Planning Your Vacation: Budgeting

Having planned more than 3,000 vacations since becoming a travel advisor in 2006, I know a thing or two about what my clients want. Most of my customers say the reason they hire me is because they need help coordinating all of the vacation puzzle pieces (location, budget, amenities, activities, etc) and taking the overwhelm out of the internet research they’ve tried to complete.

BUDGET is one of the biggest puzzle pieces to glue down when planning a vacation. If you’re like many couples and families, you might not know how much you can afford to spend or how much a vacation to “xyz” costs. I’m going to give you the factors to consider when setting a budget as well as a broad idea of some price points. This is just meant to give you an idea of cost of your vacation.

Credit: Kir2Ben

Budgeting Factors To Consider When Planning Your Vacation:

Take the time to decide what the priorities are for the two of you or your family/group!

Time of Year
The general rule of thumb is if school is in session, prices are lower. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, including special events and annual occurrences in nature. (For example, cherry blossoms in D.C., migration in Africa, etc.). Also, trips to the warmer locales in January-March will be pricier than going during North American summer time.

Air City You’re Flying To/From
Major airports offer more service to and from other airports. Smaller airports usually equate to higher prices. Decide if you can fly from a nearby, larger airport as opposed to your local, smaller one to save some money. It’s easy for me to arrange an airport hotel stay, but make sure that adds up in math + time. Think about how you’ll feel after flying 12 hours and knowing you still have a 2 hour drive ahead of you. Help future you 😉

Type of Accommodations
Travel professionals tend not to plan trips with accommodations below three stars simply because they don’t want to take the fall for arrangements that aren’t up to par. Also, what we consider 3 stars, or moderate, in the U.S. is not necessarily the same in other parts of the world. Most American’s thoroughly dislike a European moderate hotel. I remind my clients there isn’t always an option to build new, so rooms in Europe are smaller overall. Ask yourself how many times you’ve been disappointed walking into a hotel room that didn’t meet expectation or wishing it had other or additional amenities? That clues you in to how much of your budget should be given to lodging.

This subject plays a key role to deciding on budget – I discuss this more in depth below. Not every destination is created equal in terms of pricing – we can’t compare a trip to Hawaii to a trip to Charleston.

Length of Trip
How long can you and your travel partner(s) be away? Do you have 3 days or 13 days? More days of travels means potentially stretching your budget. You’ll be compromising on your priority list to make it happen. I frequently ask the question “what number makes you uncomfortable” in terms of budget and that helps determine how many days we can really travel in the destination you’re going to.

Exchange Rate
If Switzerland is on your next trip list, that is awesome, but you’ll have to realize that the Swiss Franc exchange rate to the USD makes it an even more expensive destination for us. On the other hand, the New Zealand dollar to the USD, makes that a more affordable place to visit.

Type of Touring
Is it really important that it’s just you and your partner/family on a guided group tour of Volcanos National Park in Hawaii? Or do you prefer to meet other travelers this way? Would you prefer a private tour of a vineyard in Chianti or you’re okay with 25 other people in order to save a few hundred dollars? Knowing your preferences helps determine what type of experience you’re going to have and what that will cost you.

Expected Costs
Below I’ve included the average cost for popular vacation destinations. Of course, there are always more economical vacation packages, but travel is definitely a matter of getting what you pay for! These are the starting budgets/averages, just to give you an idea of what to save & expect depending on the type of experience you’d like to have. These numbers factor in round trip economy airfare from DC and are total for two people for a week. For the more ‘exotic’ locales know that these trips need to be longer in length. Please don’t hop to Africa for a Safari for 7 days–that length time won’t do it justice!

Remember: your trip is personal. It’s yours; not your Facebook friends’, not your parents’, and not your cousins’. This is where my value really shines – ensuring the trip is the best fit for you.

Budget in this case includes: airfare, logistics on the ground (meaning car service, trains, boats, etc), accommodations + a few activities/experiences. I don’t factor in daily meals, gratuities, or travel insurance in the below.

  • Mexico: $4,000
  • Caribbean: $6,000
  • Hawaii: $6,000
  • Customized itinerary throughout Europe: $7,000
    • *I’ve figured out that at least $750/per couple/per day is a good way to budget for Europe (before airfare).
  • Tahiti: $9,000
  • Australia and/or New Zealand: $10,000
  • South America: $8,000
  • African Safari: $10,000
  • Maldives: $8,000

*The itinerary I can put together in the ideal price range will be above average with 4 star or higher properties + experiences!

Credit: Kir2Ben

I hope you’ve found this blog to be helpful in planning your vacation budget. Please let me know if I can help! Reach out today and we can start planning the vacation you’ve been dreaming of!

1 thought on “Planning Your Vacation: Budgeting”

  1. As someone who enjoys traveling, I often encounter the same issues that you listed here. Budgeting tends to be the most challenging; even though I save a considerable amount of money during each pay period, overspending is a concern. Thanks for shedding light on that topic because it has been very helpful!


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