How Do I Budget For A Trip?
When asking my Instagram followers what they consider their “biggest barriers to travelling”, the responses were overwhelmingly geared towards finances and knowing where to start! ! Let’s start with budgeting- it’s hard to travel or to plan a trip when finances are a concern! Here are my tips:
1. Start a monthly savings plan that works within your current finances and stick to it! You know your budget and financial situation better than anyone else, so no one can tell you what this should be. However, after your basic necessities are covered, start allocating any “disposable” or “incremental” funds to a travel specific savings account. This should be separate from your emergency and long-term savings accounts and can be any amount.
2. Once you have funds available, you can start outlining your plans. Honestly, your budget doesn’t always have to be the main driver of where you vacation-but it will obviously be an important factor. Whether you’re a budget traveler, mid-range or prefer luxury, you’ll have to make some decisions. There are tons of destinations that are often deemed as more affordable, like Thailand or Vietnam that cost on average $30USD a day to navigate (including when broke down) vs. other locations that may cost in upwards of $100USD a day like Barcelona. The flight and the lodging will often be the most expensive aspects of your holiday, you can choose to cut costs and stay in a hostel or decide that you want 5 star, this is where you’ll start to hone in on decisions once you know your destination. I’d start HERE, with Budget Your Trip. BYT is a great tool for getting a loose idea of how much it would cost to travel to just about any destination in the world based on your travel preferences (budget, mid-range or luxury) as well as length of vacation! Honestly, there are times that I do not mind staying in the 3-star hotel to be able to spend that money elsewhere towards my plans and other times I want a 5-star experience. I also always fly in economy unless I get an airline upgrade or have miles to put toward my airfare.
Below is an example from BYT website for an estimate on a visit to France!
3. As mentioned, the most expensive part of my trip is typically lodging and your flight, but there are ways to save money here! I usually recommend that people chase the deals not the destination, meaning go where the flight deals are taking you to help lower this cost! Track your flights on sites like Google Flights, Hopper App or Skyscanner to get an estimate on when your ticket will be the lowest fare. Or sign up for newsletters like Scott’s Cheap Flights to be alerted via email of weekly flight deals around the world. Aside from monitoring flights and trying to get in at the lowest price, I also sign up to loyalty programs and utilize my Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn points that can be redeemed for flight credits. I give more information on rewards/loyalty programs in my travel guide and break down how to leverage these programs for free to low-cost travel!
Grab a copy of my e-guide here.
4. Once you have a travel bank, have your destination, are tracking your flights and understand your lodging options, start thinking about your itinerary and any related expenses. Do you need tickets? Is it cheaper to book ahead or once at your destination? I usually google to see what other traveler’s are saying, unless it’s say visiting Universal Studios in Florida, something that is the focal point of my trip or has a tendency to be sold out, I usually confirm ahead of time! I always search the web for any discounts or deals that may be available. Are there free walking tours or museums, etc.? What is the transportation situation? Is it easier to rent a car? (Read my post on 8 tips for renting a car in another country HERE). Is ride sharing available (e.g. uber/lyft)? Are trains, buses or other public transport the norm? How expensive are these things? In Japan it was much more efficient to use their transit system to maneuver around the cities, whereas in Los Angeles, it made the most sense to rent a car! I also recommend everyone always carrying at least $20-$100USD (or it’s equivalency in cash).
5. Budget for additional expenses like travel insurance-which you should always have, whether it comes as a benefit on your travel credit card or choose one of the following options from THESE reputable companies. Your insurance should always cover: travel interruption, accidental death/dismemberment, baggage delay/lost, trip delay, weather-related delays/cancellations, illness, rental car coverage and supplier bankruptcy. Many insurances will offer additional coverages, including coverage for Covid-19 related incidents, be sure to vet the policy for your specific needs and understand if your destination requires a certain level of coverage (e.g. up to $50K USD in Covid-19 related coverage for testing, hospitalization and mandatory quarantine, if needed.)