Realize Your Travel Dreams – How to Afford It

This is the first edition of 2 part series brought to you by Marthe of the Mausumi blog.  Here she provides some excellent advice about how to afford to travel to places you’ve always dreamed of seeing.  I’m pretty excited about these posts because it dispels the myth that you need to be rich and have lots of free time in order to see exotic, cool places.  Marthe explains how traveling is a lot more feasible than you probably think…

At 23, I have already traveled more than most people I know. When people hear about my adventures, I get the impression that a lot of people dream of traveling, but still don’t. The excuses such as “I don’t have time” or “I can’t afford it” are frequent.

While this may be true for them, in my opinion it is still excuses. If you really want to go (and not just like the idea of traveling), you should stop see hindrances and start see solutions. If you feel that you can’t afford to realize your travel dream, here are some tips for you:

1.  Record your dreams

You probably have an idea of where you want to go. Or maybe, like me, you want to go everywhere. Either way, I recommend recording whenever you discover a new place to travel. Did you read about a village in Italy? Or maybe your friend went to this awesome beach in Malaysia?

Write it down, and maybe you’ll find yourself going to these very places one day! The purpose of this is to help you figure out where you want to go first if you don’t have any strong preferences. If you are planning a journey to a place you passionately want to visit, it will be a lot easier to sacrifice what you need to get there.

2.  Narrow it down

Make a list of your top five destinations for the upcoming trip. The reason why I recommend including not only your top destination is that you should consider more than just where you want to go. Seasons, political turmoil, visas and costs are among the things you need to factor in.

You don’t want to be set on only one destination in case something happens that makes it less ideal to go there.

3.  Go for the shoulder season

Shoulder season is the ideal time to visit any tourist destination. At this time, the weather is usually good, but the hordes of tourists have either not invaded yet, or they have already left. The hotel prices are usually lower, and flight prices too. Usually it is even cheaper during low season, but there’s usually a reason for it (bad or unpredictable weather).

Think about the reason why you are travelling when you are making this decision. Do you need to travel at a certain time? Or are you comfortable with a little rain? Look at the different destinations you lined up in the previous point and have a look at this overview of the shoulder seasons.

4.  Decide where to go

At this point, you just have to make a decision. Keep in mind hotel and flight prices, possible activities you want to endure, look at seasons and cultures. Most of all, I recommend following your heart. If you are really passionate about going, chances are both your preparations and the journey itself will be the best they can be.

5.  Find your comfort level

Do you want to stay at hostels, or do you require a comfortable bed? Are you going to travel in economy or first class? Think about how you are going to pay for your trip. Is it really worth going for just a few days in order to sleep more comfortable? Do you want to put in enough extra work before you go to afford first class tickets?

I really recommend letting your comfort zone drop as low as possible. In my opinion great experiences can never be traded for comfort. Keep in mind that it is a little easer to say now that you’ll be ok with a 12-bed dorm. When you get there, you might feel differently.

6.  Estimate the costs

There are so many great tutorials on how to find low price flight tickets, so I’m not going to cover that here. All I ask is that you do a quick estimate of the costs, where you factor in flight tickets, transport, accommodation and food. Can you somehow manage to pull it off?

All my estimates for my previous trips have scared me a lot and nearly put me off the whole idea. Don’t let this happen to you! I have managed to save up for all the trips even though I didn’t think I could manage.

7.  Factor in activities

Keep in mind that a lot of the experiences on your trip are not free. Museum tickets, diving lessons, cooking classes or safari trips – you don’t want to miss the great experiences when you get there just because you can’t afford it. It is so easy to forget about this, but the expenses really add up.

8.  Decide how long

This is the point where you might reconsider how long you initially wanted to go. Can you cut back a couple of days in order to make the journey possible? Or maybe you find that you’ll be able to stay longer?

It is all up to your economy and the type of experience you are after. In my opinion, I would rather stay longer and cut the expenses to a bare minimum, as the plane tickets are always the most expensive cost.

9.  Optional: Find a travel buddy

Sometimes, it is easier, cheaper and safer to travel with a buddy. You’ll save on hotel rooms and taxis, and you’ll have someone depending on you to go through with it all. Just keep in mind that you don’t want to have to depend on a friend to make your dreams come true. If your friend ends up not going, are you staying home too?

10. Book flights

This is the most important piece of advice that I’ll ever give you. Dive in with your eyes closed. Just do it. If you can’t afford to buy the tickets right here and now, use a credit card. Stop making excuses. If you really want to go on this journey, it is absolutely vital that you stop procrastinating and book your tickets right here and now.

Once the tickets are booked, there is no going back. Everything will be so much easier from now on. Now you just don’t want to save money, you have to save money. You’re going!

11. Eat in

Now that you have to save up for the forthcoming trip, there are thousands of online resources on how to save money and live frugally. I suggest starting with a simple rule; eat in. Not just cook your own dinners, but pack your own lunch too. You can save a lot just in a couple of weeks if you think critically on how you manage your food budget. Start today!

12. Have a picture in your wallet

As an impulse buyer, this little tip is something I have figured out for myself. Since I’m going to India this December, I have printed a photo of the Taj Mahal. It is about the size of my credit card and I have laminated it and put it in my wallet in front of my credit card.

So every time I attempt to take out my card, I see the Taj Mahal in front of me saying: “Do you really need to buy this? Or do you want to go to India?” And it actually works!

13. Think of shopping in terms of trip cost

Another little way I trick myself into realizing that spending money before I travel actually means spending less when I get there: look at all costs in terms of total trip cost. For example, my forthcoming India trip is going to cost me about 3000 USD.

Right now I’ve got my eyes on an Amazon Kindle. The kindle costs 260 USD (+ tax for me). That is actually 8,6% of the whole trip I’m going on. Which roughly means that if I don’t buy the Kindle I can actually stay longer, sleep more comfortably or experience something I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Suddenly I don’t want that Kindle just as much, since traveling is my true passion. Get the deal?

14.  Try a zero-spending month

It is actually possible to survive with only small amounts of money for a short period of time. Do you really need anything else than food? Could you be able to live on cheap food and nothing else for a month? It will be boring, I promise you, but you’ll also save a lot of money to use for traveling. I imagine you will also learn a lot about living frugally and maybe get a new relationship with money. Isn’t it worth a try?

15. Read up to shorten the wait

To make sure you keep the momentum going after the initial kick start of booking the flights, keep reading about the place you’re going. If you think it is too soon to start reading guidebooks (I usually start seriously researching the place I’m going to about three weeks in advance), try reading fiction, watching movies and cooking food from the place you’re going to.

This will help you keep the forthcoming journey in mind, and it will make it easier to save up. The longer you can manage to keep the momentum going, the easier it will be to save. Nothing comes without sacrifices.

16. Go through your gear

When your trip is coming closer, it is time to examine your gear. This will also help you stay excited about going. Just remember that the purpose of this is not to spend a lot on fancy gear. You almost never need everything you think you do. Since you are probably excited about your trip, it is so easy to go to the travel store and buy lots of interesting new gadgets. Please don’t.

You don’t want your journey ruined by carrying too much, and you don’t want to spend all your money before you get there. Instead, try to figure out new ways to use what you already have, borrow from friends and family and leave all the items you think you might need at home. Preparing for your trip will then help you afford to go, not the opposite.

17. Start a travel blog and tell everyone

I really recommend recording your journey in some way or the other. If blogging is not your thing, try to keep a personal journal. Or maybe start a project where you send one postcard home each day. Either way, tell all your friends where and when you are going. It will be easier to save money when your friends know you are living on a budget, and your friends might help you too. Sharing your excitement will not only make it better, you will also feel more obligated to save up and go.

Keep in mind that all these tips are subjective and based on my own experience. If this doesn’t work for you, do something else that works! The important part is to stop dreaming and start doing. The world is at your feet.

Steve’s Note: As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this is the first part.  Next Thursday, Marthe will explain how to find the time to travel.  Also be sure to check out her Mausumi blog for information about her world travels, love for photography, and personal development advice.

Take Action. Get Results.

10 thoughts on “Realize Your Travel Dreams – How to Afford It”

  1. I love these tips, Marthe!

    Traveling is definitely something that I will be doing a lot more of in my future. I’ve done a major trip to Rome and Paris last September and want to hit the road soon. I have so many places that I want to see and travel to. I’m almost debt-free, so now’s the time to start saving for all the places that I want to go. I have really cut down on my spending and getting rid of my stuff. I think it’s excellent advice to find a travel buddy to cut down on costs and to have company during your travels.

    Thanks for sharing these tips,
    .-= Karen´s last blog ..Happy Canada Day- =-.

    • Thank you!

      How great that you have paid off your debt! That must be such a newfound feeling of freedom and you should definitely enjoy it to the fullest!

      How did you find Rome? I went there for an impulse trip with my sister two weeks ago, and I really loved it. So many beautiful buildings and great food! 🙂
      .-= Marthe´s last blog ..Never let me go =-.

  2. Tips 12 & 13 are tricks I have been using since I was a teenager! They really do work. For those who use ING, another great tip is to create a sub-savings account called “Trip Fund”. Whenever you save money somehow (an unexpected discount, bargain shopping, avoiding an expense), immediately add that money to the Trip Fund account and pretend that you didn’t receive those savings in the first place. This method of saving doesn’t strain your budget and prevents you from thinking: “Oh, since I saved $20 today, I can splurge tomorrow.” Since the money is already tucked away in your Travel Fund, you won’t splurge on something else.

    Great post! Excited for the second one.
    .-= Jon G´s last blog ..Summarizing the Latest in Clinical Nutrition 2009-2010 =-.

    • That is a great tip, Jon!
      I’m definitely applying this in the future! I must admit that I’m guilty of thinking that unexpected money = splurge money… 😉 Having a separate account (throw away the key) is so much easier too. 🙂
      .-= Marthe´s last blog ..Never let me go =-.

  3. Nice tips Marthe. One of the places that I want to visit, but haven’t yet is Istanbul. I will apply some of the tips you have mentioned here. Thanks for sharing
    .-= Dia´s last blog ..How to become lucky =-.

  4. Marthe,

    Guess what? I’ve been putting away an international trip for almost 2 years now. Something or the other keeps coming up, and if there’s nothing, there’s my job. I think your tip #10 gets my vote. With the dates fixed and tickets in hand, I see very little room for turning back.

    Thanks for the post, and looking forward to the second part.

    .-= Mark of Success´s last blog ..Announcing the “Challenges -amp Experiments” Series =-.

  5. Marthe-

    Thanks again for this post… It really is filled with some excellent tips that readers can use to realize some of their travel dreams. I’m sure they’re going love the follow-up post that will come out next Thursday.

  6. Great travel advice. I usually put together a spreadsheet of options so that I can figure out how much it will cost me and so we know how much to set aside for shopping and activities 🙂

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