How Should I Budget For Vacation?
Traveling is my absolute favorite way to spend time with my family. Whether it’s in-state, out of state, or out of the country. Some people have told me,” It must be nice to have money to travel often.” The truth behind what allows us to travel is we create and stick to a travel budget and we save ahead of time.
Trust me, we are not secret millionaires…yet. Nope, my husband and I are both education servants aka teachers. Well, we were teachers, now he has joined the “dark side” and is now an assistant principal. Me on the other hand, I quit my teaching job to become a full-time mom to our son.
So now creating our travel budgets are more important than ever, because we are living on just one income for now.
So how do we do it?
Well whether you have two streams of income or one, creating a budget for travel is easier than you might think. All it takes is a little research time and flexibility in your traveling time frame.
Choose A Destination You Want To Make A Budget For
This section comes off as being obvious. Like duh Justine, of course, we need to choose where we want to go first.
However, take this into consideration, you can choose your dream destination and budget/save for that or look into other desirable places you’d love to visit.
Some places are much cheaper than others. A little time on your computer can help you determine this.
For example, I would love to visit some exotic beaches such as the Maldives, but I knew that even with saving and budgeting it would take some time to go. BUT by being more open-minded I came across a beautiful all-inclusive resort in Isla Mujeres, Mexico AND for a considerably cheaper amount! The beaches at Isla Mujeres were just as Instagram worthy too!
Still if you are planning on a more expensive location to visit, making a travel budget will help keep you on track and from going overboard. No one wants to come back from a fun and relaxing vacation with the debt from said vacation.
You’ve chosen your ideal travel destination…now what?
Try To Travel During Off-season
Ok…this is not exactly a budget category but more of a money-saving tip. After you find out costs then add it to your travel budget plan
Depending on what your job is, you may have more travel flexibility than others, which is great! This means you can save your vacation time for when it’s typically cheaper to travel!
Do your research though, not every destination has the same peak or off-seasons. For example, most people think summers are peak times to travel to places like Costa Rica, when in fact it can be considered their mid to offseason.
Reason? Down there, summer is considered the wet season. Central American has two seasons during the year, wet and dry. The wet season is less optimal for travelers because they don’t want to be caught in the rain all the time.
However, we traveled to Drake Bay, Costa Rica in July and the rains were not as bad as they say. It would usually rain around 3 pm for an hour or two then stop, so for us, it didn’t interfere with any outdoor travel plans. Plus, we saved more on flights and accommodations because we went during “offseason.”
What if you can’t go during the offseason?
Nothing wrong with going during the peak season to places, you just need to adjust your travel budget plan for it. Again, it goes back to research, look into flights and hotels during the time you want to go. I would do my best to book in advance vs closer to the date to save money as well. (But budget for the higher end in case, it’s better to over save for your travel than not have enough)
Also, don’t be afraid to contact the hotels directly via phone or email and ask if there are any discounts they can offer you. The worst-case scenario they say no, best case woohoo! You scored extra savings!
Plan How To Get There
Plane, train, or car you will have to get to your destination somehow and unfortunately, that’s not free! Sometimes just getting there costs just as much as the hotel stay!
Once you’ve decided how you plan on getting there start figuring out costs. Flights are fairly easy to look up (don’t forget to budget for luggage fees if any). If you plan on driving, this can be more tricky to budget an exact cost.
Gas is not always a constant price. But you can look up gas price averages in places along your route to get a rough estimation. (this is a category I would allot more money to for price fluctuations). Example: I know how much gas my truck takes and how many miles it is to Orlando from Texas. So I will look at gas prices along the main highway and in this particular case, I calculated it will cost about $400 roundtrip so I will budget $500 just in case prices change or we do extra driving and sightseeing.
Going to more than one destination? Don’t forget to budget those stops too! Say your flying to Rome for a few days then going to Barcelona for another few days. Then budget for that flight or train rides too!
Other fees to also consider in your transportation budget category:
- Airport Parking fees (you can save by being dropped off at the airport)
- Shuttle or Taxi fee from the airport to resort (call ahead to see if the resort offers free pickup)
- Luggage fees (this can add up quickly, especially if you’re traveling abroad! Pack light!)
- Airport snacks or drinks
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If you can get with a hotel’s loyalty program or use hotels.com where they give you every 10th night free! It’s one of the best ways out there to save and earn free nights! They also price match, should you find a lower price elsewhere!
If the hotel, resort, or hostel is not listed through them, as mentioned before contact the place directly and ask if they have any discounts to offer. It never hurts to ask!
Once you decide where you want to stay and budget for that cost, don’t forget to include a little extra in order to leave a tip for housekeeping. It’s always a nice gesture since they work so hard.
Transportation At Your Chosen Destination
After you get to your destination, you will probably want to do some exploring. One of the cheaper ways to get around is Uber as they tend to be cheaper than a standard taxi. Plus through the app, you can see exactly who is picking you up.
Another great cheap and local way is to take public transportation such as the bus, trolley, or light rail systems. For many of these, they offer day passes which will allow you to explore while keeping travel costs down.
In many areas, they have websites that will tell you their fees so you can budget for it ahead of time. If not, then figure how much or often will you need transportation and budget a daily amount.
Plan Your Trips Daily Excursions
Travel destination? Check! Flights? Check! Hotel? Check!
Now make a list of things you want to do while there! Want to zipline in Costa Rica, look up various companies and compare prices first. OR maybe you are in the big city and want to catch a show or concert, account for costs in your travel savings plan.
Here is how I typically do it after I have chosen where to vacation.
Step 1: Pinterest! Yup, I go on Pinterest and search for “things to do in place x,y,z…” It helps to get an idea of some of the most popular things to do, or things that locals like to do, etc.
Step 2: After I make my list of things I want to do while in said destination, I go to tripadvisor.com and start researching. TripAdvisor is my most reliable source in booking guided tours, adventure excursions, and whatnot. The reviews don’t lie! Plus some companies even offer discounts if you go through TripAdvisor!
I even use TripAdvisor to check out reviews and pictures of resorts I am interested in as well.
Step 3: Add the best-priced things to my list and set the total in which needs to be budgeted for this category.
Create A Daily Food Budget
This is probably the hardest section to account for when creating our travel budget. Why? Simple…we LOVE food! We love trying new foods or foods local to that area that we travel to. The question we always ask ourselves is how much should we budget for food? Here is how to save money but also create some sort of daily allotment.
In the past, we used to be horrible about sticking to any sort of allotment for daily meals. We would just sort of “wing it” and eat out for all meals, snacks, you name it.
The better option? Try and choose a hotel that either offers free breakfast OR at least has a room with a small fridge. This way you can hit up the local grocery store and buy snacks for the trip or even agree to eat breakfast in the room.
On a few trips we will purchase cereal, milk, two cheap little plastic bowls, and that was breakfast for the trip. Another option is to purchase lunch foods from the local grocery stores as well, like sandwiches. This allows us to save money and budget more for nice dinners.
If you prefer to eat out on all meals that is totally cool, but set yourself a meal allowance. Example: $10 per day/ per person. Then maybe $20 per dinner/per person.
Those numbers will obviously vary depending on where you are traveling. I will sound like a broken record, but research, research, research! Get an idea of what average meal prices are like at your destination. And as always budget extra for tips! (although not every country has tipping, as it may be against their customs)
Budget A Souvenir Allowance
Some people are all about souvenirs while others are not. For the most part, pictures of our trips are good enough for me, but I do budget for one or two “cute” souvenirs.
I give myself an allowance, such as $50 or $100. The allowance depends on where I am going and lately depends on my son. For instance, I budgeted a high souvenir allowance when I took my son to Disneyland. When we traveled to the national parks, I kept to a budget of $10 or less. ( I collect a patch from each park)
What I recommend is budgeting for one memorable item or two for yourself and maybe one other. Some people love to buy things from friends and family back home. I promise they won’t be upset if you don’t bring them back something.
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Decide Your Packing List
Many people get so excited to go on vacation, they get trapped into this idea of needing all new things or a new wardrobe to take on the trip.
Word of advice …DON’T! I get the idea of wanting to look nice for your pictures, but I can almost bet the clothes you have already are just as nice!
Besides, money not spent on a “going to Europe” wardrobe, can be spent on other factors of your trip. Like food! Or a souvenir.
However, you do want to make sure you own or get the proper attire if you are traveling somewhere say during winter. If you don’t own a jacket warm enough for a Canadian Christmas, then that would be wise to budget and invest in one.
Other items to budget for if you already don’t own one:
Traveling Internationally? Plan For Your Travel Abroad Budget!
If you are going to an international destination then you will need to research the costs and include this into your savings/budget.
- Passport fees or renewal fees
- Visa fee (some countries require a visa on top of having a passport)
- Medication/ Vaccinations needed for visiting that country
- Foreign currency exchange fees (shop around for the best rates if possible!)
- Travel Insurance (worth the money should you get sick, etc)
- Compatible chargers for electronics