At The Everygirl HQ, WE LOVE TRAVEL. From the Christmas tree-lined streets of Quebec City in the winter to the color-soaked sunsets of Greece in the spring, we’re wanderlusting all year long. But taking that wanderlust and turning it into actual travel is way more complicated — especially when you consider all the budgeting involved. So we consulted our sightseeing guru and travel contributor, Anna Foushee for tips on how she manages her finances before she embarks on a journey. Here, she shares tips on how to budget for the five major categories you need to consider before booking a trip and how to figure out how much you can afford to spend if you haven’t decided on a destination yet.
Plus, scroll down for a free, fillable PDF budgeting guide to fill out as you go!
If you’re traveling by plane, keep airfare costs below 30% of your overall trip budget. For example, if your total trip budget is $1,500, then search for flights in the $450 range.
Don’t forget about baggage, taxes, and other misc fees that can hike the cost of your flight. To find the true cost, go through the checkout process until you need to enter your credit card or payment method — you should see any extra fees that have been added. Never budget off a Google Flights (or similar search platform) price, because it could go up by $100+.
If you’re not flying to your destination, you’ll probably have significantly cheaper transportation costs (win!). Factor in everything beforehand — roundtrip train tickets, mileage and snacks, etc — always better to overestimate a bit here so you’re not scrambling on your actual trip.
Decide on a nightly budget — whether you’re staying in one place or moving accommodations throughout the trip. Look for ways to save money by searching out all the options in the area: hotels, Airbnb, hostels, campgrounds, etc. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends in the area and inquire — even if you only end up staying one night with them, you’ll save your accommodation budget for that day!
Once you decide on a location, sit down and brainstorm any and all activities you might want to do while you’re there — snorkeling, museums, a river cruise, etc. Research prices for each and then eliminate as necessary to keep yourself accountable to your budget.
If you’re on a tight budget, keep costly activities to a minimum and explore the city on foot, go hiking, pack picnics, etc. If you end up scrimping in other categories, add here to make the most of your trip!
Food & Drink
Set a daily budget for this category as well — and stick to it! If you’re going for a fancy dinner one night of your trip, try packing a few breakfasts (energy bars, fruit, light snacks) to offset the higher dinner cost. Make sure you write everything out, including each meal for each day — to get a comprehensive look at what your food and drink will cost for the entirety of the trip. Don’t forget things like food (or drinks yassss) at the airport, cocktails before dinner, a quick stop for ice cream, etc.
Pro tip: Add in your “at home” food budget to your daily food and drink budget. Any money that you would have spent on groceries or eating out at home is fair game for your trip!
Here is where you’ll budget for any rental cars, bikes, city transit, ferries, etc. that you’ll be taking while you’re on your trip. Research everything beforehand, so you have an idea of how you’ll be getting around and whether or not you can pre-purchase anything. For things like rental cars, ferry tickets, longer train journeys, and other more comprehensive transport, you’re better off booking as far in advance as you can to secure a cheaper price. Score! Then add in a flexible budget for intercity transit — depending on weather, walking distance, availability, etc.
Add in your “at home” transportation costs to this budget as well — if you normally spend $7 to park your car each day for work, you can factor that money saved into your travel budget!
Give yourself a little budgetary cushion for fun extras: any shopping you’ll do while you’re there, souvenirs you know you want to pick up, and treat yo’ self cash for any on-the-fly purchases you might make.
Once you factor these categories into your budget, you’ll have a good idea of how much you can spend or what kind of trip you’ll be able to afford right now. Use our fillable PDF budgeting guide to help organize your finances and get yourself trip-ready!