The whole theme of Float Freely is budget travel, and how to minimize your travel expenses. There are plenty of resources out there to plan a cheap vacation, however, if you aren’t careful you could end up spending a lot more than you should because you don’t account for the hidden or overlooked expenses.
I think we have all been in the following position:
Ok, I have $100 in my account.
*Spends $20 on a meal*
Wait, how do I only have $15 in my account now?!
That is usually due to the fact that little costs add up fast, and they add up even faster when traveling.
The first person to admit guilt to splurging on vacation would be me. However, with proper planning you can splurge, while also not going over budget.
Airport parking is the one I forget about the most. For long term parking, at least what I have seen and what I will be paying for my upcoming trip, is around $15 per day. I’ll be gone for a week, so this will end up costing me $90!
Now that may not seem like a lot, but $90 could go a long way in a trip. Like I said earlier, the little expenses add up, and I personally don’t consider a $90 fee a ‘little’ expense. This is a big chunk that gets added on to all the other small expenses.
One way to avoid this, is to pay your friend to take you to the airport and then pick you up when you return. In Germany, we would pay each other $20 per drop off/pickup. So $40 for a round trip. The airport in this case was about an hour and fifteen minutes away, so $20 was fair each way.
If you live semi-close to the airport, you may also consider getting an Uber. You may be able to snag an Uber for around $20 per trip, depending on how close you are.
Unfortunately for me, the airport I will be flying out of is about an hour and a half away, so I’ll be driving myself and parking in long-term parking.
Budgeting out $100 towards parking will help ease your mind. It’s a truly terrible feeling getting off the plane after a good long vacation, trying to drive home, only to realize that just to leave the airport you have to pay another $100.
If you are going on a shorter flight, or flying with one of the cheaper airlines, make sure you check their baggage rules.
In my experience, you are only allowed a small carry-on. That’s what drove and taught me to travel light and only with a backpack. Not all the time, but whenever possible.
When you book your flight, there should be an area on the booking screen outlining what the luggage policies are. If you aren’t careful, you could end up spending upwards of $50 per checked bag, and depending on however many of you that are traveling, this could add up quick too. Especially added onto the airport parking fee.
This will be your biggest expense, by far. Unless you are taking a two or maybe three day trip, food and drinks will be where most of your money goes.
Unfortunately, this is the area most people fail to budget for.
This is the epitome of little expenses adding up. A $10 meal here, $6 vodka red bull there, and before you know it, you spent 200 plus dollars on food and drink in one weekend!
Now imagine being somewhere for a full week? You’re looking at 500 plus dollars!
I know first-hand how hard it is to not spend a lot of money on food and drink. Exploring a new area, the first thing you want to do is try the local cuisine. And by try the local cuisine, I mean completely indulge yourself in the local cuisine.
For me, when I’m on vacation, I feel like a million bucks. Something about being in a different country makes me super generous with my money. Mix in some alcohol, and I’ll continuously say “you only live once” until I eventually make it back to my hotel room full of regret because I just burned through most of my travel fund.
Now, that being said, I absolutely think you should spoil yourself a bit with food and drinks, you are on vacation right? Just be safe with the drinking and ensure you budget properly.
This is a big one, and something that should be ranked up there with flights and hotels.
You don’t go on vacation, especially to a foreign area, to just sit around and do nothing all day. Well, maybe you do and that’s your thing, and if so, awesome!
But if you want to really enthrall yourself in the local culture, or just want to go on some crazy adventures, then make sure you plan your activities out ahead of time.
Even museums add up quick. A ticket will probably cost you between $15 and $20, and if you visit multiple museums, you’re looking at a good chunk of change right there. Not considering if you were to go on some awesome day trips or adventure trips, which usually do run a bit more.
When we went to Dubai, a lot of our activities were done on a whim, which ended up nailing us with multiple 100 plus dollar charges that we really weren’t expecting.
They are absolutely worth the money, but can be expensive. There are ways to reduce this cost, but just make sure you are aware of the potential expenses you can incur and set aside money strictly for these types of things.
I take back what I said about food and drinks, ATM fees are the kings of small expenses. They just don’t add up to much. I’d be willing to say they are the most overlooked though.
Some banks offer ATM reimbursement, like mine (super clutch), but if not, then you could easily spend around $50 in ATM fees.
I use ATMs consistently when I am traveling. I feel I spend less money when I can actually physically see how much money I am spending.
Expect to pay around $3.50 per transaction.
Public transportation is my go to method of transportation when I traveler. I am not a big fan of rental cars, so that is why I always try to find a hotel or Airbnb close to public transportation. Like, walking distance close.
You can usually get unlimited day passes for around $10-$15, but after a week, again, it adds up.
Rental cars can run you close to $60 per day, much more expensive, but they also offer much more freedom.
No matter which route you take, ensure you know exactly what you’ll be dealing with in terms of price.
You can’t go on a vacation without getting a few souvenirs. Whether it be for yourself, or for family members.
Probably my biggest regret is not buying more souvenirs for my family members, and I didn’t because I didn’t budget for it. By the time we got to buying souvenirs, I had already burned through my entire travel fund.
So, if souvenirs are something you are definitely going to do, take care of it at the beginning. You don’t have to go all out, just get little mementos for those you care about. Then, all that money left over is for you to enjoy to its fullest!
Prior to concluding this post, I just wanted to say that it is practically impossible to travel for super, super cheap. And even if you find a way, it will absolutely not be comfortable or worth it.
There are many different pages out there, whether they are on Facebook or an actual website, saying you can “Take a weeklong trip to Italy for $200!!!”
That is an absolute sham, and not true whatsoever. They are either being paid to travel by their sponsors, and only spent $200 of their own money, or they are offering super out of the ordinary tactics, like hitchhiking, couch surfing, and begging.
You can travel realistically, full of fun, comfort, and adventure for under or around $1,000. You just have to know what to do.
Traveling on a budget is absolutely possible, however, I don’t want to put out false information that could end up biting you in the end.
Making sure you know about some of the most commonly overlooked expenses will ensure you stay on budget.
I love this quote by Susan Heller: “When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” It is absolutely true, you’ll always need more money than you think. Maybe not double, but you’ll absolutely need more.
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