How to Save for Your Dream Vacation

Picture taken in Santa Monica, California

Saving money for travel is not easy for a lot of people, and with the current economic situation in a lot of countries, travel has certainly become a luxury for some. But is it still possible to save money to travel? Absolutely! Here are my tips to saving money before and during your vacation that have worked for me in the past.

Tip #1: Do your research

Whether your dream vacation involves a trip to New York City, backpacking across Europe, or climbing some of the highest peaks in the world, your dream vacation needs to be researched first. Determine the following:

– What is the purpose of your trip? Are you going just for the sake of going or is there something that really interests you? Don’t jump on the popularity wagon just because everyone else is doing it. Odds are you might not enjoy that same adventure.

– What do you want to see and do? Google the entrance fees or costs associated with what you want to see and do to determine how much money you will need to save just for spending. Also, look for deals, coupons, and when is the cheapest time of year to visit. A lot of museums, for example, offer free or discounted admissions so be sure to look into that.

– What will be the cost of flights or lodging? This will be the biggest cost and here is where it is important to try to save as much as possible. Shop around. Don’t settle for the first price you see and assume that is what it costs to travel to your preferred destination. My favourite search engine is Skyscanner, for many reasons, but the main one is that it searches for the best deals at no cost to you.

– Check reviews! This is important not only for lodging, but for attractions as well. Some organizations are great at marketing their products and attractions  but they might not  be worth the money. See if it is really worth it for you and learn about tips on saving money. There are thousands of bloggers out there writing about this kind of stuff so be sure to read what they have to say. Also, TripAdvisor should become your new best friend.

By doing your research, you will have an educated estimate as to how much everything will cost, as well as what to expect. Some people think that the cost associated with travel is only the flight and hotel. Research everything so you are not rudely surprised upon arrival for the cost of dining (you have to eat after all).

Tip #2: Plan when you want to go

I went to Barcelona during the off season to save money!

If you want to save money, doing a last minute trip is not advisable, unless you book an all inclusive vacation in the Caribbean. Determine when you want to go. If you want to save money, go during the off season, and be sure to find out when that may be. Summer and Christmas Holidays are usually the high season, so if you can, be sure to go during a different time. And if you have children, pull them out of school. They will learn a lot more by experiencing something new for a week than sitting in a classroom. If you can only travel during the peak season, be sure to book your flights and accommodations in advance. The closer you get to your travel date, the more expensive it can be.

Tip #3: Decide if you want to travel with a group or on your own terms

Although I never use an agent, some agencies can provide discount vacations if you travel with a group. Be sure to see if you can find a good deal on your own and do a cost-benefit analysis to see if the trip is worth it.

Tip #4:  Quit your bad habits

By now you should have a good idea on how much it is all going to cost and if you are not used to spending money on travel, you are more than likely experiencing anxiety and thinking  “I don’t have that kind of money!?!?” Well, you probably do. If you buy coffee instead of making your own, there is money wasted right there. If you buy lunch instead of packing it, that’s even more money wasted.  I am not saying don’t treat yourself, but what I am saying is that you need to take a look at your spending habits and do something about them if you intend to travel on a small budget. After all, a vacation is more than a treat. It is a memory you will have for the rest of your life.

Tip #5: Compare prices

I rarely book with a travel agent. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but I have always found cheaper deals booking online than with an agent. So before you book anything, shop around and see where you can get the best deal. A travel agent might be able to offer you a great deal on a flight or you might be able to find that same flight for a lower cost online, so be sure to do a price comparison.

Tip #6: Research accommodations

Gone are the days where you can only vacation at overpriced hotels. The introduction of hostels, AirBnB, couchsurfing, and house sitting are making travel more affordable and doable.  I personally am not a fan of hostels, and quite frankly, that kind of lifestyle of traveling never has and never will interest me. But there are many people who love it, especially solo travellers. I still do check prices of hostels vs. hotels and what I have found is that if you split the cost with one other person, you can find a decent hotel for less or the same price of a hostel. Just because it is a hostel doesn’t mean it is cheap! Please keep this mind. Shop around, check reviews, and book as soon as you can.

Tip #8: Avoid tourist traps

Believe it or not, this was free. Japanese people are cool like that!

The day has arrived for you to travel! You are so excited. But please be forewarned: don’t fall for tourist traps! Don’t buy souvenirs in popular tourist areas, and definitely not at the airport as prices here are often high. Don’t spend more than you budgeted for. Best thing to do is to bring enough money that you feel comfortable spending. This will help you have control of your spending.

Tip #9: Go grocery shopping

You can save  a lot of food by buying in local grocery stores. I know some of you are thinking  “that takes away from the culinary experience.” Umm…not quite. You can eat 2 meals by purchasing food from a grocery store, and one at a restaurant trying something new. Even in grocery stores you will find lots of new food you can’t find back home so go ahead and indulge. A lot of stores have hot meals as well, at the fraction of the cost of a restaurant. I always get my breakfast from a grocery store while on holidays.

Tip #10: Don’t do anything you can’t afford

Please don’t do this to yourself. If you can’t afford it, skip it. There is nothing worse than feeling guilty for spending money on something you can’t afford. It will take the fun out of everything, if not at the time, then it will definitely after you return home and get your credit card bills. My rule of thumb is if you can’t pay for it in full without being broke, then you don’t need it.

Tip #11: Make a budget

Radojko is the king of budgets! We saved so much in Korea by sticking to a budget.

An easy way to make a budget is to keep track of all of your spending in an Excel spreadsheet or a budget app on your phone for one month. And I mean all of your spending (write each item down individually and how much it cost)! Keep your receipts and keep track of how much you spend. Here you will be able to see where you are spending most of your money. By doing this, you will be able to see where you can cut some of your monthly spending, and to see how much money you have left over at the end of each month. The money you have leftover, determine how much you want to allocate to your dream vacation, and how much you want to keep for other savings. This will give you a good estimate on how long you need to save in order to go on your dream vacation.

Tip #12: Start saving early

I saved the most important tip for last. If you want to go on a dream vacation (or any vacation really), you should start saving early. By saving early, you will be able to afford a lot more than if deciding to go last minute. And be sure to actually save! Open up a savings account at your bank if need be, put that money aside and use it only for your vacation. Don’t dip into it to buy something else, like a new TV, otherwise you will never end up going on your dream vacation. That money is for your dream vacation, nothing else, and treat it as such (unless of course something happens and you need it, then spend it, but don’t spend it on material things).

You can go anywhere you want, as long as you learn how to budget and be frugal!

Dream vacations can be done on a budget. I have spent a week in NYC, LA, and Barcelona* (I was already in Europe and traveled from Belgrade to Barcelona, and that trip was for 2 people), all relatively expensive destinations, all for under $1000 Canadian (for each trip, including flights), while staying in hotels and seeing some of the top attractions, renting a car, going shopping, and enjoying the local cuisine. It may still seem like a lot of money, but when you add up all the money you spend on material things, you will see it is well worth it in the end.

Do you have any other tips you want to add? Be sure to share in the comments below!

Happy Travels!


4 thoughts on “How to Save for Your Dream Vacation”

  1. Useful info and tips. I have just read your post about travelling pregnant and I thought no one should travel to Bucharest while expecting a baby without insurance, of course. And this is a must, though hospitals are alright here and it is not so expensive as in the Western Europe. Still, you need it. And as for travel tips, the best thing to do when coming in Bucharest, or other Eastern European cities is to be sure you have cash. It is very important, you need it for taxi, for bus tickets, for subway tickets and so on. Cards are not so popular here in Romania, at least. Or not yet. Cheers!

  2. Hi Jim! I agree with you on bringing cash. A lot of countries still prefer receiving cash payments. While I was in Japan I was surprised to find how many establishments didn't accept card payments (I was surprised because they are so technologically advanced in other aspects). Serbia is the same thing.

    Travel insurance is a must must must. Sometimes places my charge more because you are not a local. Sure health care is cheap in some places but not worth the hassle.

    Thanks for reading! 🙂

  3. Completely agree with your tips specially of accommodation and flight booking, brokers make lot of money through it. some times they can trap you by saying that your passport have issues specifically passport photos etc.

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