Traveling is healthy for you. Seeing new places, getting different perspectives, and shaking it up a bit; going out of your normal comfort zone is exactly what the soul doctor prescribed. But let’s face it, in this modern fast-paced world, it’s not every week you can get out and explore. And a big burden to taking a trip, besides finding the time, is finding the finances to do so. Well thankfully, with a little planning, and by following these steps, suddenly taking a little vacation can be seen in the forecast.
Make a Budget
For myself when I’m travelling, I prefer something of the no-plan plan. I like to know where I’m going with some possible interest and areas in mind, and then see where the loose itinerary takes me. But, even with vague plans, a budget is still needed to know how much money I have to work with.
Some costs you can’t avoid in one way or the other, so those are the first ones to start with: transportation (gas, tickets, etc.), housing/lodging.
From there, determine what you have to spend on food: Daily Meals, meals at events and attractions.
Most of the time, transportation costs are unavoidable. But luckily, there are always options. When determining your fixed costs of transportation, you’ll want to consider how much you want to spend, and how much of your time do you want to spend in transit. For some it’s a lot, for some it’s a little. Always consider the little costs that add up as well; the taxi, the airport shuttle, elephant rides, and subway tokens.
For example, when looking for transportation from Iowa City, IA to Denver, CO, I made a list of the options.
First was by bus: $133 in advance, 16 hours travel time. The largest bus routes around are with Greyhound, but be sure to check regional lines like Megabus to save some major money on smaller bus trips.
Next was by train: $93 in advance, 1 hour drive, 12 hours total. The Amtrak has rails all over the country. With a much more comfortable ride than a bus, and faster, the only downfall is the lack of flexibility and options of stations.
Then there’s by car: 780 Miles clocked, $95 on gas, 11.5 hours of driving. If you’re driving, determine the cost of the whole trip using an online gas calculator like gas buddy, and then consider other costs like wear and tear, parking, and other necessary vehicle additions (wiper blades, oil, spare tire, etc…) The key to saving money by driving? Pack people in!
Lastly is an Airplane: $210, 2 hour drive, 1.75 hour flight. Considerably the fastest way to travel, the plane can also be the most expensive. Check out the many sites like Expedia, Orbitz, and Cheap Tickets to find the best flight. Save some money by flying out of a major airport and flying on the weekdays.
Unless you have rewards points, or some other hook-up, to save some money, avoid hotel rooms. If you are going anywhere in a big city, there are always options. The first step is scouring any social media or Rolodex you might have and see if you know someone in the town you’re traveling to. Be a good guest, perhaps bring a small gift, and save yourself some money. For the adventurous type, check out any hostels or go couch surfing. Whatever you do, plan ahead to save money for the rest of the budget.
This doesn’t necessarily include the costs of a fancy meal out on the town. This category is more about the costs of food you need to eat on a daily basis as a human being. Breakfast on the train, lunch on the corner, and a quick bite to eat for dinner; it all adds up quickly. Plan your budget conservatively, realizing that you might eat more than you think when travelling, and if you can, pack groceries and lunches to avoid the outrageous prices in airports and gas stations.
Events and Activities
After you’ve determined the above costs that you can’t completely avoid, and have a total number on the amount you have left to spend, start getting any idea of what you would like to do once you arrive to your destination. Things like skiing and mountain biking can be more expensive than hiking and sight-seeing. Use websites and apps like Yelp, Scout, and simple Google searches to narrow in on what you’d like to do. From there, use your instincts and sniff out a good deal by either calling, checking the website, or reaching out into social media.
Cliche as it may be, today is a brand new day. Make a resolution, draft a budget, and start planning to go see somewhere new. It will be life changing if even in the smallest bit, and the memories will carry on with you as you continue your travels. The biggest piece of advice is plan a month ahead to get the best deals. The more money you can save on the costs you can’t avoid, the more resources you’ll have to explore with.