Budgeting for Travel

Over the last few years, we have tried to take advantage of our vacation days to travel as much as our job and budget allows. People are always surprised when they find out how many places we’ve visited and ask how we can afford to travel without jeopardizing our raining day fund and retirement savings. Here are some things we do to help us budget our travel each year.

Budget how much you want to spend each year Start a spreadsheet and start tracking how much each trip is costing you. Do this for at least a year to give yourself an idea of how much you are spending on travel and use this amount to plan for future travels. Another way to automate this process is with websites like Mint.com, however, Mint only track the amount you’ve already charged on your credit card. I like having my own spreadsheets because it helps me with trip planning before the spending actually occurs. Since traveling takes up a large chunk of our budget, I like to keep the spreadsheet up to date to help (or control in my case) future trip planning.

Don’t be picky about where you want to visit. Having a specific bucket list is great, but it can be restricting at times. We found we enjoy ourselves the most in places we are less familiar with. Sure, Paris and London are great places to visit but less traveled cities like Copenhagen is equally as beautiful, minus the hoards of tourists. There are so many amazing flight deals available if you look in the right places. We sign up for travel alerts from Travelzoo and follow travel sites such as This Points Guy or Secret Flying to catch good airfare deals.

Copenhagen

We spent Thanksgiving in Copenhagen in 2014 thanks to a Norwegian Airlines promotion.

Spend some travel time out in the nature. Sure, sightseeing around a major city can be lots of fun, but regardless of which country you go, big cities are typically the most expensive places too. Try to mix up your travel with a couple days in the city with some camping or trekking outdoors. Camping is a great way to see the natural landscape of the place you are visit and campsites are usually free or very cheap compared to lodging in a hotel room!

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Trekking the Salkantay Trail in Peru during Thanksgiving 2012

Travel during the off season! Over the last few years we’ve tried traveling internationally during the Thanksgiving holiday. This is off season travel for lots of places while Americans are traveling domestically to see family. Not only do you get great deals on airfare and accommodations, you also get to enjoy your destination without the crowds.

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We try to avoid beaches in Southern California in the summer and visit during the winter when there are not as many people on the beach.

Choose a good travel credit card. It’s good to have a credit card that will provide you with extra points on travel expenses and no foreign transaction fees (these can build up pretty fast). Our card of choice is Chase Sapphire because of the following reasons:

  1. Great new customer bonus points
  2. 2x points for travel
  3. 20% off travel redemption using your reward points – this one is my favorite perk for this card because it does not restrict you to an airline.

Check the currency exchange rate before you go. If you have been following the current events, you probably know the U.S. dollar has been very strong the last couple of years. While this is not good news for everyone, it’s great for american travelers. We visited Paris last year when the US dollar to Euro was 1:1, this alone saved us at least 20% on accommodations while we were there!

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