Travel is expensive. Here’s how to budget for it.

Big travel season is just around the corner, but most Americans are still struggling to regain financial footing post-pandemic. As Americans have spent down roughly 35{515baef3fee8ea94d67a98a2b336e0215adf67d225b0e21a4f5c9b13e8fbd502} of their total savings during the COVID-19 emergency state, suddenly that annual family vacation is not as easy to cover, or that planned solo travel abroad needs to be scaled down. But it’s not superfluous spending.

Travel is important for widening horizons and making new connections. And time away from your daily routine can be both relaxing and energizing. It’s critical to understand how to save and book for trips that won’t take away from crucial savings.

Let’s start with a budget

Everyone’s got a dream trip, but it may not happen tomorrow. Don’t let that stop you from getting away today. Determine how much you have in petty cash or checking that can go toward travel now. There may be a trip already within your budget that can take the edge off until your next around-the-world excursion.

Here’s an example of a price breakdown to get you started:

  • Hotel days, plus extras you may pay at checkout
  • Transportation options (public transit vs. rental car days/fuel vs flights)
  • Meals by day, plus snacks – don’t forget beverages!
  • Must-see attractions and other tickets
  • Petty cash for souvenirs and shopping
  • An estimate of tips throughout the trip
  • Emergency fund availability if something goes very wrong
  • And don’t forget costs at home, like pet-sitting or missed work pay
  • Once you have an idea of what you can spend, here are more ways to save.

Consider flexible dates

If you have the ability to negotiate when you can travel, your options will be better. While most of us can’t always decide what time of the year we have available, some flight search engines have a plus-minus day button, and others show you the price changes over a week of time, or by airline. This makes it easy to identify when you should leave or return, or if it’s worth it to take a day off to fly for a small drop in cost. It’s an unfortunate truth that most of us can’t drop everything and travel during shoulder seasons, but sometimes even one day can make a difference.

Identify the hidden fees

I’m not talking about upcharges on your credit card, I mean the fees you don’t think about that add up over time. Renting a car might sound like a big one-time expense, but try adding up how much those Ubers (plus tip) will cost over the duration of the trip. How will you save using that Airbnb kitchen versus the added cleaning fees you might not be charged at a hotel? That flight upgrade may seem like a splurge … until you’re paying for over-limit luggage at the gate. Weigh the options between one-time costs and small expenses that pile up over the vacation.

Stay outside the hub

The center of town (or amusement park, or beach) probably comes with some lovely perks. However, if you don’t mind figuring out transportation workflows, staying just outside of the major hub can offer some big price benefits. This can be an especially good option if you are traveling with family and need more space, or can stand for some peace and quiet. While hostels are not an option for most people because of privacy, accessibility and family needs, there are still some home rental deals to be found on vrbo and

What does your credit card offer?

It used to be that only specific credit cards offered travelers benefits, but just about every card has some kind of experience benefit now. Even if you don’t have direct benefits, like discounted carry-on, fuel, or lounge access, there could be bonus points on airline purchases, or even use of points on a particular store or amusement, like museum entry, you may use while you’re traveling. And don’t forget to check into trip cancellation or lost item insurance if something goes amiss.

Use location tags on social platforms

Beautiful travel destinations are all over Instagram, but the real deals are hidden within the location tag pages. From there you can see all the photos from one spot, not just the most aesthetically pleasing ones from influencers. This is a great way to check out the places where locals go; from restaurants to entertainment, you’ll be able to see the trends in events and locate a few accounts to follow for advice or even offer discounted tours for followers.

Pack light to avoid extra fees

A light carry-on will not only save you money on your flight but having fewer items means less maintenance. Consider what items you will actually wear from your closet, and bring cleaning sheets or a sink washing kit so that you can reuse clothes throughout your excursion. This also saves money on washing machines or hotel cleaners. Shampoo, soap and conditioner come in travel-size leaves that last just as long as your trip and take up less space in your suitcase, or even waterless versions you can take on long flights and toss before you return.

This story was originally released March 2, 2023, 3:02 PM.

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The Sum breaks down elaborate financial issues and how they influence your everyday living in just a number of minutes a day. Comply with @thesum.information on Instagram for the full story.

Francis McGee

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