Skip to content

How To Plan And Save For An Epic Adventure

There’s a great big world out there. Photo courtesy of katerha.

As someone who has taken many long-term trips, I’m often asked how I go about planning and saving for such an adventure. While I’m the type of traveler who typically enjoys planning a trip without planning, there are some facets of the trip that should always be planned out.

Decide Where You Want To Go

In this first step, I want you to write down your dream vacation. Don’t think about money or time, just make a note of all the places you wish to go. This allows you to open up your imagination and get excited about your trip in a very organic way. Remember, you can tweak the list later.

Adapt This To Fit With How Long You Have And Your Budget

When doing this step, keep in minding hopping from place to place every other day is exhausting and doesn’t give you much of a chance to experience any one city. I’d recommend trying to stay in most places for at least three nights, more if possible. You can always move through your route quicker if a certain city ends up not being your scene, and use the extra days somewhere else. For example, if you’re traveling Peru and planned to spend three nights in Lima and three in Mancora but you end up not enjoying Lima, leave Lima early and spend more time in Mancora or another city along the way.

Something else to keep in mind is your route doesn’t have to completely make sense. If there is somewhere you really want to go that isn’t exactly on the way and you can make time for it then do so. I’ve done this numerous times, hopping on a quick flight to a destination not along the way that I really wanted to see and then flying back to continue on the original path or continuing on from there. While it may make a dent in your budget, it can be worth it if it’s a true bucket list item for you.

And finally, keep in mind there are many ways to save money before and during the trip that can help you expand your budget which are discussed below. At the bottom of this post, I will also provide some additional reading you may find helpful in regards to budgeting.

Look Up Visa Requirements And Vaccinations

This is possibly the most important step of all. In fact, failing to get the proper visas and vaccinations could lead to you not being allowed to enter your destination. One semi-sneaky trick I will recommend is calling up a travel doctor, telling them where you’re going and asking what vaccinations you need. From there, call your regular doctor or an infectious disease specialist to see if they can give you the vaccinations (they can’t always), as many travel doctors don’t accept insurance. For example, when I was going to South America and needed malaria medication I called my local travel doctor, who said I had to pay a $75 appointment fee — not covered by insurance — to get the prescription for the malaria pills. This seemed a little ridiculous, so I called my regular doctor and told him my situation. He wrote the prescription for me and I only have to pay me usual $20 co-pay for doctor visits.

Enroll In The U.S. Travel Smarter Program

The U.S. government has a Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) you can enroll in before leaving to let them know your trip details in case of an emergency. It’s free to enroll and takes less than five minutes. While its unlikely you’ll need it, it’s better safe than sorry.

credit cards
Credit cards. Photo courtesy of Fosforix.

Notify Banks & Credit Cards

Remember to let your bank and credit card companies know of any travel details, as you don’t want to arrive in a foreign country and have your card blocked or frozen when you try to use it. Moreover, when you call these card companies to let them know of your travel plans they’ll let you know of any special perks and travel benefits you automatically have with the card.

Order Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is usually extremely affordable and can cover you in potentially outrageously expensive emergencies. Especially if you’re planning a truly epic adventure, it’s important to be covered as your chances of injury increase as your travel gets more daring.

Look Up Safety Information

The best way to do this is to read blogs and reach out to the authors of the posts with any questions. Blogs are great for research — especially for safety topics — as these people have actually been to these places and can give genuine advice. Moreover, bloggers are real people who are accessible and you can interact with.

One thing I would also like to mention when it comes to researching safety is not to believe everything you hear. If you read something that concerns you make sure to contact the author for full details. Just because one person gets pick-pocketed or mugged in a city doesn’t mean you will. For example, on my way to Quito I met a couple who had both been robbed at knifepoint. This didn’t stop me from visiting the city, and I stayed for a week without any issues. That being said, I was very careful to use my head, wearing hidden-pocket underwear, taking taxis at night and keeping valuables locked up.

loose change
Start a loose change jar to help save money. Photo courtesy of tsmall.

Plan A Travel Budget

Start planning on how you will save money for and during the trip as far out in advance as you can. Some tactics I’ve used to save money before trips include:

  • Picking up extra shifts at work or getting an extra part time job solely for travel money
  • Limiting the amount of discretionary income I spend
  • On holidays and birthdays ask for travel money/tours/hotel stays instead of traditional gifts
  • Resist buying clothes for the trip unless it’s a necessity like SmartWool or pickpocket-proof gear. The truth is long-term travelers usually bring a few simple outfits on their trip, and re-wear when they realize nobody cares how fashionable they are.
  • Hand in your loose change. The last time I did I ended up having around $500, which made a nice dent in my travel fund.
  • If you have a travel blog, try to see if you can set up some partnerships beforehand. For example, during my three months in South America Hostelbookers sponsored all my accommodation in exchange for honest hostel reviews.

Plan Money-Saving Strategies For During Your Trip

There are always ways to save money while you’re traveling, for example:

  • Skip fancy hotels and opt for less traditional forms of accommodation like hostels, home swaps, CouchSurfing, and home stays.
  • Eat street food and at local restaurants. Not only is the food tastier and fresher than at most tourist restaurants, it’s much cheaper
  • Opt for free walking tours. Many cities have them now, even expensive cities like New York, Paris and Buenos Aires. Google “free walking tours in x” and see what comes up.
  • Skip the bus tours. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but if there is a walking or biking alternative to a tour it’s most likely going to a lot cheaper and you’ll see and experience more. If the activity or attraction is something you don’t feel you need a guide for, opt to simply do it yourself and skip the tour all together.
  • Add complimentary activities to your itinerary. Many times experiences like library classes, museums, gallery hopping, hiking, parks, live music at local venues, dancing at clubs and do-it-yourself adventures are free or very cheap.

Start A Blog

If you don’t already have a travel blog, now is an excellent time to start one. Not only is still a great way to update family and friends of your whereabouts, it also gives you a an interactive journal of your trip to have for the rest of your life. You may even decide you really love blogging and want to do it as a career, allowing you to travel cheaply and often for free depending on how much of a following it gains.

Get Into An Adventurous Mind Set

You’re giving yourself an opportunity to do more than just escape your normal routine, but to also try new things and have internal growth. Erase fear from your mind and learn to say yes to all the opportunities that come your way. Go sky diving, learn to salsa, take up hiking, interact with locals and do anything else that has the potential to enrich your travel experience.

Related Posts:

Do you have any long-term travel planning tips to add?

About Jessie Festa

Jessie Festa is an New York-based travel content creator who is passionate about empowering her audience to experience new places and live a life of adventure. She is the founder of the solo female travel blog, Jessie on a Journey, and is editor-in-chief of Epicure & Culture, an online conscious tourism magazine. Along with writing, Jessie is a professional photographer and is the owner of NYC Photo Journeys, which offers New York photo tours, photo shoots, and wedding photography. Her work has appeared in publications like USA Today, CNN, Business Insider, Thrillist, and WestJet Magazine.

Jessie Festa standing in front of grafitti wall

Hi, I’m Jessie on a journey!

I'm a conscious solo traveler on a mission to take you beyond the guidebook to inspire you to live your best life through travel. Come join me!

Blogging Courses

Want to live your best life through travel?

Subscribe for FREE access to my library of fun blogging worksheets and learn how to get paid to travel more!



  1. Sally @ thewinetraveller on at 9:47 am

    Proper planning must be made before travelling. otherwise everything will go in vain. Place, credit card and travel insurance must be kept in mind. thanks for the nice post.

  2. Visit For a Guided Road Trip on at 5:44 am

    Great post! Yes, it’s true that preplanning is a must for a successful trip. Thanks for the detailed suggestions for planning a trip.

    • jess2716 on at 2:09 pm

      @Visit: Thank you for the kind words!

    • jess2716 on at 5:46 pm

      @Route 66: You’re welcome!

  3. Jack Gibson on at 1:22 pm

    While Going on a trip money management become very crucial factor. If you don’t expense money in right way then you may be in trouble. You provided great tips to save the money during a trip.

    • jess2716 on at 5:21 pm

      @Jack: Thank you for the kind words!

Leave a Comment