Helpful tips for budgeting and saving for travel

No-one really likes to talk about money, budgeting and saving; but unfortunately it is a necessary evil when it comes to planning your travel adventures. You need money to pay for flights, transport, accommodation, activities, food, and most importantly—coffee!

Unless you come into an inheritance, win lotto, have super generous friends and family, or have money to burn; there are two key money demons you will need to tackle before you can jet off on your next adventure: Budgeting and Saving.

Although the allure of charging items to your credit card can be very real; my advice is to avoid this at all costs! Unless you can pay your credit card purchases back right away, resist the urge.

You don’t want to come back from an amazing holiday, and find yourself knee-deep in debt.

So to make budgeting and saving easier, I am providing the tips and tricks we use to ensure that we can not only afford our holidays, but often come back with spare change.

The key to all of it though, is simple:

Make travel your priority

If your goal is to travel and see the world, then the idea of traveling and seeing the world needs to be in the forefront of everything you do. Knowing you have an amazing trip to look forward to makes it exciting to save for a holiday, encourages you to spend less on items you don’t really need, and helps with sticking to your budget.

Saving for travel

Budgeting and Saving

Saving for holiday is so much easier if you apply a strict budget and stay committed to it. Before determining how much to save for your holiday, you first need to work out how much money you actually have spare from your income. Creating a budget is daunting for many people, but is actually quite easy and rewarding once you get the hang of it.

Below is a simple budget, based on a weekly income of $700. Of course, your income may be more or less than this, but it is a good example to start with. Simply add or remove columns to ensure that all your expenses are counted for.

Net Income Rent Food Power Water Internet Mobile Total Left Over Spending Holiday
$700 $200 $100 $20 $10 $10 $10 $350 $350 $150 200

In this example, there are $350 worth of expenses each week. This money should be set aside into a separate account so that it isn’t accidentally spent. You are now left with $350 to do what you like with. Obviously you need money for personal expenses—clothing, doctor visits, public transport, petrol, whatever. So ensure you have enough to cover that each week. Any remaining income can then be put aside for travel. In this case, you have enough to save $200 per week.

To work out how much money you could potentially save for your holiday, it helps to decide when you want to go. If you are planning for a holiday that is one year away; multiply your weekly saving by 52 weeks. In the example above $200 x 52 = $10,400 to put toward a holiday if you stick to your budget. If you think you will need more money than you can save, I have a few tips below that might help.

Your weekly expenses are pretty much a given, and there is not a lot you can do to reduce them, so you will need to work around this, to some extent.

Budgeting your trips

Budgeting and Saving

So by now, you’ve hopefully started on the planning phase of your trip. You know—or at least have a rough idea—where and when you want to go, how you’re going to get around, and what you’d like to do while overseas.

The next step is to work out a travel budget. We are huge spreadsheet users, so always create our travel budgets in Excel; but I fully support doing what works for you.

However you map out your travel budget, you will need to include the following:

  • Transport Costs: include intended dates of travel, modes of transport, and estimated or actual costs.
  • Accommodation Costs: either use actual prices, or set yourself a limit of how much you would be willing to pay in each destination—check out comparison or review websites to get a general idea about how affordable your destinations are.
  • Food Costs: we generally set aside $100 per day for food for the two of us. This covers our breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and drinks. We really try and stick to this figure, and more often than not, don’t spend it all, which means we have some spare cash to treat ourselves to a nice meal out.
  • Activities: research the costs for any activities or attractions you want to visit during your holiday, and include these in your budget.
  • Other Costs: You can’t always budget for everything, so it pays to make sure you have some extra money for any hidden or unexpected costs, such as:
    • Travel Insurance—pay before you leave
    • Excess Baggage—various airlines and some trains and buses charge this
    • Visas and Vaccinations (if required)
    • Spending Money—it is important to include some spending money in your budget so you can buy something awesome you see overseas, without having to worry how you’re going to pay for it!

Once you have all your costs worked out, you will end up with a grand total of how much your adventure might cost.

If this total is way off what your expected savings are, then you will need to revisit your travel plan and either plan your trip a little differently or try and save more towards your trip throughout the year.

Either way, ideally your expected savings should be more than you trip costs just to be safe. It is always better to have a little extra as you never know what might crop up.

Tips for saving money

Budgeting and Saving

If don’t think you’ll be able to save as much per week as you’ll need for your holiday, there are a few things you can do to cut back on your weekly spend, or put a little more aside.

Start up a Piggy Bank

Always have a handful of annoying spare change? Pop it in a piggy bank, plastic container, or spare drawer. It won’t seem like much at the time, but trust me when I say that doing this regularly has been a wonderful trick for us. Within a few months of starting up our piggy bank, we had racked up over $100 to put towards our trip that we hadn’t intentionally saved up. The best thing is, many banks now have an ATM which you can load your spare change into, and it gets put directly into your bank account – #winning!

BYO lunch and coffee

The allure of regularly buying your lunch or coffee can be strong—I know, Monday’s are hard. But by making your own lunch or taking home-made coffee to work, it can save you a lot in the long run. Say you usually buy one coffee each day—in Melbourne that would be up to $4 per day, or $20 per week. I know some people who spend at least $10 a day on their lunch; which equates to $50 per week. By cutting out those two luxuries alone, you could save $70 per week to put towards travel. Over a year that would be $3,640; or enough to pay for your flights!

Please Sir, I want a pay rise

Although many of us would rather catch scurvy than ask for a pay rise; if you’re a hard worker and need a bit of extra dough to save for your ideal trip, then a pay rise could be the solution. Make sure you time it right—read: when your boss is in a good mood—and be prepared to sell yourself a little. The worst that can happen is that they will say no, but they may surprise you; and you’ll never know if you don’t ask.

Book online and early

Generally, the earlier you book your flights, accommodation, and transport options; the cheaper they will be. Look out for sales or special deals: sign up to the email lists of your preferred airlines, comparison sites, and accommodation chains to ensure you are always kept informed of sales and deals. Many sites such as Greyhound also offer a cheaper ticket if you book online, so it pays to shop around.

Budgeting and Saving

Is breakfast included?

Before booking your accommodation, check to see if breakfast is included. Many places in Europe, for example, include breakfast in their fares. You might end up paying slightly more, but it is usually much cheaper than going out for breakfast somewhere else; and if they offer a buffet it is even better—pop a croissant or two in your bag to eat later on. We usually find that if we have a decent breakfast, we don’t need lunch; which cuts our food costs right down!


Budgeting and saving for a holiday doesn’t need to be painful, scary, or overwhelming, as long as you remember these three key points:

  • Make travel your priority
  • Keep track of your income and expenses so you can save as much as possible
  • Create a travel budget so you can estimate how much your trip will cost

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Budgeting and Saving


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Author: Michelle

Michelle Harvey is a kiwi traveller, writer, photographer, list-maker, coffee drinker, and wanderer. Winter holidays are her favourite kind.

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