When’s the Best Time to Start Planning a Trip?

So we just celebrated New Year’s and are now our first few weeks into the new year.

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How many of you set a New Year’s resolution to travel more this year? Or perhaps to take that one big trip you’ve been dreaming of for the past decade?

Well, first of all, if you didn’t set such a goal, you totally should.

And second of all, for those of you who did make some travel goals for this year, you might be wondering when you should start planning your trip(s).

Well, here’s the answer: the sooner the better!

Well, kind of.

Planning early is important because the earlier you start, the more likely you are to get cheaper prices, because costs typically are higher the closer you are to your travel date.

Like one of our readers, Mary, commented, “What I usually do is to try to book as much in advance as possible, in order to get cheaper rates.”

So from our experience and hers, it’s definitely a good idea to start planning early.

But at the same time, planning too far in advance sometimes isn’t possible, because many airlines and accomodations allow people to make reservations only so far in advance.

For example, if you look at Google Flights in the middle of January, it only lets you book into the beginning of December—so only about eleven months in advance.

Similar patterns occur across other reservation platforms as well.

So the best time to start booking a trip seems to be about a year in advance.

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Of course, you can always start researching and planning more generally much earlier than that.

Another Option

But what if you didn’t start planning a year in advance but you’ve set that New Year goal to take a trip sometime earlier this year?

Well, another great (and perhaps more realistic) option is to start planning all your trips for the year right now—at the beginning of the year in January.

That’s because one of the most important things you can do to make sure you actually accomplish that goal is to plan for it in your budget.

And like we’ve said before, having a yearly budget is an extremely helpful step into making travel a reality in your life.

One of the biggest things that holds many people back from traveling is not having the funds required to take the trips they want.

But if you plan and carve out a certain amount of your income in advance, you should be able to save up for some traveling in the upcoming year.

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And if you can’t afford to pay for the trips just now, you can at least start looking ahead and planning so that you know approximately how much money you’ll need to set aside each month to have enough to pay for your trip when the time comes.

And that way, if you have your trip(s) planned out at the beginning of the year, everything is in place and ready to go, so you’re not scrambling or coming up short at the last minute.

We’re actually in the process of planning three (maybe four) trips for this year right now. It feels SO good to find flights as cheap as $187 round-trip from LA to Orlando and hotels 30% cheaper than they usually are.

Planning trips early right now makes it possible for us to take them, when we’d never be able to afford them otherwise.

So go for it—jump in right now and start booking your trip(s) for the year, or at least start planning and saving for them.

Who says you can’t accomplish your New Year’s resolutions? 😉

Should I Set up a Weekly, Monthly, or Yearly Budget?

To travel on a budget, first you have to have a budget.

When I was in college, I took a family finance class.

The class was awesome and the professor was great, but a little old-school.

For example, he recommended having a printed copy of your budget on the fridge and updating it by pencil with each transaction so that you have a regular visual of where your spending is at.

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I get the logic behind that, and maybe that works for some people, but it didn’t for me. I much prefer doing my budget digitally (but that’s another post altogether).

Not One-Size-Fits-All

Another method he recommended that didn’t work for me was this: making your budget a monthly budget.

I tried that, but here was the problem:

At the time, we got paid every other week.

Plus, with our paid-by-the-hour student jobs, our income wasn’t perfectly consistent from one paycheck to the next.

So when I tried planning a monthly budget, I was really just having to guess how much we’d be making for that whole month.

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But too often my projections for how much we’d earn and would be able to spend didn’t match up with reality, so the budget basically became useless.

So here’s what we learned and recommend:

Base Your Budget Style On Your Pay Schedule

If you get paid weekly, make a weekly budget; if you get paid monthly, use a monthly budget.

It makes so much more sense to budget with the money you actually know you have, instead of just randomly guessing how much you might have for the whole month.

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Then look ahead at what you have going on within that time period—bills due, baby showers to attend, birthday gifts to buy—and budget accordingly.

I have found budgeting this way to be so much more effective and useful.

What about a Yearly Budget?

If you do have a predictable budget, I think it’s wise to plan a yearly budget as well.

A yearly budget better allows you to prepare and save for expenses down the road—and I mean that both metaphorically and literally. Because, hopefully, having a yearly budget will help you better be able to save up to travel.

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Why?

Well, it helps you keep the big picture in mind.

If you use only a budget for each pay period instead of for the whole year, it’s easier to say,

“Hey look! I’ve got a little extra money here after budgeting the rest to bills and all the necessities! Woohoo! I’m going to stop and grab some fast food!”

Or rent a movie. Or buy some trinket. Or whatever else you don’t really need—instead of putting it towards traveling.

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But when you’re keeping the goal of your trip(s) in mind with a yearly budget, you will remember to set aside the amount you need to allot each pay period in order to reach your goal and the cost of your trip(s).

Patience Is a Virtue

If you’re just first getting started with this Fernweh lifestyle, it might take some time and patience before you can save up enough for your trip goal.

That especially depends on how big your income is compared to how big your trip goal is.

Maybe you won’t be able to save enough this year (though you very well could!), but I bet if you budget and save diligently this year, you could totally go into next year’s yearly budget with plenty of confidence and moolah to plan and take that trip.