Home » Want to travel the world? These money-saving tips should come in handy

Want to travel the world? These money-saving tips should come in handy

written by Jen Welch April 26, 2018
Peru Machu Picchu

So, you want to travel the world. You want to burst your bubble, meet new people, experience a completely different world to your own. You want to drink from a coconut, reach new heights trekking among the clouds, dance the night away in a salsa bar, talk till the sun comes up with someone you met just a few hours before.

But you can’t afford it.

And you have no idea how you ever could.

Let me help… I’ve been saving for travel since I was 16 years old. I’ve hiked to Machu Picchu, lazed on beaches in Zanzibar, tried cigars in Cuba and fallen in love with Colombia. I’ve had friends tell me I’m too tight with my money, laughing at me for eating the same curry day in day out for months. But then I go away, and I’m enjoying the world, and they’re still at home spending as much on their Friday night out as I do on a week at a surf camp in Panama – accommodation, surf lessons, fresh lobster dinners and all. Legit.


Beautiful Panama

So read on, I did it, and so can you.

The needs vs. wants list

This is the first thing to do when you start your saving journey. For one week, write down every cent you spend. And what you spend it on. Then get some pretty highlighters (but don’t buy them, find them) and highlight which are NEEDS and which are WANTS. Then get brutal about those wants. Cross them out of your life. You have a different want now. You have beers on beaches, scuba diving courses, treks to Machu Picchu, trips to the Amazon, a whole smorgasbord of joy that will bring you more happiness than another jumper or new pairs of shoes. Trust me – memories beat mimosas. Sunsets beat sneakers. Every. Time.

(P.S. the needs vs. wants list also works wonders while packing.)


Redefine luxury

Take a look at your habits. In this world of fast fashion and consumerism, the world is telling you to spend spend spend, but instead of having a mindset where you buy a new outfit for each social occasion, go to charity shops or borrow from your friends. See the purchase of new clothing or a new pair of shoes as a luxury, not a norm.

Udaipur India shopping

Would you rather shop back home… or in Udaipur, India?


The Butterfly Effect

Not only is this a classic Ashton Kutcher film, but also a key concept in the saving world. Small things add up – those daily coffees seem like small costs at the time (and they also feel so necessary!) but considerable savings can be made by eliminating many small costs.

Another simple but key area for the butterfly effect: food. Cook in bulk and take your lunch to work with you – it’s a huge money saver (and might also be healthier for you). Plan your week’s meals ahead of time and go into the supermarket with a shopping list, rather than selecting random items that may end up never being used. Which supermarket are you going to – is it the cheapest? Do you need the branded items? Sometimes cheaper versions of the same product taste just as good, just without a pretty label.

street food Mexico City

Supermarket food… or street food in Mexico City?

Banking and budgets

Here’s a simple but important one: move money into your Savings Account immediately after you’re paid. (If you don’t already have one, open a Savings Account!)

Once you’ve calculated how much money you’re going to need for your trip, set yourself monthly targets. It’s very satisfying watching your money grow, and it works better to plan these things instead of just moving some money now and then.

Another important one: have a weekly budget. And stick to it – be strict with yourself. I break my spending into weekly amounts, and then have a mental daily spend. If I know that I’m only allowed to spend $10 each day, I feel guilty when I go over it. Equally, if I spend less than $10 a day (which is possible with meal planning and home-brewed coffee), I can carry the extra over to the next day, and it feels good to have $14 to play with. Allow for your daily spend to be higher on weekends, otherwise you’ll disappoint yourself.


Keep your eyes on the prize

Galapagos Islands

The dreamy Galapagos Islands

I have a friend who was also saving for travel at the same time as me, and when I moaned about not spending money, or even about hating my job, he would say: “Keep your eyes on the prize”. Keep your dream destination in mind as you save.

When you’re looking at a gorgeous pair of jeans, or a jacket with a fluffy hood that feels so essential in the winter cold. Stop. Think. How much is this worth in your destination? This potential purchase could equate to the cost of a week’s street food in your destination, or the cost of one night’s accommodation in a European city, or 10 beers with new friends. More often than not, the material goods that tempt you at home make up a significant percentage of the money you’d spend on your travel experience, so put it back down, and visualize yourself in your destination.

Another top tip: set your phone background to a photo of your first stop. I stared at the white sand beaches of Isla Mujeres in Mexico for about six months, and imagining my toes in that sand got me through the grizzly English winter.



Do you take public transport? Have a car? Could you cycle instead? When I started cycling to work instead of taking public transport, I saved over $50 a week. And furthermore, it’s exercise, so alongside some running and YouTube yoga, I don’t have to pay for a gym membership. Two birds, one stone.

tuk tuk Sri Lanka

Driving to work… or riding a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka?


As well as redefining luxury, you might want to redefine fun. That’s not a subtle way to say you should be boring, but you can get creative with how you use your free time.

Here’s some examples: invite your friends over for a home-cooked meal and BYO booze instead of paying hiked up prices at a bar – you get to choose your own music at home, winning! Instead of going to the cinema, search through Netflix and make popcorn at home – listening to popcorn pop in the microwave is way more satisfying than paying $20 for a trip to the cinema anyway. If the weather is good, go chill in the park with a football, or in someone’s garden.

And you might need to recruit allies for this endeavor, because there will still be plenty of Facebook events tempting you to spend. But it’s still possible to participate and not go overboard. Have three glasses of wine instead of 10 (or enter more appropriate numbers – but ensure it’s a reduction). When forced, you realize that you don’t NEED (there’s that NEED/WANT mentality popping up again) to spend money to have fun.

And it’ll all be worth it in the end. There’s nothing more magical than saving up for, and then loving every second of your next adventure.

Saved up and ready to travel the world? Check out Intrepid’s top destinations in over 100 countries!

Feeling inspired?

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prasanjitpcb April 30, 2019 - 12:22 am

This is very useful information for a traveler like me. It’s true when you are going to travel for a vacation or an escapade, it’s really worthy to make your own research on things you need, compare prices and you will get to save a lot. As long as comfort and fun is not sacrificed, then I go for those with a lesser cost when traveling.

Travewaka March 6, 2019 - 10:06 am

I could agree more. Travelling requires lots of time and planning. If you plan for a trip it wouldn’t be expensive, Not planning for the trip is what makes it expensive

Ngaire Ackerley July 13, 2018 - 5:50 am

Totally agree with this. I feel like I’ve travelled the world by doing so many of these things. Even today I still find I’m less materialistic just so I can spend on experiences and things that matter. I still bulk cook and consider how important the ‘wants’ are. Pot luck dinners with friends is great too. Long term travel for me was daily budgets but also reminded myself ‘if I never return here would I want to spend money on this experience’ and usually I would because I was careful on other days. Have big hostel breakfasts and an early dinner instead of going out for every meal, lots of tweaks like that while travelling also makes experiences possible. Great post for travellers and wannabe travellers!

Joya April 26, 2018 - 6:55 pm

Thank you for the helpful information. I am very happy and grateful that you shared this with us. Thanks for sharing and please keep us informed with new information when possible.

Jules April 26, 2018 - 1:25 pm

Good advice! A few tips to add on/ endorse here:
1. Agreed! I have money go *directly* into my savings account on both pay days specifically for my pending trip. (I’ve direct deposit and use this option) I never touch this money. In fact, I don’t even think about it. You’ll never miss it, but you’ll be glad you have it on your journey.
2. I pay for my accommodations prior to travel- with “free cancellation” on all of them in case I divert on my itinerary- it’s a game changer to book way in advance. (My trips are planned up to 8 months in advance.) Some are pay when you get there, but the price is locked in.
3. Budget 101- can’t agree more! I only allow myself $50 a week for pocket change. In San Francisco that is no small feat. Just like the author of this article, I don’t frequent bars, coffee shops & I bring my lunch and snacks to work.
4. Budget 102- I track all my spending, marking pending bills on my g-calendar- showing how much I will have by pay day if only bills are paid. I don’t get extra cash out at the grocery store. Like ever.
5. Travel purchases for any pending trip are on the off season. I generally travel to warm climates, so I wait for summer items to go on sale.
6. My biggest pleasure at home expense are books on my reader. Still, I look for free books that have high ratings. Netflix and Amazon Prime is my friend. My popcorn is out of a jar and made on the stove! 🙂 Babbel is a free language app…
7. I’m a solo traveler in my 50’s. I believe in slow travel, never less than 3 days in a location, traveling a minimum of 3-4 weeks at time. I stay mostly in family run guest houses/hotels (pensiones). I like having my own room and bath, so this is my preference. They may not be elaborate, but they’re safe, usually super central and you meet other travelers. Apartments and home shares like the “air” place add on booking fees, cleaning fees and aren’t really any cheaper unless you are sharing. Do the math. Read reviews and look at the location. Look at how much it will cost you to see sites. Look for free museum days, student discounts hell, senior discounts!. Shop at local flea markets- can be really fun for that weird souvenir or gift.
8. I admit I fly business class. Most don’t have this luxury, but at my age, it’s one I allow myself. Norwegian offers great deals from some major US ports to Europe and soon to South America. Economy is pretty amazing value too. Shop around for the best flights – put an alert out on travel sites and get ready to plunge when one you like comes up.
9. Travel, Come Home, Start Planning All Over Again!
10. Happy Trails!

Rebecca Shapiro May 1, 2018 - 1:31 am

Incredible advice! Thanks for sharing 🙂

Patricia October 28, 2018 - 7:48 am

Everyone check out workaway and helpx, global online organizations that allow hosts and helpers to exchange accommodation and meals for help. No money is involved. I can afford to stay in Italy for two months as a workaway helper. I love it! I have lots of spare time to travel around Italy with a base in a wonderful city living with a friendly helpful Italian family. I have the opportunity to learn about the culture and receive advice from locals. Recently at home I was a host and had lots of foreign backpackers help me on my farm – all positive experiences.


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