People have all sorts of reasons for why they don’t travel. 

But for people my age (20/30 somethings), the reason I hear most often is “I can’t afford it.” Well my friends, I’m here to tell you that you can afford to save money to travel to Europe, or anywhere else you want to go! 

I’ll show you how to save money to travel to Europe (or anywhere), including what I did to save for my trip.

girl in budapest Hungary

Step #1: Establish your goals. 

The cost of traveling around Europe for two weeks is going to be different than taking a cruise to the Bahamas. So decide where you want to go, and for how long. My goal was to go to Europe, and because of money, I decided that I wanted to go for around 3 weeks.

Also, decide how you would like to travel. Staying in a four star hotel is going to be more expensive than staying in hostels. Eating out every meal in expensive restaurants is going to cost you more than trying to make some of your own meals. 

Decide on what you can and cannot compromise. 

bean in chicago

For me, I knew that I could stand being in hostels (I lived with two sorority girls in college, noise doesn’t bother me), so that helped my budget. 

But I know that I do not cook, so I allotted myself more money for food with a strict promise that I will try and find cheap food wherever I am. 

The biggest thing that deters my personal budget is souvenirs. I buy so many…I have a problem. So there is quite a bit of wiggle room in my budget for buying extras wherever I go.

souveneirs in Greece

My 3-Week Europe Budget

Round Trip Plane Ticket: $1000

Hostels for 9 nights (I will be staying with friends for the rest of the time): $350

Transportation (1 flight, 3 trains): $500

Food: $1000

Entrances to Attractions/Tours: $500

Extras: $1000

Total: $5000

girl in Krakow Poland

I purposefully budgeted more than I thought I would need. And it has come in handy now that my trip date is getting closer. 

For example, I didn’t budget for the $400 equipment that I would need as a first time backpacker (eg, backpack, daypack, ect). $5000 has been the perfect amount to save. We’ll see if my budget works after my trip.

Step #2: Determine Your Monthly Budget

girl holding guiness beer

Not only is this a great money-management tip, it will also help you to determine where you spend your money, where you can save, how much you can save, and how much extra income you need to travel. 

 I sat down with pen and paper and figured out how much I wanted to save, and then how much money per paycheck I needed to put away in order to make my goals a reality. 

So, in my case, I was making $2000 a month for one of my jobs, and then my weekend job was making me about $400-$500 a month depending on how much I worked. 

Altogether I was pulling in about $2500 a month; not a lot for someone working 6-7 days a week!

Weta workshop

Sample Monthly Expenses:

Rent: $850/month

Gas: $300/month 

Groceries: $400/month

CC Debt: $250/month

Gym Membership: $30/month

Total: $1830/month

Left Over: $670/month

I knew I wanted to save roughly $500 a month to travel. With my budget, I would only have about $170 left over instead of $670. I needed to figure out how to live with less than $200 of wiggle room for 10 months. It became apparent that I was going to have to make some sacrifices.

girl in scotland

Step #3 Determine How you will Sacrifice

Unless you’re independently wealthy, you’re going to need to sacrifice something in order to make travel possible. You will have to sacrifice goods, services, time, personal space, fun, etc. 

There are some tips and tricks to saving money, but this is the most important. Decide what you can live without. 

So I began to trim. 

girl in lithuania

Step #4 Implement Some Strategies

To help me manage my travel money I went to the bank and opened up a new savings account. As soon as I got my paycheck, I put $250 of it in my new savings account specifically for travel and I did not touch it! 

In addition, I bought a notebook that helped me track how much money in my checking account was needed for rent for the month and my other expenses. That really helped because I knew how much leftover money I had to spend.

I highly recommend a separate bank account, or physical travel jar, when you’re saving money to travel. 

hill of crosses lithuania

Here’s what I saved on:

In order to save money I decided to cut down on the amount of money I spent on clothes. No more Saturday morning Target runs. I barely bought any new clothes the year I was saving for my 3-week Europe trip, and if I did buy clothes it was from Marshalls or Goodwill. 

And, I also limited going out to eat and going out drinking. I spent more time making food at home, packing lunches. Then, I switched from Starbucks coffee to 7-11. If I went out at night, I pre-gamed at home with liquor and drank a couple of beers out with my friends. Doing this saved me the most money. 

girls drinking

Then, I stopped with the extras. I grabbed a library card to stop buying books, didn’t buy make-up, get pedicures or massages. I did more free activities like surfing or going to the beach or riding my bike. 

Finally I sacrificed my time. I got a second job for the sole purpose of traveling and (almost) my entire paycheck from that job went into my travel fund. 

If you want to travel, there will be consequences. There will be areas in your life that are going to have to give. Learn how to make sacrifices.

Final Thoughts on How to Save Money to Travel to Europe

girl in prague

You can’t go out drinking every weekend and spend $100 a night (I know this from experience going out in DC. Once you add up cabs, food, drinks, transportation, it is at least $100). Big shopping trips to your favorite store are also out. Any unnecessary costs should be cut.

I won’t pretend that saving money was easy. Yes, my second job allowed me to save up money and travel. But there were months where I only had two days off from work. 

girl on the beach

When I moved to Florida I had hoped to visit other cities like Miami, Tampa, and the Keys during the weekend, but none of those trips ever happened because I didn’t have the money or the time.

But in the end it was all worth it. I made some sacrifices, but those sacrifices are going to allow me to backpack Europe for three weeks! How awesome is that?!

So, in conclusion, remember to establish your travel goals, make a budget, and learn how to sacrifice.

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