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How to Plan an Amazing Trip on a Budget

Updated on October 16, 2018
Makayla Simone profile image

Makayla is a travel enthusiast! And not just any travel, her expertise is in planning amazing trips on a budget.

Have No Fear the Budget Travel Expert is Here!

I have always loved traveling, but sometimes traveling can be a little pricey. Everyone deserves to enjoy an amazing vacation! One day I decided to plan the most amazing trip I could, while spending the least amount of money. This step by step guide will teach you how you can do this to!

Steps to Planning Your Amazing Trip on a Budget

  1. Pick a destination.
  2. Do extensive research.
  3. Decide on your budget.
  4. Make an itinerary.
  5. Start booking!

Step One: Pick a Destination

First things first, you need to decide where it is you want to go! When I planned my first trip by myself, I chose to visit my friend in Seattle and from there we went to Las Vegas. Choosing your destination will have a lot of impact on how much you're going to be spending. Some areas are cheaper than others, but don't let that scare you away. Just be sure you add this into your research (which is step 2).

Step Two: Do Extensive Research

After you've picked the destination you'd like to visit, it's time to sort at all the details!

  • Transportation
  • Hotel
  • Activities/Attractions
  • Food

A lot goes into planning a trip, so it's good to figure things out ahead of time. You need to figure out who, what, when, where, and how. Who will be with you on your trip? What attractions will you be visiting? When will you be going? Where will you be located? and last but not least, how will you go about doing these things?

How Will I Get to My Destination?

After you've decided on your destination, you need to decide how you will get there and how you'll get around when you arrive. Here are some of your options:

  • Flying
  • Bus
  • Train
  • Driving

Flights usually seem to be the most expensive, so it helps to check all of your options. If you decide to fly, start looking a couple to a few months in advance. What I really like to do is use Google Flights, because you can track the prices! This is an awesome way to land a deal on flights because you can see when the prices go up or down.

Another option is using the bus. I've personally used Greyhound and Megabus. Riding the bus can be a great option, especially if you aren't going to far.

Now let's talk about trains. Personally I've never done this, but I know people who have. You can search for train tickets on the Amtrak website.

Last but not least, you can drive to your destination! This can be a great way to save money if you can't find a good deal on other means of transportation. But you will have to factor in the costs associated with driving and calculate whether or not you're actually saving money. Do you need to rent a car? How much will you spend on gas? Is there toll fees? Parking fees? Make sure you figure this all out, and estimate how much it will be. When I do my estimates, I add in a couple hundred dollars just to be safe.

After you've looked into all the different options, compare prices and decide what is the best option for you!

A lovely photo I captured on my way to Seattle!
A lovely photo I captured on my way to Seattle!

Hotel vs. No Hotel

One of first thing that comes to mind when booking a vacation, is where you will stay. Are you staying with a friend? Booking a hotel? Camping? Staying at a hostel? The best way to save would be to stay with a friend or family! Booking a place to stay can get expensive. But if you can't stay with friends or family there are other cheap alternatives!

One of my favorite hotel alternatives has been booking on Airbnb. There are tons of options when it comes to using Airbnb.

Now if you're not into the idea of booking an on Airbnb, you can compare hotel prices. I personally love to use Hotels.com. On the hotels.com website you can find a variety of different hotels and compare the different prices, on top of that there is often a "book now pay later" option. Another spot you can check for great hotel deals is Groupon, groupon is my holy grail for deals.


Getting around Town

So you've arrived to your destination, say you flew in but now you need to get to your hotel (or wherever you're staying). Taking a taxi used to be the go to for this situation, but now we have cheaper options. My favorites are Uber and Lyft! If you've never used either, new users get promo codes! Promo codes are awesome, and of course save you a little bit of money. When I'm doing my trip planning, I like to map out the activities I'm planning and how I plan to get to these spots! Uber and Lyft both give you estimates of how much your ride will cost, so you can factor this in when making your budget!

Public transportation is also a great way to get around, and is going to be one of the cheapest options (besides walking).

If you drove to your destination, you of course have a car to get to where you need to go! All you have to worry about is gas and whatever other costs might be involved.

My friend and I heading to Snoqualmie Falls!
My friend and I heading to Snoqualmie Falls!

Activities and Attractions: Free and Cheap Can't be Beat

This is the fun part about planning your trip! I would start by using google to get some ideas, or make a post on Facebook so you can ask your friends! Having ideas based on someones personal experiences is great.

So since this article is about planning a trip on a budget, I would go for finding free attractions. There is so much you can do without spending a lot of money, and you'll still have a great time. Is there free museums, parks, shows? Write everything you find down; including the date, time, and location.

So let's say you saved some money because you got a deal on a flight, and you have a little extra left for fun; you can still find deals! I mentioned using Groupon to find hotel deals, but like I said, it's my holy grail and it has so much more than hotels! You can find deals for things to do and restaurants, and while we're on the subject you can even book travel packages as well; but we will save that subject for another article.

(See photos below of some of the free/cheap attractions I visited on my trip!)

What I Found for Free and Cheap!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Snoqualmie Falls in Washington, was a free park! It was absolutely stunning and an unforgettable experience, and not to forget FREE!Me jumping for excitement, how can you not be excited about free attractions? This is a picture of me at Snoqualmie Falls. I love places that are perfect for mini photo shoots, it's all about the memories!This is a photo of me while exploring Downtown Bellevue! Again another fun free thing to do, and I got this amazing picture to go with. This is a photo of the Safeco Field. You can't go wrong with sports events! If you don't care about your seats, you can get super cheap tickets. I believe ours were less than $20!And again another mini photoshoot. Did you even go to a baseball game if you didn't take a picture?This beach like area was a part of the Airbnb my friend and I stayed at in Las Vegas. Although we paid for our stay, we didn't have to pay to hang out at the pool and take cute pictures by the palm trees. This is me with Miley Cyrus at Madame Tussauds in Las Vegas. I found a deal for tickets on groupon. Score!Just hanging out with Will Smith!
Snoqualmie Falls in Washington, was a free park! It was absolutely stunning and an unforgettable experience, and not to forget FREE!
Snoqualmie Falls in Washington, was a free park! It was absolutely stunning and an unforgettable experience, and not to forget FREE!
Me jumping for excitement, how can you not be excited about free attractions?
Me jumping for excitement, how can you not be excited about free attractions?
This is a picture of me at Snoqualmie Falls. I love places that are perfect for mini photo shoots, it's all about the memories!
This is a picture of me at Snoqualmie Falls. I love places that are perfect for mini photo shoots, it's all about the memories!
This is a photo of me while exploring Downtown Bellevue! Again another fun free thing to do, and I got this amazing picture to go with.
This is a photo of me while exploring Downtown Bellevue! Again another fun free thing to do, and I got this amazing picture to go with.
This is a photo of the Safeco Field. You can't go wrong with sports events! If you don't care about your seats, you can get super cheap tickets. I believe ours were less than $20!
This is a photo of the Safeco Field. You can't go wrong with sports events! If you don't care about your seats, you can get super cheap tickets. I believe ours were less than $20!
And again another mini photoshoot. Did you even go to a baseball game if you didn't take a picture?
And again another mini photoshoot. Did you even go to a baseball game if you didn't take a picture?
This beach like area was a part of the Airbnb my friend and I stayed at in Las Vegas. Although we paid for our stay, we didn't have to pay to hang out at the pool and take cute pictures by the palm trees.
This beach like area was a part of the Airbnb my friend and I stayed at in Las Vegas. Although we paid for our stay, we didn't have to pay to hang out at the pool and take cute pictures by the palm trees.
This is me with Miley Cyrus at Madame Tussauds in Las Vegas. I found a deal for tickets on groupon. Score!
This is me with Miley Cyrus at Madame Tussauds in Las Vegas. I found a deal for tickets on groupon. Score!
Just hanging out with Will Smith!
Just hanging out with Will Smith!

What Will I Eat?

Food, food, food! I love food and I especially love trying new foods, so I personally have to make this a big part of my budget. Food can get a little expensive, but luckily you have options. One of the best options would be to bring your lunchbox and pack your own food and snacks. Sandwiches are a great way to go!

If you're feeling adventurous and have room in your budget to splurge, plan what it is you want to try. Every city usually has a famous dish (every time I go to Chicago I have to get a Chicago style hot dog, or deep dish pizza). Do some research and figure out where the best spots are, and check out their menus for prices. Maybe there is daily specials, or coupons online!

Yum! I can never say no to a Portillo's Hot Dog!
Yum! I can never say no to a Portillo's Hot Dog!

Step Three: Decide on Your Budget

Now that you've done your research on transportation, lodging, attractions, and food, you should have a pretty good idea on how much things will be. Break everything down and decide the maximum amount of money you want to spend in each category. My most important tip, is to over estimate how much you're going to spend. Things can add up depending on many different factors, so it's better to be safe than sorry. The best way to keep track of your budget is to write it down or make a spreadsheet. I believe having a visual is very helpful.

Step Four: Make an Itinerary

It's nice to go on a trip and have a plan. After you do all of your research, you can plan which days you want to do things, and what time. If you have a lot on your list an itinerary is going to be really helpful! Writing your itinerary down or using a spreadsheet is the best way to go to keep things organized.

Step Five: Start Booking!

You've finished figuring out all the little details so now it's time to book! After you've landed the best deals and prices, you can start selecting your dates and booking your plans. I'd start by booking your transportation and lodging first, these are generally the most expensive part of planning your trip. After you're done with that, you can wait on everything else, unless the deals expire (Groupon often has certain dates deals expire). After everything is booked, start a countdown! You'll soon be on the way to whatever destination you picked for your amazing trip!

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      Charlotte 

      4 weeks ago

      Great article with good suggestions.

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