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After visiting 40 countries, I’ve learned the hard way that travel costs and headaches can pile up quickly without thorough planning (like staying in a waterfront villa in Belize at the start of hurricane season #oops).
Here is how I plan my travel. Plus, I included a download for the spreadsheet that keeps me organized.
Most likely, you’ve been daydreaming about your next vacation spot. That means you’re already one step ahead. If you’re not exactly sure (or deciding between a couple options) where you want to go, find inspo online by pulling up a map to get the juices flowing or checking out: Conde Nast Traveler or The Points Guy.
Decide the days you want to take your trip(s) and how long you’ll be staying.
Most of us plan trips around time off of work, and those times typically fall around the holidays. That means demand is high which also means that prices are high. If you have the flexibility, consider traveling during off-peak times.
Some reminders when planning:
Because flights and accommodations are the largest travel expenses, you want to estimate these costs sooner rather than later. Search these sites to get estimates and remember to include taxes and fees: Kayak (flights), Expedia (hotels), Airbnb.
Hotels: Prices are usually lower further out from your travel dates, which means you want to lock in low rates now! That way, you’re all set with your room(s), should prices go up later.
If you need to cancel, you don’t lose anything because most hotels (and many Airbnbs) have flexible policies that allow cancels within 24-48 hours.
Things to consider when looking at hotels:
Flights: Flight change fees run upwards of $200 a ticket. Do not book flights until you’re certain that your trip is actually happening.
Now that you have a solid idea of costs, start saving. Being on vacation feels so much better knowing the costs have already been accounted for. The worst feeling is returning home after an amazing trip to a bunch of expenses and trying to figure out how to pay for them.
Each pay period, I try to set money aside into a travel savings account. That way, when I’m ready to go on my trips, I already have the cash. To achieve this, I have to cut other costs but, as a lifetime member of The School of Brokeconomics, I have a Ph.D. in skimming costs here to pay for other things there. I’ll write a separate post on this.
Have patience! This process can take hours, especially if you’re taking multiple trips. It’s worth it – it’s saved me money, time, and stress. I stay organized using a basic but helpful spreadsheet to track costs, dates, and other info. I can’t take full credit – a friend created it and I modified it for my use. Hopefully, you find it helpful!
Download the file I use to plan my trips below (the highlighted line in the file is an example):
Now, get planning!! Email me with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For other travel inspo, check out my 2018 hit list or other travel posts.