Wednesday Wanderlust: How to Plan for a Trip

I have been positing recently about Bucket List yeses and noes, but how do I afford to pay for all of this? How do I know what I can and cannot spend each trip? I’m going to give you a break down of what I do to ensure my trip is smooth

First: Save for a vacation every month.

I have an Google Sheet that tracks how much I budget each month to certain items. I have budgets for Home Items (i.e. soap, laundry, savings for major expenses, etc), Utilities, Mortgage, etc. Since traveling is very important to me, I have a Travel budget that I save and put into a separate bank account. The Bank Account also houses savings for annual/bi-annual expenses like property taxes and home/auto insurance. So I also keep a running tab on what month expenses go out and how much I will have at the end of any given month in that account.

Plan for the major expenses on a trip

The main items you spend money on, whether it’s a weekend away or a 2 week long trip, are transportation to/from, food, lodging, and attractions/experiences. Depending on where you are going, booking a flight can be an expensive and tedious experience. With the amount of airlines, seat classes, and airports, it can be overwhelming. Here are some general pointers that I have found useful:

  • If you are traveling to a major city (i.e. New York, Chicago, London), look at airlines where airports are an airline’s “hub.” For instance British Airways has London Heathrow as a hub. More British Airways flights go there, so you have a better chance of getting a better deal and a better time.
  • Book your flight early or late: I can’t book flights late. I’m a planner so that stresses me out. So I tend to always book my flights as early as possible. Hubby and I went to Italy in September 2017. I bought our flights in January 2017 (San Francisco to Venice and then Rome back to San Francisco) for $800 round trip a person on Air France.
  • Time is money! With the plethora of discount airlines, you can spend a lot less than the $800 round trip I mentioned above. But I am a firm believer of non-stop or direct flights. The Italy trip I mentioned above stopped through Paris (which I’m totally fine with! Love my Laudree macaroons!), but generally I like non-stops. Spending the extra money is worth the assurance that I am not going to miss a connection/delay my trip because of weather/etc.

Other transportation costs include renting a car/using your own car or maybe a long train ride! Hubby and I tend to rent cars for road trips. You can generally find a good deal and you won’t have the ware and tear on our own cars, which will cost money down the line.

Hotel Booking!

I generally book hotels that cost below $200 (depending on location) and above $125 (also depending on the location). The reason for this is that I want to have a room that is comfortable and has some good amenities. I’m on vacation! I don’t want to just sleep anywhere. I also do book apartments (which can be another blog because of my love/hate relationship with them) to supplement places where I am going to have more expensive accommodations as well. For the Italy trip, we went to Venice, Florence, Positano (Amalfi Coast), and Rome. Venice and Positano are expensive places and booked my hotels in January 2017 as well (since they also book up fast) for $250 a night. For the Florence and Rome portions I booked apartments that were about $150 a night. This enabled me to balance out the cost of the Venice/Positano hotels. I budgeted $3000 for 15 nights in Italy and came in at $2930, so not bad.

This was the view from our bedroom window in Florence. Not bad for $145 a night!

Attractions

I am a big Rick Steves fan and firmly believe when he says to not skimp on seeing attractions, because that’s the whole point of going some place new! I will say that if you are revisiting a destination, this may not apply, but in general go see the tourist things! I did my study abroad in Florence, so I am very well acquainted with the Uffizi Gallery, L’Academia, and the Duomo. Did I got revisit them in 2017? You bet I did! My husband had never been, but these are/house some of the great pieces of art in the world. So I will gladly see them as many times as I can.

On an administrative/planning note, I would recommend seeing if there are museum passes in that city and calculate if the pass is worth it. Paris has a great museum pass. You can buy it for as many days as you need and you are allowed unlimited access to the museums. The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and the Château de Versailles are included. The Florence Museum pass doesn’t allow for the same flexibility, so I passed on that and secured reservations ahead of time for the Uffizi and L’Academia instead.

Definitely get a reservation to see this guy!

Food is the wild card!

Food is the ultimate wild card with budgeting. Food prices vary based on what you like, dietary restrictions you might have, if you are booking apartments/hotels where you can store food, etc. Rick Steves generally uses this rule for travel in Europe: 5 euros for breakfast, 15 euros for lunch, 3 euros for a snack, and 25 euros for dinner per person. Above 50 euros a day per person for food. Generally speaking this works, since you will have more expensive meals in some places and others, you might not even have dinner since lunch was so much! If you are going to Thailand, the food amount will be much less. Do your research on food costs in the area and then model your budgeting based on that. Also take into consideration what your normal habits are. If you never eat breakfast, don’t budget for breakfast!

Overall Budgeting:

With the big tickets items out of the way, you should budget for local transportation, souvenirs, and always have a “Miscellaneous” budget. The Miscellaneous budget is for anything unplanned. I went to Chicago in 2015 before attending a friend’s wedding in South Bend, IN when I got a call from my mother-in-law saying my husband was really sick. So I flew home. I had budgeted some money for a delay, but in the end the trip costs only $100 less than I budgeted, since I had to buy an emergency ticket home. These things happen, so be prepared.

I have also included here a template of what I used to budget my Italy trip. I don’t do this for all my trips, only for my larger expense trips.

What are your top budgeting tips? Leave them in the comments below so everyone can reference them! With Love, Allison

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