How to Save Money to Travel

by Brenna Holeman

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Krakow, Poland

I recently found out that there is a town in Poland called Brenna. That makes me extremely happy and also adds another location to my “must-see” list.Speaking of lists, I’ve had a few people email me or ask me about budgeting for travelling, so I thought I would share a few tips that I’ve learned from others or from my own experience on how to save money to travel (UPDATE: I have written an even more in-depth post about saving money to travel here). A lot of my travel in the past was funded by a really well-paying job I fell into, but I am currently scrimping and saving as much as possible. This list includes tips for budgeting BEFORE you leave on your trip, and includes the things I am currently exercising. So, in no particular order:

  1. Work abroad. So many countries offer working holiday visas and there are plenty of lucrative opportunities overseas. While working in Japan I was able to live the way I wanted to, save enough money to backpack for 6 months, AND afford trips to New Zealand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Brunei, The Philippines, and all over Japan. Getting started costs a bit of money, but once settled you can really turn a profit. I’ve heard that Japan, South Korea, and the Middle East are the best places for this.
  2. Set a goal for yourself. Don’t just say, “I’d like to save money to travel.” Set a specific monetary goal to work toward and keep track of your spending and saving. It sounds silly but it really makes a difference. Here’s another tip: make your goal a little bit higher than you actually want to spend. This will allow for any of those little problems that pop up when you’re abroad.
  3. Research as much as you can about where you want to go and when you want to go there; going to a place during high season is sometimes twice the price for hotels and flights. And as much as it hurts, sometimes I just have to be realistic with myself. There’s a reason I’m going back to Asia for six months and not South America: I can’t afford South America at the moment. In my experience Asia (minus Japan) and Eastern Europe have been the cheapest places to travel. Japan, North America, and Western Europe have been the most expensive. I read that with $1000 you can spend 80 days in India or 14 days in Japan.
  4. Create a mantra for yourself. Also completely silly, but it works. Mine at the moment is, “Will I need that in India?” One I also use a lot is, “But that could get me _____ nights at a hostel in Cambodia!” I think about this every time I want a gingerbread latte from Second Cup or a glossy home decorating magazine.
  5. Be a hermit. Well, not really, but it’s amazing how much money we spend when we leave the house. If possible, have friends and family over instead of going out for expensive dinners. Spending $100 on a Saturday night on the town could get you 5 days of travel (including accommodation and food).
  6. Live as cheaply as possible. Part of the reason why I am able to not spend a lot of money at the moment is because I am staying with my mum and I don’t own a car. I realize that moving home with your parents or selling your car might not be what you want to do (does anyone want to do that?), but living with roommates or using public transportation whenever possible are little ways to save.
  7. Use the internet. Wow, how original, right? But there are tons of deals to be found online regarding tours, flights, hotels, etc. I am currently obsessed with Air Asia, Asia’s equivalent of Easy Jet or Ryanair. I just found a flight from Kuala Lumpur to New Delhi for $48 Canadian dollars.
  8. Know when to splurge. I recommend buying a new backpack and new guidebooks (most are updated every two years or so, so a used one may have outdated information). Don’t worry about buying too many new clothes, though- you can often buy cheaper clothing at your destination (and it’s always cool to have an interesting response when someone asks you, “Where did you get that?”). I’m going to write another entry on what to pack soon.
  9. Don’t go crazy trying to save money. It’s going to take a long time (I saved for four years during university to travel Europe for six months). If you imagine your budgeting to be like a diet, well…allow yourself to have a slice of chocolate cake once in a while.

I hope that that list was a bit helpful for those who have written to me, but please email if you have any other questions or if you think I should add something else!

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Steph November 26, 2010 - 2:35 pm

That was so helpful, thanks! I am in my 3rd year of university and plan to do something similar to yourself after i graduate in 2012 so i’m after all the advice i can get!

Brenna November 26, 2010 - 5:51 pm

Oh, great, I’m glad it was helpful! I’m going to try and write more lists/advice such as this, but let me know if you want anything specific!

Allison November 28, 2010 - 12:52 pm

Just stumbled across your blog and wanted to let you know I love it. Can’t wait to read more!

Brenna November 29, 2010 - 5:15 am

Thanks Allison! I really appreciate it…

Alex T November 29, 2010 - 9:31 pm

I love you, you’re my idol. this the advice I was looking for, as simple and straight forward as it is! Thanks for writing it out!

Brenna December 1, 2010 - 5:18 am

I love you, too, Alex! xo

Steph December 1, 2010 - 2:36 pm

ah thats sounds good, cant wait to read them! Maybe some advice about getting work abroad?

Brenna December 1, 2010 - 10:36 pm

OK, I’ll add that one to the list!

kay* December 3, 2010 - 6:18 am

wonderful wonderful tips! many of them i use myself 🙂

& i think i’m about to become very acquainted with that air asia website! i’m moving to india in march for 1 year and hope to do some travel while i’m there – a flight for $48 to KL is unbelievable!

Brenna December 3, 2010 - 7:11 am

Thanks, Kay! I really recommend Air Asia for cheap flights. I once flew from KL to Colombo for only $80 return. Amazing.

p.s. love your blog…I’ve added you to my blog roll! Can’t wait to read more about your time in India…

lavietoni December 8, 2010 - 2:05 am

Thanks for this! I have always been tempted to email you a barrage of questions, mainly about budgeting and planning for travel. I’ve been thinking about it so much lately, hopefully I’ll have some time after graduating in the spring to do traveling.


This Battered Suitcase December 8, 2010 - 6:01 am

Oh, I’m glad it was a bit of help! Hopefully you’ll get to travel a lot in the spring…

Jessie July 13, 2011 - 3:07 am

I love all of this advice Brenna! I was wondering if you could do a post or possibly email me with some advice about luggage and packing? I’m currently shopping for a travel backpack and was wondering what you use. I’ve never had one before and I don’t know if a 45 gallon pack would be enough or if I should go with a 65 gallon. Or maybe you use something other than a travel backpack? Obviously I’m totally lost on the subject so any advice in this area would really help me out!!

This Battered Suitcase September 12, 2011 - 6:13 pm

Jessie – Sorry I am replying so late, I hope that you still get this!

I did a post on what I packed for my big trip to SE Asia here:

To be honest, though, I got rid of most of that stuff pretty quickly and bought lots of local clothing instead. I would recommend a 65L bag as it is always better to have extra room. My bag was 70L and I was amazed at how much I could stuff in there!

I’m going to do another post on packing soon…

Heather Schlote February 18, 2012 - 11:41 pm

Thanks for the tips! I enjoyed your blog. I’m excited to find a good mantra for myself, too!

This Battered Suitcase February 19, 2012 - 2:45 am

Thanks, Heather!

Juliette July 1, 2012 - 6:50 pm

Interesting and very wise tips! That’s exactly what i do 🙂
Do you know ?
If not, i’m sure you going to love it!

This Battered Suitcase July 4, 2012 - 8:34 pm

Thanks a lot, Juliette! Travelettes is a great website…

Miss Austen May 23, 2013 - 9:31 am

HI, what work did you do in Japan?
Thank you 🙂

This Battered Suitcase May 23, 2013 - 4:23 pm

I was a teacher and textbook-writer.

How to Save Money to Travel the World - This Battered Suitcase November 15, 2013 - 2:51 am

[…] I have written about this before, but I thought that I would combine tips for saving, how much you’ll really need, and how exactly I managed to afford my own travels. Please keep in mind that every person is different; these are just my own thoughts and opinions on the matter. I hope that you will find these tips useful not only for long-term, round-the-world travel, but for shorter trips as well. […]


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