For most people, budgeting is the least favorite part of planning their next trip. I’ll be honest, I can’t figure out why that is because budgeting is my FAVE. Like, I’d rather budget than pack, book the flight, and sometimes I would rather budget than pick my next destination. *gasp*
I know, I’ve heard it before, I’m a little weird. But I’m consoled each time I remember that every one has a little bit of crazy somewhere. At least mine is relatively acceptable, I’m a nerd. What crazy are you hiding? Hmm?
Anyway, back to budgeting. It doesn’t have to be complicated, in fact, it should be one of the easiest parts of your planning process. Use these tips to help you budget and make your travel planning easier.
How to budget for your next trip
Start with a figure in mind
If you read a lot of blogs that discuss budgeting, a good number will start with telling you to figure out how much you’ll need. But I don’t particularly like this approach – particularly because sometimes it puts me under pressure to work out of my financial comfort zone. Plus what do they mean by need? Is $4,000 for shoe shopping a need? For most people, probably not. I don’t need a $4,000 shopping allowance but hey, it would be nice to have one. So instead of battling with loose terms like “figure out” and “need”, start with a realistic figure in mind – i.e. one that you either have or you can save up for in a given period of time. This will guide where you go, how many days you’ll spend, the type of accommodation you book, the food you will eat (or if you get to eat at all) and the types of activities you’ll get to do. I’ll admit, it’s not a fairy tale approach to planning a getaway, but it makes your decision making process a lot simpler. So start with a figure and work backwards from there.
Save Save Save!
Saving is perhaps the 1st runner up in my list of favorite things to do when planning a trip. Once I’ve decided how much I’m willing to spend on any given trip, I map out my savings plan. I currently work full time, so I save a regular amount from each paycheck regardless of whether or not I’m planning a trip. However, when budgeting for my next trip, I am a lot more intentional with my savings plan. I make a point to cut down on unnecessary expenses – like eating out, going to the movies – during that time period.
To create a great savings plan, figure out how much and how long you will have to save for. For example, if you need $1,000 for your next trip in 4 months, you’ll need to save $250 a month on average. Can you comfortably set this amount aside from your paychecks? If not, what areas can you cut back on? Can you do some freelance work or odd jobs? Can you demand an immediate bonus from your employer? You never know. Determination and a little bit of desperation can open many doors.
Cut down flight costs
For the most part, your flight will be the most expensive part of your trip. *rolls eyes* Am I the only one that finds this super annoying? Flight costs can really eat into your budget – especially if it is tight to begin with. So how can you cut down on such a major part of your trip? In simple terms, flexibility. Airlines sometimes post error fares (i.e. a flight that should cost $300 will cost only $90) or have crazy sales going on through the year, and websites like Airfarewatchdog and SecretFlying are great for keeping up with these discounted prices. But to take advantage of these deals, you have to be ready to book immediately and travel on the deal-specified dates. It might mean working a few extra hours ahead of time to convince your boss to let you off but let’s be honest, travel is always worth it.
Find alternative accommodation
Once you have booked your flight, and hopefully saved a ton of money by being flexible on your dates, it might be tempting to splurge a little on accommodation. It’s definitely a temptation for me. I regularly thirst for 5 star resorts with balcony views and a private pool. Who doesn’t? But staying in these places may not always be realistic – especially if you’re traveling for an extended period of time. As an alternative, skip the luxury hotels and book an apartment or some kind of shared housing. Airbnb is a really popular site to book accommodation for a fraction of the cost of hotels and resorts. Another great way to save is to split your accommodation between places. Going away for 7 days? Stay in that 5 star hotel for 3 days then spend the rest of the time in an apartment. That way you can experience the best of both worlds in one trip – live like a tourist and a local. Boom! Thank me for that one later. Not to mention, staying in two different places makes it more convincing when you lie to your friends that you visited to two different places instead of one. Not that you should be lying to your friends. I was just saying…
Plan to eat in
Not only is this option a healthier alternative, it is also a lot cheaper than eating out every single meal. Find a grocery store or food market nearby – you might even be able to bargain on groceries depending on where you are! If you must eat out, lunch is always cheaper than going out for dinner – usually a similar menu but for a fraction of the cost! Avoid hotel breakfasts – unless it comes with your booking – because they are usually very expensive and not that great. Plan your meals ahead of time, that way you avoid spending unnecessary funds when you get hungry.
The most important thing is to plan to enjoy your trip no matter how much you spend. After all, your memories are priceless.