“How much does it cost to go to ___?”
If I had three wishes, I’d probably use all three of them to never hear this question again.
This is my least favorite question to answer, but also the most common. And I get it - setting aside thousands of dollars to travel is a big deal, and people want to know what it costs to get to where they want to go.
But it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. I wish it was, because this blog post would be much shorter and easier to write.
If you’re wondering what it costs to travel to a certain destination, here are the key things you need to keep in mind when building your budget.
This is the prime factor in figuring out what you can expect to spend. Certain destinations are just more expensive - especially the ones I sell (sorry!). The more sought after and exotic the destination, the pricier it will be. So if you’re thinking of a week in Bora Bora, aim high. It’s less painful to cut a budget down than it is to increase it.
This goes hand in hand with the destination. Longer haul flights cost more. Having some frequent flyer miles saved can help, but it definitely costs more to fly to Tahiti than it does to Florida. Always do a quick search to see what airfare averages are for the destination to start building your budget. If your budget for Hawaii is $5,000 for example, expect to spend about 20% of that on airfare alone.
If you visit during the destination’s peak season, you’re going to pay peak prices. Having a flexible window for traveling is key to saving money, since travel during low or off season is noticeably cheaper. There are downsides to this - the weather might be iffy, for example. But if you’re okay with that, you’ll be able to save a bit.
This one is easy. The longer the trip, the more expensive it will be. If you’re just outside of your budget, shaving a day or two off might help.
If you want 5-star everything, multiple excursions, and endless spa appointments, your vacation will be more expensive. If you don’t mind mid-range resorts, fewer amenities, and simpler details, you’ll save. Knowing your travel taste is a good way to figure out the budget you need. Think of how you live your daily life - are you more of a easy to please person, or do you revel in the finer things? Both are okay, but your lifestyle is most likely going to carry over into your travel style.
It’s cheap to lay on the beach, but most people don’t want to do that their entire vacation. Think about what kind of activities you want to do. Most destinations have a variety of free or cheap activities, and mixing those in with paid tours is a great way to adjust the budget.
Most packages include airfare, lodging, transfers or rental cars, activities, and travel insurance. Then there’s spending money to factor in, passports and visas, checked luggage, as well as my personal fees. Keep all of this in mind when building a budget to avoid being surprised!
The point I want to stress the most is to be realistic. Ever heard the phrase champagne taste on a beer budget? Adjusting your expectations to meet your budget will make everything easier. Your travel advisor will breathe a sigh of relief, and you won’t be disappointed every time a quote is double your budget. Be flexible too. If the package is $100 over budget, is it worth canceling the whole thing over? Don’t go into debt for a vacation. Don’t skip bills. But on the other hand, don’t be so frugal that you don’t enjoy yourself.
My last word of advice: Listen to your travel advisor. We ask for budgets so we know where to start - but contrary to popular belief, travel advisors don’t ask budget so we can max it out. I’ve had to break the news to people that their budget isn’t realistic, but then (most) people are open to hearing what destinations fit their budget. And sometimes that’s the key - you can’t force a budget to work for certain destinations, but we can almost always find a destination that fits the budget.