How to save money to travel | An honest, realistic guide

This is the second post in my new series about how you can travel more in 2015. If you missed it, here’s last weeks post: How to travel more with the 12 Trips Challenge.

This week’s post is all about saving money for your travels and how simple lifestyle changes can have massive results.

The no.1 reason people say they can’t travel as much as they’d like to is because they can’t afford it.

At first this seems like a valid reason. Travelling can be expensive and we all have bills to pay and mouths to feed and countless expenses that crop up when you least expect them.

But if you’re serious about wanting to travel more then I’ve got a few tips up my sleeve to help you save money to travel more.

I’m not going to suggest unrealistic tips like ‘stop going out’ or ‘run to work instead of taking the train’. Yes, this will save you a lot of money if you can stick to it but most people will quickly get bored and give up. And I’m not going to patronise you with tips like ‘use energy saving light bulbs’.

I’m going to give you tips to change the way you think. We all know that to save money you need to spend less but in reality it’s much harder than that. Saving money to travel is a lifestyle choice. You don’t need to stop enjoying your life or turn into Scrooge. You can save money to travel without missing out on nights out with your friends. You don’t need to stop socialising, you just need to be more aware of your spending habits.

how to save money to travel

1. Have a spending detox

OK, maybe I am going to tell you to stop going out and stop drinking but only for a set amount of time…

Before you go on a diet you might go on a detox. It helps to kick-start your new healthy routine and after a week of eating nothing but vegetables you suddenly REALLY appreciate carbs. When you appreciate something it feels more like a treat so you don’t take it for granted and you don’t eat too much.

The exact same thing happens with spending detoxes.

Don’t spend anything and you’ll suddenly really appreciate having a tenner to blow.

Set yourself a challenge to go a week or a fortnight or even a month without spending any money. Nothing.

Obviously you’re going to have to pay your rent, your transport costs to get to work and the absolute bare minimum on food but you can’t spend anything else.

This will make you more conscious about your spending habits and make you realise where and why you were wasting money.

So many people spend money absent-mindedly. You might pop into the corner shop for a carrot and you come out with a bottle of wine, a magazine, a chocolate bar and a scratch card and you’ve suddenly spent £20. OK, that’s not going to bankrupt you but if you do it twice a week it’s going to add up.

I had an unintentional spending detox when I first moved to London. I was on an intern’s wage, which just about covered my bills, food and monthly railcard. After I’d paid for the essentials I literally had nothing left over.

I soon had a pay rise but by this point I was very conscious about spending money and didn’t waste a penny.

If you’re thinking about taking a spending detox and need some inspiration, take a look at Buy Nothing Year, an experiment on not buying shit. Roommates, Geoffrey and Julie, embarked on a one-year buy nothing challenge and they saved over $55,000. Their blog is actually a bit boring but this feature about them in Forbes is definitely worth a read!


2. Think about yearly expenses

Stop thinking about day-to-day expenses and think about yearly expenses. Buying a bottle of water every day is only £1.00. You probably have £1.00 in your pocket right now and that’s why it’s so easy to spend. But if you buy a bottle of water every single day for a year, that’s £365 and £365 is a lot of money!

I used to have a terrible Starbucks addiction, mainly because there was a Starbucks stand on my platform at the train station and I just couldn’t walk past it. Five days a week I was buying a latte for £2.25. That’s still only £11.25 per week but that’s well over £500 in a year. £500 is a hell of a lot of money.


3. What could this money buy me?

Now you’ve started thinking about the yearly expense of your little spending habits, start thinking about what all these little things could buy you.

If my Starbucks habit cost me £500 per year, £500 could pay for a lot of travel! That could be my flight money for more than 5 European weekends away. It could be an entire week in the sun. It’s a one-way flight to Australia.

My coffee habit suddenly becomes countless possibilities and it’s much easier to say no to a skinny latte when I think of it like this.


4. Set your saving goal and then only use cash

Work out how much disposable income you have each month and how much of this you’re going to save. Put this amount into a savings account that you can’t easily withdraw from.

You’ll then be left with x-amount to spend each month. Take this amount out in cash so you can physically see how much you have. You spend less when it feels like real money rather than a piece of plastic. You’ll also see your spending money dwindle away and once it’s gone, it’s gone!


5. Write it down

Once you’ve worked out how much you want to save each month, write the amount down. Whether you’re a spreadsheet, a notepad or a scrap of paper kind of person, write down your goal and pin it on your wall.

Review your goal and keep reminding yourself of it so you don’t forget and get tempted to splash out.

How to save money to travel more | The Travel Hack

6. Get your friends onboard

If your group of friends have expensive taste, saving money can be difficult. If you usually spend your weekends shopping and eating out and going to expensive clubs or events then you’re going to start missing out.

Get your friends onboard with your saving challenge and it’s going to be much easier if you’re all in it together.


7. Swap this for that

Think about what you spend most of your money on and make realistic swaps.

Remember to keep them realistic. I once vowed to make all of my own clothes for a year. I looked like a tramp for a few months before I finally caved. I then swapped my endless shopping sprees for one new item of clothing per month.

  • Swap eating out with your own version of Come Dine With Me. (Where you each take turns to host dinner)
  • Swap cinema nights with movie nights at home
  • Swap boozy nights with house parties
  • Swap your gym membership for your own outdoor exercise routine or home fitness DVDs
  • Swap shopping in Waitrose for shopping in Lidl or Aldi

8. Be the organiser and the motivator

If you’ve managed to get some friends on board with the savings challenge, you might need to be the person to keep them motivated. The more friends you have on board with the challenge, the easier it will be for you.

People start to get bored or tempted to splash out so keep them on track with encouragement and an endless list of free things to do. If you’re constantly organising free activities you’re less likely to start spending those well saved pennies.


9. Start booking your travels!

Don’t wait until you have the full amount saved to start booking your travels. Researching and booking your trip will keep you motivated and excited. It’s also easier to say no to things if you can genuinely say, ‘Sorry, I can’t come to the pub tonight, I’m going to Australia in a few months’.

No one is going to argue with that and try to tell you a night in the pub will be more fun than Australia!

If you know you need to save £1,000 and you can save this amount in 3 months, get your flights booked now.

When your flight/transport/accommodation is booked you HAVE to save your spending money.

When I went travelling around Asia and Australia for two years, I booked my flight to Sydney (via Hong Kong) almost one year in advance. I then slowly booked other things for my first few months travelling, like internal flights in Asia, a few fancy nights in hotels and certain tours I wanted to take.

This kept me motivated to keep saving and I was never tempted to withdraw any cash from my savings account.

Do you have any more tips to save for travelling?

Sign up for newsletter updates if you don’t want to miss next week’s post with more tips on how you can travel more in 2015.


Monica is the founder and editor of The Travel Hack. She began the blog in 2009 when she left the UK to travel around Asia and Australia for two years. She's now a professional blogger and has travelled around the world in search of stylish adventure travel.Monica has recently had a baby and is now determined to prove that travelling with a baby is possible!

SHOWHIDE Comments (30)
  1. I totally agree with these tips, especially booking the flight in advance. I always do that. I try to book with a 0% interest credit card that has a perk like airmiles or cashback, so it’s win-win. You’re right – it’s a lifestyle choice.

  2. I totally get the starbucks addiction as i work near one. For 2015 i want to do more traveling but i’m kind of scared ( solo travel out of my comfort zone ) one day i will so i’ll just read travel blogs for now to get me inspired.

  3. Great tips – I definitely agree about booking the flights and committing yourself. The other thing I try to do as well as a money detox is have a regular blitz of the things I accumulate and no longer want, then sell them on eBay/local Facebook groups.

    It might only be a fiver for an old top here, a tenner for books my toddler no longer reads there, but like the Starbucks habit, it all adds up.

  4. Yes – all great, practical tips. I love the idea of a spending detox; I had never thought of it like a food detox but that makes complete sense. I think I’m going to give that a try!

  5. Really good advice. I don’t tend to waste too much anyway but what I should do is book in advance as it will give a goal to encourage further. Looks like I need a binge on your site! Amy x

  6. These are such great travel tips. Thanks for sharing. I’m a budget friendly traveler and am always looking for ways to boost my budget.

    One tip I have is using sites like and SkyScanner to find the best fares for travel. Oh! and if you’re still a student and/or under 26 has some excellent deals.

    1. I used STA to book a lot when I was a student. Looking back, I don’t think they were the cheapest but they definitely made everything really simple and easy – especially because I kept changing my mind with flights!

  7. Great post! There are so many little ways to save money to travel, and you’ve laid out a lot of them. When I lived in the US, I used to be really good about putting big purchases on credit cards with good travel rewards, too. The UK has fewer options for that, but there are a few airline credit cards that can be good for earning miles.

  8. I totally love workaway! It enables you to see various places and more importantly – get to know local life as you usually live with the family. Twenty hours of work weekly will cover your food and accommodation. If you are lucky enough,your hosts even provide you with their car or take you to some great places themselves. I was able to spend three months in Sweden (which is known to be expensive) for 100 € per month (+flight tickets cca 100 €)! Plus if you are able to earn some money online, even better. As I did a few translations during my stay,I had even more money on my account after the trip 🙂 there are quite a few opportunities like this, just google 🙂

  9. Good tips! That’s exactly what I’ve been doing with changing the way I think about how items you buy weekly or daily add up and what that could get me in travel terms.

    And working out your essential spend each month and a goal for what you’re going to save. I find it works so much better when you know the amount you want to save and have a long term goal for it. That way I know what I’m working towards and I can’t justify a slip up as much! I also set up an ISA as I know I can’t touch it and of course there’s interest!

  10. Number 9 is my favorite too! 🙂 I have finally started saving to travel. It’s hard but it’s fun knowing that I’m going to travel with the money that I am putting aside.

  11. All great tips, but what I love most about this article is that when I was saving for South America I actually did run to work instead of getting the bus! For two years! Don’t think I have that kind of resolve now…!

    1. Oh good on you Ari! I feel bad now for dismissing it! It just shows that if you really, really want something, you’ll do anything to get it. And you get a double whammy of savings in both travel costs and gym costs.

  12. I totally agree about buying flights. When we finally bought our flights to Iceland, our ten month trip was actually finally real. It motivated to work even harder and I saved up 25k.

    Yes, I definitely agree with the reward credit cards if you are in the states. In the UK racking up points on a One World Alliance airlines is good idea because they use airlines all over the world.

    Also I love the Trail Wallet App. It’s money management for while you are travelling but I feel like you could use it while saving too. You can add different categories like ‘groceries’, ‘eating out’ etc and then it makes a pie chart so you can see visually where your money is going and cut back that way.

    Awesome post. Thanks for sharing.

  13. I think that is my main problem just spending money because its there. I like to think I can save but I’m actually crap at saving! I’m going to try this challenge defo! x

  14. Sorry for the barrage of comments, getting caught up on all your latest posts!

    Not that I am an angel when it comes to saving (my filthy habit is buying clothes and accessories) but my friends here in Colombia do like to go out to expensive nightclubs, and it’s stressing me out! A bottle of liquor (the cheap local kind) that’s less than $10 at a liquor store will be more than $40 at these places! And we could very easily and legally just drink in the street, but that’s not their style! I didn’t move to Colombia to spend as much on a night out (including taxis and admission to these clubs) as I would in New York City, dammit.

  15. Monica, I read this blog and I like your idea of saving money for travel. But according to me we should plan everything before travel, like where to go for travel, exchange the currency, where you want to live when migration etc..

  16. Some really great tips here and very realistic for the naysayers that say it’s impossible. Only spending in cash is a great tip if you’re not so great with finances (I used to be terrible!) but once I had a handle on things I started putting everything on a cashback card and paying it off every month. I now make around £150 a year from this which pays for a couple of cheap flights.

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The Travel Hack

The Travel Hack is a blog about stylish adventure travel and affordable luxury.

We believe luxurious travel can be affordable and isn't just for the rich. Follow along with our worldwide adventures as we share our trips and tips for incredible travel experiences on a modest budget.