Curing your wanderlust can be an expensive endeavor, but when you get the itch to travel it’s hard to resist. If you don’t have a trust fund or a huge bank account to draw from, you’ll need to get creative with building your travel budget and commit to sticking to it. Fortunately, creating a feasible travel plan that won’t set you back financially doesn’t take a ton of time and once you’ve done it you’ll have peace of mind and a way to move forward. Here are ten ways to build a great travel budget.
1. Research transportation first
This one factor can eat up your travel budget faster than anything else, and it’s also an area where you’ll want to be flexible. The goal should be finding reliable transportation at the best price, whether it’s airfare, a train ticket, or a bus ticket. Comparing between sites is an easy way to do this, but don’t forget to look into any airline miles or points that you may have racked up with your credit cards. Some travelers are able to significantly cut down on transportation by being strategic with their cards and being on the lookout for good deals.
2. Choose accommodation
There are so many options when it comes to accommodation that you should find out what’s available in your destination and see what fits best into your price range. Don’t just look at hotels, but guest homes, private rental condos, hostels, bed and breakfasts, and even campsites if you’re open to it. If you plan to travel for an extended amount of time, it may be less expensive to mix and match the types of accommodation that you book. Doing so will also allow you to enjoy more unique experiences more on your vacation. For instance, you could spend three nights in a bed and breakfast, four in a hostel, and another four in a rental home.
3. Figure out food costs
One way to blow your travel budget is not being very specific about what you’ll spend on eating and drinking. Some head off with a very general amount in mind, arrive at their destination, don’t keep track of what’s being bought and ordered, then get home to find they’ve spent several hundred dollars more on food than they intended. Nail down how much you’ll spend per day, set a limit, and also research restaurants suitable for your budget so you’ll have a list before your trip starts. Don’t forget to factor in costs for eating while traveling to and from your destination.
4. Include ways to get around
Getting to your destination is one issue, but moving around once you’ve arrived is another. Include in your budget funds for traveling in the city you’re going to, and research options including taxis, public transport, and car rentals. The type of transport available will vary widely depending on where you plan to go, but it’s smart to know what types of rides you can count on and the approximate costs.
5. Set aside money for excursions
Unless you’re going to an all-inclusive resort or taking a cruise, chances are you’ll want to explore the area you’re going to. Whether you plan to visit museums, famous monuments, go boutique shopping, or have outdoor adventures you need to include room in your budget for activities and excursions. Research comes in handy in this area — especially looking at the websites of attractions you want to see and noting the prices — as does seeking recommendations from acquaintances that have visited the city you’re traveling to.
6. Make room for souvenirs
This is a travel budget item that many people overlook or don’t think of, until they get home to find they’ve spent tons of money on trinkets and souvenirs that they didn’t plan for. Especially since these items can get expensive, make this one of the less flexible items on your budget and set a firm limit.
7. Consider staying connected
While some hotels, restaurants, and other establishments offer complimentary internet access, others charge a fee per day or hour. In other cases, you may have access to a basic connection and have to pay for Wi-Fi. The rates for using your smartphone’s internet can also be significantly higher if you’re traveling abroad and put you over budget. Ensure you know the cost of staying connected during your trip and think of ways to reduce this expense before you head out.
8. Put extra aside for emergencies
No one likes to think about what types of emergencies could pop up during a trip, but it happens too often not to plan for it in your travel budget. You could end up losing your phone, luggage, having to leave due to a weather emergency, or you could get sick far away from home and need to go to a doctor or hospital. Having a few hundred dollars that you don’t touch unless a true need arises is a very wise idea, as is purchasing travel insurance.
9. Think about costs for trip preparation
If you’re going out of the country, you may be surprised at the cost of getting a passport and any required vaccinations. On the other hand, if you’re staying in the States and haven’t traveled in awhile, getting smaller sized toiletries, luggage, and such could also cost a bundle. The cost of preparing for your trip needs to be included in your budget, unless you already have absolutely everything and every document that you’ll need to head off to your destination.
10. Pick a way to track your spending
Sitting down and coming up with a travel budget is much different than actually sticking to it once your vacation has gotten underway. You need to check what you’re spending against your budget each day of the trip. To ensure that this actually happens, make the task as easy as possible. There’s the time tested method of carrying a notepad with details of your budget along with you, but downloading an app such as Trail Wallet or TrabeePocket is a convenient alternative.