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10 Tips to Save Money & Realize your Travel Goal

10 Tips to Save Money & Realize your Travel Goal

by Ray Chong
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My lovely Calculated Traveller Editor Mary (AKA my better half) asked me to share some of our tips that we use to save money for our annual travel budget plan and I’m happy to oblige.

A means to an end…These tips have served as a successful roadmap for us, but like all maps you need to decide which route best guides your travel budget.

To those who have ever asked, “It must be nice to have the money to travel?” the answer may be found in some of these suggestions.

“It must be nice to have the money to travel?”

Try to be realistic with your budget and be mindful that there will be some sacrifices and lifestyle changes in all types of financial decisions. “NO PAIN NO GAIN”… It all depends on what’s important to you and what you are trying to accomplish. Try to create an achievable plan, figure out a budget, and stay inspired, motivated and committed to the goal.

I can still vividly remember the frigid response from my better half when I suggested that we cut back on the annual expensive birthday dinner celebrations. Her answer was “No Way” and something about not loving her anymore. Really? Really? Of course, I said this in silence and instead tried to approach this suggestion with wisdom and courage.

My response was to highlight that with all of the money we saved, imagine celebrating our birthdays on a week-long sunny Caribbean Cruise! Well, after 25+ cruises, all I hear from our lovely editor now is how she is looking forward to eating her favourite lamb dishes for seven days. Can you picture a petite Asian woman salivating (actually it’s more like a Walking Dead zombie) over grilled lamb chops, braised lamb shank, saucy lamb curry, lamb kabob and mostly anything with lamb? At the end of the cruise, she can be heard happily singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb”! Hee, Hee.

Enough about us. Just picture yourself learning about the various cultures in Asia or Europe, spoiling yourself on a cruise liner on one of the many oceans or just chilling with Bob Marley on a white sandy beach. The escape to a warm destination may be calling loudly due to the early winter weather this year.

Trunk Bay St Thomas - Our successful roadmap of 10 tips to save money for travel but like all maps you need to decide which route best guides YOUR travel budget.
Trunk Bay, St Thomas

10 Tips to Save Money & Realize your Travel Goal

Start with a Plan

Set the Goal
If this is your first time budgeting to save money, don’t set out to save enough for a trip around the world! Set a small goal; make it something tangible like an airline ticket and you’ll find it easier to achieve.

Create a Separate Travel Fund
Either open a separate savings account or get a jar/container and keep your travel fund separate from your regular account. You need to be able to add to it and see it grow but not be able to touch any of it.

Stay Inspired
Find photos of your destination and post them around the house. Create a screen saver for your computer and cell phone. Most importantly, put a small photo in your wallet so that each time you open it to pay for something – it will make you think twice whether you truly need the item.

Tip 1 – Keep a Change Jar

Sometimes, it’s easier to save money when you don’t realise you are saving. I routinely, empty my pockets of change after each day into a huge jar. Sure, it’s only a dollar or two, but it will quickly add up to hundreds of dollars by the end of the year. This only works if you DON’T dip into the jar at a later time.

Tip 2 – Pack Lunch

I know some people who buy lunch every day! Even a cheap slice of pizza and drink will set you back about $5. But, after one week those meals will add up to $25 and after one year that will add up to $1,300. Now, be honest, I’m sure you are spending more than $5/lunch, so really the savings here would add up even faster if you religiously dedicate yourself to brown bagging your lunch.

Read our article here with tips on what to pack and how to eat/drink while on the road.

Bonus Pro Travel Tip: Bringing a homemade lunch is healthier too!

Tip 3 – Use a Water bottle

This one is easy, and healthier for you and the environment. Cut out the extra sodas and coffees throughout the day and drink water out of your refillable water bottle!

If you really must buy your water, buy a case of 24 and keep some at the office or in your car versus buying the bottles individually. 1 case of 24 bottles of water costs about $4 compared to 1 bottle of water at $1.50.

save money

Tip 4 – Avoid Fancy Coffees/Drinks

Coffee shops appear on every corner of the street, and they taste so good, but the cost of those fancy frappuccinos and mochaccinos can quickly add up. Cut them out of your weekly repertoire and you will be saving about $5, as well as the calories. If you really must have that special coffee skip your usual biscotti (save $3) and take advantage of the free whip cream and chocolate sprinkles instead. Each time you have a craving – imagine yourself sitting at a café in Venice having a real cappuccino instead.

Tip 5 – Skip Movie Night

I love the movies. Whenever a new film comes out, I have to rush out to see it. But one adult movie ticket will run you about $13. I’m not suggesting you become a hermit, but there are a few options to help you save.

  • Save the splurge for movies with special effects and wait for the DVD to come out for movies that don’t need to be seen on the big screen.
  • Belong to CAA/AAA or other membership clubs or know someone who does? CAA members can purchase adult movie tickets for $8.50 each. These are good for any movie at any time.
  • Check to see if there are discounts for matinees or specific days of the week.
  • Don’t buy popcorn, pop, and candy from the concession stand. It’s only 3 hours – I think you can survive the lack of snacks if the savings add up to a beach vacation instead.

Here are a few of my favourite food and travel shows that inspire me.

Tip 6 – Celebration Dinners

I know couples that think nothing about spending $250 for a romantic dinner out for their anniversary or birthday. It’s a special occasion, right? Add that up and 2 birthdays + 1 anniversary later = $750. Then, of course, there are the gifts and flowers on top of that!

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t celebrate. Sometimes a single red rose given during a modest picnic, walk in a garden, or moonlight stroll says more than a dozen red roses and expensive dinner. Especially if you know that the real gift of a 1-week cruise in the Caribbean is the ultimate gift to come.

Tip 7 – Cancel Newspapers and Magazines Subscriptions

I subscribe to a few magazines and the daily newspaper…I like to read but when you think that almost everything is available on the Internet these days. Cancel your printed subscriptions. If you love to read print, visit your local library, the chances are high that the magazine will be there.

Tip 8 – Cell Phone/Data

This tactic may be difficult to change if you are in a locked-in plan. But you may be paying for more data than you require when Wi-Fi is easily available for free. Also, it could be refreshing to take a break from social media and decrease the use of your cell phone.

Tip 9 – Shop Wisely

Every weekend we check the grocery flyers to see which store has the most items that we need for our basic food list then we plan our weekly meals based on what’s on sale. We also regularly use coupons and price match.

When it comes to clothing, we buy quality items in classic styles only when they are on sale. No expensive spur of the moment purchases!

Tip 10 – Cut Back on Your Alcohol

I saved this one for the end because some of you may be angry but drinking alcohol at a restaurant or bar adds up fairly quickly. The markup on drink purchases is enormous, and there are significant savings if you just drink at home instead or limit the number of alcoholic drinks you order when out.

Bonus Pro Travel Tip: There is no risk of drinking and driving because you are already at home.

10 Tips to Save Money for Your Next Trip

It takes baby steps, and you will soon realise how easy it is to save money year after year for travel. We have been fortunate with our travel budgets and grateful for our memorable travel adventures and wish the same for your travel plans in the New Year.

My final thought to share with you is to say this phrase again – “It must be nice to have the money to travel!” – But this time you can make this statement with an exclamation mark and not a question mark!

Have you got any great tips to save money?

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Lynn A Girard June 23, 2015 - 12:54 pm

What a great article! My husband & I are saving up for a round the world trip. It’s hard to save money but when the motivation is there, it can be really fun & almost makes us somewhat competitive to see just how much we can save.

Mary Chong July 10, 2015 - 4:14 pm

Yes I love the idea of a competition especially when its something like a round the world trip as the prize! Good for you and good luck!

Alan November 24, 2014 - 3:08 pm

Great tips.
Saving a lot of money !!!
Getting ready for another cruise !!!


Miranda Farley April 28, 2014 - 9:14 am

Great blog with full of useful information for a traveler like me. It is advisable to have a travel plan on budget so to make the most out of the travel without spending much. And I strongly agree with tip #10 to cut back on alcohol. Instead of spending on alcohol it is wise to just save the money for the next travel destination.

Jennifer March 11, 2014 - 8:31 pm

I sure do save a lot of money now that I work from home and don’t stop at a Starbucks on the way to work every day.

Matthew Fine February 7, 2014 - 1:13 pm

Great list! I’ve had a coin jar for the last three years that has been designated my travel fund. And I couldn’t agree more about not going for expensive and coffee and drinks, I made that fatal mistake and could only scratch my head as to why my funds where dwindling

Frank January 30, 2014 - 1:35 am

Good tips, we’ve been watching our cash with long term travels in the horizon. Amazing how costs add up, especially food and alcohol. It’s so tempting sometimes to order in Indian food on a Saturday night but I’ve calculated the $50 or so spent on that alone can instead pay for a full weekend’s grocery bill, ie 6 meals. So we try to lay off the ordering in. We buy cartons of 3L wine instead of by the bottle and have reduced the monthly bill by a third. You’re bang on though about cell phone plans – Americans may not know this, but we get screwed big time here in Canada because of lack of competition.
Frank (bbqboy)

Nicole @ Caribbean Travel Blog January 28, 2014 - 5:08 pm

Amazing tips! This is exactly the type of post when we were saving for our long term travels! I am sure this is going to help people see their dreams of travel come true :)

Dan @ A Cruising Couple January 27, 2014 - 2:49 pm

Great tips! So many people want to find a way to travel more but aren’t willing to stay committed when it comes to sacrificing things. Love the idea of having a picture of your destination in your wallet! Brilliant :-)

Justyna | OnePennyTrip.com January 17, 2014 - 3:57 pm

What also works is having an Excel sheet with your expenses. After some time you can clearly see where your money goes! I started doing this some time ago and can already say where I spend too much but don’t really need to.

Ray January 18, 2014 - 11:02 pm

Great tip Justyna! Thanks for sharing it…

24/7 in France January 16, 2014 - 5:39 am

Wonderful tips – there are so many small expenses that really add up without realizing it.

Ray January 17, 2014 - 2:18 pm

As I always say – every little bit helps…Thanks for stopping by.

Brian Luckhurst from Home Exchange 50plus January 16, 2014 - 5:11 am

One great way to save money when travelling is to swap homes where you can, why pay to stay in a hotel or rent somewhere when you can stay for free? Home Exchange though is not just about the huge savings that can be made but the experiences gained by living like a local and the friendships made.

Enjoy your travels.



Andrea January 15, 2014 - 3:39 pm

Really great tips! Love your writing, I honestly laughed out loud.

Ray January 18, 2014 - 11:04 pm

Appreciate you saying that Andrea… Thanks!

Suzanne January 13, 2014 - 10:02 pm

Great tips! I always get that question too and when I explain the small sacrifices everyone says it’s too much! I’ve had a change water cooler bottle and when 1/4 full I had over $800 -that bought a new camera, coat, hiking boots and trip spending money.
I’ve cut down on the cable bill and use my credit card for everything to earn air/hotel points to save costs. I’ve always made travel a priority with a separate travel fund. The only thing I’m bad at is shopping – a girl needs her shoes!

Ray January 14, 2014 - 7:36 am

The change tip is an easy one for me too – it accumulates so quickly that way don’t you think? Credit card too is an easy way to earn travel points as well as free goods because if you have to spend you might as well get a bonus out of it – great idea Suzanne. Thanks for sharing!

Myra W January 13, 2014 - 5:39 pm

Thanks Ray! Great tips!
I was one of those buy lunch every day people – probably spent my retirement fund. Now that I brown bag – I really see the difference. Of course I still have bad habits…….

The other great tip in here is taking advantage of your memberships – specifically CAA. I have one, but rarely take advantage of the fringe benefits as I got it for auto emergencies! I will be checking out their web site in more detail.

Awesome article!

Mary Chong January 13, 2014 - 5:43 pm

Thanks for coming by Myra! Good idea to check on the fringe benefits of ALL your memberships. i.e Costco also has movie combo tickets and dinner gift cards that are less than what you would pay for regularly.

Lily La January 13, 2014 - 8:14 am

I feel like I’ve been following these tips all my life! Especially any eating out – I used to work in Central London for 5 years, and boy is it expensive to eat out for lunch. Packing a lunch everyday saved me so much!

Ray January 13, 2014 - 10:02 am

Thanks for dropping by Lily. I found that brown bagging It stops me from choosing unhealthy meals and the money saved really adds up fast. Tough part is to not blow the entire weeks savings on the weekend!

MickiK January 12, 2014 - 11:33 pm

Carrying a water bottle is such a great tip! I find that I’m pretty good at keeping my food budget in check, but drinks really add up. It also has the bonus of keeping me hydrated, and helping keep me from drinking too many calories ;)

Ray January 13, 2014 - 10:06 am

Calories in drinks are crazy, just ask Mary. We were on a cruise once and Mary was drinking pop, virgin daiquiris, margaritias and smoothies all week not realizing that they are full of sugar…She was not a happy traveller afterwards.

Vanessa January 12, 2014 - 9:53 pm

LOVE these tips! I made two New Years resolutions this year. One was to get my act together and finally start using our dozen plus travel coffee mugs – both to take drinks from home and to save a few coins at the coffee shop. Good for my wallet, good for the environment. The other is to use the public library more. As an avid reader I should be doing better on this! Again, good for the pocketbook, but also good for the library as it’s encouraged me to donate more books.

I hate when people say “must be nice…” Travel isn’t about having a ton of money or living in the lap of luxury. There are tons of ways to save money to travel that are small, painless, and don’t impact your enjoyment of everyday life. And there are lots of different trips that cost very very little money, from camping to houseswaps to roadtrips.

Ray January 12, 2014 - 10:27 pm

Thanks Vanessa!

I agree with you, camping is another inexpensive way to enjoy travelling. There is a gorgeous campground on the beach of St John’s island in St Thomas, USVI in the Caribbean….you should check out.

Megan January 12, 2014 - 9:34 pm

Great tips, the hardest for me is cutting back on going out to eat and drink. I splurg on yummy farmer market food instead now and make new recipes. Only the occasional dinner out for me.

Ray January 12, 2014 - 10:29 pm

Thanks Megan. Food is a tough one for us too because we love trying new cuisines! But every little bit saved adds up…

Deia @ Nomad Wallet January 12, 2014 - 7:01 pm

All great tips! It’s all about looking at the finish line and making sacrifices. I save on housing and transport mainly, which are huge expenses. My little indulgence is going out for movies and eating out, but I limit it to once or twice a week and cook most days. We pack lunches, use water bottles and avoid fancy drinks. Drinking (free!) water when eating out can save a lot of money over time and it’s healthier too!

Ray January 13, 2014 - 10:11 am

Thanks for your comment Dela. It most definitely is the finish line that you have to keep an eye on. Housing and transportation are big items that you can have huge savings with but sometimes those things aren’t easy for people to scale back on. Good for you for being able to do it.

wandering educators January 11, 2014 - 11:19 pm

Excellent tips! It kills me to buy coffee out – I always think of what it could buy, when we travel!

Ray January 11, 2014 - 11:32 pm

It kills me too. If I’m going to go buy coffee out – I’d rather it were a coffee in Paris or Rome versus in my own home town. Thanks so much for your comment and for agreeing with me!


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