Money for Travel – 3 Steps to Get You on the Road, Fast

Some people live paycheck to paycheck.  I live trip to trip.  

The world calls my name, and I love it.  Places I’ve never been, exotic places with unpronounceable names.  Water so clear you can see the shadow of the boat, rippling on the sand at the bottom of the sea.  An ancient walled castle, crumbling on a craggy hill.  Bustling cities flashing in the night and forested roads wandering deep into nowhere…I want them all.  I want to breathe the air, walk the paths, meet the people, and eat the food. 

Unfortunately, that all takes money.  And since I have a limited budget, getting money together for the next adventure is always on my mind. 

Here are 3 steps that keep me on the road.  Use them to fast track your next journey outward.

1.       Get real with your trip.

When your heart connects, your travel changes from being a vague “someday, somewhere” into being a real part of your actual future.  Suddenly this trip is urgent, pressing.  It’s part of what you need to be who you really are.  And it’s do-able!

So make it real.  Create a Pinterest page, develop a favorites folder, keep items of interest.  Think specifics.  What time of year would you want to go?  Rainy season or dry?  Any festivals you want to see?  How much of the language can you learn before you go?  Cover a poster board with pictures from the places that interest you, travel quotes that interest you.  Work on an itinerary, research any dangers.  Compare hotels, apartments and hostels.  Put a local news site on your toolbar. 

Immersion begins now.

2.       Get specific with money.

You need a realistic financial goal – not one that will leave you stranded or one that will scare you off. 

Every trip has three basic money requirements: getting there, staying there, and living there.  “Getting there” is usually the biggest expense, but even if you fly, you can often get better deals if you stay focused.  Try sites like Indi for good ideas on cheap airfares.

“Staying there” can be a huge expense, or it can be cheap, even free, depending on your choices.  Willing to live like a local, or work for your room?  You can do it.  You just have to do the research.  Google!

“Living there” is the cost of your daily life expenses, as you live somewhere else.  Eating is part of living there, along with drinks and admissions, tips and side trips.  Buses and rental cars are part of living there.  Explore local sources for in-country trips.  They’re more fun anyway!

3.       Make friends with your savings. 

It’s not “money I don’t get to spend.”  It’s “the trip I’m getting ready to take.”   Name every dollar you save.  The money you put in first, every month, directly from your paycheck –you could call that transportation money.  The money you make from overtime, or pick up from babysitting for your neighbor’s kid on a Saturday – that could be one night in the over-water bungalow.  When you stay home and eat cereal instead of going out with friends, and put the money into your account—that’s dinner on the beach. 

Make a spreadsheet, or better yet, get an actual ledger book, and put colored tabs on it.  Name your trip – “Malaysia for New Years”, for instance, or “Eastern Europe with Jack and Ellie”.  Keep track of your savings in your ledger.  When you enter an amount, add into one of your three basic categories – getting there, staying there and living there.  You may want to fill each equally, or finish one and start on the next—that’s my usual system.  Subdivide as you go.  

And give every goal a name.  Basic airfare – check.  Between country hops – check.  Hotel in Singapore – check.  Hostel in Bali – check.  Romantic dinner on the beach – check.  You get the idea.

Naming things helps you remember what matters.  You may want a new car.  You may want to go to Vegas with the wedding party.  Or out for mid-week dinner and drinks – every week.  And those are good things.  But you probably can’t do them all, and still go on that fabulous trip. 

You get to decide.  If it’s between dinner out or vague travel sometime, we’ll probably choose going out tonight.  But if it’s between dinner out tonight, and hitting my hotel goal if I put that $25 into my savings, I may very well decide to stay home and eat cereal!

Planning for your favorite things, learning about your new place, seeing your resources build – it’s an exciting part of the trip.  And before you know it, you’ll be off to live the adventure in a whole new place.