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How We Saved Enough Money To Travel

How We Saved Enough Money To Travel

Like most people we dreamed about taking a year and see the world, but the hardest part is trying to figure out how to save enough money to travel. We would read stories and articles of other travelers and ask, “How did they do that?” and like most people, we figured they probably came from money, won the lottery, or had a ton of help. We even met Rick Steves in Rothenburg o.d. Tauber during our 2002 vacation to Germany and my first question to him was, “How do I do what your doing?” I am pretty sure he has been asked that a million times, so he just ignored the question as we both laughed.  So where was I? Yes, dreaming of traveling the world, but not understanding how to finance such an adventure. That was until we met David.


During our 2010 European bicycle tour through the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, and northern Hungary, we met David on a bus ride from Krakow to tour Auschwitz Concentration Camp. David had been in his 9th month of a planned “year long” European adventure. Naturally, after we learned of David’s travels we had questions; especially, since he was the first person we met that was actually traveling long term and not some article in The Outdoor magazine. Luckily for us, David was happy to share some of his travel tips during our short visit at Auschwitz and over dinner that evening. Sadly though, we were all too tired from the day’s events and it was an early evening. However, we knew there would be a good chance that our paths would cross again in Budapest and if we met up again with David we could talk more about that then, but just in case we exchanged contact information with him because we had questions.

As luck would have it David and us arrived in Budapest about an hour apart. We already knew where he was staying, so I punched in the hotel’s address and we headed right there cycling through rush hour traffic. Over the next 3 days of sightseeing Budapest, the three us became pretty good friends. David told us about what he was averaging per day during his 9 months and he figured he could go another 9 months since the Euro had dropped against the dollar. We were sold and were convinced we could get out of debt and save up enough to bicycle tour for a year.

Our Money Saving Tips

We are going to share with you our money saving tips that we used and although it may seem small, it all adds up. Like most people, we too were guilty of only looking at the small picture in the beginning. However, once the travel bug really kicked in and we got serious about traveling for a year, our blinders came off. Instead of looking at the daily or weekly or even monthly cost of things, we began looking at the yearly cost and when you start looking at the cost versus the savings in the bigger picture you begin to take a different approach on your spending and saving habits.

How We Saved Enough Money To Travel

Immediately after returning home from our 2010 bicycle tour and being inspired by our new friend David, we began really tightening the belt. Although most of our friends and family considered us to be “frugal” already, we showed them and took being frugal to a whole new level. We picked a date in the future that we wanted to leave on and started planning.

Here are some things that we cut:

  • Cable TV – Monthly cost $137.00, yearly saving $1644.00
  • Home phone – Monthly cost $33.00, yearly savings $396
  • Ron’s Cell phone – Monthly cost $45, yearly savings $540
  • Sold one car – *Monthly cost $700, yearly savings $8400 (car payment, insurance, & fuel cost all included)
  • Gym membership – Monthly $60, yearly savings $720
  • Ron stopped going to the barber – Monthly $15, yearly savings $180

The sum of our savings from the above numbers in 3 years is $35,640 and all we had to do was eliminate stuff that was really not needed in our life. 

money saving ideas for long term travelAlong with the above cost saving measures, we also stopped going out for lunch during the week, instead we ate leftovers. We started shopping at discount food stores and searching out coupons or buy one-get-one-free offers. We unplugged all electrical devices and only plugged them in when we needed to use them. For example, our TV and DVD player was physically unplugged from the wall outlet unless we watched a movie, the computer along with our printer were unplugged from the wall unless we needed it. The air conditioner thermostat was turned up to 80/81°F and we rarely used our heater; however, we live in Florida, so that was not really an issue. We commuted to and from work or to the store by carpooling, riding our bicycles, using public transportation, or by a combination of all three modes of transportation. We also had a small garage sale and sold some items that were just sitting around. If we were going to buy something, we would ask ourselves, is this a “want” or a “need”?

Doing all these things above and most importantly paying ourselves first every payday helped us save a lot of money; to be honest, more money than we ever dreamed of saving. Our savings account became an obsession with us! One year of traveling began to look like two years was possible, maybe even longer. By the time we were ready to take off, we were debt free and were sitting on $35,640 to travel with.

This is what worked for us and maybe it will work for you too. In addition to the things that we did, here are some other tips that may help cut your yearly costs.

  • Compare brand name products to store brands.
  • Mend your clothing instead of buying new.
  • Exchange your “old” clothes with some of your friend’s “old” clothes.
  • Dig deep in your closet and bring out those forgotten outfits.
  • Stop taking your clothes to the cleaner and wash them yourself.
  • Men, if you are paying a Barber to buzz your head, stop and do it yourself.
  • Invite your family and friends over instead meeting at the local pub.

These are just some of the ideas that quickly come to our mind. Sure there are tons of other money saving tips like, quit smoking if you are a smoker or stop going to Starbucks everyday. Both of these habits cost around $1800 a year each. Sure this does not sound much, until you realize that for $1800, 2 people can spend nearly three months in Southeast Asia on it. Yes, I am sure that got your attention!

How We Saved Enough Money To Travel

Final Words

If you think that you have to have a high paying job before you can do something like this think again. It really comes down to what you want out of life, you do not have to be rich or even “middle class” to do what we and thousands of others have done. Just from doing a quick search I found a couple nice articles about two people that saved up and traveled. Read about how Adventurous Kate and Michael have saved up for their long term journeys.

If you made it this far into the article, then you are one step closer to living your dream. Do yourself a favor and setup a separate savings account today and start saving, apply for your passport, and then continue reading other success stories to help keep you focused on your dream while you save for your own adventure. We wish you the best of luck! 

We would love to hear about your money saving tips and ideas, so please drop us  line below.



  • Steve
    Posted at 07:24h, 11 August Reply

    Nice write-up and thank you for sharing. I think I’m going to have to reevaluate my Starbucks addiction. 😉

    • Ron
      Posted at 18:26h, 11 August Reply

      Hello Steve and thanks for following along. Yeah it’s the little things that we all overlook, but over time they add up too.

  • Garry
    Posted at 08:03h, 11 August Reply

    Great write up! Makes the realization of “wants” versus “needs” very clear for all. Even if world travel isn’t an option, certainly the many awesome domestic destinations are. Great article.

    • Petra
      Posted at 17:54h, 11 August Reply

      Thank you Garry. Yeah sadly though so many of us are caught up with buy… buy… buy… mindset that we lose focus. We had a goal to focus on and that drove us. You are correct, this does not have to pertain to world travel or travel at all really. You can put these ideas to good use for whatever your reasons are. Maybe being just debt free is enough!

  • Marcel
    Posted at 09:15h, 11 August Reply

    How much savings you think unplugging all electronics save you over a course of a year?

    • Petra
      Posted at 18:00h, 11 August Reply

      Hello Marcel. Thank you for following along. Glad you asked, but sadly we for some reason did not track an entire year. Not sure why, but we do have a spreadsheet showing 2009 vs part of 2010 when we started saving for our trip. Here are the numbers. September 2009 ($214), 2010 ($160); October 2009 ($214), 2010 ($167); November 2009 ($217), 2010 ($99), December 2009 ($135), 2010 ($83); January 2010 ($154), 2011 ($111) – Total savings in 5 months: $314. Please note this includes unplugging everything as well as bumping the AC thermostat up.

  • Steve W.
    Posted at 18:49h, 11 August Reply

    Thanks for a great thought provoking article.

    • Ron
      Posted at 19:42h, 11 August Reply

      HAHA, happy to help! Thank you for leaving a comment and following along. 🙂

  • Linda
    Posted at 11:23h, 30 October Reply

    I loved following your cycling adventures, great tips on how to save money and you guys made it happen!!

    • Petra
      Posted at 14:38h, 31 October Reply

      Thank you Linda! Hopefully, one day we’ll get to “make it happen” again 🙂

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