How Much Do You Really Need to Sacrifice to Travel? CC0

Long-term adventures can be expensive. Here's how I make it work. 

I have always somehow made travelling happen. In my late school years and during my time at university, I worked in hospitality to save up for weekend trips and studying abroad. I haven’t wasted birthday or Christmas money and have always been wary of budgeting. A lot of people class "budget" as a negative word but it doesn’t have to be—and really it shouldn’t be.

Common thought is that travelling has to be expensive—but I don’t think it does. Here are my tips on how to make your dream holiday and longer stints abroad a reality:


Whether you are about to set off on a three-month-long trip round Asia or are working your nine-to-five job and just planning a few weekends away, you will need money during your travels. This is why budgeting and saving before you jet off is a key way of making your travel plans run smoothly.

I find the easiest way to budget is identifying the difference between want and need. This isn’t always as simple as it sounds, because some days you really just want to buy your lunch from the work canteen instead of prepping, and yes sometimes those boots in the shop window are calling your name. But do you really need them? How long would it take you to make a sandwich the night before? And is there anything wrong with your winter boots from last year?

You might be wondering how 10€ a day on lunch at work would really make a difference to your savings?Think about it. 10€ five days a week = 50€ a week, which would give you around 200€ a month.

You might be wondering how 10€ a day on lunch at work would really make a difference to your savings. But think about it; 10€ five days a week = 50€ a week, which would give you around 200€ a month. 200€ could pay for your travel and accommodation on a weekend away in a lot of cites. I know what I’d rather spend my money on! 


So you’ve decided to start taking your lunch to work and have saved 200€ in the first month. But how do you want to spend this money? You need to decide on your priorities when you’re travelling; do you want to stay in a nice hotel or slum it in cheap hostel dorm? Do you want to secure the cheapest flights available, or pay a bit more for the flight that gives you more time to explore?

Of course, everyone has different ideas about what is essential and what can be forgotten about. The two things I always take into account are (1) distance to the centre and (2) safety. I often travel alone so being comfortable where I’m staying is important. 


I think it would be hard to find anyone who hadn’t done some research on their holiday destination. But how much research do you need to do? Personally, I like to have a look through the popular resources (Lonely Planet, Time Out, Pocket Guide) to get an idea of the must-dos, must-eats and must-sees and try to make a budget from there.

Some forums might also discuss the average cost of day/weekend/few weeks in any given place, which can be useful—but take these discussions with a pinch of salt and don’t just look at one.

Don’t forget to look for city passes, too. It might seem like just a metro/rail card but these cards often get you discounts, including entries into museums, 10 per cent off certain restaurants and can even be used as ID in some cases.

Save, save, save

In a similar vein to budgeting, this might seem a bit unnecessary to some of you. But when you’re hit with the Imustgoonholidayrightnow wave, you’ll be so glad you did!

I try to set some money aside every month, even if I’m not planning a trip. It makes holidays a bit easier and can take the pressure off if an unexpected expense comes up closer to your trip—you won’t be stressing about being able to enjoy your holiday.

Saving is also a key part of studying abroad or going on a longer trip. It might be a bit annoying when you're working and can see your salary going in every month then not being "allowed" to spend all of it—but when you have no salary going in and realise you haven’t saved enough, you’ll really wish you had been a bit more careful.

All in all, travelling can be as expensive as you want it to be. The trick is to look at the bigger picture and think of the memories you’ll take from your time abroad, not think things you’ll be giving up when saving!

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Kirsty Smith

Originally from Scotland, Kirsty Smith has a Master’s in languages and is a keen traveller. She is currently based in Zurich, Switzerland, where she is a language assistant for the British Council and also a freelance translator, proofreader and post-editor.


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