How To Save Up For An Extended Trip – Part 1

Posted on October 15, 2012


Enough for a flight to Bangkok?

“6 months in Asia? Heck no, I could never afford that!” Had you asked me a year ago, that’s exactly what I would have said, as would most people. Travel is often viewed as expensive and out of reach, especially for people with low-income. While you do need a fund sufficient enough to support you on your travels, it doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think. This year I spent the summer backpacking through Andalusia, went for a romantic weekend in Barcelona, hopped over to London for a short city break and spent a week at a resort in Egypt. I just booked a flight to South East Asia, where I’ll be spending 16 weeks in the beginning of 2013. As a musician (and until recently; student), my income right now is around €1000 a month, with the occasional extra here and there. For Dutch standards, this is below average. So how did I manage to afford all this? How on earth did I get the money?!

I made travel a priority.

I decided that if this is what I want to do with my life, this is what I should be spending my money on. By making travel a life priority, I could now start planning my strategy to get to where I want to be. Of course this required some sacrifice. Saving up is always a challenge, especially when you don’t have a lot to spare to begin with. But the thought of riding an elephant through the jungle or getting a foot massage on the beach as a reward makes it a lot easier, right? Set a clear goal and visualize yourself reaching it. Where would you most like to go? Do you see yourself on a beach in Thailand, hunting for spices on a Moroccan souk or eating steak in Argentina? If you know where you want to go, you know what you’re working towards and that makes the process more bearable.

Try to change your mindset; find out the cost of living in the destination you most want to go to and start comparing your life here to it. You could have lunch outside your door… or you could spend another day in Laos. You could buy a cup of coffee on the way to work… or have an entire meal at a street stall in Thailand. Keep this in mind the next time you’re contemplating a purchase that isn’t absolutely necessary.

So now that we know what we’re doing it for, where do we start? I’m covering this in 2 separate posts, this being part 1. I’ll show you exactly how I saved up for all of my trips and how you can do the same.

First,  you need to get some insight into your finances.

Getting insight into your situation and your spending habits is crucial when you’re trying to save up for an extended trip. It’s important to be aware of how much you’re spending and what you’re spending it on before you can start making your plan. Start by figuring out exactly how much money you’ll have left after covering all your fixed costs such as rent, utilities and insurance. What do you spend it on? Keep track of your expenses by writing all of them down. Yes, even the little purchases such as a cup of coffee on the go. In fact, it’s often these kind of purchases that eat away a big part of your budget without you even being aware of it. I used a notebook to make a spending diary, but you can also download an app such as Golden Money Lite or MoneyLover, which are free.

After you’ve gained some insight into your spending habits, you’re ready make a plan and cut out the unnecessary costs.


I started out by setting a budget for myself. I would allow myself €60 every week, half of which goes into the grocery fund I share with my flatmate. By putting this money on a separate account and using only that one, I made sure I wouldn’t overspend.


For the past few months I’ve de-clutterd my house, getting rid of stuff I don’t actually need. Turns out I have a lot of stuff! Selling my books, DVD’s and even clothes felt surprisingly freeing and so far I haven’t missed a single item. By simply selling a couple of books alone I had already earned an extra €30 in less than a month. That’s another day spent in Burma!


…but I’m not selling these!

Like any other girl, I loved to shop and I could always find an excuse for it. Notice how I said loved and not love? When I looked at my spending habits I came to the conclusion that I was allowing myself too many of these little moments. I realized I’d prefer an experience over a material thing any time and stopped doing it. After a while I didn’t miss it anymore. When you learn to live without luxury, you’ll realize you don’t actually need them at all. I still twitch on a rare occasion when I see an amazing pair of jeans, but I figure I’ll just make up for it in Bangkok.


I’ll admit, it took me a long time before I gave into this one. For years I used to smoke about 3 to 4 packs a week which set me back about €70 every month. When I quit, I put all the money I normally would have spent on cigarettes on my savings account. Within a year I had saved €840, which is almost the entire amount I spent during my backpacking trip in Spain. Oh, did I mention I felt healthier and looked better too?


What do you do to save up for travel? How do you prepare?

Posted in: Travel Tips