8 Realistic Ways to Save Money for Travel

Anyone who loves traveling usually has their ideal places to visit next. Whether it’s backpacking in Europe, or sipping mai tais on a Caribbean beach, money is often a huge inhibitor of going on that dream vacation! It doesn’t make it any easier when a lot of saving advice just seems totally unrealistic (e.g. “Set aside a grand every week, and only eat ramen noodles for the next 6 months!”) Yeah, OK. In what world?

That’s why I decided to put in my two cents about realistic ways to save for traveling! From Cuba, to Mexico, to a few days in Miami – my trips as a low-income 20-something have definitely taught me a few things about saving for vacations. Here are 8 ways you can start hoarding cash for your upcoming trips!

Create a Travel Account

Create an account that’s separate from your regular finances! It’s so easy to imagine that you’ll save a certain amount of money in your account, isn’t it? But it’s even harder to do so when you’re looking at the priciest yet most delicious brunch item, or eyeing that super cute romper (or romphim) that you just HAVE to have. If the money’s already in a separate account, there’s less of temptation to commit the act of logging into your banking app and making that transfer. Every time you get paid, make an effort to set aside a static amount of money – whether it’s $50.00, or 20% of your paycheck. Budget wisely, choose a realistic amount, and commit to it.

Skip the Little Things

As a self-proclaimed Pumpkin Spice addict (lattes, muffins, you name it), it can be difficult to stop the little habits. Even if you’re not a basic like me, there are probably some other things you can cut back on. Are you buying coffee/smoothies twice a week? Try to make them at home. Are you getting your nails done with the most expensive dip powder, or the cutest designs? How about opting for a solid color instead? Are you getting a haircut weekly? You could probably manage every couple weeks instead – while making good use of hats, of course.

Most of us have our little things that add up, little-by-little. Identify your habits and cut back. You’d be surprised how effective it can be. Your nails might be a bit boring, but that trip to Bali won’t be!

Eating Out Less Often

Simple foods such as raw meats, frozen vegetables, rice, potatoes, and pasta, can make huge meals that last for days. It can be somewhat difficult to maintain a routine of cooking, however it’ll save you so much money in the long run. Imagine, one trip to Chipotle or Panera can run anywhere from $8 – $15. Do that Monday through Friday, you’ve probably spent $50.00+ on just lunch alone. That doesn’t even account for the weekends!

This one is difficult for me, because my go-to activity to hang out with friends is to eat. However, it’s cheaper to do another activity and eat beforehand. Which leads me to my next point!

Find Free Activities

There is a plethora of things to do for free, especially in popular cities such as Washington D.C. Facebook events, Pinterest, and local publications, are great places to find free things to do. Otherwise, Google “Free things to do around me,” and see what results pop up. You could go window shopping at your local mall or farmer’s market, go to a museum or zoo, attend a free festival, or host a game/movie night in with your friends. Want to go clubbing? Check Eventbrite – many nightclubs allow free entry or open bar before a certain time! Make the night even cheaper by splitting an Uber with a group or taking public transportation. And do not buy drinks from nightclubs. They’re always disrespectfully overpriced! Pregaming all day.

Make Use of Your Talents

Are you a good writer? An amazing artist? A skilled note-taker? Do you have a few hours a week to drive Lyft or Uber? What about delivering food via UberEATS or Grubhub?  Pick up a side hustle! There are so many ways to make money on the side, and many of them can be done online. Here are a few examples:

There is a HUGE number of ways to make money in your downtime, including ones that aren’t listed here. Do your research and start earning in your spare time!  

Sell Your Things

Do you really need that cat costume from Halloween 2016? Probably not, but someone else might. What about your dusty DVD player that you haven’t used in 3 years? There are plenty of platforms that allow you to sell your things. Research which ones are best for you, look up best practices for posting (time of day, how to make appealing descriptions, etc.), and start selling! Some recommended ones:

Join a Challenge

Are you in this to win this? Imagine yourself in your dream destination, sipping on your favorite drinks, living your best, Instagrammable life.

Okay, now snap back to reality. It’s time to get serious!

It’s time to buckle down and dedicate your dollars to a saving challenge. Here’s my template to save $800.00 in 16 weeks (roughly, 4 months). Print or screenshot the challenge, and tackle one, teeny, polka-dot once a week. Do that sixteen times, and you’ve got yourself a nice chunk of change for your next destination. Depending on where you’re headed (and for how long), you’ve saved accommodations, flights, and more.

Do this challenge as many times as possible to keep saving. Be realistic, and attempt to stick to the schedule. While you may have to make a few lifestyle changes to meet your goal, it’ll be worth it. If you’re like me, meaning you’re goal-oriented, this may work better than simply putting away money without a plan.

Keep the Motivation Coming

Would it really be a Marissa Daily post if I didn’t say something that sounds totally cliche? Nope, it wouldn’t be.

Realistically, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when that bowl of Frosted Flakes doesn’t sound nearly as good as ordering a big container of drunken noodles from your favorite Thai spot.

Do whatever you have to do to stay motivated. Print out photos of your ideal vacation destination, and tape them on your walls and mirrors. Screenshot some gorgeous photos from National Geographic, and make it the screensaver on your phone and laptop. Set weekly reminders on your phone that tell you to keep it up! Whatever you do, don’t quit. You’ll be on your way sooner than you think!

I believe in you!


  • Marissa Strang

    Marissa Strang is a full-time lifestyle and travel blogger based out of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area. Travel is her number one passion, and she is on a mission to empower others to make travel a reality for their own lives as well. She’s a strong believer that everyone can experience the joy of exploring the world, no matter the way they look or their socioeconomic status. Marissa creates one-of-a-kind city guides, destination inspiration, and budget-friendly travel hacks for aspiring travelers, especially young travelers and minorities. By creating travel content through her blog, The Marissa Daily, she strives to help others make lifelong memories - one destination at a time. Her journey as a blogger for the past 3 years has led her to visit amazing places and build an engaged travel community that she cares for deeply. One of the principles Marissa lives by, and encourages others to abide by, is that when you look like your passport photo, it’s time to book a trip. Let's go places.

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