This is the 3rd post in a Step-by-Step Guide to Planning Perfect Family Trip. Click here to start back at Step 1.
Sorry, everybody. I know we didn’t really want to talk about this, but the time has come.
Before we get too deep into this whole travel planning thing, we need to talk about the dreaded ‘b’ word: BUDGET.
Stating the obvious here – travel can be expensive!
There will be people who will teach you how to travel the world for free — that’s not me. Sure I like to save money whenever possible, but I’m not a really serious budget traveler. The experience of travel for us is just as much about being immersed in a new culture as it is eating great food and staying in unique places. And those things (usually) cost money.
Now, that’s also not to say that you have to spend a ton of money to go on your dream vacation. Take Paris, for example. You could visit Paris in the off-season, stay in a small Airbnb in the outskirts of the city, eat cheese and crepes off the street, and wander the city to see a million different sights for free; all for little more than $100 a day!
So the real question is, how much do you want to spend for this trip, and how will you get there financially?
Step 1: Set a Travel Budget
Let’s tackle that first question first. How much do you want to spend? I know it can be incredibly hard to narrow down a budget without knowing what things cost, but you need to set a baseline for yourself. If you had to pick a number out of the sky, how much would you feel comfortable spending on a vacation? $500? $1000? $5000?
Step 2: Set a Savings Goals
Now think about how much you can afford to set aside each month (or week) for travel. You might be thinking, “I don’t have any money left over to set aside for travel, Laura!”, but is that really true? Yes, I know not all of us may be in the position to travel right now because of financial responsibilities. But I’m guessing since you’re here reading this, that’s probably not you.
For the vast majority of us, we can make travel happen if we want to, it just takes some sacrificing. So if you’re truly passionate about traveling with your family, really think about how you can make that a reality. Whatever your budget, whether it means traveling closer to home or on shorter trips, there is always opportunity for more adventure if we seek it. So, what is your number? How much are you willing to save on a routine basis for travel?
Step 3: How Do They Compare?
Have your number? Perfect. Now do the math and let’s see about how long it will take to get from your weekly (or monthly) savings to your ideal budget. Feel free to account for any savings you already have set aside as well. For example, maybe you’ve decided you can hunker down and save $50/week. That’s $200/month. Now let’s say you want to take this trip in October. If you start saving right now, you will have $1800 by the time you take your trip, not including any extra savings you might already have. Not bad, eh?!
So how does your number line up with your ideal travel budget? Are you way off, or is this sounding realistic? Unless you’re really talented and have hit your number right on, you’ll probably need to make some adjustments (either upping your savings or decreasing your budget). There really isn’t any fancy rocket science to this, just simple math. If you’re using our free travel budget worksheet, you can fill these numbers in at the bottom to keep your eye on the goal.
Step 4: Put the Plan into Action
Now you have a plan! You know how much you’ll have to spend, how you’re going to get there, and you can start seeing just how far that budget will go. Even if this trip may not happen for another year, you’ve at least set the wheels in motion and know that one day this trip can and will happen. Isn’t that a great feeling?
Ok, so this budget is all great and inspiring, but now you actually have to log on to your bank account and make this savings happen! And by now, I mean, like…right now. Go ahead and set up a recurring transfer to move a little money after each paycheck into a separate savings account (you don’t necessarily have to open a dedicated account, just keep the funds out of your normal checking account where expenses are paid from).
It will be a little difficult to adjust to having less spending cash at first, and you might have to make a few lifestyle adjustments (for us, it’s meant eating out less at home and cutting down on non-essential purchases). But after a little while of making the savings a habit, I promise you’ll hardly even realize the difference. You’ll be amazed to see how fast your savings will grow on auto-pilot.
Now, I know all of these numbers don’t really mean much unless we know exactly how much this trip is going to actually cost, right? Don’t worry, we’ll get to that soon! 🙂 For now, we’re just laying the groundwork to start a travel savings that will make this family trip a reality.
Still Feeling Unsure About Your Budget?
If you’re really just not sure about your budget (i.e., not sure it’s enough), go ahead and start doing some research on your two biggest spends: transportation (most likely, airfare) and accommodations. Start filling in your budget sheet with rough estimates and you’ll quickly see if your savings is going to be enough, or if it needs some tweaking.
If you find that the numbers are too far of a stretch, maybe this isn’t the right time or destination for this trip. That’s ok! It’s all part of the planning process. Go back to step 2 and re-evaluate one of your other top picks. Maybe you have to push your timeline out a little farther so you have more time to save? Maybe you need to plan to take the trip during a less expensive time of the year?
I would never want to encourage anyone to take a family trip they couldn’t afford, so don’t be afraid to make adjustments where you need to.
I hope you’re feeling good about the direction this is going! Having a family travel budget is definitely not the most fun or glamorous part of planning, but is an essential foundation for the whole process. It’s how you’ll make travel a realistic and ongoing part of your life. So don’t skimp on this step, embrace it!
Next week comes the fun part – time to start finding things to do! See you then!
Tell me, what are some creative ways you’ve found to help you save for travel?
Check out the full step-by-step guide:
Step 3 // How to Start Saving NOW for Travel
Step 5 // How to Use Google Maps to Plan Your Trip
Step 7 // How to Build a Travel Budget
Step 8 // 15+ Ways to Save Big When Booking Travel
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