Step-by-step guide on how to make your travel goals a reality within 1 year (plus free planner and budget travel template).
Do you have a list of destinations in your mind but no idea where to start? Like the world seems so big yet your bank account feels small?
It doesn’t have to be overwhelming or complicated. I’m going to show you how you could go from dreaming about travel to doing it in less than a year! Without earning more money or quitting your job (unless you want to!).
The truth is that I used to think that travel wasn’t for “people like me”. It seemed far too pricy, risky, and fancy. But despite growing up in a struggling household and harboring insecurities about traveling solo, I have now visited 60 countries and traveled long-term, on and off, since 2011.
Whether you want to travel more often OR for longer periods, I’m here to help! Even if you’ve traveled before, these valuable tips can get you back on the road faster.
Make sure you’ve got your Budget Travel Starter Kit ready and then click on the stage that you’re currently in:
- Dreaming – thinking about an adventure
- Designing – researching and trip planning
- Departing – getting organized and packing
- Doing it – traveling and keeping costs low.
Complete this section if you are thinking about an adventure.
1. Set achievable travel goals
- Write down a list of all the destinations that you’re dreaming about
- Consider your travel style and how long you would want to spend in each destination e.g. one-week vacation in Bali or a 6-month budget backpacking trip around South America? Will you be staying in budget hostels or 5-star accommodation?
- Calculate the approximate amount that would be required for that trip and write it down in the travel goals section of the Budget Travel Starter Kit
- Choose one realistic trip based on your current income and circumstances (vacation time, visas, distance, cost of flights, etc) to focus on first
- For visas, you can use a Passport Index to get an idea but ultimately check and apply directly with that country’s immigration
- Make a plan to request holiday leave from your job, considering how much time off you have available and how much notice you need to give.
2. Get super excited about your travel goal
- Create a vision board or Pinterest board with images for your dream destination
- Update the wallpaper on your phone and computer with a picture from that place
- Read books and blogs about your dream destination to help keep you focused and motivated with saving and planning
- Start saying ‘I’m going to…’ (your dream destination) rather than ‘I want to go’ to build confidence that it’s actually going to happen – you just need to take a few steps to get there and that’s what this article is for.
3. Create a budget to help you achieve your travel goal
- Write a list of all your incoming payments and outgoing expenses in the budget section of the Budget Travel Starter Kit. If you’re not sure, try tracking your expenses for a week using a free expense tracking app like Trabee Pocket
- Review your expenses and identify unnecessary costs (e.g. eating out, buying espresso coffee, getting beauty treatments) that you could cut back on
- Before starting to save money for your trip, focus on paying off any smaller high-interest debts such as credit cards
- If you don’t have an emergency fund or any savings at all, this should be your next target after paying off high-interest debts. It is a good idea to always keep a certain amount aside (e.g. $1000) in a savings account for emergencies.
4. Set target dates to pay off debt and save money to travel
- Look at the expenses that you listed in your budget.
- Identify high-interest and short-term debts, like credit cards, that you can start to pay off quickly
- Calculate how long it will take you to reach the monetary target for your dream trip, after paying off unnecessary debt and creating an emergency fund
- Consider opening a flexible savings account that has a decent interest rate but won’t lock you in for a long period
- Set target dates for each milestone e.g. pay off your credit card by the end of March, save $2,000 by mid-June, etc. It is better to aim higher than lower – push yourself to reach your goals but don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t make it each month
- Schedule reminders in your calendar to signal when to make repayments, cancel direct debits, put money aside for the trip, and to review your progress (e.g. monthly).
5. Review your progress and adjust your targets
- Each month review your progress against the previous budget, goals and target dates
- For the targets that you didn’t make, consider if you need to change them or review your budget again
- For the targets that you achieved for the period, ticket them off your list and make new targets for the next period
- Repeat this process until you accumulate the required funds for your dream trip. It is important that you have saved enough funds before you are fully committed to a trip and book non-refundable plane tickets.
Resources for dreamers
Complete this section if you are researching and trip planning.
1. Create a travel plan
- Create a plan for your next trip using the Budget Travel Starter Kit, even if it’s just an outline of dates and a few other key pieces of information
- For longer trips where you want to visually plan out your route, you can use Travellerspoint to create free travel maps
- Use accommodation platforms, like Booking.com, to make reservations with a free cancellation
- Share it with your travel buddies for them to add to it
- Keep updating with changes to the itinerary or update with ideas of things to do.
2. Find cheap flights and set alerts
- Use Skyscanner to search for flights to your dream destination
- Set flight alerts on Skyscanner to know when there is a price drop (or increase).
3. Visas and health
- If you need to apply for a visa for the country you are visiting, make sure you’re doing so through that country’s immigration or a reputable company
- Also see whether immunizations are required for the destination/s you are visiting
- If you take medication, check that it can be taken into those countries and if you need a prescription to purchase more. Some countries actually may have cheaper health care than your own.
4. Choosing the best travel insurance
- When making bookings with a credit card, see if insurance is already included
- If not, find a local travel insurance comparison website to view different policies
- Examine what is covered especially for medical expenses, emergency assistance, theft, loss, and trip interruption
- You can also check consumer reviews on platforms like Trustpilot and TripAdvisor or by searching on Google
- Once you have found an affordable policy that meets your needs, purchase directly through the insurers’ website.
5. Consider mobile and internet connections
- Research your destination to see how available free WiFi will be in public places and the cost for a local sim card
- If you decide that you need data access on your phone, compare the costs for international plans to those of buying a sim card when you arrive (if you have a regular data plan – be careful using data roaming as it can be crazy expensive!)
6. Set up access to your funds
- In most cases, the more cost-effective option for accessing cash abroad is either withdrawing from an ATM or exchanging cash
- Contact your banks to check what the fees will be and if they have any partner banks in that country
- If you have an international bank like Citibank or HSBC, they may have ATMs in the destination youa re traveling to
- Compare those fees to the cost of carrying cash and exchanging money (although this comes with risks)
- I use a Transferwise Borderless account and Mastercard debit card to send, receive, and withdraw cash in mutliple currencies with low fees.
Resources for designers
- 12 airline hacks that could save you thousands on flights (starting today)
- How to travel solo (empowering experiences by 7 women)
- 7 smart ways to find cheap accommodation (and stay for free)
- Is Couchsurfing safe? How to use Couchsurfing as a solo female traveler
- How to get FREE accommodation in exchange for work while traveling.
Complete this section if you are getting organized and packing.
1. Make copies of all your travel documents
It’s a good idea to have electronic and paper copies of the following documents:
- Insurance documents
- Confirmation of any visas
- Bank statement showing available funds and the account name.
Make sure that you can access these easily electronically. Thanks to technology, you can easily share these with your family as well either by email, Dropbox, or Google Drive.
2. Pack and then pack again with less
No matter what kind of trip you are taking, you only need 7-10 days worth of clothing in a carry-on bag (suitcase or backpack). That’s because, after one week of traveling, you can wash your clothes and mix-and-match pieces to keep it fresh.
Use the packing list section of the Budget Travel Starter Kit to organize what you need to take. Then before going on your trip, make a trial-run of packing your bag to make sure everything fits comfortably then remove anything that isn’t necessary.
Keep your bag even lighter by avoiding books or heavy electronics. For reading, you can invest in an eReader, such as the Kindle Paperwhite which I have.
Resources for departers
Congratulations! You made it. You are living out your travel dreams.
If you’re traveling solo (or even if you are traveling in a group) and want to connect with locals, I highly recommend Couchsurfing (CS). CS is a hospitality exchange website for hosting, surfing, and meeting other like-minded people.
For women who want more affordable, responsible, and sustainable travel – you can join our FREE female travel community, Budget Travel Babes. Here we talk about ways to save money before and during travel, as well as meeting up!
Now the focus is on having fun and enjoying the adventure… without totally blowing the budget. But don’t worry, I have included a few resources below to help you keep your costs low and avoid making any major travel mistakes.
Be sure to come back here when you are ready to start thinking about your next travel goal.
Resources for doers
What are your travel goals? Tell us about it below!
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