The more notice you can give yourself, the better. I didn't do so well on this front on my big trip to Europe. Kaitlyn and I decided around Christmas that we wanted to go on a trip together after my graduation the following Spring. That gave us just about 6 months to save, plan, etc. and while it worked out for us, I would definitely need more time now that I'm a quasi-adult with rent, a dog, and no graduation money to bank on.2. Book Ahead
You will get better deals on airfare, hostels, rail passes and just about everything else if you book it at least a month or 2 in advance. This goes doubly for trips during the high season, i.e. summer in most places. I really like the HostelWorld App because it shows you pictures, reviews, amenities, and you can book most places through the app itself. You could also check Airbnb- I've heard of friends scoring big with private Parisian apartments overlooking the Eiffel Tower for the price of a shared dorm room in a hostel on the outskirts of town. Whatever you choose, just choose early because the prices will certainly go up if you wait to the last minute.3. Set a Generous Goal
Initially, I had set myself a budget of $2,000 for the month, not including airfare to and from the US. That gave me an average of $66 per day, which I thought would be reasonable after researching hostel rates in most cities. What I failed to take into account however, was train/airfare within Europe as well as the cost of food and attractions in places like London or Zurich compared to say, Prague. I'd definitely urge anyone taking that same trip to budget twice what they think they'll need. If you have a contingency you will be much less stressed throughout the trip, and happy to have some fun money at the end.4. Crunch the Numbers
Planning my trip became my main hobby in the months leading up to it. I had Google spreadsheets breaking down how many days we'd be in each city, which hostels we'd stay in, the attractions we'd visit and what they cost, and how much we'd have for food each day. The plan was never to stick to this exact plan, but instead to get a feel for how much I'd need to budget day to day.
I appreciate that this may not be an option for everyone, but for me it was tremendously helpful. My big plane ticket was a graduation gift, along with some other financial contributions from relatives. If you have a big life event or a birthday or holiday at which you typically receive gifts, put the word out that you'd appreciate financial gifts towards your big adventure.6. Explore Other Options
Those other options can be the couches of distant relatives, friends (or even friends of friends) who live abroad, camping, or even strangers via airbnb or couchsurfer. For Airfare you can start by googling 'flights from Boston to London" -many people are unaware of this easy flight comparison tool. After my last trip I came across insanely low fares on Norwegian Air- I definitely plan to exploit that piece of information in the near future!7. Stop Spending
I know, I know, easier said than done. The best advice I can give is to just hold the vision of your trip in your mind. When you're about to fill up your cart at Target with a bunch of things you don't need, just stop- close your eyes and imagine the freaking amazing time you're going to be having before too long. Get really, really excited. Instead of online shopping, do some online research and planning. Make what you can at home instead of shelling out for things like coffee, lunch, bread, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, etc.8. Save a Little Every Day
I use Simple for my banking and they have a really neat goal-based saving system that allows you to choose a specific amount of money and a date you need it by, and the app will divide the total by the number of days until you need it, then move a small amount (usually less than the cost of a cup of coffee!) from your "safe to spend" account to your "goal."