So you’ve decided to make travel a priority. You’ve picked the dates, chosen a destination, and now you’re ready to start planning. So now what? Looking at the entire process of planning a trip can make you hyperventilate. Especially if you’ve never planned a trip before. Relax. Take it one step at a time. Let’s just start from the beginning. The first step in planning a trip is setting a budget (unless you’re a baller then go on with your bad self). And I’m going to show you exactly how to do it. Plus, there’s a free travel budget planning workbook that you can download right here.
Step 1: Pick your total budget number
The first rule of thumb with setting a budget is to pick a number that you are okay going over. Things happen. You miss a bus and have to pay for another ticket. Or you absolutely have to splurge on a restaurant. And that’s okay. That’s part of traveling. But to avoid any nasty surprises, the total trip budget should be a little conservative to add in some cushion. What’s a realistic number? For a 10 day trip, I budget $1,500-$2,000. We’ll talk more about how I got to this number in a little bit.
Step 2: Do your research
Yes, sticking to a budget does require you to do a little work upfront. How detailed you get depends on you. Try doing a quick google search and get an idea for food, accommodation, and travel costs to start with. This will also help you adjust your total budget number appropriately.
Step 3: Consider what’s important to you
Do you like to travel first class? How about staying in really fancy hotels? Do you not care where you sleep or how you get there as long as you do and can enjoy everything the destination has to offer? This is a key step because it’ll help you with the next one. For me personally, I usually care more about restaurants and experiences so even if my budget is on the lower side, I won’t pass up on those. For example, we had a budget of $1,500 for our 16 day trip to Argentina/Chile but I knew I wanted to do a wine tour with a four course lunch and worked that into the budget as a priority. This made me realize I needed to stay in and Airbnb vs a hotel. Depending on your budget, you may have to sacrifice in one area but that’s why it’s important to know your list of priorities!
Step 4: Allocate your funds appropriately (this is where the excel workbook will really come in handy)
You don’t have to plan out every aspect of your trip in advance. I’m not telling you to look up every restaurant’s menu and factor in the costs. But the better idea of your plan you have, the more accurate your budget is going to be.
Consider pre trip costs
Do you need a visa for this destination? How about trip insurance?
Make a budget for your major transportation
Odds are unless you’re driving, you will need to fly to your destination. This is an important part of your budget. I always try to minimize this as much as possible by looking for cheap flights.
Make a budget for other transportation
If you’re visiting other cities on your trip, you’ll need inter-country transportation. As I mentioned above, consider what’s important to you. Is it getting to your next destination the fastest? How about your comfort level? Think about all your different options: plane, bus, ferry, train, etc. Don’t sacrifice too much. No need to make yourself miserable just to save a few extra bucks. If a bus ride is over 8 hours, consider other options. Trust. Me. I speak from experience.
Make a budget for your accommodation
How much do you have left over? Are you going to be able to afford a nice hotel, how about an Airbnb, or maybe a hostel? You don’t have to choose the exact place that you’ll stay at this point. Rather get an idea of a price point.
Make a budget for food
Food = life. And if you don’t agree with me, you’re wrong. Regardless, it’s an important part of your budget. Food is a little harder to estimate up front. Look at how expensive the destination is in general and see if you can get an idea for how much you can afford to spend in a day. Consider ways to save some money here, like an accommodation with breakfast included!
Make a budget for activities
Are you going to book a tour for your trip? How about entrance fees to museums or other attractions? Add up these travel costs and add them to your budget. If you like to shop, be sure to add that to your budget too!
Travel Budget Example
In November, I went to Athens and Santorini for 6 days. Here was the breakdown of my budget:
Total Budget: $1,500
Major Transportation Costs
Charlotte to Newark – $199
Newark to Athens – $430 (awesome flight deal through Scott’s Cheap Flights)
Other Transportation Costs:
Athens to Santorini – $43
Total Transportation: $672
Total Remaining: $828
Hotel in Athens – $200 (per person cost)
Hotel in Santorini – $134 (per person cost)
Total Accommodation: $334.27
Total Remaining: $494
Food for 7 days: $60×6
Total Food: $360
Total Remaining: $134
Remainder of the budget – $134. Included a tour and entrance fees to museums
I typically eat a light lunch while traveling since I am usually spending the day exploring. Given this, I was comfortable with $60 a day. I had sit down dinners every night in Greece, enjoyed cocktails, and didn’t feel like I had to skimp on anything. See what the power of a good budget can do for you?
To make all of this easier and because I’m an organization freak, here’s a budget planning workbook for you to download. The instructions are included on the first tab and it’s pretty simple to follow!
Happy budgeting and happy travels!
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