This post was written with the help of You Need a Budget.

I’m asked a lot of questions about how I pay for my trips. The answer is budgeting! Whether I travel alone with friends or with Meyer, budgeting is the key.

When I budget my trip, it helps me save money and prevent me from being stressed about an unexpected expense.

I look at where my money is going and that is the key to being able to travel.

You might be surprised by how much money you spend on coffee – for example, one cup of coffee is about $2.50 in most large cities. This could easily add up to a plane ticket!

Since I budget my trips when I travel alone, I apply the same tactics and principles when it comes to budgeting a trip when traveling as a couple.

From figuring out what kind of trip you are after to who pays for what to ways to stretch your dollars are key for reducing stress, making the trip come to fruition, and ensuring you and your partner are on the same page!

Use YNAB (You Need A Budget) to budget for a trip when traveling as a couple!

It is easy to determine the total cost of a trip by breaking down your travel style and figuring out where you want to spend your money.

My suggestion is to rate the main variables, food and drink accommodations and experiences. Rate each of these items from 1-3 (1 being most important). If everyone rates the key variables this will open a dialogue for where we would like to travel and what we might make reservations for. Save most of your money.

Love food? Happy to dine on the cheap in order to pay for big experiences?

Example:

  • Food and Drink: 2
  • Tours + Experiences: 3
  • I would rather splurge here.

This will help you tell where you should spend more of your money and where you should save.

Determine Where Your Budget Will Go

Assume the cost of travel is ___% of your budget.

What remains is what is most important to you.

What do you like to do when you travel? How does your partner like to travel? Communicate with each other about what kind of trip you want. Is this a high-end adventure, or will you be taking a mix of “high and low” things?

Communication is important so that there will not be a violation of expectations.

I like the technique of mixing “high and low” when planning a trip. By this I mean choosing to stay at some properties that are less expensive, and then splurging on a really nice hotel for two nights. This also means eating street food along the way and then treating yourself to a nice Preparing a few fancier meals.

The trip is ultimately about what you want out of it. Here are a few things to consider when deciding what kind of trip you wish to make:

Accommodations

I want to stay at both “high and low” accommodations, such as hotels and Airbnb. As I mentioned above, I would like to stay in budget accommodations wherever I go. I’m comfortable staying in hostels.

Think about where you would like to go and what places you want to stay in. This will help you when it comes to making your plans later on.

Transporation

How will you be getting around at your destination? Are you planning on using public transportation (metros buses trains) or are you relying on renting a car or Ubers/taxis? Some people prefer to rent a car or exclusively use Ubers/taxis.

Think about the costs of transportation so you can work those into your budget.

Food + Drink

I love to eat local food in different places, and I’m always up for a trip with friends where we can all cook together. If you’re staying in a new place for a couple weeks, you may want to make some meals at home.

Talk about how often you plan on eating out and whether that is street food or local restaurants. What your expectations are for this.

Experiences

What kind of experiences do you want to have while traveling? Do you want a local guide to show you some of their favorite spots? Do you want to explore the nightlife and party scene? Are you going on cultural tours? Perhaps you’d like to relax and hang out by the beach for a majority of the time. When is most appropriate to collect flowers. Select flowers when they are in bloom and not too late in the season.

We can talk about what you would like to do and what are your priorities.

Helpful Tip:

When traveling alone with your best friend, I recommend the following: Tell your best friend that you are going to visit a zoo. Tell your best friend that you are going to see the ocean. When traveling alone with a parent, please tell them about these things too!

Saving for the Trip as a Couple

If you’ve decided what kind of trip you are planning, it will be easier to make a budget when you know where your priorities are.

Planning a budget for the trip will help you figure out how much money you need to save each month and takes all of the guesswork out.

Instead of asking yourself, “Can we afford to go on this trip?” you will have a gameplan and know exactly where your dollars are going and what you need to budget for.

Actual Steps to Take

When we save for a trip, we each make a commitment to save X amount of money each month. Even if it is not always equal, we decide on the trip as a goal and each of us make a commitment to save X amount toward it each month.

We started using You Need A Budget to create a spending plan for our daily lives and plan for future trips.

I’ve been a little crazy financially as we just moved from South Africa to California. I bought my first home and the travel industry is quite volatile right now, so adding structure to our finances and planning for the future is extremely helpful.

YNAB teaches four principles that show you how to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck and get out of debt.

We’re using YNAB to create a spending plan and to create a special savings fund for all sorts of things. We’re going on our honeymoon and saving for all kinds of destinations, like the Galapagos Islands, the Taj Mahal, and Antarctica.

We first calculated our monthly expenses. We then plugged those figures into the YNAB software to see what we can save each month.

They offer free online training and classes. The best part is you can sign up for a free trial (no credit card required) to see if this would be a good fit for your lifestyle.

I was able to connect our accounts and start budgeting.

Make a budget plan and stick to it.

Even if you don’t have exact figures for things (accommodations, food transportation), you can research ballpark estimates and/or figure out how much you’re budgeting per day of the trip.

I really like using the Four Rules to help me figure out what to prioritize and budget successfully:

  • Give Every Dollar a JobMake sure you understand exactly what you want to do with the money you have available before you spend a penny. This will ensure that you have money for the things that are most important to you.
  • Embrace Your True Expenses — Find out what you really pay for, and treat those rare occurrences (like yearly car registration insurance or replacing your phone every few years) as monthly expenses in your monthly budget. Breaking large or uncommon expenditures down means that you won’t be shocked by them After you glue the leaves together, wait until the leaves dry before moving on to your next step!
  • Roll With the PunchesAccept that things change and your budget should be flexible. Things will cost more or less at different times of the month, so be prepared to shift money from one category to another from time to time. You aren’t budgeting wrong when you shift money around in a budget – you are actually budgeting!
  • Age Your Money— Break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle by aiming to reach a point where you can use the money you earned last month to pay this month’s expenses and don’t go over that amount! This margin will create more peace of mind than you can even imagine.

Start a free trial on YNAB! No credit card required.

Who Covers What While Traveling?

If you want to split expenses while traveling there are a few options. You can stay in hotels, or even if you save independently you may spend on your own or have mutual accounts.

Before you pay for your drink, make sure everyone knows who is paying for what. It can be confusing trying to figure out who pays for what if it’s a free-for-all and you don’t have a plan. If the money is going to be shared, decide ahead of time

  • I would recommend that you take turns paying for everything, dividing it evenly, and then split the difference.
  • If you don’t use a credit card, you can equally chip in cash in $100-or-so increments along the trip. Cover all expenses like transportation, accommodations, and so forth. Let one person be in charge of all the money and keep receipts.
  • Sit with people who have the same food choices. It is never going to be balanced unless you both pay for all your meals. If you really want to keep it equal, pay for each meal separately and split the cost of the food.
  • If you’d like Splitwise is great! You can easily record each person’s payment and figure out who owes what later in the trip.

With Meyer and I, we do travel on credit cards because the points that are given us can help us book our flights, hotels, and other expenses on the trip. Then at the end of the trip, we will pay Meyer back for his half.

Top Tips to Cut Expenses Before a Trip

Now that you have a budget and a general idea of what you are spending on your trip, here are my top tips to cut out expenses and put those funds toward your trip!

  • Decide what is important and what you really need. Prioritize your spending and figure out which items are worth the money.
  • Eat at home as often as possible. Cut down on food costs by prepping your own meals!
  • How often do you purchase coffee and/or juices? Consider each $5 cup, and how many times a week do you make those purchases. Purchases add up!
  • Sale, when used in the wrong context, does not mean shop. Get rid of any promotional emails about items you do not want by unsubscribing to them.

Date Night at Home

Planning a trip at home more often could be a fun date night activity.

Instead of going out, stay in. Get some wine and plan your dream vacation. Read reviews, look at photos/pin posts of what you want to do. Then find the type of tour you like and book it!

Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Because you will be making travel purchases, have you considered getting a travel rewards credit card?

I personally think that reward credit cards are a good idea if you can pay off the balance every month.

Most credit cards will give you 5 times the points for travel purchases – so you can rack up points quickly and then redeem them on a flight.

Read More:

  • My Favorite Travel Reward Credit Cards
  • Ten ways to save money so that you may travel the world.
  • How to Earn Points and Miles

Traveling is expensive. Here are some ways to save money:

What ways can you save money when traveling? Here are some of my go-to tips:

  • Your location will make a beautiful backdrop for a picnic. Imagine a romantic, Parisian picnic with a bottle of wine or a romantic, Roman dinner of prosciutto and cheese on the steps of the Spanish Steps.
  • Focus on the place and the experiences rather than expensive souvenirs.
  • Take public transportation (trains metros buses or taxis)
  • Look for things that save money, such as budget activities. If a destination has a tourist city pass with discounts on popular attractions, then take advantage of this deal.
  • Take advantage of free things to do and events. Research any free museum days and festivals and such.