A Step by Step Guide: How to Budget For Travel

Brooke Saward GoPro Hero 4
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Budgeting for Travel

Budgeting for a trip is half the fun. You get to research your new destination, decide what you want to do, discover how much that will cost you, and make a detailed plan of how to save to make it a trip to remember. But sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start, especially if you don’t travel often. So with that, here’s a break down to make it a little easier for your next big trip.

How to Budget for your Next Big Trip

STEP ONE: Find out how much it will cost you

Start asking yourself the big questions early on, but more importantly decide on answers. Who will you travel with? Will you go alone or with friends? Where will you go? How long will you be gone for? Asking the questions is one thing, but finding answers is a whole different ball game. There’s a lot of information out there on the internet and in this day and age, your options for where to go in the world are endless. Pin down your answers and stick to them. Decide where you will go, who with, and for how long. Then research how much money you will need for this kind of trip. The easiest way to do this is to factor in the big expenses: Airfare, Travel Insurance, Accommodation, and any big tech buys (i.e. if you’re going to buy a new solo travel camera or gopro for the adventurous types). Next, set yourself a budget for daily expenses: how much are you likely to need per day for food, transport and extra activities?

DON’T FORGET: Answer who you will go with, where to, and how long for?

STEP TWO: Decide what you can / can’t afford 

Now that you have a general idea in mind of how much you will need for your trip, its time to make smart decisions about what you can and cannot afford. If you can’t afford to stay in a hotel, look at your alternatives. If you’re after a social vibe, hostels are great… but for many people the idea of sleeping in communal rooms isn’t ideal. That’s fine too! Consider alternatives like booking a private room or entire apartment through Air BnB or Wimdu (great alternative in Europe).

DON’T FORGET: Make a decision on what type of travel your budget allows for

STEP THREE: Make a realistic assumption for how much you need to save

So now you know the basics of your trip – who you’re going with (if anyone), where to, and how long for. You also know what you can and can’t afford. If you can’t afford five star hotels but like the idea of spacious rooms and envious balcony views, consider your alternatives. If you want to splurge on the occasional night of luxury, consider where you can rent a luxury room for less.

DON’T FORGET: Be realistic, detail how much you need to save & decide if its attainable

brooke flying

STEP FOUR: Research money-saving travel tips to cut costs

The internet is full of great FREE resources to help you cut your travel costs. On this website you can start with a couple of popular articles – How to cut your expenses at home for traveland 10 of the biggest money saving tips for when you travelA quick google search later and you’ll find loads more helpful articles… but if you have any specific requests for new articles on WOW, feel free to comment below what you’d like to read next!

DON’T FORGET: Be prepared. Research before you go

STEP FIVE: Know how to handle your money on the road

Most people looking to save money for travel will think about ways to save money BEFORE they go, but don’t forget its just as important to know how to save and handle your money overseas. Beyond immediate savings (like cutting food costs, finding cheap airfares etc), you can also save a lot of money by knowing how to handle your funds overseas. To date the best travel credit card I have found has been the 28 Degrees Mastercard as they don’t charge any international transaction fees etc to use the card as a credit card, but beware the ATM fees – a new change implemented a couple of years ago. Some basic knowledge will also help – like never exchanging money at airports, pay for as much as you can before you leave home, and to split your money sources in case of an emergency.

DON’T FORGET: Get a good travel credit card, some cash for arrival, and don’t go without travel insurance!

brooke saward

STEP SIX: Don’t forget to prioritise your happiness!

Saving money tends to be the top of most traveller’s lists because: A) everyone likes to save a buck and B) the more you save, the longer you can spend on the road or the more travels in the future. But don’t forget to have fun & prioritise your happiness! After all, you have spent a lot of time, effort and money to come to the stage of actually leaving for this trip – so you might as well ENJOY IT!

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    March 31, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    There has to a balance between enjoying yourself and ensuring you have funds to last.

    November 20, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    As long as there are no regrets, then you obviously made the right choices!

    February 13, 2015 at 7:13 am

    Hi Brooke! Are you a luxury traveler? Because you seem to always stay in nice hotels and wear fancy clothes. Budget travelers tend to stay in hostels or couchsurf, and just wear t-shirts and pants.

    February 8, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    This is so useful! Its often so hard to save up for a trip, which gets pretty frustrating given that being a writer I need inspiration 🙂 Thank you for this!

    Deia @ Nomad Wallet
    February 1, 2015 at 8:02 am

    Nice step-by-step guide, Brooke! There’s a lot of prep work to be done before a trip and it can be overwhelming. I like how you present it in bite-sized steps so people can focus on doing just one thing first before moving on. 😀

    Ashley Hale
    January 31, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    I found this list super helpful! We are in the beginning stages of planning a trip to Southeast Asia and since I am not a very organized or methodical person on my own I think this will help me start to figure things out!

    Michelle | Lights Camera Travel
    January 24, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    All great tips again! The last point is so important – saving is important, but so too is not sacrificing spending on things that make you happy. I made this mistake saving up big for my eight month sojourn to Southeast Asia.

    Clipping Path Outsource
    January 24, 2015 at 9:05 am

    This post is so useful for me Brooke, I love so much.

    January 24, 2015 at 7:42 am

    So smart! Thanks for posting

    January 24, 2015 at 7:07 am

    I think saving for travelling is the hardest part! Thanks for inspiring me on how to do it 😉 The biggest challenge is the best advice as well: stick to your budget! Love the striped tee by the way, where did you get it from? And HOW do you get your hats on their next destination without wrinkles or folding them? Just curious.

    January 23, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing the Wimdu link, I have never heard of it so I will be checking it out! Currently saving for O.E number 2, so this time I will want to break up the hostel stays a bit with some time for myself 🙂

    January 23, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    Great tips! I think budgeting out in the beginning is the best way to control your expenses. Rest everything else falls into place automatically. On my recent trip, I spent money only on things that I needed and not anything that I can do without. For example, I don’t buy gifts or souvenirs. I stay away from unnecessary water bottle buying, and also from tourist touts. Asking questions also helps – instead of going ahead and spending money, it’s wise to inquire about the rates from a local or your fellow travelers.

    Tessa / Bramble & Thorn
    January 23, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Excellent list, and exactly what I needed to read. I’m heading to Europe in June so needed a bit of budgeting inspiration!

    Tessa at Bramble & Thorn

    Karen Farber
    January 23, 2015 at 9:57 am

    Thank you for the great tips! My husband and I are starting to save for our next vacation and this list is going to help a lot! I think it will help us stay on track with budgeting, and to make realistic goals 🙂

    Andrea @ GreenAndTurquoise
    January 23, 2015 at 9:28 am

    That is one comprehensive list Brooke!
    This is truly a wonderful article post. I will definitely take under consideration your traveling suggestions.

    Happy Travels!
    Green and Turquoise

    Kayti Clayton
    January 23, 2015 at 8:54 am

    I wish I could post a thumbs up emoji as a comment…

    January 23, 2015 at 7:20 am

    Ive been travelling planning for about 5 years and I’ve always worked a 2nd job as well as my fulltime, hard at times as you have to say no to a lot of social outings with friends!
    The 2nd job wages always goes into a strictly no touch savings account and gets a bit of interest