How to Save Money for Travel (and Stay Sane!)

how to save money for travel
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When thinking about taking a vacation, long or short, the first thing that may come to mind is, “But how much is it going to cost?”  When I decided that I wanted to take a long solo trip (17-weeks to be exact!), I stressed about money until I was blue in the face.  Constantly wondering, how do I save money for travel and still stay sane?, I sat down and took a long, hard look at my expenses.  That’s when I realized that by making a few sacrifices, I could save a significant amount of money while still going out and having fun with friends.  If I can figure out how to save up for travel, you can too!


How to Save Money for Travel

Rainbow colored boats along the Scottish coastline


Give Yourself Time to Save

To save enough money for a vacation, especially a long vacation, you have to give yourself time to save money.  When I first decided that I was going to travel solo, my focus completely shifted.  For an entire year, I started to think differently about how I spent my money and how I saved it.  It took me an entire year of saving to finally take the leap to travel.

But, I wasn’t perfect.

In that year I messed up… a lot.  I bought shoes that were entirely too expensive, I paid for cabs when I easily could have walked.  Heck, I paid $12/day for parking at work when I could’ve taken the train for $2! But as time went on my savings account continued to grow.  I eventually kept repeating to myself, “Do you want to spend an extra week in Europe weaving through the quaint cobblestone streets and small alleyways?  Or do you want that pair of jeans that will be out of style in a few years?”


For how I decided to travel solo, read The 7 stages of Deciding to Travel Solo


Open a Separate “Travel” Account

Along with my checking account and my savings account, I also opened a third account.  My travel account.  If you’re wondering how to save for a vacation, this tip is key.  When I started hardcore saving, I took 10% from every single paycheck and put it into my “savings” account (just in case), then I would pay bills and whatever I had leftover before my next paycheck hit my account, I put that money into my “travel” account.  Some weeks the travel account grew quickly, and some weeks it grew slowly.  But I made it a point to never touch what was in there.


For a more detailed guide on how to save money, read How I Save Money to Travel and Build a Hefty “Travel Savings” Each Year


Prioritize Dining in Versus Dining Out

One of my very favorite ways to socialize with friends is by going out to eat.  This was the hardest thing for me to cut back on, but I didn’t completely cut it out because I realized that if I were going to be saving money, I still needed to stay sane.  I wanted to still live my life and enjoy it, and I’m sure you do too.  There is nothing I dislike more than reading an article on how to save money for a trip and the author writes, “I completely stopped going out to eat and I only bought rice and beans at the grocery store.”  Now, is that realistic?  For me, no.  But I worked on becoming more conscious about eating out and what I would order off of the menu.  Plus, I suggested going out to happy hour more frequently instead!

One way to justify going out to eat, is by using a credit card that earns you rewards that you can then turn around and use on travel.  My favorite travel rewards credit card is Chase Sapphire Reserve, which gives you 3 points for every $1 your spend out at a restaurant (so if your bill is $100, you’ll receive 300 points).  You can then turn around and use these points on hotels stays, airlines, or travel experiences.

Although the annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve is quite hefty, it makes up for it with a $300+ annual travel reimbursement, a complimentary Priority Pass for access to airport lounges, free car rental insurance, and more.


Cut Back on Your Beauty Routine

As a female who takes pride in how I look, I had to seriously reconsider what beauty routines I was continuing to keep up, and which ones I could do at home instead.  Instead of waxing my eyebrows, I started plucking them on my own.  Instead of getting manicures and pedicures, I bought nail polish and supplies to do my own nails at home.  And instead of getting my hair colored every 8-weeks, I spaced it out to every 12-weeks.  This saved me incredible amounts of money and if you’re someone who frequently gets pampered, perhaps sit down and write out how much that costs you each month.  Then decide what you’re willing to part with and slowly cut these routines out of your life.  But remember, this isn’t permanent.  It’s only temporary until you save for that dream trip you’re wanting to go on!

Tip:  I highly suggest tracking your spending habits.  The way I figure out how to save money is by making a spreadsheet and dividing it into different spending categories.  These categories include beauty, restaurants, groceries, utilities, etc.  I then go through my credit card statement each week to see where I’m spending the most money and try to figure out how to save in that particular category.


Be Conscious About Shopping

Again, part of saving money for me was doing it while all the while staying sane.  So I continued to buy clothes, but I started to buy clothes in a smarter way.  I began shopping at H&M, Nordstrom Rack, and Forever 21.  I put myself on email lists for websites when clothes go on sale and always search for promo codes before checking out online.  (You can do this by typing in:  “Promo code for X”).  But most importantly, I started to think long-term.  Before checking out I would ask myself, “Will that item of clothing benefit me on my trip?  Or will it sit and collect dust in my closet when I’m gone?”


The bottom line is that everyone’s journey is going to look different.  If you have the willpower to be super strict on yourself, you will probably save more money in a shorter amount of time!  And good for you!  If you’ll drive yourself crazy by not being a little bit flexible, then maybe you’ll be like me and cut back while not going cold turkey.  Whichever your choice, don’t be too hard on yourself.  By asking yourself how to save money for travel and reading this article, you’re already one step closer!


You’ve come this far!  Now, if you’re wondering how to pack for long term travel, make sure to read How to Pack for Long Term Travel


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Kylee is a NICU nurse passionate about making travel affordable and accessible to nurses. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee has been a NICU nurse for 9 years and a travel nurse for 7 years. Since starting her career in travel nursing, she’s worked in six different states, 10 different hospitals, volunteered as a nurse in North Macedonia, worked as a nurse in Saudi Arabia, and has traveled to 45+ countries. Her favorite travel nurse assignment was in Seattle and her favorite destination is Georgia (the country). Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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  1. Sandy Nelson
    October 15, 2018 / 8:35 pm

    Good for you!! That’s some serious sacrifice ??

  2. October 17, 2018 / 5:53 pm

    I’ve only ever had a facial once, it was pretty enjoyable until she started coming at me with what felt like several knifes as she went after my blackheads. Never again, hahahaha! I like all of your tips! When you really add all that stuff up you can see how much can be saved and used for travel.

    • October 17, 2018 / 9:27 pm

      Hahaha you seriously crack me up! But doesn’t your skin feel so good afterwards?! And yes, once I added it up I was a bit embarrassed! But thought, I can’t be the only one out there!

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