Trip Planning: The Budget Discussion

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It's time for another installment of my trip planning series. I'm only a month out from my Christmas trip to Vienna and I'm so excited. We're starting to look at the nitty gritty of our daily budget for our trip so I thought today would be a good time to talk about budgeting on the blog. I've decided to focus on day-to-day budgeting instead of the big Can we afford the trip? talk since the latter involves very specific and unpredictable circumstances for each traveller.


Every trip is a balance of priorities and sacrifices. If you have the travel bug chances are you could never see every place you want to see or do everything you want to do even if you had infinite amounts of money and a whole lifetime to devote to nonstop travel. We live on an extraordinary planet with an astonishingly diverse array of cultures and environments. The good news, if you love to travel, is that you'll never run out of places to capture your imagination nor trips to look forward too. But in order to check items off your bucket list you need to be practical. This is how I plan my budget for a trip. (And stick to it!)


Step one is to come up with a number. Your number is the amount of money you can afford to spend or want to devote to your trip. If you are working on a very tight budget, chances are your number is going to be more important than someone with less financial restrictions. Decide how hard your number is. Is it okay to go over your limit? A little? A lot? Not at all? After you have your number, subtract the cost for your accommodations, your airline ticket (or other means of travel), and any other major expenses you know you'll want to include (like a concert, play, or special dinner). Divide by the number of days in your trip (this is why there were so many word problems on your fifth grade math test). Now you have your daily budget.


I once spent a 10 day trip in Norway subsisting entirely on meals from 7-Eleven. It was difficult, but I wasn't in Norway for the food. I wanted to see the fjords and the churches and the mountains. When you plan priorities for a trip you want to base them on the specific place or places you're visiting. If you've spent years dreaming of inhaling gobs of pasta in Naples, you shouldn't eat at McDonalds to save money. Make food a priority. If you're off to see the Grand Canyon, eating protein bars from Costco to save money might make sense. If you're stuck on what to prioritize, try imagining yourself in that place. What are you doing? That should tell you what you most value.

Here are some ideas to save money:
Stay outside the city center. If the city in question has cheap, reliable public transportation this method is particularly effective.
Budget hotels and hostels. Don't automatically assume budget is synonymous with bad. Read reviews and scour the internet to find great, inexpensive options.
Ask a local. Locals provide the best advice on where to find good, budget friendly options for dining and entertainments.
Take advantage of what's free. Maybe the city you're in has beautiful parks, state-sponsored museums, or grand cathedrals without entrance fees.


The most important thing in sticking to your budget is to give yourself a cushion. Travel is unpredictable. You will likely encounter unforeseen costs along the way and it's best to be prepared. The last thing you want to do is come home and find yourself with a financial burden from your trip. Planning ahead and sticking to your budget can help you have a great trip!

For other posts in this series, click here.
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  1. These are some really good tips! To save money I usually get a private room on AirBnb and it's at least half the amount that a hotel might cost! Cheers for sharing :)


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