Easily the most intimidating and daunting aspect of planning for our worldwide trip is figuring out a budget. David and I have both always worked. We’ve spent our entire lives in accumulation mode, socking away what we could for the future. We’re hardly unique here, most everyone does. To have the guts to jump ship from that model, we need to be very confident in the financial plan. I think most people would be alarmed at the amount of time I’ve spent trying to figure that out. It has been about 8 months since David and I decided to develop a plan to ultimately quit our jobs and essentially permanently travel the world. I can’t even calculate between then and now the number of hours I’ve spent working on a budget. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but to give you some sense of what we’re talking about here; I probably spent 10+ hours last weekend alone.
Any logical person would likely ask themselves at this point, “Good God, what is she doing that is taking all this time?” Well…as I wrote about in a previous post, as David and I worked to develop a game plan of where we’d like to go, how long we’d like to stay, etc. we learned a ton about visa requirements and transportation options around the world. We built what is now a 12 year plan of destinations and durations. I then took that plan and researched every single leg as if it were a trip we were taking tomorrow. I researched hotel and apartment options and all modes of transportation. I tried, like I do when I plan vacations today, to intersperse splurges with budget friendly options. As previously noted, I spent a crazy amount of time, almost entirely on the internet, doing this research. I just finished the most current version last weekend and wanted to share my favorite websites and tools for calculating a travel budget. Since no one in their right minds would spend so much time trying to figure out the best vacation planning tools, I thought you all could benefit from my toils.
Here are my favorite websites and how I used them in our planning:
Rome2Rio– I’ve mentioned this gem before, but if I knew about this site earlier, I would have planned every overseas trip I’ve ever taken a little differently. The site is simple to navigate and allows you to plug in a “To” destination and a “From” destination. It then pulls up all the possible modes of transport to get from point A to point B, how long each will take and how much each will cost. It’s a reality check to any trip itinerary. Places in Europe are farther apart than they look. You cannot always easily get from one location to another even though they look close together on a map, and often driving is the most time consuming and expensive way to travel. It also opens up new options that I wouldn’t have considered otherwise like ferries and night trains.
AirBnb– This website is actually not terribly user friendly. I’ve spent so much time on it I really should give them feedback but probably won’t. For your benefit: While the site makes it difficult to create and maintain wish lists and has ridiculously limited searching and sorting capability, it has one single redeeming quality that makes up for its deficiencies: It creates the ability to live anywhere in the world, for any length of time, on any budget. A couple of tips that may be obvious to you but I discovered very late in the game: There is a scale at the top of the page with the overall average rental price in the middle. By dragging on either end of the bar, you can adjust the average price up or down to limit the search to properties within your budget. It also calculates seasonal rates and weekly and monthly discounts automatically so it’s worth the effort to plug in date criteria, just be cautious that the best properties go quickly so you want to do this search well in advance of your departure.
Booking.com– This one seems obvious, but I found it by far the easiest to use of all the like sites (Trip Advisor, Hotels.com, etc.). It’s incredibly intuitive and makes it very easy to search by hotel or city. It also brings up a comprehensive list and learns to cater to your preferences. I prefer boutique style hotels and found it very easy to find all my options easily. It also makes very clear what is and isn’t included in the price, stuff like taxes and breakfast.
Bedandbreakfast.com– A good, not great, site, but the best one I’ve found to find B&Bs in a given area. I don’t know if they have an international presence, I have used it to research U.S. travel and found options I doubt I would have found otherwise.
Great Small Hotels– I love this site. I found great boutique hotel options all over the world. I’ve stayed in many on previous vacations to Spain and Greece so can also vouch for the site’s accuracy. It does lean to the splurgy side, but I found so many fabulous and unique places. I would highly recommend checking it out before picking a hotel on any upcoming trip.
The Guardian– I’ve been pretty disappointed in the travel section of most on line newspapers. I actually thought they would provide a wealth of information on cool cities and towns and great places to stay in all those places. They really don’t (I feel the same way about travel magazines incidentally). The British newspaper, The Guardian, is the exception. I found them especially useful to find lodging options in cities all over Europe and the US that met any budget. Honorable mention goes to the Telegraph, another British newspaper.
Google Flights– I use this site entirely for its simplicity. It has no pop-ups or re-navigation to other sites. It makes it simple to view rates of flights by day of week and time of year and lists options with clear pricing, carrier information and number of stops. One big downside, it is not always comprehensive so you may not get the best deal. I search on this site to get a sense of pricing and options and I buy on kayak or the airline website.
Kayak-I don’t love this site. Because it searches so thoroughly, it’s really slow to navigate. I like it much better for car rental searches than for flight searches. I do ultimately use it though because I do think it is the most comprehensive option and I want to make sure I get the best price.
I hope these travel sites are helpful to you as you plan your next trip.