How to save to travel when you have no money

9 Ideas to save money for travel when all else has failed | Follow @seesomethingnew for more Australian travel ideas

If you want to travel but have no money you shouldn’t give up hope, there are some options available to you.

I will confess that I am really bad with money. I’ve had some terrible financial failures and I can’t save. At all. If I have single dollar I spend it. At my age, I’ve stopped beating myself up about this quirk in my personality and started devising work around strategies.

The following article is about what helped me personally overcome the fact that I kept completely failing at saving for a trip by all the other means. If you are like me, you will have heard all the advice already; just have self-control (possible the least useful piece of advice for any life issue), use online savings account with no card access or direct debit it. Or have it deposited straight from your pay, add coins to a jar each day or put your money in a term deposit or account where you are penalised for withdrawing it – the list goes on and on and on at ways I’ve failed to save!

If this is also you, here are some ideas to save for holidays that worked for me. They are not creative ways to save money for travel but rather practical ways to use tools already available.

Notice Saver Account – A game changing tool to save for travel

There are plenty of helpful options below but one thing completely changed my ability to save was getting a Notice Saver account. In fact this was a game changer for me, I’ve only managed to get savings in the last few years because of this account.

A notice saver account is basically a prison for your money (aka a locked savings account). Your money is locked in the account and you need to give a set amount of notice (31, 60 or 90 days) before you can get your money back.

This is not a temporary saving solution as and there is no way to withdraw it early like a term deposit.

For some like me, who used to (ok still do) think something like the pub constitutes a reason to touch your savings this concept is a game saver. There is 0 ability to impulse spend your travel savings.

The benefits I find with my Rabo notice saver (not an affiliate link, just takes you directly to their webpage)

  • I can’t impulse spend my travel savings
  • I can add money to the account at any time
  • I can direct deposit a percentage of my pay into the account as it has a normal bsb and account number
  • I can set the money to withdraw a day or 2 before a trip so I can’t spend it beforehand.

In Australia, your only real option if you are bad at saving or low income earners is a Rabo bank notice saver. The other banks have either large deposit requirements, don’t allow smaller withdrawals or require you to manually send an email for withdrawals.

Whereas I chose Rabo because you can make deposits and withdrawals of any amount and you can do them yourself in the app or online. This can be handy as you can use it more flexibly to manage your travel savings. For example, you may withdraw the amount required to make a partial or final payment on a holiday or tour while leaving the rest of the savings to withdraw just before you leave on your holiday for spending money.

Be aware, that Rabo is stuck in the early 2000’s. They have this incredibly crap plastic thing you need to set up your bank account and the app so if you lose your phone you will need to go through the whole process again using the plastic dongle. Because of this and the app being a piece of crap that constantly crashes it has awful reviews from many customers. However, for me, the amazing product and the game-changing pro of actually being able to save money far outweigh this terrible terrible system that could be partially fixed with multi-factor authentication.

Buy Now Pay Later Holidays – Afterpay, Zip Pay or Plan Pay a Holiday

Again this is not financial advice, just what works for me. I find the least stressful way to use by now pay later to book a holiday is to use it in advance to book your trip and pay it off before you go so that when you come back from the holidays you do so with no debt.

It’s much nice to be paying off a trip you are looking forward to than the depressing feeling of being stuck paying off something you have already done.

You can either prebook a set holiday with BNPL or use it to buy and pay off gift cards so that when you want to book a trip you have the money dedicated to travel-ready to go for any holiday of your choice. Booking just one or two nights at time makes the repayments more manageable for me over a longer period of time.

As of 2022 in Australia you can book hotels with Afterpay on Agoda, Webjet, Jetstar & Luxury Escapes , Hotels & Holiday Packages with Latitude Pay, Afterpay and Klarna (they wont show up if your over the maximum amount for that bnpl so keep that in mind) on Luxury Escapes and flights with webjet and jetstar. You can use ZIP pay/zip money on any website you like with their create a card function, they are really just a credit card even though they say there not.

Other ways to travel in the future when you have no money now

1. Book your holiday with a travel agent that has BPAY as a payment option

They can hold in tours, cruises and accommodation a long way in advance (up to a year or more somethimes) without full payment.  You may need to book with a large chain to have the option to BPAY. It needs to have BPAY for one reason. Regardless of where you are at the time you get paid make the first thing you do to BPAY your budgeted amount off your holiday.

Do this before (not instead of) you pay any bills, put petrol in your car or shop because otherwise ‘I might just buy this, or go out to lunch or whatever’ will eat up your holiday payment.

Next you can, do essential things to keep earning money like fill your car with petrol or buy your weekly train ticket. I get paid fortnightly so I also buy a petrol gift card for the second week and I make sure its a gift card that wont be accepted anywhere other than the service station (so at least my frivolous spending is limited to iced coffees and cans off coke and I can still get to work).

Every time you get paid, make the first thing you do to BPAY your budgeted amount off your holiday.

I can tell you as a former agent while these small payments are annoying to receipt (because some companies weirdly do this manually still), if they mean a large booking you wouldn’t otherwise get then it’s worth it.

If the agent tells you full payment is required at time of booking for a holiday a long way off, go elsewhere, as not all stores have this policy. This shouldn’t be true UNLESS you are already within the cancellation fee’s of the company or wholesaler your travel product is booked for.

An honest agent should generally tell you a deposit is the wholesaler or tour companies non-refundable deposit + the non refundable agent deposit  (its usually around $150 towards your trip and is non refundable – it covers the agent making at least a small amount of commission for their hours or days of work even if you cancel your trip).

Even some flights can be held for a long time without ticketing HOWEVER there is a risk that taxes may change (usually not much but it can be substantial), the flight could be cancelled or the airline could come to the agent on a random day and ask for full payment with very short notice (end of day!). Flight centre now has Humm as a BNPL option too.

2. OR Save with Gift Cards

Travel Agency Gift cards are nearly always non refundable and are specific to the agency chain. This means that once you purchase it you can’t spend your budgeted holiday money on anything else. This method may suit you better if you would rather feel like you are saving than be ‘in debt’ to the travel agent.

Travel Agency Gift cards are nearly always non refundable and are specific to the agency chain. This means that once you purchase it you can’t spend your budgeted holiday money on anything else.

This also means you can can start saving for a more expensive holiday a long way in advance so you have a deposit ready to go once bookings open for the holiday or tour. Just make sure your cards wont go out of date before you book. And keep in mind there is always a small chance of any business going out of business when you buy gift cards.

Mix it up if you are saving for an expensive holiday – you could save with gift cards up until the first one is due to expire then book your holiday. Generally, you don’t have to travel by the due date, just redeem them by the due date. Then you can pay off the rest of your holiday as above.

If you are better at paying something off than saving up then option 1 may be better for you.

3. Book a Cruise

If you know that it unlikely you can save spending money for your holiday a cruise may be the best option for you. Most cruises are a great all inclusive option as they include all your meals. Many cruise companies now allow you to pre-book a drinks package as well! So you can pay all your major expenses off in advance before you leave. A drinks package may not always be the best value unless you want to be drunk the whole time however if you will struggle to save spending money for drinks then this could be the best way to ensure you can drink on your cruise.

When you go on a cruise there are optional shore excursions which can be pre-paid with credit card. First pay off your cruise and drinks package using the above method. Once this is done you can make the first thing you do each pay booking a shore excursion on the cruise companies website.

Cruise Ship Tip

Pre-pay tips as part of your booking so it doesn’t eat into your spending money

No longer the domain of just families and retirees, the cruise industry is ever expanding. A cruise will allow you to see lots of different destinations without having to have money set aside for travel in between places, lunches, unforeseen expenses etc. Virgin is even launching adult only cruises in Australia soon.

If you can sail out and back into a home city or a domestic city near you it also means you won’t have to fail at saving the lump sum required for an international flight!

4. Book a tour. 

You can see some of the most remote and beautiful parts of Australia even on a tour. Like a cruise, they can often include many extras like meals and day trips so you can pay your activities off before you go.

As an agent the amount of times I heard someone say they didn’t want to do a tour when they had never even tried one was ridiculous.

Tours often include many extras like meals and day trips so you can pay your activities off before you go.

I love independent travel but I have done a couple of tours as well.  I can hand on heart say that I also loved every minute of the tours I have done. Someone else has to worry about the logistics, driving after pub visits and wineries, making sure there’s milk for coffee in the morning and that your accommodation or a campsite is booked for the end of the day.

Sometimes there can even be unique activities or visits organised that you can’t go to as an independent traveller. There are a large number of reputable tour companies in Australia. To search tours from multiple companies you can try Viator. Othewise for small group tours try Intrepid Travel, for under 35’s Contiki & Top Deck, OzExperience for hop on hop off and AAT Kings for bigger bus tours.

There are also lots of local tour companies, especially through the Kimberley and the Outback.

Alternatively, if you just really don’t want to do a tour, you can often book ‘self drive’ tours or packages. So you travel independently with a rental car/transport and accommodation prepaid as part of a package before you go.

Travel Tips if you can’t save money

5. Align your trip with your pay dates

If you are unlikely to be able to save spending money make sure you align the start of your trip with your normal pay dates so that you will have an income to spend on holidays.

If this is your only spending money make sure you book a tour or holiday that includes as many optional extras as possible like meals, day trips, local kitty etc.

Alternatively book a holiday to a cheap travel destination so your money goes a long way. Do remember that some countries will require you to demonstrate you have a sufficient amount of finances before entry so avoid booking to these locations or better yet travel at home here in Australia!

6. Make sure you have travel insurance. 

If you don’t have any spare cash you need to have comprehensive travel insurance (you should have this regardless!). And be aware that most smaller services require you to pay upfront then you claim it back from your travel insurer.

Domestic travel insurance is far cheaper than international insurance so book a holiday at home in Australia and its a much smaller expense to budget for! You can actually get an annual insurance that covers you for the whole year too.

7. Pre-book rental car excess reduction as part of your holiday package

Most travel insurance companies now cover rental car excess BUT, and its a big but, you have to have the funds to pay it first the claim it back from your insurer.

This can be as much as $6000 on a four wheel drive. So while its doubling up, if you can’t save and don’t have a credit card** pay the excess, reduce it to 0 by paying the excess reduction though your agent.

** A note on credit cards. Some places force you to have one to check in or hire through them, so avoid these services or be aware you made need cash deposits in lieu of a credit card to check into a hotel or hire a car – make sure you check the fine print before booking.

8. Travel in Australia! 

Not only is Australia beautiful but it is full of wild places to explore, fabulous restaurants to eat at and amazing views. It’s also safe and has other bonuses like cheaper travel insurance and no language barriers in most places! Although hopefully you will visit remote areas of Australia and learn about all the local languages.

One of the biggest concerns you may have is that if your travel with little spare money, if something goes wrong while your away you may not be able to get home.

While it will be much cheaper to get home last minute within Australia, flights from remote areas can still be pricey. To combat this issue, consider a flexible fare so your just paying the difference in cost if you need to change or alternatively stockpile some some travel agency gift cards to book a flight if you need to get home for an emergency.

9. Going on an Australian Working Holiday

Working holidays are one of the best ways to Australia and require very little money to start (just what you need to drive or fly to your new job).

They can allow you to live in some of the most beautiful places in Australia and to visit places you may not otherwise be able to afford to see.

But the possibilities are endless, you may find yourself assisting with managing livestock or cleaning rooms on remote Kimberley Stations, serving cocktails on a Whitsunday island, mingling with the rich and famous as crew on a chartered boats, guiding walks through the Queensland rainforest, serving beer in an Outback pub or anywhere in between.

In fact, if you are willing to relocate, even short term, you can do every job from cleaning toilets or dishes at night to free up your days, to a 9 -5 engineering job so the weekends are yours to explore your new backyard!

I hope some of these ideas may help you realise that if you don’t know how to save you will one day get to travel so don’t despair. Some of these tips may help you go on holidays even if you are terrible at saving money like me!

Good Luck and happy travels!

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9 Ideas to save money to travel when all else has failed by See Something New

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links.

Disclaimer: This article is for entertainment purposes only and is based on my personal experiences only, please consult a qualified professional for financial and travel advice. 

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