Blog,  Travel

How To Save Money and Budget For Travel

Determined to make your dream of traveling the world a soon-to-be reality? Wondering how to travel on a budget but not sure where to start? Looking to learn more about travel tips on a budget?

You’re in the right place – I’ll share some of my best traveling budget tips and how I prepare my travel finances before any planned vacations.

Even if you’re not planning for a luxurious trip or vacation, those costs just keep adding up. I know the all too familiar sinking feeling when you see the total amount once you’ve factored in hotels, activities, food, transportation, and everything else.

But traveling on a budget is a lot more within your reach than you might think – here’s how to do it.

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Once you’ve done your research on your travel destination, you’ll need to set budget goals and deadlines that are realistic enough for you to achieve, but also slightly beyond your comfort zone so you can save a little more for cushioning.

Now it’s time to put in the work to bring your travel dreams to life!


If you haven’t already opened a HYSA, I strongly recommend this as your first step toward organizing your travel finances for your dream vacation.

A HYSA is a savings account that pays a higher interest rate compared to traditional savings accounts (e.g. Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo). Many treat it as an emergency savings fund. The way I view it, HYSA is an effective tool to make money that’s already yours work smarter and harder for you!

I’m a big fan of the HYSA from Ally Bank – I’ve been a customer with them since 2017, and I really have no complaints. At the time of writing, Ally is offering 4.25% APY, which is really great when compared to the national average of 0.47% APY for this type of account.

There’s also no monthly maintenance fees and it’s one of the easiest ways for me to earn passive income just by parking my money there and earning a higher interest amount compared to traditional banks. My favorite feature is that you can organize your money with buckets so you can visualize your savings goals and easily track your progress. When I’m planning a vacation, I like to create a new bucket dedicated to my travel fund to that specific destination (for example: “Hawaii”).

Image courtesy of Ally Bank

This is a big one if you’re looking to travel internationally! At some point, it’s highly likely that you’ll need to use your credit card especially if the merchant does not accept cash for whatever reason. BUT WAIT! Make sure to use only a credit card without any foreign transaction fees.

Once upon a time, I wasn’t too smart with my finances while traveling and ended up with hundreds of dollars in foreign transaction fees just for using my credit card internationally. Such an unnecessary expense that could have easily been avoided if I had done my research! NEVER AGAIN!

Since then, I’ve only made sure to use credit cards that charge no foreign transaction fees when making purchases abroad. Solid customer-favorite options are the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve. These cards are also great for racking up credit card points to redeem at a later point in time – we’ve used ours to redeem free flights and hotels within the Chase travel portal!

I went with the Preferred because it better aligned with my lifestyle and travel habits, and it has a lower annual fee of $95 compared to the Reserve with $550. Getting either Chase credit card also allows you to access the Chase travel portal, which is where you can redeem points for travel and access other amazing travel perks like the ones mentioned above.

Image courtesy of Chase Sapphire Preferred

Think you know how much you’re really spending every month? Most people tend to underestimate their monthly expenses, because when you’re not really tracking every dollar that comes out of your bank account, it’s really easy to assume that you’re spending within or below your means.

But often times the truth isn’t so pretty. That’s where budgeting and expense tracking comes in to help put you back on the right financial track to achieve your budget for travel.

There are many free budgeting templates you can access just by doing a quick Google search. But to start out, I recommend dedicating some time to identify your spend categories and then putting them to paper or in a Google Sheet.

Below is a simplified version of how I like to categorize my expenses. You can also add more subcategories if you prefer a more detailed categorization.

Mortgage/RentRestaurants/Takeout Food
Car gas/Insurance/TransportationBeauty/Self-Care

Next, look through your monthly transactions and start categorizing each one to the corresponding categories. The exercise may be tedious at first, but it’s an effective tool for bringing awareness to your spending habits and helps you more easily identify key areas you could cut back on in order to fund your travel goals.


Once you’ve mapped out your monthly expenses, it’s time to assess your spending habits. A good place to start is with the non-essential expenses. You’ll need to have an honest conversation with yourself and really consider: “Do I really need to spend $x on this?”

When you start considering how that $x can be reallocated to your travel fund, it becomes a lot more motivating to start cutting out any extra fluff so you can achieve your vacation goals.

My biggest non-essential expense is within the restaurants and takeout food category. So if I’m planning ahead for a vacation and need to save up for it, I’ll make conscious decisions to cook at home, meal prep ingredients from bulk stores like Costco, or only eat out for special occasions or celebrations. Saving on eating out also indirectly helps me save on car gas expense since I’d be staying home a lot more.

I love a good challenge, so if I set a new target budget that’s half of what I was spending previously, I’ll feel extra motivated to stay below the limit. This strategy has really helped me save up and reallocate that money into my travel fund so I can really enjoy my vacation the way I want to.


This was a big one for me personally. Before I got my finances straightened out, I used to impulse shop frequently because I was always blinded by the next shiny new thing. I used to justify the purchase by convincing myself I could use it for future occasions, or that I could easily return it. But then I got stuck in this cycle of never-ending impulse spending on things that I really didn’t need or necessarily want.

One day, I decided to track all the things that I wanted to buy in my iPhone notes. I looked at the list everyday and found that even over 24 or 48 hours, my interest in some of them had dwindled. It became clear to me then that I just wanted those things in the heat of the moment.

Right there and then, I made it a personal rule to only purchase items on my list if I was still thinking about it constantly after a week. If the item sold out by the time I was planning to buy it, then it wasn’t meant to be, and I would remove it from the list. This strategy has really helped curb my impulse shopping tendencies, and made me a lot more aware of every dollar I was spending on “nice-to-have” things.

Another interesting rule I’ve come across is if you can’t afford two of the item you’re interested in, then you shouldn’t buy it. I think the intention behind this rule is to prioritize conservative spending since we should always try to live within and better yet, below your means if you’re looking to save up. But also, remember that just because you can afford something doesn’t mean you should buy it. There is always an opportunity cost to everything!

Consider your own spending habits and impulse spend triggers, then design some personal money rules around how to prevent yourself from poor financial decisions. You know your greatest trigger points the best, so be honest with yourself on how to set yourself up for financial success.


As soon as you’ve set your travel budget (or at least an estimate of it), you should start looking at hotels/accommodations and tours/activities. The later you wait to book, the more expensive these will get as you get closer to your travel date.

Many travel sites like or Viator offer you the flexibility of reserving your hotel stay for free today, with free cancellation up until a few days prior to your stay. Even if you haven’t completely decided on the fine details of your itinerary, it’s always a good idea to at least have an accommodation placeholder booked ahead of time so you can lock in those lower rates today.

If you procrastinate till the very end, tickets to famous and popular attractions will also sell out, so save yourself the heartache and reserve ahead! For instance, if you’re planning a trip to Italy to see The Last Supper, make sure to get skip the line tickets far in advance. Popular guided tours also sell out early, so reserve ahead so you can get the best deals and avoid getting stuck with poorly-rated, expensive tours booked at the last minute.

It’s also not a bad idea to consider off-peak seasons for popular tourist destinations. My husband and I intentionally chose slightly off-peak months to visit Japan, Italy, and Switzerland to avoid crowds and minimize hotel and tour activities costs. This really helped lower our accommodation and plane ticket costs, which led to some significant savings for us!

The amazing view during our trip to Hakone, Japan

I love sneaking in other ways to save up for vacations.

One fun and easy one is to stash away loose or spare change in a jar and watch it fill up. This is a great visual to track your progress toward achieving your financial goals. It’s also extremely rewarding to be able to save up this way and put this toward something tangible (like a nice dinner or snorkeling activity) while on vacation.

Another great tool is to use a money challenge binder. The whole exercise of putting away bills into the sleeves in the binder is a very tactile and visual experience, and it really amps up the challenge factor here when you’re physically putting money away for your travel fund. You can even label them based on the activities you are looking to do while on vacation, such as “Fancy pasta meal” or “Paragliding.” You can also easily turn this into a game or challenge between family members, friend groups, or couples.

If you’re already doing all that you can to save up for your vacation or trip, then consider a side hustle that can help make you a little extra money. It could be selling cans and bottles to recycling centers, selling off your clothes on ThredUp or Poshmark, or even taking surveys on trusted platforms like Eureka Surveys.


Owning both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Freedom Unlimited has been one of the most valuable additions to my travel rewards strategy. In fact, I was able to redeem two round-trip flights to Japan in 2023 using just my points that I’ve accumulated by using those cards! 🤩

Many Chase users like myself also recommend owning the Chase trifecta (by adding the Chase Freedom Flex) but honestly if I could pick two of my favorite credit cards it would have to be the Sapphire Preferred and Freedom Unlimited paired together.

For everyday spending, I really like that the Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5% back on everything. Unlike other reward credit cards, I don’t have to activate any categories for the targeted period, and there’s no need to consider which card to use for specific categories. I just love that there’s no brain power needed to try to figure out what rewards my Freedom Unlimited gets me. It really is the card that I use for pretty much everything, and huge bonus points is that there are no annual fees.

Use this card responsibly, accumulate those Ultimate Rewards points, and get rewarded for your next vacation!

I hope you found my traveling budget tips helpful in helping you prepare and save up for your next vacation!

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