This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy for details.
From trekking the hills of Guatemala to wandering the streets of Stockholm and Cairo, I guess you could say I get around. I have lived abroad, explored several continents, and own a beloved passport full of colorful stamps.
Once I became pregnant, friends, and relatives told me I would have to “slow down with all that traveling.”
It’s expensive to travel the world with kids, they would say.
Yes, you’re paying for more flights when you have kids, so essentially it is more expensive. You learn, however, where to cut costs while traveling and costs normally even out in the end (I promise to cover some cost-saving travel tips on another post).
Fortunately, having a baby hasn’t slowed my traveling one bit (and I am so excited to be traveling the world with my baby), but it does require extra effort to save money for family travel.
You might be thinking…
I want to travel the world, where do I start?
I want to learn how to travel more.
While there are some who travel the world with no money and opt to do side hustles on their travels in exchange for room and board, most of these individuals are just that. Individuals. Or sometimes couples. They typically do not have multiple little mouths to feed.
Unless you have a job secured abroad to support your family, you need to start saving those dollars if you want to travel the world. If we can do it, you can too.
Let me show you how to save money to travel with the family to Europe and beyond, even with a low income.
Create an achievable savings goal
Create an achievable savings goal that gives your money purpose. Do you want to save $5,000 during the year for a family holiday in Spain? Do you want to save $700 for a weekend getaway to the coast? First things first, you need to have an idea of where you want to go and how much you’ll need to save.
If you’re flying, you can start researching destinations within your budget on kayak.com/explore. Just enter your budget, your preferred travel dates, and filter your results on the map. This is an awesome way to see where you can afford to fly and what part of the year you’re more likely to find cheaper flights.
If you are driving, make sure to include the cost of gas. Use this U.S. fuel cost calculator or this European fuel cost calculator and include these fuel costs in your overall budget. Just a reminder, some countries sell gas by liters, not gallons.
Make a commitment to yourself and family
Travel is good for our mental health. Nothing feels better than seeing a vacation on your calendar and counting down those days until you are swimming in the warm sea, traipsing cobblestone streets in Europe, or grubbing delicious food stalls in Asia. Travel also helps to teach our children to appreciate, connect, and interact with people of different cultures.
Remember this when you are working on building up your travel reserves. Put a picture on the fridge, or in your wallet, of your family vacation dream spot. Do everything you need to keep yourself inspired and to enforce your goal. Saving money takes time, but believe me, you got this!
Related: 5 Ways to Raise a Cultured Kid
Start a vacation savings account
Start a new vacation fund account with your bank and pump it full of funds. One of the easiest ways to get into the habit of saving is to set up some automatic method. Whether you have money from your paycheck automatically deposited into a savings account, or whether you do an automatic transfer each month, automatically having your savings put away will help you adjust your spending habits to your new “take-home” pay. Soon you won’t miss the money, but it will continue to grow and work for you. Every time you go online to check your balance, transfer some dollars, even if it’s just $5. Make it a habit.
Pack a lunch
Oh my gosh, the money we spend on take-out food. If you go out to lunch every day, you’ll likely spend $12.75 a day, which is the average cost for a meal. If you pack your lunch, it’s easily under $5. Saving $7.75 each weekday may not sound like a lot of money, but in 52 weeks (or one year), you’ll save $1,860. That’s almost three economy transatlantic flights!
Swap those froo froo lattes for regular coffee
Coffeeshops are awesome spots to work, peoplewatch, and catch up with friends, but you don’t need to spend almost 6 bucks (with tax) for a drink! Think drip coffee instead of that venti salted caramel mocha Frappuccino. Paying $2 instead of $6 every day could save you $1,460 a year! Even better, make that liquid sanity at home and invest in a good thermos. Oh, the places you’ll go!
Rock a side hustle
Babysit, housesit, drive for Uber or Lyft, use TaskRabbit, deliver for PostMates, rent your spare room on Airbnb, sell services on Fiverr, walk dogs, participate in marketing focus groups, become a virtual assistant, or sell your old stuff on Facebook Marketplace, Delcuttr, or OfferUp. Or rock whatever skill you’re best at.
Say good-bye to cable TV
I haven’t had cable in more than four years. We used to pay almost $160 a month! That added up to over $1,900 a year?! There are tons of free or cheap ways to watch your favorite shows or news stations. A standard Netflix subscription is $10.99 a month. Hulu’s basic plans start at $5.99. No excuses to bid adieu to cable!
Cut your utility bills
Use dryer balls in the dryer to cut drying time, wash your clothes on cold because cold water requires less energy to wash which saves you moolah. Move your thermostat up or down a few degrees will save you hundreds of dollars each year. Turn your hot water heater down. If your water isn’t being heated over 120 degrees, you are saving on energy.
Run your major appliances like the dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer later at night when electricity costs are cheaper. Utility companies tend to charge more for electricity that is being used during peak times. Set the thermostat to lower during the day if you aren’t home and at night when you are sleeping. The thermostat by Nest can learn your family’s day to day habits and begin to save you money by automatically adjusting the temperature.
Eat out less
If you haven’t learned it yet, going out to eat can really judo chop your savings. Learn how to master cooking cheap easy meals for the family. If you lack skills in the kitchen department, check out Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, she offers tasty easy to cook recipes your family will go nuts over. For my vegan friends, try some flavorful meal ideas from my healthy favorite, the Minimalist Baker.
Stop your family gym membership
Around Chicago, family gym membership can cost an upwards of $150 per month. Unless, you are rocking a discounted membership at your local YMCA, ride bikes, go on a jog through the park, exercise in the great outdoors, run in the fresh air, rent some workout videos from the library, and turn those burned calories into benjamins baby!
Take advantage of your local public library, and while you’re there check out the other FREE awesome activities the library offers. Or do a book swap with friends, co-workers, your mom group, or the cat lady across the street, instead of spending your earnings on brand new books.
Buy second-hand clothing
New clothes are so dang expensive. Places asking $80 for a basic toddler jacket and $30 for a tank top makes me shout from the rooftops, WTF! I tend to find good brands and selections on Poshmark, ThredUp, and even my local thrift stores. You can usually save almost 75% off the new purchase price. I’ve been lucky to find Ann Taylor, Seven Jeans, New York and Company, Calvin Klein, and other top brands at my local thrift shops.
If you need some fancy clothes, check out the clearance racks or shop online rather than your local money-sucking department store.
Invite friends over vs. meeting at a bar
You need to have a life, yes. But, shiz, going out for drinks sure add up, especially when you prefer wine and cocktails. Run to your local Aldi or local discount grocery store instead and snag 2-3 bottles of wine for less than $30. Another option is to have everyone bring their favorite beverage and you supply a few appetizers. You can get a decent number of appetizers on the cheap at Aldi. Either way, have fun and just know that you will be jetting off very soon!