One of the great things about travel is that you can spend as much or as little as you please to realise your dreams. Knowing how much you can comfortably spend on your journey will help you to make choices when selecting transport, accommodation, activities, what and where to eat, how much luggage you will carry, etc.
Sticking to your budget usually means some trade-off’s here and there but if you stick to your limits you will be in a much better position to plan your next trip when you get home.
How I stretched my travel budget
One of the most memorable journeys I have taken was a seven week trip that included a trip to Disneyland, a cruise to Hawaii, Christmas in New York, New Year in Ireland, and visits to Paris and Venice before making my way back to Australia.
How on earth did I pay for all this you ask yourself?
Slowly and in advance is my answer. The good news is you can spread the cost of your travel across several small payments rather than suffering the shock of paying for everything in one lump sum.
Very few people have the luxury of travelling on an unlimited budget, so here is the secret of how of how I stretched my travel budget and booked a dream holiday bit by bit.
A little up-front planning can save you from financial pain later.
Determine how much you can spend
The first step is to know how much you can spend on travel based on your savings or income.
Decide on a daily budget and keep your calculator handy when planning your trip.
Use the internet to research the cost of your expenses. Bear in mind that the cost of airfares and accommodation can vary from one day to the next depending on demand or any promotions the site may be running.
Calculate your expenses
Your calculation should include:
- transport (flights, taxi fares, public transport costs, hire cars)
- visas (if required).
- meals (check if breakfast is included in your room rate)
- activities and entertainment
- roaming costs if you are taking your phone overseas
- the cost of wi-fi or internet access if it is not complementary where you are staying
- souvenirs and/or gifts
- an allowance for incidentals and tips
- an allowance for exchange rate fluctuations, card fees and charges if you will be using your credit card overseas.
Add up all of your expected expenses for each day and compare the figure with your budget.
Make some trade-off’s
Once you have an idea of how much your travel plans are going to cost you can make some trade-off’s to squeeze everything into your budget.
This may mean staying in a hotel with fewer stars, packing your lunch and carrying it with you rather than eating in restaurants at lunch time, carrying less luggage, booking economy seats, choosing between activities or searching out free tours and events rather than paying a premium for a tour guide.
Know when the high and low seasons are for the places you want to visit as this will influence the availability and cost of airfares and accommodation.
Do your homework
Make a list of the places you wish to visit and check that any activities or venues on your wish list are operating during the time you plan to stay.
Read the reviews written by other travellers to find the best hotels. Avoid paying commissions to travel agents by booking everything yourself directly on-line. Decide if you need a single or return fare. Single fares offer you the flexibility to return home via another country of city, and leaves you the option of choosing when to return home at a later date. Return fares are perfect if you are constrained by dates or if you are spending most of your time in the one place.
Check your passport and apply for visas.
Inspect your passport to ensure that it will be valid at the time you wish travel. There are many horror stories about people who turn up at the airport only to have their travel dreams shattered because their passport has expired.
Visa costs and requirements will vary according to the nationality of the passport that you hold.
Many countries will require you to purchase a visa. Check the requirements for the country you are visiting well in advance of your planned departure date as the application process may take several weeks if you are required to apply for a visa before you leave Australia.
Some countries will allow you to purchase a visa on arrival. Many Asian countries have a visa on arrival service, most of which must be paid for in US Dollars. Note: You may need to carry passport style photos to include in your visa application.
Visa requirements can be checked by reviewing consular or embassy web sites.
The best website/app I have ever found for booking air travel is Skyscanner. You can research and book single or return fares in both business and economy via the site. The best feature of the site is the option to search from your departure city to Everywhere (Any country, Any Airport). This is a useful feature if there are lots of destinations on your list. I find it great for making a rough plan of the places I will visit, in which order, and estimate how much it will cost. The site will also let you which days have the lowest fares to your chosen destination. Get out your calendar and your calculator and start exploring the possibilities.
When selecting an airline read the fine print before making a commitment. It is often more cost-effective (not to mention comfortable) to fly with a full service airline as the fare will include luggage, taxes, meals, check-in fees and best of all frequent flyer points.
Frequent Flyer points are a great way to save money on the cost of travel. Many airlines are affiliated which means that if you join a frequent flyer programme you can also collect points from the airlines partners. Frequent Flyer points can also be earned and spent when shopping, booking hotels and hire cars.
Sign up for airline newsletters and promotions so that you are alerted when sale fares become available.
If you are not keen on flying a cruise may provide the travel experience you are looking for. If you are based in Australia all capital cities located on the coast have a cruise terminal. Great deals can be found on a site called Cruise sale finder.
The cost of a cruise may look shockingly expensive at first, until you realise that the price includes your meals (check where you can dine for ‘free’ as most ships also have specialty restaurants which cost a bit more), accommodation, entertainment and transport.
To decide the cruise is good value for your travel dollars you may want to compare the cost with traveling to all the ports listed by air plus the cost of accommodation and meals. Alternatively divide the room rate by the number of nights and compare the price with the room rate for a hotel. You may be pleasantly surprised.
The best things about cruising in my opinion are that you can travel the world and still return to same cosy cabin each night, only have to unpack and re-pack when boarding the ship and returning home, you can participate in a range of on-board activities and entertainments that allow you to enjoy the company of others if you choose to.
Day trips at each of the ports can be booked via the ship or independently with local tour operators or you can simply enjoy exploring on your own.
Start your adventure
Make a booking for the flight/train ticket/ferry passage to begin your journey. Most airlines will accept booking up to 12 months in advance.
Continue by booking the next onward flight/train ticket/ferry passage or hire car (check skyscanner for the best value flights) as this will determine how many nights accommodation are required.
Book accommodation for the required number of nights.
Repeat the above steps at regular intervals (I made a point of booking something each time my pay arrived over a 10 month period).
If there are activities with limited availability, such as seeing a show or attending a sporting event during your travel, book the tickets once you know the dates that you will be in that location to avoid missing out. Or better still, check that tickets are available before committing to flights and accommodation to that you can revise your travel plan if necessary.