In the past couple of years, I’ve managed to pull off 5 domestic trips and 3 international trips all for vacation and leisure. I was able to go on these trips without breaking the bank. Traveling doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It’s all about planning and taking advantage of tools that are right at our fingertips!
For this post, we’re looking at a 14-day trip to the Philippines — Manila + Cebu!
How I Plan My Trips
Note: Being that I’m quite meticulous, this guide is a bit extensive. However, I hope at least some of it helps you with your travel plans. Enjoy! 🙂
Make a list of places I want to visit
I have a growing list of cities and countries I want to visit. I use this list to determine what trips I want to make and when I’d like to go.
Pull from the list occasionally (i.e.: when you feel like you “need” a vacation)
I do this yearly and usually pick 1-3 places I’m dead set on visiting. Usually these places are ones that I’ve always wanted to visit or trips that my family also want to go on. Last year my trips were my solo trip to China and family trip to the Philippines. A couple of years ago I took trips to Seattle, Vancouver, and Los Angeles. If you’ve got more of a wandering soul than I do, pick as many as you think you’ll have time for.
Figure out the best dates to fly to and from each destination
In the past, I used to pick a destination without even thinking about the dates. I would just make sure that the trips fell on long weekends that I had off or fill up vacation days I haven’t used. It’s great to fit in a trip when you’ve got time, but we also have to be practical with our budgets.
Instead of punching in dates and purchasing my ticket right away, I utilize the Google Flights price graph to determine what time of the year has the lowest airfare. I also use the Hopper app to do this and compare between the two.
Now that you know when the best time of the year is to fly, you can create a schedule if you’d like. I usually plan to go on the trip with the cheapest airfare first and the most expensive last.
Create a budget and determine estimates for each trip
This is the part of the process that gets a little messy and a bit overwhelming to say the least. Just remember to look at one trip at a time!
Also during this part of the process, I plan out my excursions. I determine if there needs to be any reservations made beforehand, how much admission tickets cost, what mode of transportation we’re using to get there (train, bus, etc.)
My travel estimates usually includes:
- Airfare + $100.00 (in case of price jumps or travel delays)
- Travel Insurance (not required but highly recommended)
- Average price for meals
- Consumer prices for food available at markets or convenience stores
- Train/bus passes (if cost effective)
- Train ticket costs
- Long-distance/overnight bus costs
- Car rental (if public transportation is insufficient)
- If traveling with family: I do a cost comparison between hotels and Airbnb. Almost always, Airbnb is cheaper.
- If traveling alone: I do a cost comparison between hotels, Airbnb, hostels/guesthouses/dorms.
- Ticket costs (admission, etc.)
- Tour costs (if available and not expensive)
- Additional transportation costs (if any)
Create a savings schedule to save for your trips
Now that you’ve got estimates for each trip, what I typically do is add up all of the totals. This gives me the amount of money I will need to save in total to ensure that I can make all of these trips happen. Or, if you’d like to save for one trip at a time, you can move on with just one trip total.
You’ll want to look at how much income you’re bringing in and how much you are spending. Based on your trip total, create a schedule that shows how much you should be setting aside every week or month (depending on how much time you have to save). For example, if a trip total comes to $2,000.00 and you’ve got six months to go for the trip, but 4 months until prices jump, you’ll want to set aside $500.00/month or $125.00 a week. This might sound daunting, but it’s quite easy to cut down on unnecessary expenses, especially when you’ve got a goal and keep with the right mind-set.
If you’re more secure with buying airfare sooner than later, but haven’t got money set aside for airfare yet, I suggest saving up for your airfare first and then saving for the rest of the trip. In these cases, I go with the same formula. Say my airfare is $450.00 round trip but my personal budget shows it’s best to buy two months from now. What I do is add an additional $100.00 to the airfare as it’s shown on the day that I researched, making room for price jumps. So $450.00 + $100.00 = $550.00, I have two months to save. That means I’ll have to make sure I set aside at least $68.75 a week.
Note: I’m not a mathematician nor am I that great with math but this formula has worked for me.
Book tickets, make reservations, keep your budget in line
After booking my tickets I make reservations with my lodging of choice as well as any tours, museums, outings that need to be booked in advance. In the midst of saving, I sometimes book these reservations as I go. Most of the time, I book lodging and excursions at least one month in advance.
I keep a spreadsheet for my budget that has estimates on one column and actual amounts on the other. As I make reservations, I enter the actual amounts and my budget readjusts accordingly. I typically save this spreadsheet on my tablet and bring it with me along my trip, making sure I calculate totals at the end of each day. I’m used to having a daily routine, so I guess this is a way to help me keep up with one while I’m away from “the real world.”
Now that you’ve got your budget in check and know exactly what you’re going to do on your trip, you’re ready to take on the world! Please note that this post was just a general guide for my personal process. Everyone has their own process and this is what has worked for me over the years.
What’s your travel planning process?
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