How I Saved $15,000 for my Trip Around the World

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Enjoying a beautiful sunset over the rice terraces in Ubud, Bali

“Are you rich?”

“How can you afford to travel so much?”

These are the first questions people ask me when I tell them how often I travel. As a millennial, I fully understand the struggle to stay afloat financially. Most 20 somethings are just starting their careers and learning to live independently. Student loans, rent, and other bills leave you with barely any spending money at the end of each month. Saving enough money to travel the world took patience and diligence, but when there’s a will there’s way! Below are some of the tools I used to save $15K (and only spent $10K) to travel the world for 6 months:

Table of contents

  • Prioritize & track spending
  • Start a travel jar
  • Save money from holidays & tax returns
  • Use travel credit cards

Prioritize and Track Your Spending

Start a strict budget, and stick to it!

I was a waitress and a bartender, I was barely making ends meet when I decided I wanted to travel the world. Prioritizing travel as a long-term goal was the first and most important step I took towards making my dream become a reality. First, I started creating a monthly budget and tracking all of my expenditures. After creating a budget for bills and seeing how much I spent on other activities, I quickly adjusted any unnecessary spending habits in order to start a travel savings account.

Saving enough money for flights was more important than a manicure or a night out drinking – so I started there. That $20 you spent on that dinner last Friday night or that $5 you spend on coffee every day before work may not seem like much, but those little expenditures add up. I am not saying you shouldn’t treat yourself once in a while, but keep in mind that you could use that money towards a flight, or for 10 dinners in Thailand!

Start a Travel Change Jar

Every penny counts. When you are just getting by month to month saving any money for travel seems like an impossible task– so I started a change jar! Now, as a waitress and a bartender having a change jar were extremely useful. Every shift I would have leftover change in my server apron given to me by customers. I never exchanged that change at the end of my shift for dollar bills, instead, I took it home and threw it in my travel jar. I continued this trend outside of work. For example, anytime I received change at the grocery store, I put it in the change jar.

I did not touch that jar for 2 years! I then cashed it in with the bank when I decided to take my first backpacking trip through Central America for 10 weeks. I ended up saving over $350.

Tip: If you want to make sure you get all your money, roll the coins yourself. Those change machines take a percentage of your money (not worth it if you ask me). Besides rolling coins is kind of therapeutic 🙂

Christmas, Birthdays and Tax Returns

These were extra bonuses to add to my travel savings account. If you are lucky enough to still receive any kind of money for a graduation, birthday, Christmas etc., use that money to put directly towards your travels. Also, tax returns were a big help. This put about an extra $1000-1500 into my savings each year!

Take Advantage of Travel Credit Cards

There are great travel rewards cards out there that will give you enough miles for a round-trip ticket from the U.S. to Europe. The first travel card I started with was Bank of America Travel Rewards card. I chose this card because it had no annual fee, you get 1.5 points for every $1 you spend, and a $250 worth of reward points when you spend $1000 in the first 3 months of getting the credit card. I also got the Venture One Capital One card which offers similar rewards ($200) when spending $1000 in the first 3 months. I strategically applied for these cards when I knew I was going to book my flights. I put all of my expenses on my card as well as all flight purchases. Putting $1000 on a card is easy when you are preparing for a trip. These rewards were able to pay for $450 worth of flights!

There are other great travel rewards cards out there, like Chase Sapphire, but they normally require excellent credit (above 720) have a fee of $95 a year.

Tip: Try to only spend money on your credit card that you already have or are certain you will have in your bank account when the bill is due. These credit cards are only useful if you plan on paying them in full every month. Interest rates on credit cards are high and will definitely set your travel fund back significantly if you rack up debt.

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