If you’re an avid traveler, then you know how imperative it is to have a travel budget. This is particularly true if traveling has become a hobby or you’re a frequent vacationer. Traveling can easily wipe out your savings if you are not careful.
One of the best ways to avoid overspending while on vacation is to create a travel budget and stick with it. In this article you will find 7 important steps that you can use as a template for building your travel budget.
1. Start Searching for Your Flights Now
Let’s start with one of your big-ticket items. Your flight. Because flight costs can vary tremendously, it’s important to start looking into your tickets early. According to a CheapOAir.com study (2021), the best time to book a domestic flight is 3 months and 3 weeks in advance. However, for international flights, it is dependent upon the region of the globe you’re traveling to.
Many people rely on OTAs, or online travel agencies, such as Expedia and Priceline to find cheap flights. OTAs strike deals with airlines to offer cheap rates and can most certainly offer the cheapest prices.
However, that’s not always the case. Be sure to utilize a non-third-party service such as Google Flights to search for cheap flights. Google Flights is a search engine that pulls prices directly from the airlines. With Google Flights, you book directly through the airline rather than through a third-party.
Tip: Try using Google Flights or Skyscanner for fare alerts to keep an eye out for price drops.
2. Research Your Accommodations
Accommodation is another big-ticket item you’ll need to consider. Finding the cheapest lodging will likely depend upon your preferences and comfort level.
The obvious free option is staying with friends and family. But if that isn’t available to you, your options are vacation rentals, timeshare rentals, hostels, and hotels. Websites that can help you with your research include: Airbnb, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Hotwire, Hostelworld, RedWeek, and Vrbo.
3. List Your Activities and Record Costs
Next, you’ll want to make a list of the activities you’re interested in. Do a little research and determine how much each activity will cost you. Will you be going hiking? Well, that is likely free.
Tip: This step will also help you to create your travel itinerary.
4. Consider Your Other Transportation Costs
Now you’ll need to consider how you’ll be getting around. Will you need a rental car? Or maybe you’ll be using a ride-share app like Uber or Lyft. Maybe you want to hire a driver. No matter if you’re taking the bus or a train, this is an additional cost you’ll want to consider.
5. Create a Meal and Alcohol Budget
Food and alcohol can eat up your vacation budget–and quickly! Another handy step that’ll help you with your travel itinerary is researching where you’ll be dining. Make a list of places where you’d like to eat, browse their menu for an idea of what the prices are like, and set a budget for each location. Or, you can just simply set a daily food and alcohol limit and stick to it.
6. Other Miscellaneous Travel Costs
Don’t forget to consider other miscellaneous things you may need to spend your money on. This may include things like souvenirs and shopping, travel insurance, vaccinations, lost currency value, tipping, and laundry.
7. Create Your Travel Budget
Now that you know what your trip will cost you, fine-tune your budget accordingly. If you’re under your travel budget, great! Add another activity or two to your list. If you’ve gone over your max budget, swap out a few paid activities for free ones!
Alexandrea Sumuel is a travel writer and the founder of Wander With Alex, where she provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, and explore-- and, on occasion, escape! Alex’s mission is to help people travel easier.