November 9, 2018
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard “wow, I wish I could afford to travel like you do”, I’d be able to head to my next adventure already.
Believe me, I can’t afford to travel like “that” either.
The truth is: I’ve never spent more than about $2500 for 2 people on almost every trip we’ve ever taken. All in.
Places I’ve been for that budget (or half that): Mexico, Iceland, Copenhagen, Florida, Montreal, France, Puerto Rico, Turks & Caicos, St. Thomas, pretty much ANYwhere in the US, etc
The only place that ever really cost more than that budget: Disney, Orlando Florida. And it was a LOT more. Like a crazy amount. I know there are Disney experts that could teach me how to do Disney for $2500 and I am a Disney dummy that would welcome that info. But I digress…
And before you go all… “well, I don’t even have $2500…” yes, you probably do. If you put aside about $100 a month for 2 years you too could pretty much go where you wanted. “But I don’t have a $100 a month” <— really? Ladies – how much did you spend on your last hair coloring? Nail appt? Lashes, brows, etc. How about dinners out? That new purse? Scarf? Apple picking (and dessert treat shopping – let’s get real – you bought the donuts, and the cider), and then you probably threw away 2 dozen rotten extras apples because who needs that many apples anyway?!?!?). How about Starbucks? Drive throughs? Wawa coffee a day? And you know you spent $30 on Pizza a few days ago because you didn’t want to cook and refused to eat the leftovers for the 2nd day in a row. Listen….I’m not here telling you not to do those things but if you do half of those, you have an extra $100 a month, you are just choosing to spend it elsewhere. And that’s fine – it just won’t get you a trip for that same $2500.
For those of us who will travel or bust – we color our hair from a box. We get our nails done at the dining room table. We buy bulk coffee from a giant can at Aldis. Ok fine! I go Apple picking, because experiences are up there with traveling – and I’m usually the one throwing away the rotten extra apples that could have been subway fare in Paris. We are the ones asking for birthday cash instead of stuff or tolerating the house projects another year to take that $300 and “put it towards the trip”. Christmas is not extravagant either but you better believe we put on our pajamas and get our annual Wawa Hot Cocoa and drive around looking at lights until midnight – <— because experiences. 😉
So… now that we’ve found your money, here’s how we spend it:
Let’s plan a pretend trip for 2 to Paris for 8 days/7 nights.
- First thing I do when planning is trip is to determine WHEN we are going. We tend to travel in the fall for a number of reasons but we are open to other times if they make sense I.E.= money. So assuming we’d like to go to France in the fall I start with Google Flights:
- As you can see from the MAP, there are a number of places for around $500 or less per flight, round trip. You may have to fly from a different airport, connect somewhere in between, sit at a place on the plane you don’t care for, or others, but the point is – you can fly to anywhere Europe for around $500. Years ago a ticket to Europe was around $1500 so $500 seems like a STEAL to me.
- After you have your basic search you can filter it further by comparing prices per season, and per day.
I usually search like this, then when I decide on the flight, I go directly to the airline and book it with them. (This was extremely helpful when our last airline went belly up while we were abroad – it was very easy for my credit card company to refund the money since I booked it direct.)
So let’s say we book tickets for 2 people for $400 each.
- If you haven’t tried Airbnb – you are doing traveling all wrong. So much cheaper than hotels, in better locations and way more amenities. I usually try to find places that are full time Airbnbs – meaning someone bought them just to rent it out, rather than staying in someone’s actual home where their family pictures are on the walls and their stuff is in the fridge. It’s not a deal breaker, I just prefer not to. I find that the full time Airbnb rentals are more equipped for travelers and have better communication and access to the owners. They usually leave a book of local recommendations and a couple of goodies so you’ll leave a good review.
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- After you decide on what neighborhood you want to be in (think about where you’ll want to walk to, what you’ll be doing, what do you need direct access to), then you can narrow down your choices.
- I usually use MAP view to make these decisions. As you can see from just this quick view – there are choices from $80 per night to $200+ per night depending on what your priorities are. A studio on the 3rd floor for cheap, or a 2 bedroom apartment with a view and an elevator. Every decision counts, so I tend to split the difference and try to spend no more than $125 per night when possible.
- $125 x 6 nights = $750 (your first night is on the plane)
So your total cost for lodging is $750 for the week.
- So far you are in Paris, for the week, and you’ve only spent $1,550 of your $2500 budget. That leaves you with $135 per day for food and activities.
- For some foodies $135 per day would be spent at dinner alone and therefore would hate traveling with me. I tend to travel cheap and eat cheap (but well), you just have to get creative. Instead of going out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I usually opt for cheap breakfast & lunch and then a decent dinner. In Paris, a cheap breakfast was a baguette ($1), some cheese ($4) and a coffee ($4 for 2). Total cost = about $9 bucks for breakfast for two. We often did the same for lunch: a savory crepe from a street vendor for $4 (ham and cheese) or a share lunch at a cafe. We “splurged” on dinners but most nights sharing an app and a meal was plenty. We also hit a grocery store towards the last few slower days and bought a dozen eggs, cheese, and bacon and made brunch in our apartment. Saved even more. Most dinners cost us less than $50 total. We probably spent less than $75 per day for 2 of us, and that’s estimating super high.
So your total cost for food for = $525 for 2 people for 7 days.
4. Getting around, stuff to do, shopping, etc
- So what do you do with your time while there? Go to museums, walk around, enjoy the sights, catch a play? That part is up to you. Paris was a very walkable city but when places were too far we took the subway for $1.90 (Euro). When we got really lazy we hopped in an Uber. We often rented scooters or bikes to really zip around and have fun. Both cost around $10 for a couple of hours of fun. Most museums have an entrance fee (reasonable), the opera houses sells discounted tickets (we saw a bizzare show for $10 each – but so worth it), we went on an hour long boat tour of the Siene river for $15 each. Notre Dame is free, Sacre Cour is free, so many things to do are free. Sitting at cafe sipping expresso is cheap and fun. So many things to do that $60 per day for all of the above was MORE than enough. So… we shopped. lol
My friend, you and hubby just spend a week in France having an epic adventure for $2500 bucks.
We happened to spend even less than this because we shared a multi-bedroom apartment with friends who traveled with us.
But what about Mexico? you might ask.
Mexico is even cheaper. For our 20th anniversary my husband and I stayed in an all inclusive resort for 10 nights for $1400. ALL INCLUSIVE. Our flights were $350 each, making our entire stay…wait for it… $2500 for a **10 day** vacation. That was including our “splurges” of swimming with dolphins ($59 each), renting a golf cart in Isla Mujeras ($35), a fun night at Senior Frogs ($?? lol) and lots of shopping, which, in Mexico, on the beach, is super, super cheap.
How about Montreal?
Most people drive to Montreal (from NJ) but we usually take the train. Amtrak goes direct from NYC Penn station and the train up is just as much a part of the trip for us as the stay in Montreal. The ride takes you through a beautiful journey that has you looking at mountains on your left and rivers and lakes on your right, all day. (And we like to travel in the fall so the foliage is a magnificent bonus.) Between the giant reclining seats (with wifi and outlets), the cafe car, the observation car, the views, the $120 ticket is more than worth it for us not to drive.
The last time we stayed in Montreal was in an apartment in the center of Old Montreal directly across from this building above, City Hall. Again with Airbnb, we spent $800 for 6 nights. Like Paris, we took the subway everywhere, and when not on the subway we either walked, or we rented Bixi bikes through a city bike share program. Visiting the Basilica, the markets, the riverfront, a comedy show, shopping, relaxing, we’ve never spend any more than $1500 when we visit Montreal for a week. The market in Montreal is amazing so we usually stock up the fridge on the first day or two and have breakfast and lunch at home. Old Montreal is small enough to where you can get back to the apartment easily making that possible daily.
How about Costa Rica?
We went years ago, (like before we could google flights or hotels on the internet) when the cost of traveling to Costa Rica was extremely high. I had to get SUPER creative to make that trip happen but even then, we spent about $2000 for 2 weeks.
We went on a “Surfers Package” I found through a remote travel agent, referred by a friend. It allowed us to rent a car and we bought 14 Hotel Vouchers – all of which participated in this program. The program of: no reservations, no confirmations, just show up and we’ll give you a room – you redeem your voucher. Stay 1 day or 5, it was up to you. Hence – the Surfer Package – if the waves were great, they stay. If not, they moved on. Mind you, we did exactly zero surfing but that was not a requirement for the trip, thankfully.
Is it risky? Meh? Depends on what you think the worst thing could be? Maybe the worst thing could be you show up to the hotel and there are no rooms left? Or you show up to where the hotel is SUPPOSED TO BE and it’s just gone. Like, not there. Demolished and an apartment building is in it’s place. (<—-That happened to us and we drove 3 hours to get to this hotel.) Was it the worst thing? Meh – it was fine. There was another hotel we found across the street, NOT part of the program that we got a room at and had to pay out of pocket for. Not that big a deal.
Food is super cheap in Costa Rica – like SUPER cheap if you go to the right places. “Sodas” – basically a diner – but not at all. lol A hamburger could be $3, a steak could be $7. As with any place, be careful what you eat and how it’s cooked – hubs got food poisoning from one of these places and spent a night yacking while we watched that volcano erupting. I mean… still not a horrible life, but I wasn’t the one yacking. Steve and the volcano were. Badum bum. ok.. moving on.
I understand you may not be able to go everywhere in the world for that budget but you can go to almost any where in the world for a week with 2 people for $2500.
What about kids?
Remember Disney? Aye.
But seriously. Besides plane tickets, they share your Airbnb, they eat PB&J and you hold them while going through the subway turnstyle anyway, so… adding children to any of these places does not necessarily double your budget.
Except Disney. CRAY expensive. I think our park tickets were $1500 alone. <— reasons why we go to France and not Florida.
But on the whole…. traveling with kids is waaaaay different than traveling as adults.
“Traveling” verses “Vacationing” are waaaaay different as well.
But those are topics for another day. I hope this was helpful to some – any questions at all, shoot me a comment or feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy Travels……. for $2500 or less! 😉
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Angelsea Urban is a Business Strategist and Portrait photographer helping families nourish their homes and cultivate their businesses. Her unique photography work focuses on Redefining the Family Portrait Experience ® by creating a space to strengthen family bonds. She has photographed for celebrities, Bravo TV, NFL Films, and local families and has been published in magazine print, city buses and multiple blogs for her work in photography and in strategic business management practices as a corporate consultant. Angelsea also teaches both subjects in various conferences and workshops across the country and resides with her husband of 20+ years, their two children, and barely 3 pound Yorkie near Long Beach Island, New Jersey.
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