I consider budgeting to be one of the most important parts of travel planning. If you don’t have enough money you can never seem to really have a good time. If you are always worried about over spending, it’s hard to let loose and relax on the trip you’ve been looking forward to for months.
Marcus and I took our first cruise while we were still in college. We scrimped and saved, booked a really cheap room on the boat and then blew almost $500 per plane ticket to get to Puerto Rico. We had spent all of our money on the room and flights and really had nothing for spending money and excursions. We both each only had one alcoholic drink on the ship. While we did have a good time, we’ve talked about how our next cruising experience will be much better since we have learned from our budgeting mistakes.
Where To Start
Knowing how much money you can set aside in a certain time frame is the first step. If you want to take a trip somewhere in a years time, figuring that you can only save $100 a month (equalling $1200) means you won’t be spending a week in Ireland, but it does mean you might be able to do a 7-night cruise or 3-star All-Inclusive in Cancun. Knowing what your money gets you helps to narrow down your options and lets you focus on what you can afford. Personally, I put away $100 a month plus all cash money that is not in our monthly household budget. This includes Birthday, Christmas, Tips, and anything else that comes in cash. For this step, you will need to figure out how much money you can devote to travel each month and then also how long you will allow the savings to accumulate.
How Much Should I Save?
I set a $4000 minimum budget for us to take a two week trip to Italy. Coming up with that number took some research and a calculator. My first step was finding a rough cost for airfare. This is by far our biggest expense, ranging from $2000- $2600. Next was the accommodations. We are travelling very budget-consciously and decided to stay in hostels, which average $15-$40/ night per person. For this, I am aiming for around $25/night each, costing $700. The rest of the budget will be spent on transportation, food and sight-seeing and souvenirs.
For the Budget you will want to get numbers for:
- Transportation: Airfare, car rental, train tickets, bus, taxi, etc.
- Accommodations: Hotel, rental, hostel, B&B, ship cabin
- Activities: Admission to tours, museums, special events, concerts, etc.
- Food: Restaurants, groceries, snacks
- Purchases: souvenirs, incidentals, toiletries
- Extras: Travel Insurance, travel documents, back-up emergency cash,
- Travel gear: Anything you may need like luggage, clothing, etc. specific to your trip that needs to be purchased prior to.
- Always add on an extra allowance for errors. You don’t want to get stuck with no cash for that last day.
Every trip is going to be different, so making sure you have a very good idea of what transportation, lodging, food, and activities cost and any extra spending money you will need is essential. I always over estimate to provide a cushion in the event my planning has gone awry.
I have also made spread sheets to compare the costs of different locations and specific trips. Doing that helped not only to narrow down our vacation options, but also gave a lot of insight into what trips we might want to plan in the future. Doing some early research on them means I now know that an All-Inclusive to Mexico or a Cruise could be much easier to save for than a trip to Switzerland. I tend to have a few trip plans in mind at any given time, all depending on where my mind has taken me in my research. It always helps to know where you want to go!
I hear from so many people that they would love to vacation more but it’s just not feasible for them. It’s also been surprising to hear so many friends and family members exclaim that our Italy trip is an impossible dream to them, and the envy is obvious. Saving for something you want takes a lot of self-control and drive. Maybe you don’t want that dream trip to Africa, but would rather have a new kitchen or a new SUV. No matter what you want, saving and planning is the same.
We have tightened down on our budget a lot in the past year. We don’t go shopping very often, Target trips are twice a month with a list, and eating out must be for special occasions or when dining with friends/family only. This had been something very hard for me. I’ve talked about my Travel Saving before, and it really does take a new mindset. Weighing out and thinking about purchases before you make them, for me, made the purchases more significant. I have come to the realization that I want to travel more than I want a full closet or a new set of sheets. Sure it’s hard, but it’s all in your priorities.
Even saving your change every day can add up, and no matter how small the contribution may be, it’s something! That $10 you might spend on coffee every week could add up to $500 a year. In two years, you could have yourself a trip to Mexico just by brewing your own coffee at home. It could be something that easy! Maybe you are already on a very tight budget so saving could be more tricky. Could you donate plasma once a week? Do you make any crafts that you could sell online? Do you have a talent like playing an instrument that could make you some cash? Your secret talent could put you on a plane to Iceland!
Travel is all about making memories that you can cherish for a lifetime. Starting to plan and budget for those memories takes dedication and often times, creativity. Don’t keep setting those dreams of seeing the world in the back of your mind! We’ve all been told to wait and travel when you retire, but you really don’t have to! You can go now, and experience the world on your terms, in your time. Discover the world while you discover yourself!
Have some tips for budgeting and saving for a trip? Share your comments below!
Photo Credit: OTA Photos