Most everyone would love to travel to new places but some of us aren’t sure we can afford it. I mean how exactly to do you go about making a travel budget? What exactly does a vacation cost?
Well the first thing we need to do is to break down the expenses. We need to make sure that we budget for travel, accommodations, activities, food and additional transportation. Here’s a few tips to save on each of those costs.
We can all agree that, unless you find an amazing deal, travel to and from your destination can be the largest expense. In fact, booking a flight could be at least half of your cost. My suggestion, look for alternative options to cut cost. Traveling by train definitely can be more cost efficient. Sure, it may take longer but it is a comfy ride with the same amenities or better.
If you must fly, book flights with additional stops or choose an alternate airport. Don’t forget to check out the newer airlines for promotional deals. Any of these options can easily save you hundreds of dollars.
When looking for lodging, you must first decide what kind of living arrangements you prefer (bed and breakfast, apartment, guesthouse, hostel, etc.). Look for incentives and special offers. Incentives can be anything from free meals or Wi-Fi to complementary transportation to and from the airport/ train terminal.
One last way to save on travel and accommodations is to check for package deals. Most travel agencies have vacation deals that will give you a greatly discounted rate if you book both the hotel and the airfare through them.
I’ll admit it; this is my most important factor. As someone who has a love of food, calculating the amount of money to budget on food can be a bit tricky. The first step is evaluating the cost of food in the area you are visiting. Canada, Europe and Australia rate slightly higher in cost than the US while South America and Southeast Asia rate slightly lower. The next step is to figure out how many meals you plan on purchasing and how many beverages you plan to consume. So now think; how we cut some of that cost down while still partaking in all your destination has to offer? Well, does your hotel offer free breakfast or lunch? One of the benefits of renting an apartment or a guesthouse is the money you can save on food by preparing some of your meals.
Are you addicted to soda? Well, here are a few words of wisdom. Not all countries love soda as much as we Americans do. In Italy, a single Diet Coke costs twice as much as a half a carafe of wine. Never ask for something not expressly offered, either on the menu or by the waiter (ketchup and butter are just two of many things you may be charged separately for). Consider packing a lunch, maybe visit that little bakery on the corner, and get a loaf of bread. Pick up some meat and cheese at the local deli and don’t forget a bottle of water. Did you know that most places in Europe don’t sell Crystal Light? Pack your own boxes of these delicious drink mixes, a personal water bottle and save as much as $12 a day in drinks alone.
For many of us, traveling all the way across the world just to stay in your hotel is not very appealing. So how do you plan to get around? There are many options to choose from Trains, buses, boats and/or rental cars. Make sure to figure out what the average cost for transportation is at your destination. A few quick tidbits of information to keep in mind while making your decision, the Eurorail Pass allows you to visit up to 28 countries with a single pass, most public transportation offer a weekly rate (i.e. the Europass in Europe or the MTA pass is New York) and most importantly, it is illegal to drive without a valid license and insurance in most countries. Many countries do not recognize U.S. driver’s licenses as a valid. Some, however, will accept an International Driving Permit, so make sure to budget the cost of the permit along with gas prices if you chose to rent a vehicle.
The last item on your budget list should be estimating your activity cost. Be it tours, museums, park, excursions or just parasailing most activities have a fee. Take the time to come up with a general idea of what you would like to do and see what fees are attached. My words of wisdom for saving on activity costs are as follows:
Whenever possible visit the tourism office, they usually offer museum passes (esp. in Europe). Although a little pricey, these passes will allow you entrance to multiple local museums and generally also offers some additional perks like discounts, free use of public transportation or priority entrance to the museums. In the long run, you save more than you spend.
When booking excursions on cruises, shop around. Remember that the cruise ship outsources these adventures. So basically that doesn’t mean they are the cheapest alternative. You’d be surprised to know that sometimes a personal tour guide is cheaper than taking a predetermined excursion.
Make friends, I know that sounds silly but it’s the easiest way to save a lot of money. It’s a lot cheaper to split the cost of a cab or even a gondola ride between say 4 people than it is pay it all by yourself.
And last but not least, don’t be afraid to do it on your own. By a city guide book, mark the locations you wish to visit and then give yourself a tour. As an added tip, if you follow behind a tour already in progress, you can usually hear any details your book may have missed.
Now that you have gotten an idea of what your travel budget will include, you can start saving for your trip while working on cutting cost where you can. Remember taking the time to research your travel destination in advance could potentially save you hundreds of dollars later.
by Ninnette M. Aquino