Traveling is fun but paying it off is not. With the new year right around the corner, Rick and I starting to budget for 2019 and map out where we’re going and how it fits in our overall budget. Traveling doesn’t always have to be this expensive endeavor and over the years I’ve learned how to build my budget around my dream vacations so I can pay all my bills but also continue to check off bucket list items. Here are some of the travel budgeting tips I’ve picked up along the way!
8 tips for budgeting for travel
1. Be serious (and realistic) about budgets
Whether you want to create your own spreadsheet or want to use a tool like Mint, one of the best ways of making sure you can see the world without going broke is to set a yearly budget. Count up all of your expenses: Rent, internet, energy, car payments, insurance, phone, gym, gas, groceries, etc. Break these down into monthly costs and have a good baseline of what’s possible with your credits and debits balance. Include a line item in there that accounts for a travel category!
While creating your 2019 budget, be ruthless about your spending and ways you can cut down on unnecessary expenses. Haven’t logged into Hulu in a few months? Maybe you don’t need it. Hate going to the gym? Cancel your membership and get some workout DVDs you can do at home. Going out for coffee every other day? Start making coffee at home and taking it to work or suck it up and drink the coffee at work.
2. Automatic savings
Most banks allow you to set up automatic withdrawals from your checking and deposit that money into your savings account. Make a dedicated travel savings fund and start by putting something like $50 per month or per paycheck into it. Do whatever works for your budget. Set it and forget it and let that account grow so you can pull from it when the time comes to head out on your trip without watching your main bank balance drop to nothing.
3. Ask for help
With the holidays coming up, it’s a great time to ask for some travel gift cards or experiences! You can go broad with big company gift cards or if you know you want to stay somewhere specific or take a certain tour, ask for a gift card from those companies specifically.
You could also ask for new travel accessories during the season of giving. When it’s not the holidays, see if you can borrow travel accessories from friends or family to save you from buying it yourself.
4. Plan affordable destinations
Start searching for cities that are known for having a variety of free things to do or are easy to plan budget-friendly vacations in. Research ways to visit new cities on the cheap whether that’s staying a bit further outside of the city center, staying in budget accommodations, or buying city pass cards already loaded with great things to do.
Another way to visit popular places on the cheap is to go in the off-season. When hotels aren’t expecting to be full, they often bring down their rates and you can enjoy the city without the crowds of seasonal tourists. Check out our favorite off-season destinations here!
5. Use fare trackers
Hopper and Scott’s Cheap Flights are great resources for finding affordable airfare. Set up alerts on flights you’re tracking and be ready to pull the trigger when a good deal comes through. Rick and I love Scott’s Cheap Flights and always open their emails to see what deals we can find. A lot of the deals are to popular destinations and inspire us to plan a spontaneous getaway on the cheap.
6. Wait for good promotions
It’s like a rule of sales that you run a promotion around the major holidays. Wait to book your travel when good deals are running, like Black Friday, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and so on. It can often be worth the wait to score a fantastic price.
7. Book packages
Check sites like Expedia to find travel packages and other bundled discounts for hotels, airfare, and car rentals. Double check that it’s a good deal by pricing out the trip on your own, but more often than not the bundled deals on these sites are going to save you quite a bit on a great adventure. My mom loves looking through these trip and has booked a few vacations to Barcelona, Paris, and Rome through these types of package deals.
8. Avoid the all or nothing mentality
Not every vacation has to be Hollywood perfect or a month-long escape. Find easy and affordable ways to sneak away for a weekend on the cheap and space out your travel throughout the year. This can help you save between getaways, feel like you’re on the go more often, and also allows you more time to plan each trip and find better deals on the things you want to do or where you want to stay.
What are some of your best tips for budgeting for travel next year? Share them with us in the comments or on Twitter!