How to Fund Your Dream Trip
By: Guest Blogger from DoNotSaveMoney.com
Traveling can be one of the most thrilling and fulfilling experiences in life. However, there is no doubt it can definitely be a little intimidating. Whether you’re taking an extended solo adventure, a family trip to Disney World, or even just a weekend trip there are a lot of factors to consider. The Number One Factor usually being: How the heck am I going to pay for this?
Over the past few years, I've been fortunate enough to take a private 5-day tour of the Peruvian Rainforest for less than $1,000. I've also been able to road trip the U.S. on less than $500 after college. Right now I'm planning a 2-month extended stay in SE Asia where I expect to spend less than $2,000. Funding Your Dream Trip can be a challenge but I guarantee that it's very possible!
Below are some best practices on How to Fund Your Dream Trip in 3 simple steps.
1. Determine the Cost
This seems like a no-brainer place to start but this is by far the most important step. In order to properly fund a trip, you need to know how much it’s going to cost you. The bulk of the cost is going to be dependent on factors such as:
• Where you are going
• How you get there
• Where you stay
• How long you stay for
That said, regardless of where you go there are 3 factors that will make up the bulk of your expenses. Usually, your three biggest travel costs will be: how you get there, where you stay, and what you eat. My advice is to choose two of these costs and try as hard as possible to reduce them or find a cheaper option.
How You Get There
Again, your ability to reduce this expense will be dependent on where you're going. If you can drive then drive but we will assume you have to fly. Sometimes there is not too much you can do about expensive tickets., however, let's take a look at some good tips to always consider when booking:
1.) Can You Drive? - My family is a big "Driving Family". We lived in New Jersey and would drive down the East Coast to go to Disney World. Since we were a family of 6, the 1,000-mile drive in a van was a huge money-saver compared to the $1,000s we'd have to spend on flights for 6 people. You can also turn the drive into part of the trip and make it fun.
2.) Can You Fly Into Different Airports? Always check surrounding airports for a cheaper flight. For instance, when I fly from my home in LA back to New Jersey I check flights out of LA and San Diego into Philadelphia, Newark, Atlantic City, and Baltimore. Usually flying into a city that's a little farther can save me $100.
3.) Combining Costs Using a Travel Agent - Expedia and KayakKayak are powerful tools and will often time give you bundled discounts on hotels and airlines. Use them!
4.) Fly In and Out on Weird Days (Tues/Thurs) - If you have a flexible schedule, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are usually the cheapest days to fly.
5.) Book Way in Advance or Last Minute - The farther ahead you can book, the cheaper the flights. On the other hand, airlines are desperate to fill vacant seats right before the flight leaves. Showing up at the last minute can sometimes result in getting a deal (although this isn't always an ideal strategy).
6.) Use Hopper to track flight prices - Hopper is a cool free tool that lets you track flight prices and book flights. You can "watch" a flight for a few weeks/months and Hopper will tell you when the best time to book is and if the price is expected to go up or down.
Where You Stay
This will end up being one of your next largest expenses. Luckily, these days there are a few different ways to either hunt for deals or find different options.
1.) Combine Costs Using a Travel Agent - This is a repeat but Expedia and Kayak are powerful tools and will often times give you a significantly cheaper rate when you book flights and hotels together. It's definitely worth exploring to see if you can save money by bundling.
2.) Call and Ask For a Discount - The main goal for a hotel is to rent rooms. You'd be surprised how flexible they can be. Simply call, tell them you're planning an extended stay and are evaluating options, and ask what discounted rates they have. It's not guaranteed to work but also can't hurt! My college buddies and I did this when planning trips and most of the time ended up with a much cheaper rate!
3.) AirBnB - Hardly new information at this point but AirBnB is a great tool for finding cheap vacation rentals. The best part is that they will have options with a full kitchen. If you're staying with a family or large group then it can be drastically cheaper to buy groceries for the stay and cook the bulk of your meals.
4.) Use HotelTonight for nice hotels - HotelTonight is a great tool for finding incredible, last-minute deals at nice hotels. Instead of booking way in advance and paying top dollar, book last second and get a great deal! NOTE: check ahead and make sure HotelTonight has offerings where you're traveling.
What (and Where) You Eat
Most people brush this travel expense by saying "well I'd be spending the money to eat at home anyway". Technically right...but still an expense you definitely need to be wary of. If you're not careful, eating out can turn a trip that should cost a couple of hundred dollars into a thousand-dollar trip!
Cost of Weekly Groceries Vs Eating Out
The above chart is my weekly spend on groceries vs if I were to eat out every day. You can see it costs an additional $140 (conservatively) for me to eat out each week instead of cook! If you're traveling with a family or large group then chances are these numbers will be much higher.
Okay, we're done with the least fun (but very necessary) step. Now that we've effectively thought through the Trip and determined how much it will cost, we can find ways to pay for it.
2. Find the Money
After adding the X's and O's to get a ballpark estimate of the cost of the trip, it's time to find the money.
NOTE: it's fine to go off a ballpark estimate of the trip but to be safe I would add a buffer of a couple of hundred dollars because there are always unexpected costs.
Can You Save For It?
This is the standard way to go about funding a trip. Most people get paid twice a month and if you are saving for a trip then a portion of that cash should be set aside to fund it. We'd recommend saving about 10% of your monthly income to put toward a trip.
I don't have any earth-shattering advice here, saving is saving. However, there are a few different ways to help boost your income, contribute more to your Fund, and speed up the process.
Can You Earn More?
It's never been easier to earn money on the side than it is today. It's very possible to turn a few extra hours during the week into a few extra hundred dollars during the month. Below are a few of my favorite ways:
1. Watch/Walk Dogs and Get Paid - Usually around $10-$15 per 3o minute walk!
2. Freelance your skills on Fiverr
3. Enlist Your Kids - I don't have kids but if I did I'd probably offer "we can go if you can contribute X amount".
4. Answer Research Surveys on Respondent - This is a legit way to make money by answering surveys online. I've done it a few times and made about $40 each survey doing this (for 30 minutes of my time).
5. Take a visit to Steady.com to find Part Time or Anytime work in your area.
In my opinion, saving for a trip is the easier option but finding ways to pay for it is much more fun. A good, realistic goal is to try for an extra $100 a week. After three months you'll have an extra $1,200 which can be used towards your Dream Trip, and it's accomplished without changing your spending habits at all.
Using this same logic, $15 saved per day will be $105 each week. After three months this will add up to over $1,200 towards your Trip.
3. Set a Date
This step sounds simple but can actually be where most people fall short. It's easy to talk about wanting to travel but it's also easy to delay a trip. Maybe you don't quite have the money. Or work is a little hectic right now. Or the stars haven't aligned properly.
It will never be "perfect timing" to go on a trip. There will always be responsibilities, work, bills, etc. that get in the way. It sounds corny but you can always get more money, you can never get more time.
The best way to make a trip happen is to set a date and commit to it. Take action and choose a date that works the best for you, book a flight, alert the proper authorities and then relax! Traveling should be relaxing, not another source of stress!