How to Set up a Travel Budget Without Breaking the Bank

"Better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times.” – Unknown

I love traveling with my family. Whether that is to a near by destination or a few states away. Travel is life. Most of the questions, I get something along the lines of "its too expensive to travel, its not in my budget, I don't know how to create an itinerary, etc. All of these are valid struggles. Sometimes travel can be difficult when money. Almost anyone can afford to travel; you just have to create a budget that makes sense for you.

Traveling on a budget doesn't sound like much fun, but you don’t have to stay in a 4-star hotel. The sights and experiences you have are what you and your family will remember five years later, not so much the hotel you stayed in.

This guide isn’t about complicated ‘travel hacking’ methods or extreme penny-pinching; but budget travel tips for the ‘average’ traveller. You should know up front that isn't my style. So if you’re looking for easy ways to travel more and spend less in style, here are some budget travel ideas. So, let's stop all those excuses and get down to how you can travel and get that vacation budget going.

"Traveling is too Expensive"

If this is you, than research is going to be your new best friend. You can have an amazing vacation when you put in the research. It is kinda like enjoying the journey before you get to the goal. You need to first decide where you want to go. Whether this is based on a location you wish to see, or things you wish to experience. After that you can search to find the best prices on hotels, food, flights etc. One thing to keep in mind is how much total you want to spend. If you want to splurge on one thing, go cheaper on another to fit your budget. Everyone is different. So you'll know what you want to splurge on and what you don't need to on.

Use Search Engines to Research

You can easily go to Google, Bing, Yahoo Search, and find a TON of information. You just have to type it in and hit search. When we do our travel research, we typically search for things to do, best places to stay, weather, what tourists need to know about, etc. This can help you get a general idea of what to expect. I love to check out what free things there are to do in a city. Most museums have a free night. You can check that out during those times. These are usually our favorite things that we have done and it was free.

Avoid Peak Season

Just as a general rule of thumb on traveling try to avoid peak destination travel times. In college I worked at a golf course. Part of my job was a competitive analysis and helping our course come up with peak rates. Travel is the same way. During their peak season, everything will be more expensive. If you can, avoid peak season. Take the kids out of school and go during the year.


Another budget tip is sign up for their newsletter. It can help you find cheap travel, accommodations, etc. Not all of them, though. No point opening up that SUPER DISCOUNT email from a luxury tour operator just to be offered $50 of your booking. Scott's Cheap Flights is a great newlsetter if you're looking for some cheap airplane tickets.

Save on Transportation

There are a few ways to save on transportation. Most importantly be flexible. Travelling mid-week on flights is often cheaper than at weekends –  something you can do with just a Monday/Friday off work. You can even save if you're willing to make connections instead of a non-stop flight. You might also consider other ways to get there. Try taking a bus, trains, coaches, etc. If you need transportation around town consider an Uber, or city transit instead of renting a car. This can be tough if you're going as a family though. Consider all your options though.


I like to book somewhere as soon as I’ve ordered flights, finding a budget hotel or great deal on with free cancellation. That way, I can still consider other options but have a fallback option still – just make sure you note down the last date to cancel. You can also try an AirBnB, hostels, house sitting, or a hotel outside of the city. Sometime location is what drives up the price.

Keep in mind…After you’ve done your research, you need to decide when you want to go, and how long you want to stay. This is a crucial step because you need to know how long you have to save for your trip. Are you wanting to go in six months? Maybe a year from now? You need to know to ensure you set yourself up for success when creating your travel budget.

Create Your Budgets

When creating a travel budget, there are a couple of ways to do it. You can create a budget based on the dollar amount you want to spend or on travel budget based on destination. There are plenty of cheap travel destinations. Either way you want to do, creating a budget is essentially the same. As you know creating a budget helps you keep track of what you’ve spent to ensure you stay within that budget. The last thing you want is to go way over budget and feel stressed about it during or when you get home. Stick to your guns.

Step 1

When creating your budget you'll want to determine your expense categories. I use the following:

Flight or Gas to Drive

Rental Car (if flying)

Transportation Costs (subway, tolls, trains, etc.)



Travel Insurance (link to world nomads)


Unexpected Costs

Give your self wiggle room for any unexpected costs. We all know something comes up when we’re out. If you want to keep to a strict dollar amount, this is key. Bonus, if you don’t use it, you come home with a little extra that you can put to your next trip.

Step 2

Next you'll plug in all that information you've been researching. If you’re locked into a set budget, you will have to spend time finding the best prices. Keep researching. Pinterest is great for finding ideas on how to keep costs down. It even has ideas on how much it may cost to eat in a destination, find the best travel deals on accommodations.

Step 3

Finally you can start booking your trip. I don't like to book everything at once, but when I find a good deal I like to lock in that price. Make sure you can get a refund just in case you find an even better deal. It might take awhile to get the research done, but again this is the most important part to get to your dream destination on the budget you can afford.

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