In Part 1 of this series I tackled a key question in planning an unforgettable trip: where should you go? I discussed my own thought process in narrowing down a world of unlimited options by considering things like length of travel, weather preferences, and group dynamics. Whether you are actively planning your next adventure, or simply daydreaming about it (like me), the next step in the process is determining your budget. I know, sticking to a budget may make you feel constrained, but I promise it's the key to a guilt free experience.
Okay, let's start with a quick recap and a hypothetical scenario. Since reading Part 1 of this series, you have determined the following:
How to Create (and stick to) A Budget
I know we all wish for unlimited travel budgets, but the only way I know how to have a truly stress-free experience is by staying within my financial means. The last thing I want to worry about during my relaxation time is my bank account. So what should you do to keep the financial anxiety away?
Determine your budget before finalizing the destination
I know this is Part 2 of the series, but picking a vacation spot and settling on a comfortable budget go hand-in-hand. Let's put it this way, you don't want to get your hopes up about a "dream" vacation you can't afford. It's perfectly reasonable to narrow down your choices first, but allow some flexibility in order to find a great deal.
Take a close look at your bank account
Budgeting for a vacation is just like budgeting for any other large purchase; don't spend what you don't have.
One of the best vacation decisions David and I made was to set up a sub-savings account just for travel. We set aside a certain amount each month to help fund our yearly grand-adventure. If your mind is set on backpacking through India, but your bank account isn't agreeing, it's okay. You can make the decision to delay the travel by a few months in order to save a little more. On the flip side, if you're itching to leave now maybe pick a backpacking destination with cheaper plane tickets.
Learn to prioritize
I believe that all destinations can be successfully explored even on the smallest budget, as long as you prioritize. Do you need to stay in the nicest hotel, or will staying in a hostel work? Do you need to pay for the private tour of the Vatican, or do you feel confident with the self-guided option? Do you prefer sit-down dining, or does cheap (and delicious) street food work for you? There is no right or wrong answer here, just simply choices to best fit your budget.
Always account for needing extra
Sometimes even the perfect plan goes over budget, so always plan to need a little extra. Maybe half-way through your vacation you stumble upon a must-do activity, or perhaps a reservation became available at a once in a lifetime restaurant; these opportunities should not be missed.
Research and find great deals (hint: be flexible)
This is the key tip for me. Scouring the internet for vacation deals takes time and patience, but I believe it's worth every minute. There are deals out there for every corner of the world as long as you are willing to look for them and be flexible with your travel dates and itinerary. I want to underscore the importance of flexibility here. The best deals often go to those willing to travel during off-peak seasons, have multiple layovers, catch the 5am flight, or book things last minute. Here are some of my favorite places to look:
Whether you are aiming for a $500 or $5000 vacation should not matter. What matters is determining a budget realistic to your current circumstances and then sticking to it. Just remember that a bigger budget does not mean a better experience as long as you prioritize.
So now that you settled on a budget and picked a destination the fun begins! In Part 3 of this series I will discuss my itinerary strategy, excel spreadsheets and all.
Walking enthusiast, and kitchen experimenter currently living out my dream in Mexico City, Mexico.
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