People often think that you need to have a lot of money in order to travel, but that’s not actually true.  The key is how you choose to spend the money that you have, and how you choose to save money for vacation.

People tell me all the time how much they would love to see the world or take their family on a vacation, but they don’t.  That’s because they don’t make it a financial priority.

Everyone has different financial situations, but I firmly believe that the saying is true:  “if there is a will, there is a way.”
Garmin, Geocaching, Mexico, chichen itza, yuctan, driving, insurance, rental car, guiding, peanuts or pretzels, travel, safe, geocache, highway, Coba, mayan ruins,

We made it to Chcihen Itza!

My parents are a perfect example. When I was young, we were hardly “rich” yet we went EVERYWHERE! From Disney, cruises to the Bahamas, Mexico, New York and Hawaii.  They showed me that it’s possible if you have your priorities straight. For Josh and I, travel is an important part of our lives.  So we have chosen to build our lifestyle around our passion in order to make travel a financial priority.

To help you get started, here are some of our best pieces of advice to help you save money for vacation.

1. Build a Realistic Living Budget

I hate to use that ugly word “budget,” but it lays the ground work for everything.  There’s no way around it, you must know how much money you bring in and how much is going out on a regular basis.  You don’t have to document every penny like an accountant, but taking the time to get a handle on it is critical.  Use tools such as bank reports, financial software (like Quicken), or just good ol’ Microsoft Excel.  Find out what works best for you.

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We use an Excel spreadsheet, and we structure our expenses into categories:  Fixed, Variable, and multiple Savings accounts.

Fixed expenses are things that will always need to be paid each month, such as rent, school loans, insurance, car payments, etc. Variable expenses include things like groceries, gasoline, dining out, shopping, and misc. fun. While you will always have variable spending, these are things that can be adjusted, if necessary.

Monthly Income – Fixed – Variable = Money Left Over for Saving

2. Analyze Your Savings (or Lack Thereof)

After you subtract your fixed and variable expenses, you should have money left for savings.  If you don’t, then you have a bigger issue and probably shouldn’t be spending money on travel right now.

The ONLY way to save more money is to increase your income (not always possible) or find ways to reduce your expenses.

Views of Utah

When it comes to your savings, you should have multiple buckets to put your money in:

  • Emergency fund = you should have at least 6 months worth to cover your fixed & variable expenses
  • Long term savings = includes retirement or investment accounts
  • Other savings = big purchases, such as a house or car
  • Travel savings (our additional recommendation)

These financial tips will help you achieve stability regardless of travel.  But building travel into this plan will help you achieve your goals of traveling without disrupting your financial well being.

3. Set Up a Travel Only Bank Account (Savings & Checking)

Once you have a handle on your monthly budget and savings, then you should set up a travel only bank account.  We recommend using a completely different bank from your daily spending because it helps keep you from dipping into it (out of sight, out of mind).

This system works great for us!  We build up money in this account and then when we are ready to take a trip, we know exactly how much we have to spend.

Since all of our bills are paid first out of our primary bank accounts, we don’t worry about spending it.

Breakfast View from Ballachulish Hotel Restaurant over Loch Leven

Breakfast View from Ballachulish Hotel Restaurant over Loch Leven, Scottish Highlands

Travel can get expensive, and you may feel guilty about spending thousands on a vacation.  Having the separate bank account helps you by designating this money for travel purposes.  And since everything else is taken care of, you should feel never feel guilty about spending it; that’s what it’s there for!

4. Prioritize Spending to Build Your Travel Account

This is the area where you have the most control.  If you really want to see the world or take your family on a memorable vacation, then you need to make it a priority.

Since everyone’s financial situation is different, choices need to be made. This is where having that “variable expense” category in your budget can help.  These are things you can try to cut back on, things like shopping or dining out.

Ultimately, it comes down to wants versus needs; and the lifestyle that you value.

Shawan Village - Liz

For example, Josh and I rarely ever go shopping.  We only go to the store when we truly need something, and we completely avoid shopping at places like Wal-Mart; where they tempt people with “deals” that coax them into buying stuff they don’t really need.

Overall, we’ve decided that we don’t care to spend money on things around the house because we would rather go on trips.  

But that’s our decision, everyone is different.

5. Set Travel Goals

As with anything in life, setting goals puts you on a path to achieving it.  You will be surprised at how quickly setting a travel goal will take it from just a dream to a reality.

Setting a target date for your trip will help you visualize it actually happening, and will help you save even quicker.  So write it on your calendar, and plan for the time off of work; this will make it seem real.

Liz and Josh in park

Perhaps you want to take a trip to Europe next year, or take the family to Disneyland.  Do some research to find out about how much that trip will cost, then start working toward it!  For example, when Josh and I knew we would be going to Asia last January, we were super strict about our budget during the months leading up to the trip.

We hardly had any variable spending during these months, and we didn’t feel deprived because we were so excited for the upcoming trip!

Intricate hand gestures

Our Visit to Cambodia

Make Your Travel Dreams a Reality

Overall if you really want to see the world or take your family on a memorable vacation, then do it!  For most of us, there really is no excuse.  It’s just a matter of setting your priorities accordingly and actually making it a point to work towards it.  Most of us don’t have the luxury of unlimited income, so being diligent about your spending and savings will help you achieve your goals faster than you could have imagined.

Before you know it, you will have your travel account built up and you will be off on amazing adventures.  Happy travels!

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