So you’ve finally decided to take that dream vacation. First off, congrats! Second, remember that trip planning (and budgeting) doesn’t have to be daunting. Here are a few tips for creating a travel budget and saving you can have a stress-free time.
What IS Your Budget?
Most importantly, set a spending limit for yourself. You’ll need to reserve funds for accommodations, food, attractions, transportation, and of course, souvenirs and gifts. Plus, it’s always a good idea to have a little extra cash for surprise expenses.
The two biggest expenses of your vacation will be how you get to your destination and where you’ll stay when you get there. If you’re driving, plan ahead by looking up the total mileage for the road trip. You can find out average gas prices along your route and estimate how much you’ll spend. Then, download an app like GasBuddy to use on the road to find the cheapest gas stations near you.
If you’re flying, you can cut costs by using sites like Google Flights, Momondo, and Skyscanner to find inexpensive airfare and the best times to times to travel. Then figure out if you’ll need to take any additional transportation to reach your final destination. If possible, use public transportation to save you from an expensive cab ride.
Despite what you may think, you can save on lodging costs by booking your accommodations only a month in advance. Research hostels, budget hotels, or couch surfing websites in whatever area you’re staying in. Airbnb is also a great resource for finding affordable housing. You can save even more if you pick a place that offers at least one meal with your stay or a communal kitchen that you can use to cook instead of eating out.
If you’re taking a road trip, bring your housing with you by packing a tent for camping. Also bring cooking supplies and a camp stove so you can shop at grocery stores, cook your own food, and save money.
Sample Vacation Budget
Here’s an example of how you could plan out your travel budget. Let’s say you’re taking a trip from New York City to Paris, France with one other person for five days during off-peak season. You’ll want to take a day trip to Versailles from the city while you’re there as well as see all the expected tourist hot-spots. You plan on staying in a moderately priced Airbnb and will keep shopping to a minimum. All prices are in U.S. dollars.
- Round trip flights to Paris found via Google Flights: $259 per person, $518 total
- Train from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the city center: $12 per person, $48 total roundtrip
- 4 nights lodging in Paris via Airbnb: $70 a night, $280 total
- Day trip to Versailles: $8 train ticket per person, total $16, plus entrance to the Palace $22 per person, $44 total (this ticket includes skipping the lines and is purchased in advance)
- Paris Museum Pass for 4 days: $70 per person, $140 total
- Food for 5 days: Budget $15 each for lunch, $20 each for dinner, a total of $350
- Money for unplanned activities, shopping, souvenirs, etc: $300 per person, $600 total
Therefore, the total for this trip would be $1,996, rounded up to $2,000 or $1,000 per person.
How To Save On Your Trip
Keep track of your spending with an app like Trail Wallet. It’s always a great feeling in the middle of the trip when you realize you’ve spent less than you thought (or a good wake-up call if it’s the opposite). Save money by carrying snacks and water around with you to avoid eating out excessively, and avoid alcohol.
Also, do your research and look for free activities happening when you’re there, such as a local festival or “pay-what-you-want” day at a museum. You’ll also want to check for student, military, and AAA discounts.
How to Enjoy Your Trip No Matter What
Now that you’ve planned your trip, the next step in making sure everything goes as smoothly as possible is to set expectations. Think of your financial guidelines as both a magic wand for eliminating your money woes and a roadmap for what you’ll be able to afford.
This way, you won’t have anxiety during the trip (or when you get home and it’s time to pay rent). You’ll be in full control of your money, so relax and enjoy the amazing vacation you’re on because you deserve it