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How to plan a trip, save money and travel

New year, new you, new goals…and I’m quite sure one of the goals is to go travel?

Like many, I try to make it a point to travel (near or far) at least once a year. If I could do it more, even better. But there is also that one common obstacle keeping us from achieving our travel goal. That is money! for sure.

If you hear yourself saying “Oh, it’s expensive!”, “I’ve no money”, or if you are just afraid to see a reduction in your saving accounts…stop.

Clear your head, reset your goal, reset your priority.

In everything we do, there will always be that one or two expensive item(s) we are going to spend on, so might as well spend that money on travelling. Also, if you can afford to buy expensive coffee, expensive food, and new handphones…you have the money.

Remember, the goal is to travel and to travel, is to just do it. If you put travelling as one of your top priorities, everything that has to do with planning a trip will come easy. So here, I am going to share with you how I plan a trip and save money for it.

1. Have a purpose

Before you begin, ask yourself why do you want to travel. To get out of your comfort zone? To explore cultures? To meet new people? To see the monks? To see beautiful architectures? To see the northern/southern lights? et cetera, et cetera…Whatever the purpose is, it is good to have one, so then you will have a rough idea of what you are looking for and which country best serves your purpose.

For a very long time, I wanted to see the Aurora Borealis. This was my purpose. I even wrote ‘In pursuit of Aurora Borealis’ on my social media, just to remind myself of my purpose. Three years passed and in December, I flew to Iceland and saw the northern lights. I can now remove ‘In pursuit of Aurora Borealis’ from my Instagram and Twitter bio =)

2. Pick a destination, set duration

Once you have reviewed your purpose and budget, pick a country of your choice (I assume we all want to travel to a different country). There you go, you now have an arrival and departure point.

Decide on how long you plan on travelling. Most people I know will do a 5D4N, or a week-long holiday, if they are on a tight budget and not able to take a long leave from work. This is called microvacation.

Cheapest places to travel? Countries within Southeast Asia (Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, et cetera)

I’ve done quite a few mini trips too. To Beijing, Luang Prabang, Hanoi, Jakarta, Manila…I do this whenever I want to destress myself. I read that people who go on a frequent short trip tend to be happier, calmer and more energised than those who rarely take time off.

3. Find travel buddies

If you can manage to travel on your own, do it! It is the best feeling and experience ever. But since money is a constraint, finding travel buddies is great so you won’t have to bear all expenses alone. If you are a married couple with jobs, it’s good to split the transport and accommodation costs too.

In December, I went on a 19-day winter holiday covering three countries (UK, Iceland, and Denmark). I travelled with my mom, my best friend, and my two nieces aged 10 then. We split necessary expenses among us adults.

4. Set payment schedule

By now, you will already have a rough idea on what to do, what to see, and where to go while in (insert country). Set a date to buy flight ticket, another date to settle accommodation, transportation (if you decide to rent a car), tour (some day trip tours outside the city centre require advance booking), et cetera, et cetera…By having schedule, it helps you to manage your finance. You do not have to settle everything at once.

I started planning our recent winter trip in March last year. We bought our main return flight tickets in June, then another return tickets to Reykjavik in August, our KK-KL return in September, settled our accommodations in November…you get the idea.

5. Open travel accounts

These accounts will be your life saver. If you really commit yourself to saving money, you will have more than enough by the time you get on that plane and arrive at your destination. Make it a habit to put aside few hundreds to your travel accounts. Do not touch them until you get to your destination. You will only use these accounts when travelling.

I started having travel account three years ago. The moment I told myself “I need to go Iceland”, I went to a bank to open an account. Every month I would put aside few hundreds.  I use this to pay extra expenses (attraction and transportation fees) and to shop.

Then last year, I opened another account solely to pay for food. I encouraged my mom and my best friend to put RM300 every month into the food account. So, during our travel, we had enough money to cover our meal for 19 days without having to touch our main savings. 

6. Check country’s cost of living

Knowing the cost of living of a country will help you to better understand how much you would be spending and help you to set an expectation when it comes to budgeting.

I always go to https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living to get an idea how much a bottle of water, beer, fast food, restaurant (and so on) would cost.

7. Stop buying unnecessary items

Yes. We are all guilty of this. But by stop buying unnecessary items, you will save money and put it to better use, like exploring the world.

Most importantly, do not shop prior to travelling. You do not need that new dress or that hat or that new shoes and clothes to explore new places. Travel first, get broke later.

Over the past years, I’ve slowly learnt to understand my purchasing and consumption behaviour. I stop buying beauty products and only make use of the existing ones. I stop buying expensive coffee but will only do so when I do a meet up with friends (and this only happens once or twice a month). I stop buying books. I stop buying cheap/discounted clothes, and the list goes on.

***

There are many ways how you can plan a trip, save money, and go travel. You can search for inspiration on YouTube. Just type “a week in (insert place)” and see how travellers plan their trip/itinerary.

Go find out about airline miles, and how to convert debit card/credit card/gas station loyalty card reward points into travel points.

But having said all this, do travel at your own pace and enjoy the planning.

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