How to Work Travel Into Your Budget, Whether Your Goal Is a Weekend Getaway or an International Escape

Whether your ideal vacation includes camping in a local state park or traveling across the world, it's pretty undeniable that travel is the gold standard for unwinding and taking time for ourselves (people don't hoard vacation days for nothing!)—which makes it a powerful self-care practice.

But finding the time (and money) to dedicate to travel can feel like an impossible task when you're juggling a full life. To help you figure out how to make travel-life balance work with a budget in mind, Sarah Marks, a psychiatry resident in New York City and the blogger behind Travel Beyond Size, shares her secrets on why she's such a travel advocate and how she makes her adventures more budget friendly. 

"Travel is an essential and powerful wellness practice."

"Travel is an essential and powerful wellness practice as it allows you to immerse yourself in new experiences that may be challenging and unfamiliar," Marks explains. "This in turn builds resiliency and flexibility which are strengths you can apply in your everyday life to keep you well."

So how does she make it work logistically? A master of squeezing in vacation days whenever possible, Marks breaks down time off into two one-week trips and one two-week trip per year (so she isn't missed at work for too long), and then uses long weekends for local excursions.

But if traveling abroad for vacation multiple times a year sounds overwhelming or local travel is more interesting, she totally gets you. "I think people should try to travel as much as humanly possible, but I recognize that not everyone approaches travel with the same zeal," she says. "I also encourage travel that includes exploring your own city or state. Sometimes these are more valuable than worrying about the planning, time, and energy that goes into a big trip."

Ready for tips on how to incorporate travel into your wellness routine in a budget-friendly way? Scroll down for 3 travel budgeting tips that will make you want to start investing in wellness travel ASAP.

travel budgeting tips
Photo: Getty Images/M Studio Images

1. Remember you have (spending) options

Whether you're choosing to take a relaxing staycation in your own city or that trip to Greece you've always dreamt of taking, reaping the wellness benefits of travel doesn't come with a fixed price tag.

"There is no one size fits all when it comes to budgeting for travel," Marks says. "Some people are in search of a luxurious splurge that feels like a real departure from their everyday life. Others want to feel like a local and experience the day-to day-life of being in a new place. For me, it’s all about balancing the two."

Her hack for keeping your spending in check no matter which route you choose is estimating how much you would spend on a typical day or weekend spent at home, and then trying to budget as close to that as possible while you're on the road. That way, you're still spending as usual—you'll just happen to be doing it in a tropical paradise or mountain hideaway.

travel budgeting tips
Photo: Getty Images/Westend61

2. Pay upfront when you can

According to Marks, one of the main stumbling blocks that trips up would-be travel enthusiasts is the sticker shock of how much travel can cost in one lump sum. To combat that reaction, she recommends against booking the whole trip in one sitting, so you don't end up spending an entire paycheck all at once.

Instead, she suggests booking flights one month, accommodations the next, tours the following, and so on until almost everything is covered by the time you actually put up your OOO message.

"Realize that you don’t need to spend a ton of money on guides, excursions, and fancy meals to really experience a place."

And when it comes to tours, she has a tip for that too: "Realize that you don’t need to spend a ton of money on guides, excursions, and fancy meals to really experience a place," she says. "If I’m traveling somewhere for a week, I try and limit myself to one thoughtful paid tour or excursion and one splurge-worthy dinner. Book these in advance, and make sure to balance them out with tons of fun free things."

travel budgeting tips
Photo: Getty Images/Leo Patrizi

3. Use digital tools to track your spending

If you want to move travel up on your list of priorities, it's important to know how you're spending your money so you can reallocate it accordingly. Part of that change is a mental shift (when Marks takes on a moonlighting shift at the hospital, she mentally dedicates the extra money she makes to her travel budget), and part of it involves actually tracking the numbers.

"A lot of banks have apps that allow customers to track how much you spend on how much you spend on travel, food, transportation, etc," she says. "This can be eye-opening to look at, and can clue you in on where to cut back and where you have room to spend extra. I love using the graphs to see how much I spend on travel-related expenses as a whole."

Sponsored by Citi

Top photo: Stocksy/Andrey Pavlov


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