Bagan, Myanmar
Inspiration,  Travel

Saving For a Dream Trip: My 3 Step Strategy

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**This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of EQ Bank. However, as always, all opinions are my own.

One of the biggest misconceptions about me and my job as a travel writer and blogger is that I get paid to travel.


Sorry to burst your bubble if you had dreams of doing this, but that idea, as lovely as it is, certainly is not the reality.

Bagan, Myanmar

Don’t get me wrong, being a travel writer and blogger definitely has its perks. I’ve been on a couple press trips including Ireland, Florida, Jamaica, a Christmas Market Cruise, and I’ve also been able to work with tourism boards, hotels, and tour companies. But, I still pay for the vast majority of my travels. Yes, being a writer and blogger has allowed me more opportunities than most would have. But this hasn’t always been my job. I only started monetizing my blog and working as a freelancer in 2017. Yet I still managed to travel tons before that. For example:

  • In 2014, I spent 2 months backpacking around Europe.
  • In 2015, I spent 4 months travelling between Europe and Southeast Asia.
  • In 2016, I spent 4+ months exploring more of southeast Asia.

Seems like a lot, doesn’t it? The craziest part? I didn’t have some highflying job like a lawyer or a businesswoman. During that time, I worked as a cake decorator for a measly $13CAD/hour. At that time, that was only a dollar or two above minimum wage. But I still made it work. I still got those dream trips. And I didn’t have to sell my life’s possessions (or my soul) to do it.

I’ve written about how to save money for travel before. In fact, I have a massive list of 75 tips to save money for travel. But at the end of the day, not everything works for everyone. You can’t save that $5 a day on Starbucks coffee if you’ve never bought it to start with. Trust me, as a non-Starbucks addict (I don’t do coffee, please don’t hate me), I totally get it. However, there are a couple of things that everyone can do to help them reach the goal of getting their dream vacation.

So whether you are looking to splash out on a luxurious Irish castle hotel, take a girls trip to NYC with your best friends, or just want to save as much as you can so you can travel for as long as you can, then this is my advice for you. Here’s my 3-step strategy for saving for a dream trip.

Step 1: Plan Early

Notre Dame, Paris

It’s really easy to get sucked into seat sale emails or friend’s Instagram photos and dream about hopping on a plane to Paris, Bali, or Banff right away. Trust me, I know; that’s the story of my life. But most of the time, it’s not realistic.

I find the best way to guarantee that my travel goals will succeed (especially the big ones) is to plan as early as possible. All those 2-4 month trips I listed above? I started planning and saving for them a year (or more) in advance. Sure, it seems like a long time to save for a trip, but it also meant I had the money and could actually afford to do everything I wanted, whether that be a few days of scuba diving, a night at a fancy hotel, or even just going out to a nice dinner and having a few drinks with friends. I’m all about being smart with my money when I travel, but I also recognize that these opportunities really might be once in a lifetime and some experiences are worth spending the money on. There was no way I was going to Halong Bay in Vietnam and not doing a cruise or visiting Paris and not seeing the Moulin Rouge. You don’t want to return home thinking ‘I wish I had done XYZ’, so plan early so you can create a savings plan to ensure that you get the most from your dream trip.

Step 2: Create a Monthly Budget

Carry on cozy

Once I have my game plan in place, my next step is to figure out how to save as much as I can. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I tend to be a bit of a disaster. I’ve missed way too many buses, trains, and planes over the past several years so I know, for myself, it’s always better to over budget and have more. If you are more put together and organized than I am, you probably don’t need to worry as much. But I’m at the point where ‘better safe than sorry’ has become my life motto. Plus, it means I don’t come home completely broke.

The first thing I do is figure out my monthly expenses. Things like bills, food, transportation etc. Then I give myself a little wiggle room for things like dinner with a friend, a movie, or a new shirt. Being a travel junkie, I’m not typically a big spender when I’m at home so this tends to be pretty easy for me. However, if you have a busy social life and go out a lot, it could be tricky. The key is to create a balance that you know you can manage. If you eat out four times a week, you’ll be pretty miserable if you cut that down to once or twice month. Don’t do that to yourself; cut it down to twice a week. Maybe this means it will take a little longer to save for your dream trip but that’s ok. Yes, saving for your trip will be worth it, but that doesn’t mean you should be miserable in the meantime.

Step 3: Stash Your Cash

Sapa Vietnam

Once you’ve set yourself a monthly budget that you can stick to, it’s time to find a place where you can stash your savings. If you are good with money and have strong willpower, then a good place to put your money is in a high-interest savings account (HISA) since you can earn more interest compared to a regular chequing or savings account.

For monthly savings, consider opening up a HISA specifically for your travel fund that you can add to every month. You can even make an arrangement with your bank so part of your paycheck is automatically deposited there without you ever noticing. Out of sight, out of mind!

But, if you know you are a spender then you need to do something a little smarter than using a HISA or stuffing your travel fund into piggy bank like you see on Pinterest. As good as your intentions may be, it’s way too easy to dip in there (been there, done that). So don’t sabotage yourself.

If you’ve already been saving for a while and still have enough time until your planned departure, consider a GIC (Guaranteed Investment Certificate). What’s a GIC? It’s a low-risk investment with a guaranteed return on the amount that you originally invested. These investments are short-term; making them the perfect way to stash money for your dream trip. Plus, you can make a bit of interest.

For example, EQ Bank currently has the following rates for their GICs*:

  • 1 Year: 2.76%
  • 2 Year: 3.01%
  • 3 Year: 3.25%
  • 4 Year: 3.30%
  • 5 Years: 3.50%

These rates are among the best you can get on the market right now. Sure, it’s not a ton of interest. But it’s definitely a bonus and will help towards saving for your dream trip.

Keep in mind, the amounts that you invest in a GIC don’t have to be huge. If you’ve only saved up a few hundred dollars, that’s fine. With EQ Bank, the minimum deposit is only $100. And while you can’t add to a current GIC, you can open multiple ones. So say your goal is to spend a summer backpacking around Europe and you are giving yourself three years to save. Maybe right now you only have $500 saved. That’s fine – put it in a GIC for three years. Then next year you might have $2000 saved, so open a second GIC and this time put it in for two years. GICs are a smart way to save as they keep your money on lock (no sticky fingers allowed!) and build up a little bit of interest. This is particularly true for non-redeemable, or non-cashable, products.

If by chance you desperately need that money, you’ll still have access to it if you invested in a redeemable GIC. You’ll lose any interest earned, but if a true emergency comes up, at least you’ll know that you have the money available. Be sure to read the terms and conditions before you commit.

Saving for a dream trip can be daunting, especially when you price it out. Trust me, I get it. I go through the same panic and worry when I get one of my big, crazy ideas. But, as you can see from my low pay cake decorator days, it is doable. You just need to be patient and have a smart savings plan. After all, you know what they say: good things come to those who wait!

*Rates shown are in effect as of May 28, 2018 and are subject to change. For GIC terms equal to one year, simple interest is calculated on a per annum basis and paid at maturity. For GIC terms of over one year, interest is calculated on a per annum basis and paid either annually (simple interest) or at maturity (compounded annually). Interest is accrued for the entire GIC term. Non-Redeemable.For more GIC rates and information, visit EQ Bank is a trade name of Equitable Bank.

Trying to save money for your dream vacation? Here are my top tips to help save money for travel.
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  • WorldXplorer1

    For a young woman, you are very wise. These are great ideas and some good advice. I particularly like the advice to not make yourself miserable while saving for the next epic adventure. You have to have a life and enjoy day to day living. But you have to spend less than you make so you can save. I would suggest looking at the big ticket items like housing and transportation. Keeping these big expenses in line will make it easier and faster to save up for the dream trip. Also thanks for sharing investing ideas like GIC’s.

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