How to Plan for a Vacation Within Your Budget

No matter what type of trip you have in mind, consider how you can maximize your adventure while minimizing overspending.

Traveling, or just leaving home to relax at a destination you know and love, is a necessity for many people. But there’s no getting around the fact that vacations cost money. Any trip can quickly start to feel like a luxury when you add up the expenses of getting there, accommodations, meals, entrance fees, gratuities and more.

And yet, domestic and international travel has rebounded since pandemic restrictions began to lift. It comes at a cost: According to one study, the price of travel in early 2023 was 18% higher than in 2019, with airfare, accommodations and car rentals all showing significant increases.

If your urge to escape is strong, travel does not need to be postponed, and it doesn’t have to result in debts that greet you once you’ve returned. “The deals are still out there, and you can still travel in a cost-effective way,” says Elizabeth Cornelius, Vice President of Branch and Customer Communications for Corporate Marketing at Regions Bank. “But it helps to plan ahead and figure out where you have opportunities to save.”

Here are some guidelines for creating a memorable trip—while staying within your set budget.

Reassess Your Assumptions About Where You’ll Stay

Cornelius notes that travelers might want to reconsider their lodging post-pandemic. “Many people who relied on home-sharing services and apps for years might want to look back at hotels,” she says. “Depending on where you’re headed, you might find there’s less inventory, which of course can drive up home-sharing prices.”

At the same time, hotels have become more aggressive about offering perks and amenities to attract guests, such as complimentary services and in-person advice about how to navigate where you’re staying.

“A hotel will often have a concierge service, which can be really helpful when it comes to understanding what restrictions are in place, where it’s advisable to get a reservation and any local events you may want to explore,” says Cornelius. “Even if you relied on the convenience of staying in an apartment or house, you might find real value in having actual humans on premises.”

Research—and Pay Up Front (When You Can)

Hotel prices and airfares can fluctuate from month to month. Setting up fare alerts to your destination well in advance, and keeping an eye on hotel prices, can help you determine the high and low end of reservation costs, and make an informed purchase.

Locking in airfare early also enables you to pay off one of the largest costs of travel before you go. But there are many other bookings you can make in advance, including museum tickets, public transport packages and services.

“Even if you won’t pay until you arrive at your destination, you’re uncovering what could otherwise be a hidden cost of travel,” Cornelius says. “With more costs locked in, you can create more budget for discretionary spending, or the unanticipated costs that almost always pop up when you’re away from home.”

Be Flexible About Destinations (and the Ways You Get There)

The world doesn’t lack wonderful destinations, and you can control travel expenses by considering more than one. “Most people don’t have difficulty imagining more than one trip they’d like to take,” Cornelius says. “If you have several in mind, you can ultimately choose the destination where your money will go farthest.” You can also consider flying into less expensive cities before taking another mode of transport to your ultimate destination.

Spend on Your Priorities

Every trip will have highlights, but you can control costs by focusing on your top priority and making budget concessions elsewhere. “Imagine you’ve waited your whole life to walk the Great Wall of China. How much would it be worth for you to book a private tour to show you some of the things that you might not find on your own? Or maybe you’ve always wanted to eat pizza in Italy?” Cornelius says. “It might be worth it to you to take fewer cabs, or eat out less often, to afford some luxuries during your trip. If you prioritize, it’s easier to cut costs on other amenities or experiences that aren’t as important to you.”

Start Small

If you are just beginning to consider traveling—or even if you have taken a few years off to see the world—consider planning a short trip to learn, or re-learn, about your preferences. Especially if the pandemic put your travel plans on ice for a while and you’re out of practice.

“Try starting with a weekend trip,” Cornelius suggests. “There’s less on the line, and knowing more about how you travel, what you need and don’t need away from home, will make bigger trips easier to plan.

Three Things to Do

  1. Research your ideal trip well before you set the date and save early.
  2. Be flexible about your travel times and consider more than one destination to maximize deals that become available. For a world of travel-related tips, visit the Next Step Vacation Resource Center.
  3. When you do leave the country, pack your Regions credit card, which is already set up for international travel.


This information is general education or marketing in nature and is not intended to be accounting, legal, tax, investment or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate as of the date written, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements of individuals are their own—not Regions’. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and for current tax rules. This information should not be construed as a recommendation or suggestion as to the advisability of acquiring, holding or disposing of a particular investment, nor should it be construed as a suggestion or indication that the particular investment or investment course of action described herein is appropriate for any specific investor. In providing this communication, Regions is not undertaking to provide impartial investment advice or to give advice in a fiduciary capacity.