I was just wondering if you could give me some tips and wisdom about your first travel adventure alone. What was it like? How did you manage on your own in another country? I’m terrible at saving, I either spend a couple of pounds here and there thinking it won’t matter (but it soon adds up) or I save up quite a bit of money but see something expensive that I love, buy that and end up back at the beginning.
I’m really passionate about this trip which is why I want to plan it as best as possible in order to make it a successful reality. In 15 months, after taking out necessities like my phone bill, I should have about £1,700 so I need to ensure I don’t spend it.
Any advice would be appreciated, thanks.
My first solo trip abroad was actually to Israel/Palestine at 19. I wanted to learn more about the situation first-hand. Needless to say, it wasn’t your typical trip and my family was pretty freaked out about it. But I saved for over a year, paid my way, and had an amazing experience. It was definitely dangerous at times and I wouldn’t recommend it as a first trip abroad–unless you want to see your mother on the edge of a nervous break down.
Since then, I’ve taken a bunch of other trips abroad, some of which were done alone. I’ve always paid my own way, and saving strategies have made my travel dreams become real life adventures. So, I provided a total of 9 tips below that cover saving and traveling solo.
4 Tips for Saving Money to Travel Abroad
1. Cut Your Consumption: If you drive, find a way to drive less by taking a bike, bus, or walking. Gas money really adds up. If you enjoy meeting up with friends for coffee, soda, ice cream etc. on a weekly basis, try to limit those types of purchases to once a week so that you’re not totally depriving yourself of those tasty items, but it’s also not draining your savings. Instead, try meeting up with your friends for a walk, picnic, bike ride, etc. If they really want to meet up for a meal, suggest lunch over dinner. According to the Travel Channel, lunches at restaurants tend to cost 30% less than dinners, so that can help you save too.
2. Do Your Research: Start researching travel costs way in advance. If you’re booking a flight or a train ticket, do some research about the cheapest times to go, try booking night flights/trains to get cheaper rates and save on accommodations, and look for deals from smaller companies. See if there are any friends you can stay with along the way to cut costs. Look into cheap but safe hostels that you can stay at to save money. But, be sure to check to see if there are any hidden fees that they may charge you at check in. You want to have a good idea of how much you’ll need for meals, transportation and places to stay to estimate your daily budget (adding in some extra money for any excursions and souvenirs).
3. Set Up a Travel Savings Account: If you already have a bank account, most banks will let you set up an additional savings account that is linked to your checking account. If you have a summer job, or a part-time job during school, you can set up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account to your travel savings account. That way, each month on a date you specify, your money will automatically be transferred to that account. Make sure you’re transferring a realistic amount so that you won’t ever have to dip into that savings. Also, be sure to confirm that there aren’t any fees associated with that separate account when it comes to taking the money out for your trip.
4. Review & Revise Your Saving/Spending Habits: Review how you’re doing on saving and spending every two weeks. Be proud of whatever amount you’ve saved, and even include what’s in your change jar (it adds up too). Add up how much you’ve spent so that you can see if there’s anything you might want to improve on. Doing this keeps you in check. When the temptation to splurge on something pulls at your wallet, take control of the situation by reminding yourself what you’ve saved and why you’re saving it. If your goals are realistic with a specific number amount in mind, and you don’t completely deprive yourself of activities/foods you love, you’re less likely to cave and dig into your savings. Even if you slip up, just get back to it the next day and focus on improvement rather than a money mistake.
5 Tips for Traveling Solo
1. Think Ahead When You Pack: Pack light so that you don’t have to lug around a big bag by yourself. Print out your itinerary with phone numbers of places you’re staying for family, and pack a copy of these phone numbers in case something happens to your phone. Make copies of your passport, ID, and the debit/credit card you’re taking and leave this with your family. Use a money belt or a purse with a strap that goes across your chest and pack cash in different places so that if some of it gets stolen, you’re not completely broke. Some suggest hiding bills in your socks or in your bra, or rolling it up in a Tylenol bottle that isn’t see-through and then putting Tylenol in over it. Whatever works for you. Thinking about the worst that could happen always helps me feel less anxious when I prepare for a solo trip because I know I already have a plan of action if something gets lost or stolen. With that in mind, don’t pack your nicest clothes or accessories unless you’re okay with the chance of losing them. Don’t pack clothes that could come off as disrespectful, or as a target for unwanted attention.
2. Eat Like a Local While Abroad: Part of the fun of traveling somewhere new is trying new things and eating like the locals. This can also save a lot of money. I’ve enjoyed a great deal of street food, from cheap, delicious roadside panini stands in Rome to fresh smoothies in Roatan, to backstreet French bistros. These places usually use locally grown produce, which is much tastier than what is imported (and more expensive). But, be sure to check if the water is safe where you’re going. Getting sick abroad is never fun.
3. Think Before You Speak: This can be applied in two different ways.
- If you’re traveling to a place that speaks a different language, it’s tempting to just keep speaking in your native tongue, especially in touristy areas. But trying to speak in the locals’ language shows respect. Even if you can’t speak it well, they’ll appreciate your effort.
- When traveling solo, don’t mention that you’re alone when you’re out on the town chatting with other people. If you’re unsure about a group of people you just met, either avoid that topic or tell a white lie for your safety (something like, “I’m meeting up with my friends in an hour” and leave if you’re feeling uncomfortable). Use your best judgement to assess situations. I’ve met incredible men and women abroad, but I’ve always listened to and acted on my instincts.
4. Try to Prevent Sketchy Situations: Plan your trip so that you aren’t arriving somewhere new when it’s dark. It’s harder to find your way and it can be a safety issue. Arrive in the daytime or early evening and talk to locals about places they would recommend and places to avoid. Also, if you drink, don’t put yourself in a position where you are too intoxicated to make good decisions. Waking up with a hang over and a toilet full of regret is one thing, but waking up like that without your belongings is quite another.
5. Be Flexible: Don’t schedule every day of your trip down to the minute. Part of the fun of traveling alone is getting to decide what you want to do each day. If you feel like staying an extra day or two in a place you’re loving, go for it! No one is going to argue with you over an Irish breakfast or whine their way down the Seine. Similarly, if things don’t go your way, remind yourself that traveling takes a certain amount of flexibility. If your train breaks down, just think of how you’ll tell this story and get out and explore (if it’s safe), or chat up the person next to you until the train is fixed. I befriended some great people when our boat to Belize had to turn back because of a storm. I probably would’ve kept to myself had it not been for those rocky waves. (Saying they were “rocky” may be an understatement. Never go on a boat during a storm. Lesson learned.)
Ultimately, it’s your trip to experience however you want, so keep saving and planning wisely and I’m sure it will turn out great!