For some people, budgeting is a way to get excited about a trip. They use it as the first step in the planning process and as a way to get themselves psyched up about a destination. For most of us, though, saving up for a trip is like being stuck in rush hour traffic with a 10-car pile-up. Not very fun.
But budgeting is better than racking up credit cards or overspending and busting your budget – especially when it impacts your long-term financial goals. Don’t fret, we have some strategies to tackle your budgeting questions so you can successfully save money and budget for your next dream holiday.
How much will I need?
Start your budget with the biggest expenses first—usually, this will be your flights, lodging and transportation once you’re on the ground. Look up the city you are traveling to and find out how you will “get around”. Some cities don’t have a lot of public transportation so you may need to budget for a rental car, taxis, or rideshare services. This can add up if you plan to do a bunch of exploring.
Also, it’s important to consider all the small expenses you will inevitably rack up such as food, souvenirs, tips, and entertainment costs. Remember that rental car you might need? Don’t forget to factor in additional driver fees, gas, and of course rental insurance. Cell phone charges, exchange rates, and ATM fees can also add to your travel budget. No one wants to get stuck with a bunch of expensive roaming charges while site-seeing, so be sure to contact your carrier and see what your options are. Most companies offer roaming plans you can add on temporarily while you travel.
What should I buy before I leave?
Add in pre-trip costs including visas, reliable travel insurance and immunizations. Depending on your destination or plans when you arrive you may need to consider things like power adaptors or luggage.
Gear is another sizable pre-departure purchase. Travelers, especially first-timers, often over-invest in specialized travel gear, but prioritizing is the key to saving money while still making a success of life on the road. If you’re planning a backcountry camping/hiking trip, and it’s your first time, you may need to allocate more funds to your gear budget – or look into renting your gear from a local outfitter like REI, saves packing space and you’ll have access to gear more suited to the climate.
How do I save money for my trip?
Now that you have your travel budget established, you also have a total figure you can start saving towards. Sometimes it’s helpful to display this number where you can see it so it serves as a reminder of the goal you’re working towards.
Setting up auto transfers to a special travel savings account can be really helpful. Cashing in travel miles or reward points is also a great way to save on the amount of cash you’ll need to save. Budgeting software like Mint or Honeydue can help if you have a hard time saving – some applications can even make suggestions about ways to cut your expenses.
If your everyday budget is already tight work bonuses or side hustles can offer alternative ways to boost your travel account. If you receive a tax refund, you can allocate a portion to your travel fund while maintaining your monthly budget.
Whether you’re planning an international vacation or a long-weekend road trip, the idea of escaping your daily life for the promise of relaxation and adventure is intoxicating. Making a plan and travel budget can help make sure you have the best time making new memories and experiencing a new place.