Budgeting for Travel

Budgeting For Travel: Strategies for Every Day Life

After living and working abroad for seven years I’ve had endless questions about affording international travel. Questions come mainly from people I meet in the states who haven’t found a way to save for traveling.

How Can I Afford to Travel?

The number one fact I can share is that if you want to travel you must make it a priority. That means planning for it and including it in your daily financial decisions.

Discretionary Spending
* Do you spend upwards of a hundred dollars a month on a cable package that you watch a few hours on the weekend or after work? Cutting down to a basic package as I have and using Netflix is a cheaper alternative that allows you to pocket extra cash for travel. Cheaper yet is the online option, watching television from your computer. I have friends who do this as their only means of television viewing. They use both Hulu and Netflix and watch happily and cheaply. I haven’t gone that route because I’m attached to watching on a bigger screen. Everyone has different saving strategies. Could one of these strategies work for you?

* Modifications
I will be the first to admit that when budgeting for international travel the weekly budget for pleasures takes a hit. Dinners out, movies and lattes are far fewer. That may stop some readers in their tracks, not wanting to give up their four dollar lattes or their two nights out a week. Modification is the key. Get active with friends, plan a walk where you can enjoy your friends company without spending money.

Another great alternative is to plan a coffee and dessert night. That way you’re only spending money on a dessert and drink, rather than a full meal. You still have the pleasure of being with friends and you have more money in your travel savings plan. These aren’t always easy choices I admit. I miss out on activities with friends and family because I just can’t blow money on tons of extras. I choose to make international travel my priority. I willingly modify my activities for the pleasure of wandering the sights of countries around the globe.

The Savings Advantage, When You’re Budgeting For Travel

Cutting out one evening a week of expenses as a couple and two less coffee stops a week will save on average $88 dollars that can be set aside for travel. If your single one less evening out with friends could add $30 dollars to your travel fund per week. That’s $120 in a month. In just a few months you have an airline ticket purchased; which puts you steps closer to your dream of international travel.

* Watch What You Spend

Shopping expenses can add up quickly so I keep a tight lid on what I choose to purchase. I save my money for items that make my life and international travel more fun. It’s all about choices, what changes can you make to save more cash for travel? Think outside the box and you’ll find saving easier than you expected.

Travel Accommodations and Traveling Independently

* Hostels
I’ve said the word that conjures up backpackers and shared accommodations that leave you cringing. Me too, I’ve only stayed in a hostel once and it wasn’t an experience I was eager to repeat. Through listening to friends and fellow travelers I’ve found a new wave of hostels. These newer hostels are changing the face of hostelling. In Bolzano Italy I discovered Youth Hostel Bolzano where single rooms go for $24 Euros a night and come with breakfast. Not only is the hostel modern and fresh it’s conveniently located to the train station and Bolzano’s historical city center. I’ve found similar hostels in other locales that seem to cater to a more hip traveler who wants both low cost and inviting surroundings.

*Travel Packages
While living in Germany I discovered the sweet option of combined packages. These deals allow you to pay up front for accommodations, a meal plan, a rental car and your airline tickets. Normally I’m not a package traveler, yet I’ve had some great adventures and saved money going this route.

Rome was one of my package trips. It was a great experience with excellent accommodations at a reasonable price. One tip I’ve learned is to include breakfast in my package. Hotels offer nice breakfasts that fill you up and allow you hours of exploring without the need to spend additional money.

I spent a week in Rome with my cousin and we had some great picnic lunches at Roman historical sites. They are some of my best memories in Rome. How can you beat eating outdoors and viewing some of the greatest history in the world? We chose easy to pack cheese, bread, fruit or wrapped slices of pizza we’d purchased on our way in little Italian shops. It’s a fun way to discover local foods and save money.

Rome Hotel Room

My Rome hotel, the Hotel Bailey.

*Independent Travel
This is my recommendation. Unless you’re heading somewhere that feels too difficult, this is the best way to go. Independent travel saves money while giving you a freedom that organized tours just don’t offer. In addition, planning an itinerary can be fun and easy with so many great online travel sites and options for travel insight from other travelers.

A Travel Saving Plan
o This essential tool will allow you to keep your travel savings on track. Decide what you can save and open a savings account that is not linked to your checking account. Chart your progress and watch your savings grow; you will be less likely to dip into it. As your money grows you can begin planning your international travel adventure.

For other budget travel tips and destinations check out my budget travel articles on MoneyCrashers.com

Finding Your Travel Groove

Germany Nature Preserve

Boddenlandschaft Nature Reserve, Germany

Photo Credit PresleyJesus Flickr

Finding Your Travel Groove starts with discovering what you love about travel.

Do you love rugged adventures where you hike your way into canyons and raft your way to your next stop? Are you an avid RVer? Do your trips revolve around hitting the open road and enjoying time with friends and family in the mountains? Do you find spending a few days or weeks in your RV the perfect antidote to every day life? Do you salivate as you look at the departures board at the airport or train station? (I do) All I can think of when I study those boards is the next great adventure I can have. I think about what destination I will explore and the fun and friends that I will discover on the road.

Finding Your Travel Groove is about discovering what type of travel makes your heart sing.

Travel is as individual as each of you. What kinds of trips have you taken? Which trips did you enjoy the most? Jot down a few notes and see if you find a pattern; which kind of travel brings you the greatest joy? Do you love to relax on an island beach and enjoy some pampering? Are you an adrenaline junkie who loves to bungee jump?

Finding your travel groove helps you determine the kind of travels that will make you happiest. There is nothing worse than spending money to travel somewhere and then hating the experience or destination. Think about your personality, your hobbies, your favorite climate and your favorite trips; these insights will allow you a deeper understanding of the kind of traveler you are.

Do your travel interests fall into the same category as your significant other?

Are each of you willing to compromise? Are there travel interests between you that run parallel? For example your guy loves adventure and you both love islands. You could have an island adventure experience in the Caribbean. The island of St. Kitts is a great example of a dual destination. The island offers visitors zip lining adventures that will thrill adventure junkies and get island lovers excited with the stunning ocean and jungle views. A trip like this offers the beauty and fun of a tropical island while still satisfying an adventure lover.

An ocean view from the Tamarind Cove Beach on Barbados
A Caribbean View

Similar travel interests are exceedingly helpful; they don’t have to be deal breakers.

Compromise is key. Unless your partner isn’t willing to compromise, you should be able to agree on some great travel experiences. I know from personal experience that conflicting travel desires can be a pain in the arse. Several years ago I was in a relationship with a man who (when I met him) had no passport and hadn’t been on an airplane. By this time I’d lived overseas for six years and lived another three on the islands in Hawaii.

When we met in Florida, I didn’t even realize such a combination existed; though it clearly did. I stated clearly up front that travel, specifically international travel was a priority in my life. I clarified that not having a passport and not flying would quickly become a deal breaker. Within a short period of time (weeks) he applied for his passport and within seven months we took off for the Caribbean. If you, a well seasoned traveler are flying for the first time with an air flight virgin you need to start small. I made certain to choose a non stop flight and to choose a short (less than two hour flight) for our first adventure. It was successful and we had a good trip.

Money and Travel Priorities

The bigger issue (in my opinion) is money and how you each choose to spend it. This one can be the real deal breaker. In my case I had the financial ability to pay for all of my travel. Some couples have two incomes. Having the financial resources to allow for differences in financial travel priorities is helpful. No matter how my significant other chose to spend his money I was still going to spend a portion of mine on international travel. This is a topic I recommend covering thoroughly; this can create some friction.

I know many people, including this man who have children and jobs that just don’t allow for the travel options I’ve enjoyed. Mine were a different set of life experiences and I admit they require a different mind set. This is a combination that will take time and energy to work through with a new partner. I think the greatest asset is a willingness to look beyond what you know. You may have only experienced US travel; being willing to step outside your comfort zone and travel abroad opens another door in your relationship and your life.

My Partner Won’t Travel Much

I have seen friends go through this challenge. A few years ago a good friend of mine resolved this issue by taking some of her international trips with a friend or other family members. She enjoyed her adventures and her husband enjoyed staying closer to home. He still traveled within the US with her and occasionally took a joint international trip. His willingness to allow her to do what she loved allowed them a happy household. Compromise is the golden key to finding your travel groove with a partner.

A canal view in Venice

A canal view in Venice.

Whether you are a seasoned traveler or a travel virgin travel adventures and challenges await you. I recommend doing your homework. Know yourself, know what you love and know what you’re travel and financial priorities are. These facts will allow you to find your travel groove.