In this series, we share our tips for living your best life—on a budget. Here’s how to plan a lit overseas experience and get more for your money.
If the travel bug is biting and you’re wanting to head overseas for a trip of a lifetime (who doesn’t?) there are a few things you’ll need before you go, one being the inevitable: money.
Saving for your overseas experience (or as most people call it, OE) is an exciting, rewarding and at times, tricky task. Getting the funds together to put towards a big OE is no small feat, as doing so involves lots of discipline and plenty of #FOMO, such as saying ‘no’ to that cute top on sale, skipping your morning mocha and sometimes not buying that concert ticket.
However, if you’re serious about heading abroad, it’s important to switch your mindset into saving mode, rather than spending mode. Changing your spending habits now means you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labour later. It’s just about how you approach it – and knowing what to do.
Whether your trip is in a few weeks or a few months, every dollar counts. These are the best tips for saving for your overseas adventure:
Know what you’ve got to work with.
The first thing to do is set up a spreadsheet and work out all in your incoming income versus your outgoing spending. Rent, food, transport and bills are life necessities – the rest are just ‘wants’ so it’s in this column you’ll be able to look for places to scale back your spending. Just think: Making coffee at home instead of buying from your local coffee shop every day could save you over $1000 a year. Figure out what you can commit to ditching (whether that’s Uber Eats, the gym or walking instead of paying for petrol) and this should give you a fair idea of what kind of savings you will realistically be able to manage.
Plan, plan, plan.
So you’ve got these huge plans to eat pizza in Italy, surf in Hawaii and shop in New York, but do you have the funds to do it all?
It’s easy to get carried away thinking about big plans, but at the end of the day, how much you’ll be able to do comes down to the coins stored in the (figurative) piggy bank. It might mean scaling back your itinerary, going at a different time of year, mixing up the high-low experiences (for example, staying in backpackers 90% of the time so you can stay in a really nice hotel for 10% of the time) or concentrating on ‘doing’ a few locations really well, rather than trying to tick off too many in one trip.
Although planning your OE is super exciting and once you’ve jotted down all your ideas you may be tempted to book everything in ASAP, knowing how much you need to save in advance and working out if you can actually cover your entire trip is the first step before you go ahead and book anything!
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Covering your flights and accommodation is one thing, but making sure you have enough spending money for food, sightseeing, transport, toiletries, activities and other costs is important too as this is the foundation of your holiday.
Getting organised with (yep you guessed it) a budget spreadsheet outlining how much you’ll roughly be spending on holiday basics is a good start; aside from flights and accommodation, keep in mind you’ll be wanting to try all the foods and visit all the sights – so be realistic about how much to budget, do your research (look up tourist attraction ticket prices, train prices and so on online) and get some ball park figures broken down week by week or by location, that will give you something to work towards. If it’s not looking feasible to save that amount in the time frame you have, consider changing your itinerary or looking at other ways to cost cut, such as travelling outside of peak times.
When getting your budget together it’s also important to remember factors such as the exchange rate that may significantly impact your spending plus other travel costs such as visas, insurance, immunisations and so forth; work these into your plan, because setting a realistic budget translates to setting realistic plans!
Make saving automatic.
Now that you’ve got your budget together and you’ve got a rough idea about what you need to achieve, it’s time to put talk into action and get your goals on track. But yes, we know, saving money is never fun and actually pulling through and resisting temptation isn’t always the easiest, but you just need to make a start.
A simple yet effective tip to getting the savings ball rolling is creating a specific bank account for your travel funds and labeling it ‘BIG TRIP’ or ‘OE’ or ‘TRAVEL FUNDS – DO NOT TOUCH. By doing so, you’ll have an account for the sole purpose of your OE and if you find yourself wanting to pinch funds out of this account for random splurge purchases, you’ll be faced with a visual reminder that you’re backtracking. Think, would you rather buy those jeans or spend that extra night in Tuscany?
Once this account is up and running, the art of setting up an automatic payment will be your new savings BFF. With your budget sorted, you’ll know exactly what you need to be saving each week or month to achieve your goals, so by getting your travel-related payments automated, you’ll ensure your savings get the kick-start they need. And before you know it, your they will have grown impressively, without you actually having to think about it.
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Cutting out costs.
There are so many tips and tricks that’ll have you cutting costs before your trip begins – getting ahead of the game and purchasing certain things in advance (like flights, train tickets and accommodation) can most definitely make a difference when it comes to saving for your OE.
There are also a couple of other ways to reduce your costs without actually cutting out activities or the things you’d like to get out of your trip:
Laybuy your flights
Many flight providers offer ‘book now, pay later’ type schemes with the likes of Laybuy or Afterpay meaning you can pay off your flight in smaller installments over several weeks. Booking earlier often means getting cheaper flights – and this way, you’ll be able to jump on a deal when you see it, even if you don’t yet have all the funds in your trip account.
Organise transport early
If you’re heading to Europe, taking advantage of locking down a Euro ‘global rail pass‘ rather than paying for individual flights from country to country could see you saving hundreds on your overall experience. By purchasing this bulk transport method early and online, you’ll have an exact figure for your transport costs and you won’t have to worry about paying fluctuating airline fees. The Eurostar also tends to have cheaper journeys if you book well in advance.
Pre-book tickets for attractions and shows online
Like transport, you can often get better deals on tickets for shows or tourist attractions if you book early online. Many cities offer ‘multi-attraction’ passes, where you can buy one ticket for use across several attractions for a discounted rate. Use comparison websites or look around online to find the best deals for all the attractions you are hoping to tick off your bucket list.
Travel with a plus one (or two)
Travelling with a buddy or partner can help you make significant savings when you’re looking at splitting accommodation or food costs. Travel attractions will also often offer discounts for groups.
Rule 101: don’t over-pack. Whether you’re heading to hotter or warmer climes, pack smartly (and use our tips here!) remembering that you’ll most likely find yourself picking up clothing and other souvenirs on your travels anyway. Additionally, on your return trip you won’t want to be hit with excess baggage costs from filling your suitcase to the brim, so pack lightly on departure and question everything you’re taking. Little things like buying mini toiletries while you’re overseas (which you can ditch before you come home) and ensuring your bags are packed with a variety of basics that you can mix and match will ensure you get through your travels in style but without the extra weight.