I Want to Travel But I Can’t Afford It

I searched for “want to travel” on Twitter and I found a constant stream of people expressing their desire to travel the world.

So many people out there have the dream of travelling. I totally understand this, as it was my big dream too. A few years ago before I went travelling for the first time, it was all I could think about. There was nothing I wanted more than to take off and explore this big amazing world.

Many people feel like the money it costs to travel is the big obstacle standing in their way. They see travel as an expensive dream that they will never be able to achieve, so they resign themselves to merely fantasizing about it.

“I Want to Travel but I Can’t Afford It”

Can you relate to this? Do you dream of an epic adventure abroad, but think that your trip will be too expensive for you to afford?

Guess what? I want you to know two important things:

  1. Travelling doesn’t have to be as expensive as you are imagining.

  2. If you can afford your life now, you can likely afford to travel.

When you learn how to make travel affordable, you can transform your big trip from a lofty pipe dream into an actual achievable accomplishment to aim for.

Travel Isn’t As Expensive As You Think

If you think of travel as only staying in high end hotels and eating in restaurants every night – then yes, it can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be.

There are so many other options for cheaper accommodation – which cuts down one of the biggest expenses of travel. A bed in a hostel is usually a fraction of the cost of a hotel room and you’ll also have a communal kitchen where you can cook cheap meals and save even more money. (Never stayed in a hostel? Read this first.)

When you travel longer term the cost of your plane ticket is spread out over months rather than over a week or two. Once you are in that region you’ll use cheaper ways of getting around such as local trains and buses. Also, many regions of the world have much lower costs of living than developed first world countries. In many of the countries in Southeast Asia and Central America I have been to I was able to enjoy a full meal and a beer for about the same that I would spend on a Starbucks coffee back home.

You could also consider working abroad so that you can supplement your travels with income as you go. In this post I made an extensive list of travel/work and volunteer opportunities – ways that you can travel as long as possible for as cheaply as possible.

Once you start to see how reasonable the expenses of travel really are, you start to see that it is not just a pursuit for millionaires. Ordinary, average people can save up for travel and have amazing experiences all over the world.

Koh Chang, Thailand
Koh Chang, Thailand

It’s Different for Everyone

Now, before I get into what you can do to increase the money you have for travel, I want to recognise that financial situations are different for everyone.

I don’t want to say “everyone can afford to travel” because that’s simply not true.You might be in a great deal of debt or your earning potential might not be that high. You might have a lot of demands on you financially and you might not have a steady income to rely on.  Everyone’s situation is unique and this must be taken into account.

I can offer you advice on how to cut your expenses to save up for travel, but I understand that some of you might be desperately cutting corners just to survive. Sometimes more essential costs such as food and shelter take over and there is no extra room for luxuries such as travel.

Oneika The Traveller wrote a blog called “Stop Pretending Everyone Can Travel” that makes some really good points about how some situations can make travel an extremely difficult goal.

Take your own situation into account and consider the priorities that are most crucial for your life right now. If you are truly just scraping by, maybe travel should be more of a long term goal to put on the back burner until you are in a better place financially.

However, if you know that there IS room for adjustment in your finances then keep reading.

It’s All About Priorities

If travel really is your dream, you need to make it your priority.

One of the biggest mistakes that I see many people make when it comes to money is thinking that they can have their cake and eat it too. They will think that they can save up for a six week backpacking trip around Europe while still going out with their friends every weekend, buying new clothes, and getting a flat screen television for their apartment.

It’s easy to see that when you make this mistake, it will be a long time before you ever save up the money you need to buy that plane ticket.

Saving money for travel is all about priorities. Look at it this way: you earn a set amount of money per week. There are certain things that you need to spend that money on, such as rent, food, and other essentials. Then, there are other things that you like to spend your money on, such as beer, video games, new pairs of shoes, and movie tickets.

When you don’t have a goal to travel the world, it’s absolutely fine to make these types of recreational purchases your priority and to truly enjoy your lifestyle. However, if your goal IS to save money for a trip, you will have to prioritize your future experiences over your wants in the current moment.

Costa Rica
Monte Verde, Costa Rica

When I was 22 and saving up for my trip to New Zealand (the one where I met my boyfriend and changed my life) travel was my number one priority. There was nothing in the world I wanted to spend my money on more. I lived in a cheap basement apartment because I would rather save for travel than have an expensive house. I wore thrift store clothes because I would rather put money in my savings account than spend it on designer jeans.

Every little bit of money that you DON’T spend now can go straight into your savings account and will grow until you can afford your once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Every drink that you don’t buy in that overpriced nightclub is a one night stay in a hostel in Thailand. When you pass up buying that new mobile phone, you can use the money on a bungee jumping experience in New Zealand.

Now, I’m not saying you should be a miserable antisocial loser for the next year until you save up enough money to go work abroad in Scotland or South Korea. It is still possible to have lots of fun without spending a lot of money.

How to Save Money Without Being Miserable

You can cut down your expenses and grow your savings while still enjoying life. Here are some ideas:

  • Watch movies at home with friends instead of going to the theatre.
  • Cook dinner at home instead of meeting up at a restaurant.
  • Buy ingredients that are cheapest where you live and learn how to cook meals with them that you enjoy.
  • Skip a few nights on the town, you won’t miss anything.
  • Go for walks.
  • Invite friends to your house and just sit and talk. Spending time with your friends and having fun doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
  • Suggest cheap or free events to attend together. There are probably tons of free events and activities in your city that you haven’t discovered yet.
  • Sell the stuff you are not using (you’ll have to store it when you go travelling anyway).  
  • Consider living in a shared house for a few months before you go so that you can put the money you save on rent into your travel savings.
  • Take public transit or walk whenever possible to save on the costs of running your car.
  • Or, consider selling your car if you have one, getting around without it and using the money for your trip.
  • Look online for cheap deals on stuff that you use regularly.
  • Cut down on the amount of junk food and snacks you eat. Not only will this save you money because these foods are expensive, you’ll also be healthier.
  • Whenever you get an unexpected bonus or some money as a gift, put it into your travel savings account.

Any other ideas? Share them in the comments below?

Picnics with friends = cheap fun.
Picnics with friends = cheap fun.

Watch the Gradual Savings Grow

Do you want to know a great trick for maximizing your travel savings? Follow these steps:

  1. Create a new bank account, preferably a savings account with a high interest rate.
  2. Figure out what you get paid weekly, and multiply it by 0.10. The number you get will be 10% of your weekly earnings.
  3. For example, if you make £210 per week, ten percent of this will be £21.00.
  4. Now set up an automatic transfer from your chequeing account to your savings account on a certain day every week for this amount.  You might need to visit your bank to set this up. It will probably work best if it is scheduled directly after your wage comes into your account.
  5. Every week, 10% of your wages will go into your travel fund and the other 90% is yours to spend as you please. If you can live on £210 per week, you can certainly live on £189 per week by cutting out a few unnecessary expenses (see above). Pretend the £21 per week is a necessary bill that you must pay and work around it.
  6. Your travel savings account will be growing by £21 every week and after a while you will have reached your goal.
  7. You can set the automatic transfer for more than 10% if you feel like you are able to live on even less, but don’t overdo it because you won’t want to need the extra money and have to dip into your savings account!

This saving strategy works because once you set it up, you don’t have to think about it. You will get so used to living on 10% less per week that after a few weeks you will not even notice the difference. There is no need to worry about will power or being tempted to spend the money, because it is out of sight and out of mind. All the while, your savings account is growing without you even trying or needing to think about it and you are getting closer and closer to that big travel experience.

A monk in Myanmar.
Bagan, Myanmar

If you can spare more than 10% per week – even better! Your travel savings will grow more quickly and you will be on the road sooner.

Why Setting Savings Goals Helps You Save Money

Take a look at this post I wrote on How Much Money to Take Travelling and figure out a total that you can use as your savings goal. You’ll be so much more motivated to save when you have a specific goal in mind.

You have probably already found that setting goals helps you achieve other things in life, such as losing weight, increasing your fitness or learning a new skill. It’s a psychological thing, when you start to visualise a specific amount you start to think about doing the things you need to do to move towards it.

I find that it’s also important to track your progress. When you see your savings account grow over time that is encouraging and makes you want to continue. When you get to the halfway point you know that you just have to continue doing what you are doing and you will get to your goal eventually. I find it easier to resist short term temptations when I know I am working towards a bigger goal.


Would a Savings App Help?

When it comes to saving money, as for pretty much anything else, there’s an app for that. If you are the type who loves to keep your life organised with apps this might really work for you. There are a lot of budgeting apps out there that will help you to outline your goals, track your spending and much more. Check out some guides to the best budgeting apps here and here.

Save More Than You Need

I would always advise you to save up more money than you think you need for your trip. If you have come up with a specific savings goal, don’t forget to add on about 25% extra.

This extra is there to help you out if things go wrong. There is always a risk that you might get overcharged for something, you might get pickpocketed, something might cost more than you expect or you might want to have the option to do a really cool spontaneous activity that you didn’t plan for.

Rappelling down waterfalls, anyone?
Rappelling down waterfalls, anyone?

Instead of saving up an extra 25% you could also bring a credit card with you. I don’t usually advocate relying on credit cards as a way to fund your trip, but it could serve as a backup if you need it. Make sure that you carefully select your credit card, because each one has different incentives and offers

Having an extra cushion on your travel budget allows for this flexibility – you never know what might happen. It’s much better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

Tell People You Are Saving for Travel

So, should you keep it a secret that you are saving up for a trip or should you tell everyone? In my opinion, there are a lot of benefits to letting people know.

When you let your friends know that you have a goal to save money, you can explain why you don’t want to go to the really expensive cocktail bar without hurting their feelings. They will understand that you have a savings goal in mind and that you are being a little more careful with your spending. Helpful and supportive friends will hopefully want to hang out with you doing things that are cheap or free so that you can make your goals happen.

Also, when you tell people you are saving for a travel experience this can encourage them to think of you when they come across an opportunity to make extra money. For example, if someone says to your friend that they are looking for someone to babysit on the weekend or to help them paint their spare room for a bit of cash – your friend will probably think about you and your travel savings goals and will recommend you.

It Takes Time, But You Can Do It

So if you have read this post all the way to the end you might be thinking – “Hey, maybe I could actually cut down my expenses and afford to save up for travel!” Yay! I’m excited for you and I wish you great success.

But you might thinking, “Ugh, but it will take a long time to get to my savings goal and I want to travel NOW.”


I feel you. Waiting patiently as you slowly work toward a goal can be difficult and it can be hard to stay motivated. It’s the same with any goal, whether you are building up a freelance business or losing weight. These things take time.

It will not happen overnight. It might take you six months, a year or even more to save up for your dream travel trip. However, keep this in mind –

If you do nothing, that year will pass anyway.

If you don’t take action, a year from now you will be no closer to your goal of travelling the world and you will wish that you started today.

Photo via Pinterest
Photo via Pinterest


So how are you going to start saving up for your travel adventure? Let us know in the comments below.

More Posts About Travel and Money

25 Ways to Make Money While You Travel

How Much Money Should I Take Travelling?

Tips for Managing Your Money While Travelling

How to Get a Cheaper Stay in a Hostel

How I Built a Successful Freelance Writing Business So I Could Work from Anywhere and Travel the World

Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word.

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  1. I want to travel but I can’t afford that’s why I’m starting to save my money right now. It is much interesting the way I save. I adjust almost everything but I didn’t cut out my budget for food, instead, hangouts with friends will be lessened.

  2. Money and traveling is a common dilemma. I guess it just depends on what kind of traveling you want to do that makes you think it is expensive. Despite being an Expat for 10 years and with a fair share of traveling experience, I am NOW at the point where I am one of those who say “I want to travel but I can’t”. But then, if I really look closely, it is not that I can’t (or haven’t traveled) – I did. It’s just that the way I traveled somehow changed and not the same as I used to, making me think that I am no longer traveling,

  3. Always good to win a trip on a game show like The Price Is Right or Wheel Of Fortune in Los Angeles, CA, USA. Winnings are subjected to taxes but you save about 70% of the bill.

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