travel budget

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If you really want to get the most out of your vacation, start with research. That alone will save you money and time. You don’t have to have an endless budget to travel. Whether you want to travel more often or simply get a lot more value out of your trip, it pays to be meticulous when it comes to putting together a travel budget.

Know What You Need in Your Travel Budget

First of all, you have to create an actual budget. This doesn’t mean setting a savings goal. This means thinking of just about everything that you’re going to have to pay for. Figuring out (or at least estimating) how much it is likely to cost. Make a travel budget planner out of an old notebook or google doc. Putting it all together to help you see exactly how much you have to pay. Learn your travel expenses, including not just transport and accommodation, but food, taxes, card fees, currency exchanges, mobile phone usage, and more. That way you can make sure you know exactly how much you need to save before you start booking.

Research Costs Ahead of Time

For the sake of your travel budget and also to help you make more out of the discretionary spending money you bring with you, you should learn what the average costs overseas are. There are websites that can help you calculate costs by country, including the costs of food, travel, and common services. Not only can this help you refine your budget better, but it can also help you see when you’re getting ripped off. Getting charged a “tourist rate” by unscrupulous folks who know that you don’t know the usual rates is not entirely uncommon. It’s worth doing a little digging to make sure you’re not the next target.

Go Off-Season

When it comes to cutting your costs, one of the biggest immediate cuts that can be made is all down to timing. Every country has their tourist season. When demand is that high, then prices are going to skyrocket. By that logic, when the off-season hits and there are fewer tourists, then the prices tend to dip as well. It can help you make some huge savings. However, it’s also worth taking note of the fact that certain attractions and tourist services may not be open outside of the tourist season. Make sure that you can still do everything you want in the off-season. Otherwise, you’re going to have to find other ways to cut those costs.

travel budgetImage by FreeStocks

Consider Alternative Accommodation

If you stick to hotels, even those that aren’t particularly ritzy, you might be spending a lot more than you should. The average budget hotel really doesn’t offer a huge difference in comfort or service compared to cheaper accommodation like BNBs or hostels. You might have to do your own cooking. But if you free up enough cash in the budget, that means you will simply be able to eat out at local restaurants more often instead. If you have friends that live or own property in the area, you can offer to pay them a small fee to stay in their place, too. There’s no harm in asking.

Anticipate Emergencies

Sometimes, you’re going to run into issues when you go traveling. You might lose your wallet, forget your cards, or even be stolen from. When that happens, you have to ensure that you have a backup plan when you’re planning your vacation. Prevent money emergencies by learning how to get in touch with the local embassy. They can point you to services that can provide emergency financial assistance for travellers who are stuck abroad without cash. Though it may mean an early end to the vacation. Don’t forget to take the time out for setting yourself a daily spending limit so that you don’t face the emergency of simply running out of money, as well.

Get a Little More Than You Need

You see that travel budget? You should probably save more than that. After all, unexpected expenses can and often do happen. While they might not always seem fair (and may even be a little fraudulent) you shouldn’t let yourself get caught out by them. Saving up a travel emergency fund can ensure that you always have a little more than your standard budget ready. If you don’t have the funds available, it might be worth using your credit and looking for the best guarantor loans available to you. If you’re using credit or a loan, just make sure that you understand exactly how much you’re going to be paying back and set up a repayment plan in advance before you borrow. I don’t recommend doing this unless you have to.

travel budgetImage by Artem  Bali

Hunt for Discounts, No Matter Where You Are

Travel comparison sites and alternative accommodation make it much easier to save on both transport and the place you’re staying. However, if you want to really be frugal, you have to think like a local. There are travel apps that can help you find the best savings for all kinds of services, no matter where you are on the globe. This includes budgeting apps that track just about every major currency, apps that track the cheapest gas near you and more. If you spot a discount, hop on it.

Use Better Cards

A lot of people use credit cards or prepaid travel cards when they go abroad. It’s a way to make sure they’re not relying on cash alone and not dealing with the fees that come with using a debit card. However, credit cards can come with some hefty foreign transaction fees. You might not be fully aware of just how much every little expenditure and withdrawal ends up costing you until you get back and see an astronomically high bill. Look instead for credit cards with small or even no transaction fees. They may have slightly higher interest rates but depending on how much you’re going to use it, it could end up still being the better bargain so don’t disregard it on that basis alone.

What’s Worth Spending On?

When we go travelling, many of us spend on unnecessary things. Perhaps the most egregious of all are all of the travel fees associated with arriving at and leaving the country. Currency exchange fees at the airport, checked-bag fees, international ATM fees, and phone roaming fees can all weigh down your travel budget.  Avoid them where possible. Free entertainment and sights in a foreign land can be just as new and exciting. Do your research and think about weighing your itinerary in favour of cost-free ways to spend your time, instead. You don’t travel to spend money, you travel to see and do new things.

travel budget plannerImage by Helena Lopes

Make It a Group Thing

If you prefer to travel solo, then this point might not be all that pertinent. However, for those who don’t mind a little company, it might be worth asking friends and family if they would be interested in coming along. Traveling as a group can help you split a lot of the costs. Such as the costs of taxis or a room with two beds instead of paying for one alone. There are plenty of other benefits to traveling in groups, too. It’s a lot safer, plus you have someone there to share the experience instead of simply having to keep it to yourself. You never know when someone you know could be just itching for an escape.

Stay Safe

As mentioned, emergencies do happen. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about the risk of it happening to you. Most crimes targeting tourists are purely financial, such as pickpocketing and breaking and entering in tourist accommodation. Hide your money when traveling, ensuring that it’s simply left lying out in the room for someone to see and snatch. Don’t carry too much cash on you at once. If you’re carrying a wallet or purse, don’t carry all forms of money (cards, cash, etc.) in the same place. That way, even if you do end up getting targeted, you won’t lose absolutely everything. It will still undoubtedly be frustrating, but not a complete disaster that ends the vacation early.

Building Your Travel Budget Planner

It might seem like a little overkill. But when you put this much effort into budgeting your vacations, the difference is night and day. Rather than running out of money and being forced to simply lounge around the hotel. You can enjoy a much greater and more diverse range of experiences. It’s time to get serious about the better budgets that build better vacations.

Header image by Negative Space

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Michelle Jensen is a twenty-something traveler, occasionally solo, you’ll find road tripping across the U.S. or hostel-hopping in Europe. Currently residing in Los Angeles, CA with a day job in Television.

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