Traveling part one: before departure

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Foster your goal
KJ: Much like any story, every goal has a great beginning, middle, and end. This goal of ours started with a great beginning. Angela came to me with a goal that was her number one priority: we must go back to Italy with her parents before time carries us away and we get too swept up in ‘life.’ Since it is very important to Angela (and hey, I wouldn’t mind going there too), I quickly put a spreadsheet together, so we could ‘what-if’ until our hearts were content. We thought of potential expenses, destination locations, and all the in-between. Angela had her heart set on the Amalfi coast, and I had my heart set on spending some time in Spain since I wanted to show Angela some of the sights I saw while studying abroad years ago plus it’s where the in-laws spent their honeymoon over thirty years ago and hadn’t been back. So we set our sights on our goal and started setting aside the money we planned to spend. Note: just because we are budget-a-holics doesn’t mean we’re frugal and pinch every penny. We planned to have a great trip with nice hotels and villas, and lots of wining and dining, so we knew the uphill climb we were heading toward.

AJ: This trip became incredibly important to me as I started to analyze what really mattered to me. Family is so indescribably valuable to both of us and we seem to enjoy life more when they’re around. Being able to give my parents back a gift after they paid for my college and for our wedding seemed like a no brainer way for us to show how much we appreciate those gifts we couldn’t have afforded at the time. I knew if there was a way for us to take this second trip of a lifetime (we’re spoiled, right!?) that Kirby could find a way. My goal was to pay for the trip. Kirby’s goal was to pay for the trip well before the plane ever took off. So, we did.

Plan for the unexpected
KJ: The best part of any budget is some wiggle room. Just because one area is spoken for, doesn’t mean some of the funds can’t be used for other purposes though. You can’t possibly project your exact expenses in the future (and if you could, it’s not like you win a prize or anything!). You never know when you will have to take an unexpected taxi, public transportation, or have a surprise tax or final fee at checkout, so plan with enough room that if you have an extra 10% of expenses, you aren’t out on the streets looking for a side job trying to figure out how to get home. A second good check of a quality made budget is that expenses can shift. You under spend on some, and you overspend on others (we ate how much tonight!?). It’s the balance between the two that you’re trying to look for, not consistency to have every meal or ticket item be at or below budget (at least that’s no how we function best).

Plan for the expected
There are some expenses that are quite obvious:

    Transportation – airfare, taxis or drivers to/from the airport or point A & B, buses, trains, etc.
    Meals – we all have to eat, it’s just to what lavish extent you want…are you looking for 5 course meals everywhere or just one heavy meal and then a snack or two along the way?
    Lodging – hotel, villa – often a more economical purchase if more than two travelers, bed and breakfast, hostels for the cheap travelers at heart
    and last, but not least, planned sites – museums, gardens, entrance fees, etc.

These should be relatively easy to plan for if you spend some time looking at travel guides or perusing the internet on what exactly you want to do at the location you plan to enjoy. For this trip, we utilized sites like Summer in Italy and Trip Advisor. Read reviews carefully to see what others said. You could spend days reading reviews – like what we did to do our research to see that we were picking the right places to stay and eat – but try not to get caught up in the endless amount of information that is out there. Sometimes, you just have to make a decision!

Plan to actually relax for once!
If you’re like Angela and I, we could be happy laying on a beach, sipping some beer (or Miami Vice anyone?) and enjoying the slow pace. We like to plan, plan, plan, but we also like to make sure we have adequate down time to actually relax on our vacation instead of dealing with the hustle and bustle. We have enough of the go-go-go mentality with work that we really enjoy a day (or several days for that matter) of completely nothing. Sure there are ‘must see’ sites that people recommend, but every person or every guidebook has their own priorities and for us, it’s a little relaxation time. Maybe it could even be good for the budget if you spent the night in and made a nice, quick meal from local, fresh ingredients. I can taste the Caprese salad now…

AJ: It’s really hard to relax when you’re concerned about money. Creating a list of all of the known expenses, all of the planned outings and all of the wish list items in advance along with associated costs and open times makes vacation far more enjoyable. I’m a list-a-holic without question but how can you plan for something comfortably and with any level of confidence without properly researching the liability you will incur? I made the fatal mistake of assuming flamenco was something that just happened. I never Googled it prior to the trip and was SHOCKED that it’s a minimum of 60 Euros a person. I guarantee had I known that in advance I still wouldn’t have paid that much for it but that’s a real game changer for people with a budget! If someone in our party was dying to see flamenco, that would have put a really significant dent in our miscellaneous budget. Thankfully our crew was satisfied to watch me dance in the street so we didn’t starve but research would have better prepared me.

I’m so thankful that I have a husband who values enjoying our lives as much as I do and is willing to make my goals happen. Being married means having a built in problem solver. Rely on your partner to help each other fulfill your goals and create a plan to pay for what you want before it happens (even if it takes 10 years, do it together!).

    How do you plan for your trips?
    How do you adjust your saving to get to that goal?
    Tell us about the joy (or struggle) you had in accomplishing that goal.

Interested in reading further? Check out the rest of our post in this series on travel: Traveling part two: during the trip and traveling part three: after arrival.

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