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VOL. 133 | NO. 99 | Thursday, May 17, 2018


Lance Wiedower

How a Travel Budget Determines Destination

Lance Wiedower

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Budget is an ugly word. In a perfect world, budgets wouldn’t be necessary.

But I find budgeting the most crucial task in trip planning. Figuring out a budget goes hand in hand with picking a travel destination.

Some people have a designated travel fund, while others choose to pay off a trip in a few credit card installments. I personally save each month specifically for travel.

My budget doesn’t dictate where I travel, but it plays an important role in the planning process. I don’t have a set annual budget for travel, even though I do put some money aside each month. Sometimes a dream destination is too good to pass up, so I plan ahead and save a bit more than usual.

I’m taking a cruise this summer, and considering we picked a disembarkation port that requires a flight to Puerto Rico, this upcoming trip requires a deeper level of financial planning. We need flights to San Juan. That’s more expensive than picking a cruise out of New Orleans, for example. We created a spending plan to get us through the spring that would enable us to pay for the trip without breaking the bank.

Not all trips are created equal, but airfare and lodging typically are the most expensive pieces of any trip.

I don’t have a destination bucket list, per se, but I do have many destinations that float around in my head. It’s everything from big international trips that require more time and expense (Australia) to working toward my goal of visiting every U.S. state.

So when trip planning, I consider the handful of destinations that intrigue me at the time and check airfare for each one. Maybe I want to visit Ireland the most, but flights to Aruba are more economical. So the Caribbean island moves up my list.

That’s actually what happened for this summer’s cruise. I considered Hawaii, Alaska and a week on a Caribbean island. Airfare to Aruba was a steal at $600 to $800 cheaper per person, per flight. That usually would mean we’re off to Aruba this summer and will hold out for Alaska next year.

What helped us to decide to take our first cruise this summer is the economics of what it offers. The more I thought about the Caribbean, the more I thought about wanting to see more than one island. I started to think about the floating hotel concept that is a cruise ship, and realized it was a good economic decision.

Google Flights is a great tool to determine airfare. I usually pick a destination and book airfare before I get into the details of the destination, including lodging. But it’s important to also think about those added costs, especially when traveling to an international destination where the exchange rate makes it more expensive. Dollar-to-euro exchange rates can quickly add up, especially if you’re trying to operate on a strict budget.

Don’t skip out on experiences just because it doesn’t fit your budget. I work extra hard in the months before a trip to spend less so I can spend more on vacation.

Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.

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