Planning and saving for a vacation as a single gal is one thing....doing it with a spouse is an entirely different ball game. Can I get an amen??? Now I'm taking into account someone else's financial goals, values, travel preferences, etc. etc. etc.
Traveling together is something Ryan and I found out we valued and highly enjoyed early on in our marriage, and we've been lucky enough to travel internationally each year during the three years we've been married. Each trip has helped us learn more about each other, our travel style/preferences, and ultimately led to great times of bonding, relaxing, and having unforgettable adventures along the way. Today I'm sharing some things we've learned about saving for these trips that will help us plan in the future and hopefully give some of you a place to start with your own travel plans!
Decide Where You Want to Go
Have each person pick their top 3 places - when Ryan and I do this, we will each pick 3 places and then see if any one shows up on both of our lists. If we have a common destination, that's where we go. If we don't, we take turns nixing one place on each list until we have it narrowed down to one place each. Then we base the final decision on the following factors....
Consider flight pricing, currency rates, and the time of year that you are available to travel - if you are like us and can only take your trip during a certain time of the year, then you need to research if that's a good time to travel to that destination. For example, we chose Italy last year because the value of the Euro was down and equal to the dollar; and because we could go in late April/early May, which is right before the busy tourist season begins. We found amazing flight prices this year to Amsterdam on Air Canada through the Momondo travel site; which was definitely a deciding factor to travel there and work our way down to Paris via train.
Set a Budget for Your Trip
Try and forecast for all expenses - consider what you would like to spend on transportation, accommodations, activities, food, and souvenirs and set a dollar amount for each of those categories. If you end up using a travel agent for bookings, be sure to give them those dollar amounts (we plan everything ourselves; just FYI).
Decide what things you will buy during travel - if you plan to buy souvenirs while traveling or gifts to bring back, talk it over with your significant other before you go. This way there aren't any "spending surprises," impulse purchases, or situations where one person is pressured into letting the other spend a lot on something that you didn't budget for. For instance, before we left for Amsterdam, Belgium and Paris, we budgeted to buy some Belgian chocolate and a kitchen souvenir from Dehillerin (where Julia Child shopped for her kitchen supplies). I know that Ryan hates to shop, and even though I had a clothing budget, decided not to put him through that stress while we where traveling together - even though it was VERY tempting!
Strategize about money-saving shortcuts
- Consider renting an apartment through Air BnB that has a small kitchen. We found all our accommodations in Amsterdam, Belgium, and Paris for $100 per night or less, and saved money by buying groceries there for simple breakfasts and portable "lunch" snacks to have during the day. Dinner was our meal that we would eat out, and some days we would also stop for a treat we would randomly come across (like a Belgian waffle or frites on the street!)
- Turn off your cellular data while traveling - international data plans can cost you a big chunk of change, so I'd recommend turning your data off and just using free WiFi at your accommodations or restaurants. After all, you are on vacation and it's good to "unplug" from it all now and then!
- Use public transportation at your destination - this and walking are cheaper than paying for cabs or even Uber. It also gives you a chance to really experience a city like the locals do. I was so impressed with how clean the trams and metros in Amsterdam were; and using the Paris metro system was fairly simple and very efficient.
Set aside a certain amount each month - and then stick to it until you've reached your goal! Check in with each other on a monthly basis to evaluate what's working and what's not with your savings plan, and then make adjustments as needed.
Find Creative Ways to Meet Your Savings Goal
- Cut back on coffee outings - seriously though; this can likely save you up to $20 a week!
- Scratch out subscriptions and learn to use the library - I'm looking at you Stich Fix, Sports Illustrated, Cheese of the Month, Netflix, you get the picture!
- Cut off your cable - you can do it.
- Eat out less and cook more at home. Even if you don't like to cook, picking up a rotisserie chicken, loaf of bread, and pre-mixed bag of salad lettuce will feed you a few meals and cost less than one time eating out #truth.
- Save money that you would otherwise spend on gifts for each other at Christmas, birthdays, Valentine's, etc. - we have forgone buying each other gifts for all three of those occasions the past year and saved the money for a trip instead. I'd highly recommend trying this!
Order Your Money Before You Go
The costs of using a credit card or withdrawing money from a foreign ATM definitely add up, and every little bit counts when it comes to travel! Order foreign currency from your bank at home for the amount you have budgeted for food, transportation, activities, and souvenirs (accommodations will likely have been pre-paid for prior to your departure).
Assign one person to be the "bank," and predetermine where the money will be carried and kept during your travel. We found success with designating Ryan to carry the money in a predetermined place that we would both watch over (lots of pickpockets are around Europe) until we got to our destination. Once we arrived, we would only carry the amount of cash we would need for one day at a time and keep the rest locked away. I'm happy to say that this "cash system" worked out very well and well only had 4 Euros remaining when we flew back to the States, so no cost to convert the money back to American dollars. Planning pays off, my friend!
Enjoy Your Trip!
Saving and budgeting for a trip before you get there takes so much stress out of the picture. Once you arrive at your dream destination, all you have to do is enjoy being there. Soak it up and enjoy every minute!
Do you have any tips/tricks/experiences saving for a vacation? I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below!