Contributed by Global Action Volunteer Team Member (GAVT) Maureen Ewing
Maureen Ewing is a Lifetime Member of the Girl Scouts with 12 years as a girl member and over 25 years as an adult volunteer. Maureen studied abroad for a full academic year at Nottingham University in the UK and did graduate studies at Rhodes University in South Africa, where she earned her Master’s Degree. She currently serves on the Global Action Volunteer Team and co-led a Destination to India (check out the blog series here!) and the WAGGGS World Centre Sangam this summer. Maureen believes that her travel experience as a Girl Scout helped form her into the independent and curious traveler she is today (30 countries and counting)!
As a Global Action Volunteer member, she hopes to grow the conversations and travel opportunities available to girls in this council. She’s been kind enough to share some tips and tricks on how to make your travel dreams happen without breaking the bank. Read on for her exclusive advice on budgeting and saving for your next adventure!
Written by Maureen Ewing
Over the past two decades, I’ve talked to many girls and women about traveling. One of the first questions I receive is always, “How do you afford it?” My response is always: I save for it.
Daydreaming about travel is fun, but making it happen can feel daunting. Life happens and sometimes it feels difficult to carve out the time and money to travel. Yet, you want to see the world. Planning a trip well, working and saving for it, means that when you take the trip, you’ll appreciate every day and every dollar.
Step 1: Choose the Trip
You’ve been daydreaming about traveling to a specific place for a long time, and it’s time to make the dream a reality. Answer a few key questions:
- When do you want to go?
- How long do you want to go?
- How much can you afford?
Once you have a goal, you can begin to make it a reality. How much time can you take off work or school? Do you need to schedule it around holiday schedules or other people’s schedules?
The more in advance you plan, the more you can take advantage of travel deals and discounts.
Step 2: Do Your Research
Go to the library and check out all the travel guides you can find about where you’re going (yes, books are still relevant and very useful). Choose books that give suggestions appropriate for your budget. Go online and read all articles and blogs from other travelers about the location where you want to travel. Follow travel sites and hashtags on social media to see what other travelers are doing!
Make a list of all the things you want to do. Dream big! You won’t do everything, but you’ll understand the possibilities. Doing pre-trip research builds excitement for the trip, and your trip will be even better for it!
Poll your friends and family for their tips on travel. What did they enjoy on their trips? What would they do differently?
Pro Girl Scout tip: Check out our blog on researching your travels as a Gen Z!
Step 3: Make a Budget
Use books and online resources to find out how much plane tickets cost, the range of accommodation prices, the sights you want to see.
Make a preliminary budget that takes into account the big expenses you’ve researched: flights (and baggage costs), travel insurance, accommodation, food, local transit, sightseeing, souvenirs, etc.
Prepare for the unexpected costs in your budget:
- Do you need to make any pre-trip purchases like new clothes, a new backpack, a portable charger for your phone, a new camera, etc. ?
- If you are going out of the country, will you need to use your phone, and if so, what does your company charge?
- What immunizations do you need?
- Do you have a passport or does it need to be renewed (your passport must be valid for 6 months after you return from your trip)?
- Do you need a travel Visa to visit this country (a special application process to visit the country)?
- How much baggage allowance do you get on your flight?
Add a little padding to the budget in case there’s something you don’t want to miss, or something unexpected happens, like you miss your train.
With a preliminary budget, you can set realistic expectations for how much money you need to save and how quickly (or slowly) you can manage it. You’ll also be ready to jump on a cheap plane ticket and other not-to-miss-early-bird opportunities.
Step 4: Plan a Savings Schedule
When you know your budget, plan out how much money you need to have saved before the trip. There will be some pre-trip expenses you will need to buy in advance like flights or accommodations or tickets to that can’t-miss-show. You might buy your flights eight to twelve months before you leave to take advantage of a great deal, and you should prepare for that in your savings schedule.
How much ready cash do you want to have with you and available when you travel? Some trips may give you easy access to use your credit or debit cards, but some trips may take you places where you’ll need to have cash on hand.
You might open a special savings account or a special checking account at a different bank, that you will use only for travel. You can squirrel away your money in this account so it is out-of-sight of your day to day expenses.
Here are a couple examples of savings schedules:
- If you know your trip will cost $2,500 and you have 12 months to save up for it, that would be about $208/month. You can then begin to plan how to save that money each month. Can you cut back on your regular expenses to cover that amount, or do you need to be creative in your fundraising?
- Let’s say you want to travel to Edinburgh, Scotland in August because you want to visit the various festivals, take tours into the countryside, and attend a Highland Games. This timing will affect your budget because it’s high season and in a city. If you plan early, you can get cheaper flights and better deals on accommodation. You might decide to stay in a hostel or Airbnb to save money for the experiences. Taxis and Ubers can add up, so research the local transit options (trains, buses, trams) and figure out how to get around the city.
- Let’s say you want to travel to Paris, France, and you want to go during spring break! You’ve got a tighter $1,500 budget and only one week to travel. European cities can often be cheap to fly to in the off-season, such as spring, and you’ve been following sites that track flight prices for you. You’ve been saving for six months, so you’re able to buy that amazing deal as soon as it pops up. You have much more money in your budget now to do more, maybe even splurge a little on a hotel or a Bed and Breakfast.
Dream it. Plan it. Travel!
Traveling is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. There is always a new place to go, new people to meet, beautiful experiences to be had. There is always a reason not to go but don’t let money stand in your way. Start saving now so when you’re ready to go, you’re ready!
On the Global Action Volunteer Team, we believe travel opens up our minds and hearts and gives us fresh perspectives. If you can dream it, you can plan it, and you can afford to travel.
Which way to adventure?
Saving up for a big trip can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. With hard work (and maybe the help of a travel scholarship) your day-dreams can become reality. Special thanks to Maureen for her super-helpful advice!
Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana is a council committed to providing incredible opportunities for girls to experience the world. Whether you’re going on a weekend trip to Milwaukee, or a two-week adventure in England, the Girl Scouts have your back.
Are you interested in providing unforgettable travel experiences to Girl Scouts? Find out what it takes to join the Global Action Volunteer Team!
For more advice from our Global Action Volunteer Team Members, check out their other guest blog posts:
Who We Are Part 1| Who We Are Part 2|Why You Should Try Backpacking|Daydreaming About Travel|A WAGGGS Adventure in Mexico|Guide to Safety While Traveling Research travel as a Gen Z|Girl Scouts Will Travel (Maureen’s other featured guest post!)