In a perfect world, I’d be traveling somewhere new multiple times a year. Unfortunately, my wanderlust must be fed through lots of budgeting, planning in advance, and patiently (more like impatiently) waiting until the next trip. If you are like me, going on a trip can be stressful when it comes to figuring out your expenses. There are still times I think it’s impossible financially for me to venture to all the locations on my bucket list, but I have learned along the way how to use my expenses to my advantage and how to be smart with my money, while still planning a fantastic trip.
I’m not a travel agent or a financial planner by any means, but I wanted to share some tips with you that I’ve learned along the way for planning a great trip on a budget. Spoiler alert: you will have to do some research! (Remember, these might not all be applicable to you or your situation, but they have been beneficial for me in many instances).
1. Start planning a year in advance
I suggest a year in advance because this gives you ample time to watch flights, spread out your saving, and also have plenty of time to plan your trip in full. If you already have a destination in mind, try to set a flexible range of dates for when you’d like to go. For example, as a teacher, I know my trips to Europe will definitely need to be in the summer. I pick which dates of the summer will probably work best; this year I chose to try and plan around the beginning/middle of June. Then, you can start to check flights! (If you are able to go anytime of the year, I would probably check flights first and buy whenever it’s cheapest).
2. Look for flights on the “Hopper” app
If you haven’t heard of Hopper, you need to check it out while planning your next adventure! On Hopper, you can check flights and prices up to a year in advance. Once you know your destination, you can set flights on “watch” and the app will alert you when your flight path is the CHEAPEST! This is how I found a $700 round-trip flight to Paris from Dallas this June. My mom has found flights even cheaper during colder months.
When using Hopper and preparing to book a flight, make sure you read the fine print. For my flight this June, I have to pay $95 for a checked bag. These are sometimes the “catches” to finding a cheaper flight. However, even with that little extra expense, this flight was still miles cheaper than flights I’ve paid to Europe in the past.
3. Compare AirB&B vs. Hotels
Is a kitchen or laundry important to you while traveling? Would you rather have the amenities offered by a hotel? These are questions to ask yourself when considering Air B&Bs compared to hotels. Many times, Air B&Bs are less expensive with more “homey” qualities. Check what works best for you and your schedule, and remember to consider how long your trip is. If you are on a longer trip, you might want access to the laundry some Air B&Bs can offer you. I also love having access to a small kitchenette to prepare meals at “home” while abroad.
4. Try to travel with someone
Traveling with someone can literally cut most of your expenses in half. Splitting a hotel or room, sharing food at restaurants every so often, etc. can save you a lot of money compared to traveling alone. I’ve gone on trips in groups while I was in college and now I love traveling with my mom so we can share some of the financial burden. Thanks, mom!
5. Save throughout the year
I start saving for future trips as far in advance as I can, sometimes before I even know where I might be going. A good tip is to try and calculate all your expenses beforehand (transportation, shopping money, food, etc.) and get a good estimate of how much you might spend. Then divide your approximate costs by the amount of months until your trip. This way, you can put back a bit each month and not feel overwhelmed when your trip is getting closer!
6. Eat “in”
A great way to save money while you’re traveling is finding a local grocery store and buying some groceries for your home base. I love to buy some bread, cheeses, and extra treats to have picnics if the weather is nice (especially in Paris).
7. Skimp on Souvenirs (gasp)
This is one thing I WISH I had done my first few trips. I felt like I had to get a souvenir for everyone and their dog (sense my sarcasm). But, really! I was so concerned with getting TOO MANY people something. If you are going to buy souvenirs for yourself or your loved ones, that’s fine! Just remember this experience is YOURS and you don’t need to feel guilty about not buying a souvenir for everyone you know. While Susie and her mom probably appreciate the trinket from your trip abroad, try to be conscious of how much you’re spending and how much it might be taking away from your experience while you are actually THERE!
8. Manage your must-sees
Think about the locations you’re hitting on your trip: make a list of what’s most important for you to see or experience. After you determine your “must-sees”, you can do some research online to figure out the expenses for them. My mom, brother, and I are spending two days in London this summer, so we really had to pinpoint the things that were most important for us to see. After that, we were able to get pricing on everything and eliminate a few that weren’t “do or die” for us to keep our budget manageable. Ranking your activities and sights will also help you plan out an itinerary for your trip.
9. Get to know your destination
Do you have to pay to use public restrooms? How much is the public transportation you’re planning on using, if any? How busy are the monuments and museums? Are certain sights more expensive or even closed when you’ll be in town (holidays, special events, restoration, construction, etc.)? These are all things you need to “get to know” about the city you’ll be in. I’d recommend searching online for a blog or article concerning important things to know before traveling to your destination. There will always be unexpected situations that arise, but you’ll be a step ahead if you do some research.
10. Be patient!
It’s hard to wait out a trip that seems far away. However, your patience can really pay off, literally! Be patient when looking for flights, saving money, and waiting on your trip date to finally arrive on your calendar. Being patient is smart traveling. Make every dollar you spend count.
Remember, no matter how much or little you are able to spend, the experience is truly what you will remember for the rest of your life. Let your finances be a tool to enrich your trip, not limit it. You don’t need to have thousands of dollars saved up to enjoy your destination and your experience to the fullest.
Are there any budgeting or money-pinching tips you have for traveling? I’d love to hear what you’ve learned along the way!
Travel far, travel often…and be smart with your money 😉