planning Travel on a Budget

This one is for all of you who wonder so much about our travels.

Greg and I love to explore. We’re always planning our next quick trip somewhere local or far (depending on the budget). Moving to Columbus meant that we’d be closer to a few midwest cities. Living close to big cities = saving money on airfare. We drive to pretty much everywhere we go because flying gets expensive really quick. If you know us, you probably think: they’re always going somewhere, they’re always doing something. Guess what? You can too! I’m going to breakdown how we do it in a few steps.

1. Location

Pretty self explanatory. Where do you want to go? Greg and I have been to Nashville, Chicago, random parts of Ohio, Miami, Ft. Myers, San Diego, Richmond (VA), random parts of Pennsylvania, a few towns/cities in NJ, the Fingerlakes (NY), Kentucky. We’ve been to a few places and the only spots on that list we didn’t drive to were Florida and San Diego. The smaller towns are random, but we love going to wineries and vineyards, those are typically surrounded by small towns you’ve never heard of.

2. How much time can you spend there?

This is the most important aspect of traveling on a budget. The amount of time you can spend in a place will depend on your budget. Greg and I pretty much always stay in AirBnB’s when we travel. It’s typically more affordable than a hotel and if you get a place with a kitchen, you can cook a few of your meals rather than eat out for every one of them. Now that you’ve figured out how long you plan to spend at your destination, you have to figure out what you can actually spend when you’re there.

3. How much will it cost to experience this place?

This is the third question we ask ourselves. The answer to this depends on the location. When Greg and I visited Chicago, we knew we’d need a little more money than we needed when we visited Nashville. We also visited Chicago in the Winter, which helped a bit because the city gets flooded with people in the Summer and of course, touristy things are usually expensive and the warm weather tends to drive prices up.

Chicago has a mix of different cultures which usually means the food will be awesome and authentic. I knew I had to have Cuban food in Chicago; after some research, I figured out it wouldn’t be too expensive of a meal (score). We also wanted to try deep dish pizza (we hated it, btw). Sorry, midwesterners, you don’t know pizza, it’s not your fault. Anyway, my point is that we knew we’d be spending some money eating out so we factored that into our budget. Food ADDS UP. It ends up being the most expensive part of our trip 70% of the time (yes, sometimes even more than lodging… you can find some great places on airbnb for a bargain, friends).

Think hard about what you want to see when you’re in a city and what you want to do. if you can’t come up with a hard number, ball-park it (I suggest aiming a little hire than you actually plan to spend, the “buffer” budget). We try to think of three or four things we REALLY want to do in that city. Then, we decided if we can afford all of them or just one or two. Once we’ve decided on our must-do’s, we leave the rest of the trip up to chance. If we HAVE to have dinner at this one restaurant, we’ll head down to the area it’s in a just explore. Same goes for tourist attractions. We’ll put money aside for that one experience and let the rest of the day fall into place (that’s what the buffer part of the budget is for). You don’t want to drive 3-8 hours to get somewhere and miss out because you didn’t think about how much cash you’d need to have fun.

4. Enjoy it!

This is THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP. Stress the budget before your trip (not during). Plan it out! Have an idea of what you want to see or do and let the rest of the trip kind of fall into place. So, first step: pick your place. Once you’ve decided on your location check out what it will cost to stay there. Explore all of your options, Airbnb and hotels. Next, think about how much time you can spend there. What will the lodging cost for a weekend vs. four or five days? After that, think about what you want to do there. It’s a good idea to have a few key spots and experiences in mind. You can figure out how much doing those will cost and live the rest of the trip around that.

Planning a trip? I’d be happy to help! Tell me if you’re heading somewhere in the comments.

with love & gratitude,