How Much Money Should You Save to Travel?

How Much Money Should You Save to Travel?

“I’d love to travel more, but I just can’t afford it.”

How many of us have said the above sentence, or some variation thereof? If I had a penny for every time someone said it to me, I could… well, I could travel as much as I ever wanted.

The thing is, you can afford it. And you don’t need a magic penny-generating machine to do it. You may think the cost of traveling is some crazy incalculable number, but it’s actually a very simple incalculable number.

It’s not incalculable because it’s so big and unwieldy. It’s incalculable because there is no one set amount of money you need to travel. Instead, your budget will depend on a few different variables: destination, duration, and expectations.

So, let’s break it down. First up, what’s your destination? Where would you like to visit? A major component of how much you need to save depends on where you want to go. After all, it’s a lot cheaper going from, say, Baltimore, Maryland, to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, than to Bethlehem, Jerusalem.

Of course, when most people say they want to travel more, they’re talking about international travel. Luckily, if you’re a U.S. citizen, Mexico and Canada are both within kissing distance. That means you probably won’t have to dip into your savings, so feel free to keep looking at Baltimore houses for sale. All it cost to visit another country is a passport ($110) and a plane ticket (a flight from Baltimore to Mexico City, for example, is about $500).

Hypothetically, though, let’s say you specifically want to visit another continent. Europe, perhaps? The great thing about Europe is that you can save a lot of money on airfare by taking one flight there, then moving from country to country via automobile (a flight from Baltimore to Barcelona, Spain, is about $600; from there, Spain borders France, France borders Italy, etc.). That’s why backpacking across Europe is so popular. It offers a lot of bang for the buck.

That brings us to the two other big variables: duration and expectation. How long do you plan to stay abroad and what kind of experience do you expect to have?

Are you planning a nice two-week vacation or a year-long adventure wandering from place to place? Do you plan to do this alone or with one or more companions? Are you thinking of staying in high-end hotels or taking advantage of inexpensive hostels? Do you have any friends in other countries that you can stay with? Do you want to bring home souvenirs? The list of questions goes on and on.

At the time of this writing, the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the Euro is almost 1:1. That rate fluctuates, though, which is another factor to take into consideration. Even with the standardization of the Euro, the costs of visiting different countries varies. For instance, as I write this, the daily cost to visit Poland is just $68, while the daily cost for Denmark is $178, more than twice the price.

For these reasons and more, quantifying how much money to save in order to travel is not easy. But for the very same reasons, I’m more than comfortable assuring you that you can afford it. It’s just a matter of planning, researching, and managing expectations.

A $20,000 year-long jaunt across Europe may be beyond your grasp, but maybe a month spent hitchhiking from Spain to Germany isn’t. Travel is not a zero-sum game; it’s customizable.

Take the journey that’s right for you.