Welcome to the fourth post in my series “Top Travel Mistakes.” I previously collected information on the biggest mistakes people make when traveling and composed a list of the top 10 (plus a few bonus tips!) This series explores and expands on that list and provides more detail about how to avoid making these common errors when you travel.
# 4 Budgeting and Finances
Think of your ideal adventure! Immerse yourself in this scene. Picture the colors on the horizon. Listen to the sounds of nature. Smell the foreign aromas dancing about. Taste the various local foods. Let the warm air or the cool breeze wrap around you. Just breathe and revel in this moment…. *inhale*…..*exhale*…
Now, come back to reality, but do so knowing everything you were just imagining, we can make happen!
Ok, so now that you know where you want to go how are you going to get there? Not physically, but financially…
One of the most stressful aspects of planning an adventure is all that financial stuff. What should your budget be and how do you even figure that out? What is the appropriate amount you should be designating for each day? How are you going to be financing the trip? What method of payments will you be using once your there? Unfortunately, there is no singular answer to fit the needs of every traveler, and each trip will be different from the last. I do, however, have some tips and suggestions that should help you set up your finances and plan a budget for your whatever kind of adventure you are creating!
Let’s start with the Budgeting…
A basic definition of ‘budgeting’ is: putting aside a certain, allowed amount of money for a specific purpose.
When planning for a vacation or adventure, one of the very first things you need to know is how much you should anticipate spending on it… your budget. Some experts even say that it is a good idea to have two budget plans: an ideal budget- how much you would reasonably like to spend, as well as a max budget- the maximum amount you are willing to spend. Having a flexible budget allows you to consider all of your options and get the most out of your adventure. You need to think not only about the major things (hotels, flights, excursions) but also all of the minor things (tips, exit & port fees, food, souvenirs) that may seem insignificant, but they will certainly add up along the way. If you can land somewhere between your ideal budget and your max budget, you are on the right track.
The first step is to set a timeframe. When is your ideal time to travel? Are you planning around a particular event? Maybe you want to go when the weather will be best. What is the ideal amount of time you would like to spend traveling? How flexible are you? – This part is especially important because prices will vary based on when you go. You will typically see higher prices during peak season, and lower prices in the off season. It is also usually more cost-efficient to fly in the middle of the week as opposed to over the weekend. I’ve gotten some pretty amazing deals in the past when I’ve changed my travel dates from departing on a Saturday to departing on Monday.
Next, really start thinking about what you want out of your trip and do some research. Look at the big stuff first: airfare and accommodations. What’s your travel style? What is a typical amount spent on the type of accommodations you’re looking for? Then, all those things you were picturing in your mind- what were they? Think about everything from the types of meals you want to enjoy, to your ideal style of transportation, to the excursions and tours you’re interested in.
…..And then think about travel insurance. Please don’t overlook this very important element. As far as I’m concerned, it’s probably the most invaluable purchase you’ll be making. Good travel insurance will cover you from door-to-door (from the time you step out of your house until you arrive back home) and will cover just about any type of unexpected occurrence that you can think of. This is not the area of your budget to cut costs… especially considering everything we saw in 2020.
Now that you have a general idea of that your price tag is going to look like it’s time to start breaking it down. What is your total trip going to cost? What is it going to cost per person? What is your daily spending allowance? This will look different for every single trip you take.
I always recommend planning to spend more than you think you might, because you almost certainly will… and if you don’t, you’ll be excited to have something to put back into your vacation fund. This also gives you a little wiggle room to make some once-in-a-lifetime, ‘treat yourself’ purchases. (Those are always the best kind!)
All-Inclusive vs Self-Cater
You have probably heard of these terms before, but what do they mean? (I foresee a future blog topic in the works here!) I will go over them briefly, because what you choose will affect how you need to budget.
When you go the all-inclusive route there are many things, such as travel, accommodations, meals, and activities that are already included in the price. Many all-inclusive packages also offer entertainment, spa treatments, and bar packages that are either included or could be added on at a special rate. One of the best things about all-inclusive is that most of your expenses will be completely paid for before you even arrive. This means you can practically forget your daily budgeting, because any spending you do once you get to your location will be for your own, frivolous, enjoyment.
That all sounds amazing, doesn’t it? So, why book anything that’s not all-inclusive?
Personally, I like immersing into the local culture when I visit some place I’ve never been before. I want to see how they live, taste what they eat, and hear their best kept local secrets. If you are not going to use all of the perks that come with an all-inclusive package, or if you want to spend a lot of your time off the resort, it may be more beneficial going the self-catering route. With this approach, you get to pick and choose everything from your accommodations, to your meals, to your entertainment, and it can be something different every single day.
If this is your more your style, you’ve got a bit more planning and budgeting to do. Think about how you plan on spending your days, and your nights. What will a typical meal cost? What will you be doing for entertainment? How will you be getting around? What added expenses may you be faced with? These are not typically hard things to figure out, but they do require a little more research before you can set your budget.
Don’t like all of this research and planning? I ALWAYS recommend using a travel agent (that’s me!) to make your adventure as stress-free and as tailored as possible! Creating YOUR adventures is what I do, and I love doing it. My contact info will be at the bottom of this blog. I’d love to schedule a free consultation with you!
Ok… now let’s move on to financing your trip…
Now that you have somewhat of an idea what your trip is going to cost you, how are you going to fund it?
I will keep this short and to the point, as there will be an entire blog post dedicated to financing your adventure coming in the near future.
The best way to save for travel is to commit to it! So many people ask me over and over again how I can afford another trip when I just came back from my last one, and honestly, it’s easy if you’re willing to commit to it. And here are some of my key ideas on how to do just that:
Set goals: Set manageable goals and devise a plan of action to achieve them. A goal might sound something like “South Africa 2022,” and your plan should include how you’re going to make it happen.
Have a Travel Jar: You can’t go wrong with the classics! Get an old milk jug or piggy bank and start throwing all of your change in it! Have the whole family contribute. In our house, if I find money in the laundry or down the couch, it goes straight to the travel jar!
Set up a Travel Account: Go to your local bank and set up a basic checking or savings account, and don’t get a debit card for it! (Out of sight, out of mind) Set up an auto transfer that goes directly into this account every time you get paid.
Deposit into your Travel account: Another way to get funds into your Travel Account is to make extra deposits into it. For me, anything that is left over in my primary checking out at the end of the month gets moved over to my Travel account. Sometimes it’s only a couple of bucks, but sometimes it’s significantly more.
Redirect bonuses and unexpected funds: Every year for my birthday my parents give me a really sweet card with money in it. That money goes straight to my travel funds. Commission bonuses, stimulus checks, tax returns, large tips… anything that isn’t part of your normal monthly budget, and that you don’t already have plans for, can easily be put into your travel fund.
Use a Credit Card with Travel Rewards: Just about every airline and major credit card company out there has its own version of a Rewards Card that allows you earn points towards your next trip when you use it. Do some research and find one you like! We use credit cards for just about everything now a-days, so you might as well reap the rewards it offers!
Opt for a Payment Plan- When booking a trip always check to see if a payment plan is available. All companies require a deposit when you book, but some then allow you to make minimum payments each month leading up to your adventure with a final payment date about a month before you travel. This is a great option to help spread the cost of the trip out over a longer period of time.
Prioritize: All I mean here is that you will sometimes be faced with some tough decisions, and you’re going to have to choose which is more important to you. Do you buy that new XBOX? OR do you put that money towards your trip? I know my answer and my husband’s answer would be different… and that’s ok! You should always decide what is best for you and your situation.
It’s OK to adjust your goals: No one should go broke trying to save for some massive trip. We all need to get away sometimes, but it’s ok if takes a little longer than you want. If you have to reassess your goals and make a new plan, that’s ok, too. Life happens! Gather your thoughts and move forward with a new plan!
Working with a smaller budget? No worries! The most important thing is getting to go on your adventure. I’ve done AMAZING trips on a next-to-nothing budget and I’ve never felt like I missed out on anything. Take it from me, there are plenty of free beaches, trails, and sunsets in the world, and some of the best food comes from local eateries, not 5 star restaurants. Work with what you got and don’t stress about what you don’t.
Preferred Payment Methods
Budget set. Trip financed. …Now lets talk about sending! The days of travelers checks are over! Banks don’t offer them any more and most places don’t accept them anyway. We are making our way to a cashless society, and when it comes to traveling that is both a pro and a con. Most credit cards, and even debit cards, will do all the conversion of foreign currency for you when you swipe them in a foreign land- how easy is that!? But, wait, what if you’re traveling to a smaller village or going to a market where cards aren’t typically accepted? Yes, it is still a good idea to carry some physical cash, and it should be mostly smaller bills. I always recommend bring more than one form of payment with you!
All of the booking you do while preparing for the trip will need to be put on a credit card. There are very few vendors that will accept anything else. It is a good idea to travel with the card that you booked with, so if there are any issues, you can easily trace and resolve them. You will also want to bring another credit card, debit card, or cash with you… just incase. Be sure you are aware of any international fees that might be associated with using your cards while abroad so that you’re not surprised when you return home and your monthly statement arrives.
Unfortunately, even if you take all the right steps to put travel alerts on your cards, they can still sometimes be declined. All you need to do is call to have the hold removed, but sometimes that’s easier said than done- especially in countries where your cell service is lacking.
If you plan on using cash, do some research before you decide to trade all of your currency in for another one. Many countries, especially the ones whose economies rely heavily on tourism, accept multiple currencies. If you are going to exchange currencies, don’t do it at the airport or at a tourism center. The exchange rate is always worse and there are usually fees. Your best options is to use your local bank or credit union. Make sure you talk to them several weeks in advance because they will have to order this for you and it can be quite a process.
Divide your methods of payment up. You never want to think about bad things happening, but they sometimes do. You may want to travel with one form of payment in your purse or wallet, but also keep another in your carry-on, or even in your luggage.
Once when we were in Aruba my dad lost his wallet. His ID, cash, credit cards… everything was in it…. I panicked. He didn’t. He, being an experienced traveler, knew of this travel wisdom, reached down into his sock, and pulled out all of his back-ups. (Turns out he did not ‘lose his wallet after all… it was in his other pants.)
My Professional Advice
Take the Trip: I am a firm believer in experiences over things. Things do not give you the same joy as once-in-a-lifetime adventures do. They do not open your eyes to all the beauty in the world, or open give you a better understanding of different cultures. They do not allow you to connect with your fellow mankind and see things from a different perspective. ‘Things’ do not change you for the better. Not the way traveling does. So, when the options are available to remodel your bathroom, or spend a few weeks visiting places you’ve always wanted to see… I say take the trip!
…And if you’d like help planning it, that’s what I’m here for! 🙂
I would love to meet each and every one of you, and get to know all about your traveling style, and your dream vacation! So, if you’re ready to schedule your first travel consultation, please see my info below!
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