Book your next trip without breaking the budget

by Dakota Findley
Stripes Korea

The worst part of a vacation is, of course, coming home after a week away from the real world. You look at your credit card statement and find it littered with charges you don’t even remember. One “I’ll treat myself” purchase turned into 20, and the next thing you know you’re still paying for your vacation by the time next Christmas comes along. Vacationing is expensive, but it doesn’t have to destroy your bank account. Budgeting for travel will help to eliminate the post-vacation regret with the same amount of fun. Even if a trip is going to be expensive, setting a budget – and sticking to it – will give you a sense of how much you’ll be paying before you even leave.

Vacation Expectations

Before you set your budget, you’ll have to set your expectations for your vacation. What kind of an experience are you trying to achieve? Do you have to take your vacation during one particular week? These are questions that you’ll need to answer before you’re able to craft an adequate budget. Whether you’re spending a weekend at a bachelor party in Vegas or a week at a resort in the Bahamas, you need to plan to pay for the experience you want. If you’re not going to spend too much time in the hotel room, then prioritize another part of your trip with money you’ll save on that end. If you want to live like a king for a week, then understand that you’re going to have to pay up. Saving some money doesn’t mean your vacation will be any less entertaining. You should view a budget as a way to make the most out of your dollar, not a confinement that will limit your fun.

Set a Budget

Now that you’ve determined your must-haves for the vacation, it’s time to work on pricing. Create a list of priorities in order of importance, and start pricing them out accordingly. Decide how much money you have to spend, and create a percentage for each category such as:

  • Hotel: 25%
  • Flight: 25%
  • Food: 20%
  • Sight-seeing: 15%
  • Misc. purchases: 15%

Your list will be trip specific but should look something like the list above. Plan what percent of your budget you’ll use on each item or activity. That way, if one item costs more than you were planning, you know that you’ll have to take that money out of another activity.

Make sure to over estimate how much money you’ll spend on necessities. You probably won’t be taking money out of the food section, so if your flight costs more than you expected, you might have to cut some souvenirs. Once you start looking for flights and hotels, you’ll be more accurate with your percentages.

Plan the Trip

Once you start planning the trip, you’ll be able to start looking to save some money. This is the most important part of all when it comes to budgeting. Some tips on money-saving tactics are:

  • Book last-minute: Flights should be booked ahead of time, for the most part, but other activities go down in price as they get closer to the date. Cruises, for instance, often offer discounted rates when they’re about to set sail.
  • Stay away from chain hotels: Staying in a luxurious suite is nice, but an Airbnb or mom-and-pop hotel will cost much less.
  • Save on flights: There are many ways to save on flights if you’re a bit flexible. Flying direct is nice, but it will usually cost a lot more money.
  • Travel in the off-season: A sure-fire way to save up to 50% on your entire trip, is to go during the off-season. This strategy is going to stretch your dollar the most out of any trip.
  • Visit a less-popular area: There are several beautiful places in the world that are under-visited.

In short, making a budget will allow you to vacation without the ever-present, “I’m spending too much money,” thought hanging over your head. With a budget, you’ll know how much you’re spending on each facet of your trip. The most important aspect of a budget is sticking to it, though. If you don’t stick to the budget, you might as well have never made one in the first place. Instead of limiting yourself, a budget allows you to travel and vacation without the looming stress associated with over spending. Happy budget traveling!

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