2018 has been the year of struggling Fridays – the urge to up and leave for just 48 of solidarity with my husband has been completely deserved but under utilized. Careers, life events and all the little things in life get into our way, and when we finally have a solid weekend of peace, it’s mostly spent doing absolutely nothing.
The need to just getaway into a foreign environment and explore the sights and cultures of something other than my office desk is a desire. I like to think that we live by the phrase “die with memories, not dreams” and we dream every day of traveling and seeing the world together. We already have so many trips in the future planned that we can stop thinking about, and each one we plan on a budget because we’re twenty-something and not retirees with years of savings to back us up. That’s why it’s important to set your expectations of money and know exactly what you want to spend before planning, then finding ways to stick to it.
In the business and travel world, we use this term “drive market” – it represents the area within 50 to 100 miles radius around you. It’s the area you’re willing to drive as a traveler for a quick getaway and you can often score great last-minute or in-state discounts. For us here is the Chicago area, destinations like Starved Rock or Springfield in-state or Milwaukee and The Dells in Wisconsin are just a quick car ride and can offer great last-minute lodging options with plenty of outdoor and indoor fun.
When you travel, hotels are no longer your only options. With the rise of platforms like AirBnB and timeshare rentals, you can find something that may be more comfortable for your needs at a lower price. Looking for something a little different? Try a camping site or rustic cabin-like settings. You may not get housekeeping every day, but you’ll have a cozy place at half the price with peace and quite.
There is so much out there than you could every imagine for nearly nothing to your bottom line. If you’re traveling in state, many local options offer resident rates or even free days, like the museums in Chicago. Additionally, national and state parks give great rates for travelers to explore the beauty of nature all day for very little. My husband and I want to visit Arizona to hike the Havasupai Trail and camp for a few days of stunning Grand Canyon views and natural thrills – we will only have to spend about $200-$300 for national park and camping fees, making a great budget-friendly experience we will never forget and almost a week driving across the country together.
Restaurants and on-site locations jack up the price for simple sandwiches and salads knowing that most people are lazy on vacation and don’t want to cook. Invest in some in-room munchies and meals you can put in your mini-fridge, or even cook if you’re in a location with kitchen access. This can save you hundreds on a week-long trip with a little bit of effort. Another great option is eating locally versus large chain restaurants. Although we know what to expect from national chains, we also know the prices and they may not always be the lowest. Local breakfast spots and coffee shops offer a wide selection of options and the locals are always happy to give great recommendations for places to try or visit.
I know it’s hard when you’re on vacation to not want everything, but think smart when making decisions. Know exactly what you have each day to spend and prepare in advance to have 20% more for those unexpected expenses. Knowing it’s there doesn’t mean you have to spend it, but then when you find that souvenir you really want, you have some wiggle room to get it.
Some of us aren’t always prepared or know how to set a budget, but here is a great example of how my husband and I budget for trips:
Transportation – Driving – Approx. 2000 mi. round trip
10 gallons of gas/1 tank = 300 miles = $30 per tank of gas
Total Transportation Budget = 2000 mi./300 mi. = approx. 7 tanks of gas x $30 = $210
(round up) = $250
Lodging – 4 hotel nights and 2 camping nights
Hotel = $100 per night = $400
Camping = $30 per night = $60
Total Lodging Budget = $460
(round up) = $500
Recreation – Hiking the Havasupai Trail
Entrance fee and other fees – $135 per person x 2 = $270
Food – $30 per person per day = $420
(round up) = $450
Other expenses – $200
TOTAL BUDGET = $1670 for 7 days, 6 nights
WHAT WE WOULD SAVE = $2000