Traveling more is probably one of your top resolutions this year ― but if you also have a resolution to manage your money better, you might struggle to balance fulfilling your travel dreams and saving and spending responsibly.
Travel can be both untenably expensive and unbelievably cheap; it all depends on how you plan for your trip. To keep your expenses low and your excitement high, you must create and adhere to a balanced travel budget. Yet, most travelers abhor the thought of the B-word, believing it requires unending hours of research to compile a correct account of costs. However, building a feasible vacation financial plan takes no more than three simple steps; in no time, you will accomplish two resolutions with one travel budget.
The three steps come down to this simple fact: All travel consists of three categories of expenses: transport, accommodation, and entertainment. No matter where you go, you will always need to pay for a way to get in and get around, a place to stay, and the activities and events you want to do. Thus, your travel budget depends on understanding the intricate costs of these three categories for every destination you plan to visit this year.
Travel necessitates going, and these days, you can’t get anywhere without a ticket on some form of transportation. Unless you are road tripping (which comes with its own litany of expenses), you will need (at the very least) a plane and a means of exploring your destination, be it rental car, public transit, taxi cabs, or your own two feet.
To start your budget, use Expedia or some other fare finder to find the average ticket price for your destinations. Often, plane tickets tend to be cheaper during shoulder seasons, like late spring and early fall, so you might save money planning your trips during those times. Additionally, carrying one of the best rewards credit cards helps you accumulate points that make some plane tickets easier to afford.
You can also use discount travel sites to learn average car rental prices for your destinations, so you can have freedom of movement during your trips. There are a number of tricks to lowering the cost of a rental car to make travel savings easier, but you also should investigate the quality and price of local public transportation, which is usually safer and more convenient in tourist-heavy cities.
Even if you opt to be a pedestrian for the duration of your travels, you must invest some of your budget in comfortable, durable footwear. Aching feet and joints will cost you more than a high-quality pair of shoes.
Every night, you need a safe, comfortable place to sleep ― especially while you are busy traveling. Inexperienced travelers often go straight to booking hotel rooms, usually at well-known international chains, but these suites can be some of the most expensive options, especially if you lack travel rewards or other discounts.
Instead, you can sacrifice some luxury amenities for the sake of your budget by looking for alternative accommodations in your destinations. Hostels aren’t just for dirty backpackers; many hostels around the world provide cozy private rooms and warm showers ― which is really all most travelers need. For extra savings, you can try home swapping or couch surfing, both of which pair you with a local looking for foreign connections.
Admittedly, the last step is going to take the most time and energy to research ― but most travelers hardly consider it work. It is exciting and easy to use the Web to explore the entertainment possibilities at your chosen destinations, and including price-checking into your investigation takes little extra effort. You can use your favorite travel blogs (like the one you’re on or any of our partners) to find inspiration. As you solidify your itinerary, you can look online for admission prices and more to help balance your budget.
Let’s say you want to make it to Maui this year. To ensure you have enough time to plan, you should schedule your trip for the fall shoulder season. According to Expedia, round-trip plane tickets for the last week of September average about $650 (if you are departing from LAX). The public transit options on the island aren’t superb, so a cheap rental car is going to cost you at least $30 per day.
A four-night weekend stay at a top-rated hotel will run you well over $900 total, but you can find a spot at a relatively well-appointed hostel on Maui’s north shore for less than $50 per night. Alternatively, using AirBnB, you can find a perfectly located bed for about $135 total.
The possibilities for entertainment are nearly endless on Maui; you can snorkel, scuba dive, hike, or just relax on the beach. A day driving Maui’s legendary Road to Hana will cost about $8 worth of gas, as well as maybe $10 per person for lunch along the way. To rent a surfboard, you will shell out about $30 per day, or less if you want to surf throughout your trip. You can find an estimate for nearly any activity in seconds on the Web.
Even with a generous amount devoted to entertainment, your travel budget for Maui doesn’t have to exceed $2,000. So, you can fulfil your financial resolutions and your travel dreams in 2016 with a well-made budget.