month; not a lot for someone working 6-7 days a week!
Now for my monthly expenses…
Gas: $300/month (I drive a truck)
CC Debt: $250/month
Gym Membership: $30/month
Left Over: $670/month
Travel Budget: $500
Left Over: $170
To help me manage my money I went to the bank and opened up a new savings account. As soon as I got my paycheck, I put $250 of it in my new savings account specifically for travel and I did not touch it! In addition, I bought a notebook that helped me track how much money in my checking account was needed for rent for the month and my other expenses. That really helped because I knew how much leftover money I had to spend.
One thing is very important to notice: I had less than $200 per month for extra stuff. So I didn’t buy new clothes, didn’t go out to eat a lot, didn’t go out drinking, and if I did I didn’t buy more than two beers. I lived frugally. I got a second job for the sole purpose of making enough money to travel. If you want to travel, there will be consequences. There will be areas in your life that are going to have to give. In other words, my third tip is learn how to make sacrifices.
You can’t go out drinking every weekend and spend $100 a night (I know this from experience going out in DC. Once you add up cabs, food, drinks, transportation, it is at least $100). Big shopping trips to your favorite store are also out. Any unnecessary costs should be cut.
I won’t pretend that saving money was easy. Yes, my second job allowed me to save up money and travel. But there were months where I only had two days off from work. When I moved to Florida I had hoped to visit other cities like Miami, Tampa, and the Keys during the weekend, but none of those trips ever happened because I didn’t have the money or the time.
But in the end it was all worth it. I made some sacrifices, but those sacrifices are going to allow me to backpack Europe for three weeks! How awesome is that?!
So, in conclusion, remember to establish your travel goals, make a budget, and learn how to sacrifice.