5 Key Factors to Consider When Setting Your Travel Budget

Figuring out your travel budget can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. Especially if you are traveling somewhere you’ve never been before. Don’t let your travel budget be the elephant in the room that derails your trip plans. Keep reading for valuable tips on how to prepare for a budget discussion with your travel advisor.

Your budget is a crucial element for your travel advisor to craft a personalized and unforgettable trip for you. It serves as the foundation for all our recommendations and suggestions, from the timing of your trip and the choice of accommodations to the activities and tours we suggest, and even the restaurant options we recommend.

It can be incredibly disappointing to receive a travel proposal that exceeds your budget — or to be presented with properties that lack the amenities you desire when you were anticipating a luxurious experience.

There is no right, wrong, good, or bad budget – it’s simply information that is necessary for planning the best trip possible – one that is both within your financial means and gives you the best travel experience possible. Having a clear idea of your budget helps your advisor propose a trip that meets your expectations from the very beginning of the process.

Here are my top 5 key factors to help figure out your budget priorities based on your trip components.


Trip Components

Keep in mind that your advisor can usually work within the budget you have by making adjustments to certain components of your trip.

Set Costs. Pricing for some trip components is hard to adjust.

  • Airfare, car rentals, train tickets, taxi rides, and entrance fees are typically factored in as set costs because there is little that your advisor can do to adjust booking rates for these.

  • You may find better airfare rates depending on the time of year and how far in advance you book tickets.

Adjustable Costs. Other trip component costs have more flexibility.

  • Accommodations can range from inexpensive hostel lodging up to luxury five-star properties.

  • Activity and tour costs vary depending on whether you’d like a private, bespoke guided experience, or if you’d rather join a larger group which may have less customization but more moderate pricing.

  • Your personal spending on dining, entertainment, and shopping while on your trip can be easily adjusted on your own to stay within your preferred budget.

How an Advisor Helps

My goal as a travel advisor is not to simply find the cheapest options for your trip, it is to maximize the value you receive for your individual budget.

A few ways that I can do this include:

  • Adding perks at your hotel such as room upgrades, included breakfast, or credit to be used on spa bookings or food and beverage expenditures.

  • Recommending tours and activities that match your style and must-see lists – no need to join a tour that doesn’t let you see the things you’re most interested in.

  • Suggestions for self-guided sites and activities. Some things are easily explored on your own – I’ll let you know which ones you can do yourself and which ones are better experienced with a guide.

  • Planning your route for multi-city visits so that your transportation is cost-effective.

  • Securing your bookings faster by cutting out the time you would have spent researching, thereby sparing you from higher cost last-minute bookings.


Location

When planning a trip, deciding where to stay can greatly impact your travel budget. One important factor to consider is the location of your accommodations. While staying outside of a city center can often provide less expensive hotel rates, it is important to weigh the cost savings against the additional expense of transportation to and from sites, restaurants, and other attractions.

For example, if you are planning to visit a major city, staying in a hotel outside of the city center may seem like a good way to save money on accommodations. However, you need to factor in the cost of transportation to and from the city center and attractions. Public transportation may be available, but it can be time-consuming and may not be the most convenient option. Alternatively, taking a taxi or ride-sharing service can quickly add up and increase the overall cost of your trip.

On the other hand, staying in a more central location can save you time and money on transportation costs, as many sites and restaurants will be within walking distance or a short public transit ride away. However, accommodations in these prime locations tend to come at a higher cost.

When deciding on the location of your accommodations, consider your priorities and travel style. If you value convenience and proximity to attractions, it may be worth spending more on a centrally located hotel. However, if you are willing to sacrifice a bit of convenience for cost savings, staying outside of the city center may be the better option for you. Regardless of where you choose to stay, factoring in the cost of transportation can help you make a more informed decision and avoid any surprises in your travel budget.

Accommodation

Decide what level of accommodation you’re comfortable with. (These are some great examples from Dallas, Texas!)

  • Budget accommodations may have few amenities and be less comfortable for longer stays.

    • Average $100-$200 per night

    • Examples: Wyndham Hotels, Comfort Inn & Suites, Best Western, Hampton Inn & Suites

  • Moderate-range accommodations are more comfortable and will typically have some amenity options such as breakfast onsite and possibly a full restaurant or bar.

    • Average $200-$400 per night

    • Examples: Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton, Aloft, Kimpton, Virgin Hotel, Beeman Hotel, Lorenzo Hotel

  • Boutique properties are small hotels with higher-end service and comfort but limited onsite amenities.

    • Average $200-$400 per night

    • Examples: The Joule, The Lumen, The Magnolia, Canvas Hotel, Warwick Melrose

  • Lifestyle (4-star) and Luxury (5-star) properties will provide the highest level of service from staff and typically have a range of on-site amenities like bars, restaurants, and spas.

    • Average $400-$600+ per night

    • Lifestyle Examples: Hotel ZaZa, The Adolphus, The Statler

    • Luxury Examples: Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, Thompson Dallas, Ritz-Carlton, Crescent Court

Touring

I’m a fan of tours because I like getting insight from local guides and having the ability to ask questions and learn new things from experienced pros. While some travelers are put off by large group tour experiences they’ve had in the past, there is a range of options that can provide a perfect fit for single or multi-day tours.

  • Large group tours are great if you want to meet other travelers or are more budget conscious as they are often the least expensive tour options.

    • Typically run in large motor coaches with a range of 30-50 people.

  • Small group tours are a popular option as the group size is limited and tours are still moderately priced.

    • Typically run in mini coaches or passenger vans with a range of 12-24 people.

  • Private tours are higher priced but provide the opportunity for planning your own itinerary and can be cost-effective if you’re traveling with a group of family or friends.

    • Typically run in sedans, SUVs, vans, or mini coaches depending on the size of your party.

Flights Or Points & Miles

Flights

Airfare will typically be one of your most expensive trip components. To get an idea of average costs, do a quick flight search for your destination and preferred dates (Google Flights is a good search tool, but not recommended for booking flights).

The cost of airfare can vary greatly depending on a number of factors. One of the biggest factors is the season in which you plan to travel. Generally, peak travel times such as holidays, summer breaks, and popular events will be more expensive than off-peak times. For example, if you’re planning a trip to Europe in July or August, you can expect to pay a premium for your flights due to the high demand. On the other hand, if you’re willing to travel during the shoulder season, such as September or October, you may be able to find cheaper flights.

Another important factor is when you purchase your flights. It’s generally recommended to book your flights at least three months in advance, but the best time to buy can vary depending on the destination and time of year. Some experts suggest booking flights on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, while others recommend booking on weekends. It’s important to do your research and keep an eye on prices leading up to your trip.

In addition to seasonality and booking timing, the airline you choose can also impact the cost of your flights. Budget airlines may offer lower prices, but may also charge additional fees for things like baggage and seat selection. Full-service airlines may have higher prices, but may also include more amenities and services in the ticket price.

Points & Miles

Do you collect reward points from a certain hotel brand, or airline miles on a particular carrier? My best recommendation for maximizing your value with these loyalty programs is to use them to cover or supplement airfare expenditures.

  • Airfare is such a large budget component, using rewards to cover this cost is how you’ll see the biggest value.

  • Most hotel loyalty programs have options to convert your reward points into airline miles with a variety of carriers.

  • Once you’ve gotten value from your points — you are free to book your stay anywhere, without being limited to a certain brand’s properties.

Budget Estimation

It’s very difficult to provide a general cost estimate for any trip without having a full idea of your trip expectations and preferences. As you’ve read, there are many factors that come into play with each trip component.

The good news? That means that adjustments can be made to provide a trip designed to fit within your budget if you are willing to make compromises based on your priorities.

  • Can you travel for a week in Europe for under $1,000? Certainly, this is possible, if you keep to budget stays, public transit, and self-touring.

  • You can also spend upwards of $25,000 per week if you stay in luxury properties, enjoy spa treatments, private drivers and guides, and fine dining.

Different styles of travel exist, and there is no right or wrong option. However, it’s worth noting that most people usually fall somewhere in the middle.

  • I find that my clients typically can expect to spend [per person, per week of travel, not including airfare]*

    • Est. $2,500 – $5,000 for a moderate-level trip

    • Est. $8,000 – $10,000 for a luxury-level trip

*As you know, this is only a rough guide, and is wholly dependent on the destination, season, lead time, and all the other factors that have been discussed.

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