This is the biggest travel mistake you can make (and it may not be what you think)

Travel mistakes. We all make them, and (hopefully) we all learn from them.

There are small mistakes…like forgetting to pack something or missing out on an attraction because you didn’t know you needed to make reservations ahead of time.

Various travel paraphernalia, a globe, a toy airplane, and a credit card on a wood table.

Then there are big mistakes, like…

  • Booking your plane tickets for the wrong dates
  • Forgetting which airport you’re departing from
  • Being denied boarding because you didn’t realize your passport needs to be valid for at least three months beyond your planned departure date from France.

But this is the biggest mistake of all: going into debt to travel.

I know someone who borrowed thousands of dollars to vacation in Europe and then spent the next 5 YEARS paying it off. Which means she was also paying interest and ended up paying significantly more for her (already expensive) trip than if she had saved up ahead of time and paid cash.​

I’m telling you it’s not worth it.

Ways to save money for travel

There are a lot of ways that you can save up money before your trip so that you can pay cash.

Reduce unnecessary personal spending

I think the easiest way to make more room in your budget to save for travel is by cutting down on your discretionary spending. Here are some of the ways we’ve made more room for travel in our budget:

  • We use a budget cell phone carrier.
  • We eat out only once or twice a month, if that.
  • We go to the movies only a few times a year.
  • I buy secondhand clothing as much as possible and also buy off clearance racks. Hubby loves to buy clothes at Costco.
  • We own used cars and drive them until we almost literally can’t drive them anymore.
  • Anything that can be re-used or repaired is, rather than buying new things.

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Prioritize saving for travel

Once you’ve found some areas in your budget to cut, move that money out of your checking account (where it’s easy to spend) and into a separate savings account at the end of each month.

You’ll be surprised at how quickly it starts to accumulate…and that works as added motivation to continue saving until you have enough money for your trip.

And just to clarify, when I say prioritize saving for travel, I don’t mean over saving for retirement, giving to charity or your church, or paying your bills. As I’ve indicated already, it makes no sense to mortgage your future for pleasure today.

I do not subscribe to the philosophy I see from some travel influencers or the occasional travel blogger that goes something like this: “Don’t think about it, just book that trip! You won’t regret it.”

If you truly can’t afford it, it doesn’t matter if you will regret it or not; it’s irresponsible to go into debt to travel.

What I’m talking about here is making a concerted effort to intentionally set aside money each month for travel. With a budget plan in place to save for travel, you’re less likely to find yourself spending money without thinking about it.

Track your travel budget easily

The best way to keep a rein on your travel expenses is to track everything you spend. The Plan, Ready, Go Trip Budget Spreadsheet will give you the tools to plan your budget before you travel and also track your expenses each day as you travel.

Mockup image showing the Plan, Ready, Go Trip Budget Checklist Spreadsheet displayed on a computer monitor.

Prefer to track your trip budget and expenses with paper and a pencil? Check out the Plan, Ready, Go Printable Trip Budget Trackers.