How to Save for Your Dream Trip

Penguins in Antarctica
Photo used with permission, Antarctica XXI, © Koen Verstegen

I’m a firm believer in the idea that money is for three major things: security, freedom, and giving. Using a portion of your income for the things you love falls under “freedom”.

So if you dream about traveling to an exotic location (or even just love traveling in general) why not make that trip a reality? Here’s how to save for your dream trip. (And how I saved for mine.)

Believe you can do it

Like any other goal, it’s important to believe you can achieve it. I’ve met several people who wistfully talk about how they’d love to take a trip but “could never afford it”. The truth is that you almost certainly can afford the things you want, if you plan ahead and use your money responsibly. So go ahead and believe that your dream trip is possible. If you’re not entirely happy with your current finances, you may even want to make it a reward for reaching an important goal.

For example, traveling is close to the top on the list of things I love to do in life. While I’ve always traveled, I did use my own dream trip as a motivator. The thought of being able to travel to Antarctica really kept me going when my husband and I were working on getting completely out of debt. I’ve wanted to go there since I was 8 or 9 (Must. See. Penguins in the wild.) and now I finally can.

Investigate your options

Many people automatically assume that only “the rich” can travel to awesome places, or that it would cost a fortune to take the family on a big trip. But that’s not the case. It’s possible to travel on very little money so long as you don’t have your heart set on caviar and a 5 star hotel. (Of course it’s also possible to spend a ton on travel, and everything in between.)

The point? Don’t assume. Instead, investigate your options to get a good understanding of what’s involved with what you do and exactly how much money to set aside. For example, maybe you’ll find that you can trade houses with someone in an exotic location, rent an apartment for much less than a hotel, travel very inexpensively in the off season, or get discounted last-minute deals (like the one we got to Paris.)

My own dream trip

Letter cancelled in AntarcticaWhen it came to planning my trip to Antarctica (which will be here before I know it, woohoo!) I started by checking out the various ways to get there.

I want to actually walk around and see things up close and personal — not just from a distance — so the flyover and large cruise ship options were immediately out for me since you can’t go ashore with them. That left two choices: either a ship that carries less than 500 passengers, or a combination fly/cruise.

The fly/cruise option from Antarctica XXI (where you fly over the sometimes ridiculously rough Drake Passage, and then take a ship from the South Shetland Islands to the Antarctic Peninsula and back) seemed like an awesome idea to me. (Less chance for sea sickness = huge bonus.) Plus they do as many landings as possible, their schedule fit mine, and I was able to get a deal.

Getting from dream trip to it’s-really-going-to-happen

Once you figure out what you want to do for your trip, and how you’d like to travel, the next step is figuring out how you’re going to pay for it. That means building the trip into your budget.

Open a vacation fund at an online bank or your local credit union and send a set amount to it each time you get paid. It really is that simple. Make it a priority and start building that vacation fund. (Automatic transfers work great.)

The amount you’re able to send each pay period will help determine how quickly you’ll be able to go. If you have a tight budget, you may need to find ways to make extra income or cut out some things, but it is doable if you make it a priority.

To stay motivated, you may want to add your destination to a vision board (like I did on Pinterest) or get the kids involved if they’ll be going too. Having a goal that everyone works together on can be great. And of course there’s your dream trip at the end to reward you :)

Are you into travel? Where would you love to go?


  • We have a ton of places that we would like to visit. Right now we are in the planning stages of an across the country road trip. Can’t wait!

  • My wife really wants to take a family trip down to Disney World in 2015 and has already started looking at costs and such. She’s opened up an Etsy shop and so far has made over $600 that I’m pretty sure she’s earmarking toward that trip. Should be fantastic!

  • Travel is something that more should realize isn’t just for the rich, its something accessible to everyone with a bit of planning and research. As you point out, its just a matter of
    a) Deciding on where you want to go and how much you need
    b) Finding ways to save up on the trip
    c) Doing it on the cheap
    Wonderful post

  • suzy

    This post actually made me tear up. Thank you for setting me straight. I have had the exact same dream of traveling to Antarctica for years and years. I had an account set up name Antarctica and had it earmarked for next year for my 40th birthday present to me. Because of a divorce, I closed out the account about a year ago to protect the money and I have missed seeing it grow and the day dreaming that came along of looking at my account. Even though I will not make this trip this next year, this post gives me great hope and drive to get back on board to save to accomplish my dream. Thank you and have a wonderful time on your trip.

  • Yep, we’ve started putting $100 aside into a vacation fund each month. At some point, it should probably be upped to $200, but it’s something.

    When Tim and I were broke and wanted to take a honeymoon, my mom and I each opened an United Airlines credit card. The bonus for it was enough for a round-trip ticket each. (We went to Florida and hit amusement parks.) At least a couple of other cards offer you a free companion voucher a year, which could also cut way down on the cost of the trip.

  • We are planning to spare more on a vacation fund. We haven’t had vacation for a quite some time already.