You have figured out where you want to go, what you want to see and how long you will stay. The next step is to create a travel budget. How much will this dream trip cost? Depends. Will you be visiting several countries? There are huge cost differences between countries. What time of year will you travel? Traveling during shoulder season will save money, the weather is still decent, there is still a good number of daylight hours and less crowds. What is your travel style? Luxury hotels will increase cost. Eating street food or purchasing food at markets will decrease costs. Alcohol will increase costs tremendously. Do you plan to take day tours?
Your next step is to project the approximate cost of your dream trip. You can always revise your plans later. Planning the expenses before you go will eliminate surprises and stress while you are there AND you will not come home with a huge credit card bill. An internet search of travel costs for the destination will provide useful information. Many travel bloggers share their travel budgets and are a good source of information. Also check current travel guidebooks for location costs. Start by looking at the biggest expenses first, this includes transportation and lodging.
Travel Budget Categories
Determine your method of transportation. Consider flights to and between locations, airport shuttles, car rental fees, rail tickets, subway passes, taxi’s. Save money by flying in and out of the same airport. If you will be visiting two countries attempt to book a stopover flight. Best airfare prices are often found on a Tuesday or Wednesday 90-21 days out. Compare airfare prices across several sites. Compare car rental prices. Determine how you will get around locally; options include taxi, subway, bus, car rental.
Determine the type of lodging you desire. There are many options including hostels, Air BnB, home rental, budget hotels, luxury resorts. You may even opt to couchsurf or house sit. Consider staying in a local hotel vs a chain to save money. You may find staying in a suburb reduces cost. Use a search engine to compare hotels across several sites, you will often find prices vary for the same hotel. Be sure to note the cost per night vs total cost. Check reviews for hotel quality and the availability of air conditioning. Check the amenities, is there a complimentary breakfast? Is there free on site parking? Are there any hidden resort fees? Check the areas crime rate before you book. Pick a hotel near the attractions you desire to see. What are the transportation options in the area? Do tour companies pick up at the hotel for day trips?
Do not skimp on travel experiences! Experiences include day trips, tours, entry fees, concerts, plays, cover charges. Prepackaged sight seeing tours are often a hassle free and cost effective option. Use Trip Adviser to determine costs. Look into possible discounted tickets on Groupon, Living Social and Travelzoo. AAA offers members discounts on many sightseeing activities and restaurants. Take advantage of internet discounts by purchasing tickets online before you go. Combination packages are often discounted.
Food and Drinks:
Factor in groceries, meals out, cafes, bars, snacks and sodas from street vendors. Ask friends and family what a meal at the location costs or consult a current guide book. Pack nuts and crackers for snacks if you are on a tight budget. Grab a supply of water and sodas from the grocery store when you arrive. Avoid breakfast at the hotel, it is often expensive. Try a local cafe or bring granola bars in your luggage. Consider booking an accommodation with a microwave and purchase ready to make meals at the grocery store. Balance street food and food courts with more expensive restaurants. Eating a big lunch and a light dinner often saves money while traveling. Alcohol will increase your food budget, consider purchasing alcohol at the store. Use the Pint Price site to estimate your beer budget.
Will you be purchasing travel insurance? Do you need a passport, Visa, immunizations or special travel gear for this destination? How much will you set aside for gifts and souvenirs? Also allow for pharmaceuticals, internet, phone service, laundry service, supplies. Always include a cash buffer. There are a lot of extra costs when you start to travel, travel gear is a great gift idea!
Currency and Foreign Exchange Rates:
Use a currency converter to determine the exchange rate for your destination. Covert some money before you leave; bank rates are often better than the airport rate. ATM’s will dispense cash in the local currency, make sure you use a machine that has a relationship with your bank to avoid extra fees.
Now that you know how much your dream vacation will cost, start saving! Do what ever it takes to motivate yourself. If you find it difficult to hit your goal, revisit the budget and consider making alterations. If you are not willing to make any changes to your dream trip save it for another time. In the meantime consider visiting a budget location or a destination with a poor economy. All inclusive resorts, group tours and cruises are often affordable options too.
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