How To Make A Travel Budget
So you’ve finally gotten around to planning your dream trip. You want everything about it to be perfect and memorable, so you nail down your destination and learn all about it ahead of time.
You start planning the fun activities you’ll do and the awesome experiences you’ll have upon reaching your favorite locale.
But perhaps the most critical part of embarking on an amazing vacation is being able to afford it.
And not just being able to pay for everything on your trip, but actually having a grasp on your vacation spending.
In other words, you need a travel budget.
Why Budget For Travel?
Not all travel is created equal in terms of financial requirements. For example, staying in an all-inclusive, 5 star resort is going to have much different (and higher) costs than staying in a European hostel.
Not only that, but travel in general tends to run a lot of money unless you’re doing something minimalist like backpacking through South America.
Also, you tend to be a little more loose with your money when traveling because you’re only there for a limited time. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and spend way more than you can afford to while in your favorite locale.
Travel budgeting becomes even more important when you’re traveling abroad due to foreign currencies.
If you don’t budget the correct amount of money, you could quickly run out of your foreign currency and therefore might have to spend valuable vacation time visiting a currency exchange.
And if you think you can just rely on your credit card in that scenario, you’ll be hit with a bunch of foreign transaction fees (unless your card company is gracious enough to waive/not have those).
Making and sticking to a bulletproof travel budget essentially mitigates all these issues.
Items To Budget For
One of your biggest travel expenses is going to be your plane ticket.
Tickets vary wildly in price. Factors that influence price include
- Destination demand
- Distance to destination
- Seating class
When budgeting for air travel, don’t just go for the cheapest option. Consider the trade-offs.
Cheaper air travel tends to involve smaller seats, less in-flight amenities, and a lower level of general comfort. The ride can be so unpleasant that it could be hard to relax during your flight.
For people that get bored easily and like to sleep, these ultra-cheap flights can make the flying experience absolutely torturous.
This is especially true on long flights. Sometimes, it makes sense to pay a little more if you’re going to be stuck on a plane for half a day.
You don’t have to fly first-class with the best airline, but see if you can find plane tickets that provide you some amenities and comfort without an outrageous price tag.
After all, there are multiple ways to save on your plane tickets. We’ll get into those later.
The other major part of your travel budget is the roof that’ll be over your head.
Fortunately, you have more accommodation options than ever before.
For example, you could book a typical hotel room. The classic hotel room is typically quite predictable; wherever you go, you’ll most likely get 1-2 beds and a bathroom.
If you want to spend less time budgeting and want everything included with your accommodation, consider an all-inclusive resort or cruise.
All-inclusives are more expensive, but they make for simpler budgeting as they include a lot of things you’d otherwise budget for:
- Lodging (of course)
- Food (at least 3 meals per day, usually at any restaurant on the resort)
- Drinks (all soft drinks, and most or all alcoholic drinks)
- Some on-resort activities
All-inclusives are great (and a surprisingly great deal) if you are sure you’ll be eating a lot, drinking a lot, and taking full advantage of the other amenities.
But if you want a more unique accommodation, check out Airbnb or a related site.
Your options on these “home-sharing” sites are massive: you could find a quiet, budget-friendly, family-friendly house for relaxing family vacations.
Or maybe you want to stay in a flashy penthouse. Airbnb has those too; many are listed at surprisingly great prices.
Whichever you choose, there are tons of options. You’re guaranteed to find something that fits your travel budget.
Food And Drink
Food prices vary wildly depending on where you travel. In North America and Europe, dining out tends to be more expensive than in places like South America.
Also, restaurants and nightlife in popular destinations know tourists are going to be dining and drinking out a lot, and so they tend to charge a lot of money.
So keep in mind where you’re traveling; going out for food and drink in Miami is going to cost you a lot more than somewhere in the Midwest.
Also, consider if your accommodation has a kitchen. If it does, you can buy groceries and make home-cooked meals while on vacation.
This will save you money on food, which you can of course spend somewhere else when you’re traveling.
Unless your vacation plans involve nothing beyond sipping piña coladas on the beach, you’re going to plan some activities so you don’t get bored.
Take a peek at the local attractions to get a feel for what activities are available. Then, compare that to how much money you’re willing to spend.
Look for free activities, too. Are there free tours? How about local museums? Are there interesting natural areas in your destination? Fun doesn’t always need a price tag.
If you save money in other areas, your activities budget is a great place to splurge.
After all, you can’t put a price on amazing experiences.
Depending on the purpose of your travel, shopping budgets can vary wildly.
Just looking to snag a coffee mug and a few postcards? Your shopping budget will be but a footnote within your whole budget.
But maybe your destination is known for its massive shopping centers. Budgeting more for shopping will give you some room if you find some destination-unique items.
To save a few bucks on the souvenir side of things, think about if you’ll actually use the item. For example, that coffee mug might have a funny quote relevant to your destination, but how many more coffee mugs do you need?
And if your destination has a solid public transit system, that could save you even more money.
Tips For Traveling Cheaper And Finding The Best Deals
Travel In The Offseason
Supply and demand rules when it comes to travel.
For example, don’t plan on traveling to most tropical locations during the winter or March-April if you don’t want to pay astronomical prices.
During the winter, everyone’s trying to escape the cold.
March-April is spring break season for most high schools and colleges/universities, so there will be tens of thousands of students hogging all the plane seats.
Not to mention these students will be obnoxious and frustrating if you want a peaceful, relaxing family vacation.
And when all these people are buying up all the plane seats, they’re naturally going to snag all the accommodations too.
Which, again, means you have to pay more for your lodging.
The fall might be a better season to travel to a warm locale. Sure, other budget-conscious travelers will be thinking the same thing as you, but there’s a lot less budget-conscious travelers than there are college students who want a week-long, no-expense-spared beach party.
Book As Far In Advance As Possible
When given the option, humans like to make last minute decisions. Thus, travel tends to be a lot more expensive if you book only weeks from your travel date.
As you go further into the future during your vacation planning, many more bookings tend to be available and therefore the prices tend to be lower.
So if you truly want to travel to the Florida coast in the middle of winter, booking everything a year in advance could actually make such a trip affordable for you.
Book A Weekday Flight
Flying during the weekends is more expensive because more people fly during the weekends.
It’s harder to take off extra work days to fly during the middle of the week, so many people wait to travel during the weekends when they have less responsibilities to take care of.
Naturally, you want to do the opposite if you want to save money on airfare. Shoot for departing on a Tuesday, as these tend to be the cheapest flights.
An added benefit is airport could be less crowded; you won’t spend as much time in the TSA line if you fly out in the middle of the week.
This advice can be confusing: whether out of confusing phrasing or just being told it’s this way, many think this advice means the day they actually place the order for the flight affects the price.
In reality, the day you place the order doesn’t affect price; its the day you actually fly that affects the price.
Travel By Car
If you really don’t want to pay for the convenience of air travel, you could drive.
We don’t necessarily recommend driving to your destination unless it’s within a few hours from you, as the ride can be quite uncomfortable and you’ll put tons of miles on your car.
Not to mention you’re at risk of getting into an accident on a cross-country trip.
But travel by car could free up a few hundred or thousand dollars to be used in other areas of your travel budget.
Bundle Your Travel
Unless you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort or a cruise, you typically have to buy everything separately….
Or you can find a bundle deal!
Bundle deals combine multiple aspects of your trip (usually airfare plus accommodation, and sometimes a rental car) and give you a price lower than what you’d spend if you booked everything separately.
These deals are everywhere, so don’t take the first one that jumps out at you. Spend some time finding the very best bundle deals.
Travel That Doesn’t Break The Bank
Planning the perfect vacation isn’t simple.
You have to research possible destinations, take time off work, and not miss your flight after the whole thing’s set in stone.
Of course, you have to budget for all these if you don’t want to be dead broke when you come back. Knowing what you’re willing to spend will prevent you from getting carried away.
Consider opening a savings account for your vacation to assist you in travel budgeting efforts, especially if you travel on a regular basis.
Dedicate a small portion of your paycheck to this savings account every month so that you have a sizable, workable budget when vacation time rolls around.
Not only will you have a dedicated vacation fund that’s relatively locked away, but you’ll earn interest when it’s in a savings account. Depending on the interest rate, your interest earnings could give you some more budgeting room when it’s time for a getaway.
These are especially handy if you travel at the same time every year. You can easily calculate how much you have to save each month to afford the kind of vacation you want.
Vacations are supposed to be relaxing and fun; don’t let unnecessary stress like money troubles ruin your picture-perfect vacation!
Take some extra time to make an in-depth travel budget. We promise you’ll have a lot more fun with the peace of mind a travel budget brings you.