How to Make and Stick to a Travel Budget
Are you constantly dreaming of far off lands but worried if you can afford to make that dream trip happen? We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Traveling doesn’t need to be expensive!
Travel is within reach for everyone, no matter your financial circumstances. You don’t have to be making six or seven figures to afford it! You just have to have a plan, be smart about it, make it a priority, and most importantly, create a budget!
Which is what we’re going to help you do today.
When planning your travel budget there are lots of expenses to consider. Here is how we break them down:
The 9 Primary Travel Expense Categories
If you are flying to your destination, your airfare will be one of the largest costs you will incur. The price will depend on a variety of factors including:
- The total distance to your destination
- Whether you fly non-stop or have layovers
- Whether you book round trip or one-way
- The day of the week
- The time of day
- The time of year
- When you book
The top ways to save money on your flight:
- Take advantage of credit card points and miles. Some cards offer additional bonuses if you redeem your points for travel.
- Scope out budget airlines.
- Stay flexible on days to fly and time of day
- Book as early as possible.
- Buy connecting flights. It can often be cheaper to buy two separate flights than just one non-stop.
There are options for every budget when it comes to where you will stay and lay your head! On the higher, more luxurious end there are resorts, on the lowest end, there is Couchsurfing.
Resorts: The most expensive option due to all the extra features included, but worth it if you just want to sit back and relax on your trip.
Hotels: The average daily rate of hotels is about $125, but that can vary by location and the rating of the hotel. You will typically save money if you stay outside of a major city.
Airbnbs: Depending on the city, Airbnb rates are often cheaper than hotels.
Camper or RV: A solid option if you are heading into the great outdoors but not quite interested in shacking up in a tent. RVshare and Outdoorsy rent out campers and RV’s - some for under $100 a night!
Hostels: Kind of like dorm rooms but worth it to save a buck. Hostels start around $20.
Camping: Renting a campsite to pitch your tent is around $30, depending on the location.
Couchsurfing: Completely free if you are willing to crash with a local (and maybe learn a thing or two about the area from them!)
3. Transportation at your destination
This expense can often be forgotten, but it is important to factor into your budget the cost of transportation once you reach your destination. You may want to mix and match the below options:
Car rental: Renting a car is the best for flexibility but the most expensive option. To save money, book your car in advance, calculate insurance fees and gas costs, and check for damage before driving the car. The average cost of renting a car is around $50/day but varies based on location, dates, type of car, and more.
Cabs or Ubers: In most cities, Ubers will be cheaper than taxis and give you an upfront price before booking. But fares fluctuate based on time of day. Taxis charge by the minute when you are stuck in traffic but Uber’s have surge pricing during rush hour.
Public transportation: If there is a good transportation system of buses or trains as there is in many big cities, they are usually fairly simple to navigate. Save money by buying daily or weekly passes in advance, avoid commuting during peak times, and take advantage of discounts for students, seniors or families.
Walking: You get more exercise and it’s everyone's favorite price - free!
No matter your destination, you will want to budget some “fun” money to enjoy all of the sights and sounds. This could be for historical landmarks, museums, churches, sporting events, water sports, theme parks and more!
In many cities around the world you can find free options for entertainment. A few of the most popular are walking tours guided by locals, visiting the botanical gardens, window shopping at the markets, hiking and relaxing at the beach. Some cities even offer free entrance to museums on certain days of the week, so do your research before you go!
Food is a major part of the experience for many travelers. The best way to save money on eating when traveling is to do as the locals do! By checking out street food or grocery shopping, you will save a lot compared to eating at a restaurant every night.
A few of the most expensive countries for dining in the world are Switzerland, Iceland and Norway. The least expensive are India, Sri Lanka, and Algeria.
Don’t forget extra cash for tipping if that is custom in the country you are visiting and an allowance for adult beverages which can add up!
6. Passport and Visas
If you don’t yet have a passport, the current total fees for a passport book is $145 for adults and $115 for children 15 and under. If your passport has expired, the renewal fee is $110. Additional fees apply if you are down to the wire and need your passport expedited.
Only specific countries require American citizens to have visas to enter. (143 countries don’t require one!) Depending on your chosen destination, visa costs can range from $20 to $200+.
Depending on your destination, certain countries require vaccinations to avoid the risk of contracting diseases that your immune system may not be used to. Typically, travel vaccinations are not covered under standard health insurance. They can cost anywhere from around $45 for cholera vaccine, all the way up to $3,000 for rabies shots.
8. Travel Insurance
While not required, travel insurance is a safe way to protect your trip financially. Depending on the level of coverage it could include emergency medical expenses, flight cancellations or delays, lost baggage, and more. The cost ranges from about 4-10% of your total, pre-paid, non-refundable trip costs, depending on the ages of travelers, number of travelers, length of trip and the type of coverage.
Pro tip: Check to see if your credit card includes travel insurance already to save on this expense!
9. Incidental expenses
When you travel, unanticipated events can and will happen. Leave yourself a smaller fraction of your budget for costs you may not have considered beforehand. This could be for things like Tylenol, sunscreen, an umbrella, an extra taxi, etc.
How to create your travel budget
Your budget can be dependent on many things and you have to start with some simple considerations.
Choose an amount that makes sense with your income and travel goals. Ask yourself: Am I traveling domestic or internationally? Flying or driving? Heading to an inexpensive destination in Southeast Asia, or a more expensive place in Western Europe?
Your budget also depends on your travel style. You can save money by staying in hostels and couchsurfing to splurge on activities like scuba diving and bungee jumping. Once again, it all boils down to what your priorities are and who you’re traveling with.
Budgeting should be one of your first steps in planning your trip. And it is important to set aside money for travel if you want to make it a reality. Set up an automatic deposit each month to a seperate travel savings account so you don’t even have to think about it.
We all want to get the most bang for our buck when traveling so we can take trips as often as possible. It can be a real pain, but creating and sticking to a budget gives you peace of mind in the long run.
To make the above advice easier to follow, we are providing an easy to edit trip budget tracker to make the money side of things as simple as possible for you!
Enter your email below to download it!
Now if you want to travel as often as possible and hit all of your travel goals, you’ll need a game plan!
Your strategy should include a mix of saving, budgeting, creating an itinerary, and finally committing to your destination goals.
Now that you’ve got the knowledge to handle these challenges, the last essential tool you’ll need is a push pin map! It will serve as a constant visual reminder and source of inspiration as you document your growing list of travel experiences.
This is one of the most worthwhile investments you can make to assure you actually see as much of this world as you want, and not be left with regrets later on in life.! You’ll never again be stuck on where to go next or forget all of the amazing places you’ve been over the years.
We have various map sizes to fit your budget - and your space! The smaller sizes are easier on the wallet and perfect for pinning continents and countries. The larger sizes will be an epic focal point in any room in your home and are great for tracking at a more granular level such as specific cities.
But whatever you choose, your map is guaranteed to be a conversation starter in your home and a motivator for you (and your guests) to travel more often!
What better time than now to get started on your way to making your travels more frequent and fulfilling? Grab your map below!