How To Travel Like a Boss on a Budget
Traveling is something most of us look forward to especially when it comes to experiencing an environment other than our own. While traveling often is attached with the words “expensive” and “luxury,” it doesn’t have to come with the luxury price tag. In fact, you can travel like a boss on a budget if you plan accordingly. Here are 5 tips you can use to ensure you take the trip of a lifetime without being stressed about your coins.
"While traveling often is attached with the words “expensive” and “luxury,” it doesn’t have to come with the luxury price tag."
1. Decide what kind of experience you’re looking for
You’re probably thinking why does this even matter? Well, these questions are important to ask when planning a trip because it sets the tone for how you maneuver your planning deets. If you’re looking for a “travel experience,” you’re more than likely exploring the city yourself and booking your own trip and tours. You’re going on the off beaten path and your blending in with the locals etc.
If you’re looking for an “all-inclusive luxury experience,” you’re probably going to be shelling out more coins because everything is included. You’re either booking it through an online website (package) or you’re using a travel agency that takes care of everything for you. However, like I said earlier there are many ways you can have a luxury experience without the price tag if you know where to look and how to take advantage of points to get good deals. This is why if you plan ahead, time will be on your side.
Also, when considering your experience you should decide whether you want to go solo or with family and friends. Typically when you travel with a group it’s cheaper because everything is split (unless you’re paying for them.) Remember not everyone you love is created equally especially when it comes to travel. I caution you on this aspect because it can make or break your overall trip.
2. Set a date for when, where, and how long you want to go
Now once you finally decide the type of experience you’re looking for, it’s time to pick a place and set up your timeline. Personally, with any trip I take, I make sure I give myself a 3-4 months notice. I do this because the last thing I want to do is get off track with my money goals. Planning ahead keeps me on track to save enough money and pay for my funds.
Just like any action plan, it should be S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, and Realistic.) For example, let's say you decide you want to to go to Havana, Cuba 6 months from now. You did some research and it looks like you’re going to need about $1,100 for your trip. This will include your flight, place to stay, and spend money.
Your goal S.M.A.R.T goal will look something like this:
- I’m going to Havana, Cuba for 5 Days from September 7- 12th.
- I will need to save $1,100 over 6 months, which means will need to save $183 per month.
See how clear that is? It even includes your monthly breakdown. Once you have that put the dates on your calendar. Check your budget and start automating your coins in a separate savings account. When you create your savings account make sure that you are specific when you name it i.e.: "My Lit Trip to Havana in September." This will keep you motivated as you continue to stack up and save for the trip. Again, this is also super specific!
ProTip: If you allocate money in a separate savings account every month regardless of if you’re traveling that month, you are ahead of the game. What do I mean by this? Well if a trip or a deal comes up you can take advantage of it without any worries. Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.
3. Make sure you have a passport
The last thing you want to do is book a trip and then realize 1 week before that you don’t have a passport. If you don’t have one or it is going to expire in less than 6 months, I would suggest you get one through your local post office. Usually, you can fill out the application mail it in or you go directly to the post office. Now with the new laws in place, you may need a passport to travel domestically. Girl….do yourself a favor and get you a passport ASAP.
4. Start booking your trip
Moving along, now that you’ve got all of the important details settled, it’s time to book your trip. Let’s say you just want a full-blown package with your flight and hotel. You should check out the main sites that do this: Orbitz, Expedia, Bookit, Cheap Caribbean, Travelocity etc.
While they seem to be the same, not all of them are equal. I’ve found better deals on flights and hotels on one vs. another. My favorite is Orbitz, I’ve always used them because they consistently have coupons and Bookit is a favorite as well lol. When you’re looking for your package, find one that works well with your preferences. For example, your hotel room accommodations: double, single bed, ocean view, regular view etc. If you don’t care, choose the cheapest and keep it moving.
ProTip: Let’s say you want to book a specific hotel because might be booked by the time you get the funds to pay for it. Check out booking.com. Most of the time it allows you to hold on to hotel rooms without paying and any penalties before a certain date.
5. Book your activities ahead of time
Lastly, once you book your package, it’s time to start researching restaurants and excursions you want to check out. I recommend Tripadvisor to guide you on what are the top things to do in the location that you’re traveling to. Make sure you’re reading reviews, ratings, and comments. Tripadvisor is great because it usually tells you the prices of things in advance. This great for a budget traveler who is keeping track of their spending in advance.
This brings us to the last and most important part, which is your travel budget. Keep track of how much you're spending on everything. My favorite app to use is Fudget. It’s a simple manual budgeting tool that allows you calculate your expenses. Name your budget and start keeping track of all your spending based on the S.M.A.R.T. goal you created. Also, when creating your budget for your trip be sure to include transportation, food (if it's not all inclusive), gifts for yourself and souvenirs for friends and family.
ProTip: Don’t forget to check the currency exchange rate. Currency is important because your country’s currency might be more valuable when you go or vice versa.
Article by Felicia Blaise, a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI), Travel Strategist, and the Chief Budget Balancer. She helps millennials change they way they think about money so they can experience the world, not financial limits. Visit her website here.