There is nothing more exciting than dreaming and planning for your next trip. Budgeting is part of the fun. It’s the first step in the planning process. I know it seems daunting, but it’s necessary for a stress-free vacation.
If you don’t like researching and planning, this process can be a pain. But, it’s worth it in the long run. Especially if you are planning a long trip or a trip to a foreign country. It will give you peace of mind knowing you have a well thought out plan in place and the means to make it happen. I like to use a travel planner to write down all of my ideas and work through a budget.
Budgeting isn’t just for big trips though. Maybe you’re like me and prefer to take multiple shorter trips throughout the year. Creating a budget can help you achieve all of your travel goals.
Where to Start
1. Decide Where You Want To Go
First things first, where do you want to go and how long will you be there? Think about travel time when you’re planning the length of your trip. If you’re going to the other side of the country or a foreign country, it’s going to take you longer to get there. Give yourself enough travel days and time in your location. If you’re going to multiple locations, you may need to factor in a few travel days.
2. When Are You Going?
Unless you have flexibility, you’ll want to plan this upfront. The time of year you travel will effect the cost of your trip. If you are traveling during season, it would be more expensive than off season. It will also determine the activities you do and the things you may need.
When you go will also effect your budget plan. This will give you an exact timeline for saving. It will also give you a realistic idea of how much you will have to spend on your trip.
3. How Will You Get There?
Transportation is a huge factor when it comes to planning for a trip. It’s a large expense as well. Are you going to fly, drive, cruise, or take a train? Maybe a combination of two or three.
Another thing to think about is how you will get around once you get to your destination.
4. Where Will You Stay?
There is a big price difference between an all-inclusive resort and a hostel. This is where you can add some flexibility to your trip. Think about what you care about. Do you want amenities at your hotel or are you going to spend most of your time exploring? Do you want a place that feels like home or a place that will take care of everything for you?If you’re traveling to multiple places, you’ll want to find a place to stay in each place.
If it’s a road trip, consider staying close to the main road for easier travel and short stops. Or maybe you’re backpacking and need to find campsites or hostels along your trail. Use a map to plan realistic stops along the way. Have some back up places in mind, just in case.
5. What Are Your Priorities?
Now for the fun part! What do you want to do on your trip? Consider the tourist attractions, exhibits, activities, and delicacies where you’re going. Make a list of non-negotiables. This list should include the things you don’t want to miss. Use it to help you map out the cost and make adjustments if needed.
6. How Much Will It Cost?
Now it’s time for you to do some in-depth research. But also the time for you to make a few itineraries. Map out what it would cost for your dream vacation. If you could have everything on your priority list, what would it cost you? If that number is unobtainable, make a list with alternatives. Consider different places to stay, cheaper ways to travel, and find alternative activities.
If research is not your thing, I highly recommend working with a travel agent. Not only will they do the research for you and work with your budget, they can also get you some good deals.
How to Budget
Now that you’ve worked out the details and. have a number to work towards, it’s time to start your budget. This is where you can be flexible and do what works for you.
1. Make a Spreadsheet
Whether you’re the paper/pencil type or are the master of excel, it’s up to you, but make a spreadsheet to track your spending. If you have the time, take a month or two to jot down everything that comes in and out. This will give you an idea of where your money is going and where you can make adjustments.
2. Where Can You Cut Back?
Use your spreadsheet to see where you can make cuts. Start with the extras or unnecessary expenses, like eating out, coffee, or those late night amazon purchases. Yes, we all have them!
What you do with that extra money is up to you. I recommend moving the money to a separate account. It will give you the impression that it’s already spent. I would consider keeping your money in an interest bearing savings account. This could give you some “free money”.
3. Consider a No Spend Week or Month
One of my favorite ways to save money quickly is to do a ‘no spend’ week or month. Whatever timeframe you choose, you can’t spend extra money during that time. Obviously, you will pay your normal monthly bills and expenses. But nothing else. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save in just a week by not spending money.
4. Research Travel Credit Cards
Credit cards can also help you save money or perks for travel. There are credit cards out there that give you cash back on certain purchases. And others that will rack up points that you can use for travel expenses, like airlines or hotels.
5. Start Saving As Early As Possible
It’s not secret, the longer you save, the more you can save. Start saving as soon as possible, even if you haven’t made a budget yet. You could even start saving before you make a travel plan. This will give you a head start.
Tips for Short Trips
Personally, I prefer to take multiple shorter trips throughout the year. We don’t take lavish trips. Just enough to give us a change of scenery often. I use the same budgeting techniques for these shorter trips. Here are some other tips that help me travel more often.
1. Plan During Off-Seasons
Everything is cheaper during off-season. You can get a bigger bang for your buck this way. It’s usually less crowded during these times too. The downfall, you may not get to do the ‘it’ thing at those locations. For example, Park City, Utah is known for its winter activities. However, it’s just as beautiful during its summer off-season. You may not be skiing, but you can still enjoy hiking through the mountains.
2. Search For Cheap Flights
Use Skyscanner or the Hopper App to find cheap flights. Let the cheapest flights dictate where you go!
3. Be Flexible
It’s cheaper to fly and book hotels during the week and some weeks are cheaper than others. If you can be flexible about when you go, you can save money.
4. Don’t Be Afraid To Be Spontaneous
Sometimes, last minute trips are cheaper. Airlines and hotels want to fill up and make as much money as possible. They will often discount flights and hotel rooms to fill up. Don’t be afraid to be spontaneous and go without a plan. Those usually make for the best memories.
I hope you’re encouraged, excited, and ready to start planning your next vacation! Leave a comment sharing where you want to go next! Check out my latest post Must Have Travel Products to get inspiration.
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