Learning how to budget for travel sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is.
If you’ve ever thought that you “can’t afford to travel” or that people can “only travel in retirement,” this article is for you. Soon, you will see just how easy, affordable and truly attainable travel can be. All it takes is some minor adjustments in your personal budget.
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I use this exact strategy as a full-time traveler. And, even though some of my trips are comped, many of them are not. In fact, the majority of my trips are paid for on my own dime!
1. Get An Idea Of How Much Your Travels Will Cost
In order to set a realistic travel budget, you need to get a realistic idea of how much your travels will cost. This requires three pieces of information:
- How often you want to travel.
- Where you want to travel.
- The cost of living in your desired travel destination(s).
Obviously, the more often you want to travel, the more money you will have to budget. Likewise, the more expensive your desired destination costs, the more money you will have to budget.
Once you decide where you want to go, you can figure out the approximate cost of the trip with a few simple Google searches. You’ll mainly want to look for average costs of food, accommodations, ground transportation, flights and desired activities (museums, tourist excursions, etc.).
You will also want to consider what type of traveler you are. Are you a luxury vacationer who splurges on souvenirs and drinks? Are you a budget adventurer who doesn’t mind crashing in a hostel? Or, are you somewhere in between?
Again, the more you are apt to spend on your trip, the more money you will need to budget every month.
2. Prioritize Travel In Your Personal Budget
Once you figure out a general cost breakdown of your travels, it is time to prioritize travel in your monthly personal budget.
If you do not prioritize travel in your budget every month, you will never actually save up enough to do the traveling.
And, even if you do eventually save enough, it will take you years to do so. But, you don’t want to wait that long, right?
In order to prioritize travel into your monthly finances, create separate “travel” category in your budget plan. Travel shouldn’t fall under your “fun money” category because you know that you’ll end up spending that money on a new T-shirt or weekly Starbucks.
(Of course, there’s nothing wrong with spending fun money! My point is that, by nature, we crave instant gratification. So, if we are presented with an instantly satisfying item, we will often choose that item over waiting for what we really want. Separating travel from this category basically eliminates the problem.)
We’ll discuss exactly how much to budget in your travel category down below.
3. Open A Separate Savings Account For Travel
Once you rebuild your personal budget to include travel, open a separate savings account for travel.
The pros of having a separate travel savings account are three-fold:
- The urge to use your travel money to buy something else will be totally eliminated.
- You won’t have to keep track of which dollars in your checking account are going toward travel.
- You’ll actually start saving — and you’ll see the savings grow fast.
Even if you transfer money into this savings account in tiny increments, you will see your funds grow shockingly fast.
4. Automate Monthly Transfers Into The Savings Account
Right after you accomplish step three, set up automatic transfers into your new travel savings account every month.
With a money-transfer automation, you will literally save money for travel in your sleep.
In my favorite book, Atomic Habits, the author discusses the importance of eliminating barriers between yourself and new habits you’re hoping to attain. If you treat travel savings like a habit, setting up automatic transfers from your checking to travel savings account will do just that!
5. Sample Budget With Travel
Now, exactly how much should you budget for travel each month?
The amount of money you should save for travel each month depends on several factors: your income, where you want to travel, how soon you want to take the trip and your monthly basic necessity expenses. However, a good starting point is to save 5-10% of your income monthly for travel.
Here’s a breakdown of an example personal budget that includes a travel category.
|personal budget category
My husband and I follow this budget (adapted from Dave Ramsey‘s recommended budget) almost exactly, and you would be surprised with how quickly the money adds up. Thanks to this travel budget plan, we get to travel all the time.
Of course, take your personal living situations into consideration and adjust as necessary.
Even if you can only contribute 1% of your monthly income toward your travel savings, something is 100% better than nothing.
6. Use Employer Travel Benefits To Your Advantage
Furthermore, if you aren’t already taking advantage of your employer’s travel benefits, you should consider starting.
Employer travel benefits come in a variety of forms, including:
- Work trips.
- Automated travel savings accounts (in which a fraction of your paycheck is automatically put into a travel savings account).
- Negotiating more PTO.
- The option to work from home (AKA from your dream destination).
- And more.
Clearly, the most obvious form of employer travel benefits is traveling for work. Although work trips may only apply to some jobs and not others, you may be surprised at the opportunities to travel that unfold once you inform your employer of your willingness to travel.
Plus, the pay for traveling for work is usually higher than normal, and the trip is typically completely paid for by your employer. (Did someone say, “free travel“?)
Also, if you wind up traveling for work, sign up for the hotel’s loyalty program upon check-in. Even though your company is paying for the hotel room, you can still earn free stays/upgrades under your name!
7. Use Credit Card Points To Your Advantage
I know the concept of using credit cards can be somewhat taboo, but hear me out.
People travel for free all of the time thanks to travel credit cards.
Basically, by putting all of your normal expenses on a travel credit card (I love my Capital One Venture card), you can gain points to compensate for flights, accommodations and even car rentals.
Of course, the goal is not to go into credit card debt but, instead, to treat your credit card like a debit card to maximize your point earning potential.
Also, most travel credit cards offer opening bonuses, which basically means that if you spend a certain amount of money in a certain amount of time (for example, spending $3000 in three months of opening the card), you receive a large sum of bonus points (such as a bonus of 80,000 points, which is equivalent to a whopping $800 in flights).
Because of the opening bonuses, it’s best to open a travel credit card when you are about to make a big purchase, such as a new computer, new appliances, wedding expenses, college tuition, etc.
8. Change Your Mindset About Travel
Would you believe me if I told you that traveling is an investment, not a reward?
Like most people, you probably perceive travel as a luxury. But, what if I told you that travel is actually a form of education, burnout treatment and even civic responsibility?
All of which will propel you farther in your career, relationships and overall quality of life.
Although there will be times in life where you will have other financial priorities, thinking of travel as an investment rather than a reward is a necessary mindset shift when beginning a travel budget plan.
9. Actually Budget For Travel
Lastly, don’t just learn. Do.
You can spend your entire life studying how to budget for travel, but if you never actually implement these steps, your travel budget will never see the light of day.
You have the strategy. You have the
Good luck, and, as always, if you ever have any questions, comment below or DM me on Instagram.
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