"I want to go to Goa"
"Can we try Koh Samui this time?"
And that's where the 'best vacation of your life' ends. As quick as that.
When travelling as a married couple, the number of things one needs to remember, plan and worry about are overwhelming. I specifically say married couple simply because irrespective of who spends the moolah, the money is being spent from the same travel account. As for couples who are in a relationship, it usually is the case that both partners spend equally (if not equally, at least there is some distribution). The number of trips my husband and I have had to let go due to financial constraints is far more than the number of trips we have actually taken. A weekend trip that would ideally cost INR 5000 to 7000/per person is instantly doubled to INR 14000. An amount that I can possibly save for longer trips.
Though, it isn't as simple as that. There have been numerous instances where we have just taken the plunge and set off on a vacation irrespective of the cost (when the hills call, you go - no questions asked). But for the last 10 months I have been planning, saving and understanding how budget travels actually work; especially for couples. These are some of the things I discovered:
1. Choose the place carefully
Though, this is the first step towards planning any vacation and perhaps the most important; it becomes all the more important when you are travelling as a couple. Both of you must be willing to visit the place (it should at least be tolerable for the less keen partner). It would be silly to spend money on a high energy, adventurous trip if your spouse is going to be sitting in the hotel room getting utterly bored. Similarly heading out for a trip complete with spa sessions, luxurious dinners and lazing would be torture for an adventure seeker. Yes, I am suggesting a compromise but one that keeps both partners happy.
If there are financial issues to think about, you really don't want to spend 20k on a trip neither of you enjoy. Instead choose a place that has a mix of both and works for both of you in some way (ex: when you are out trekking, he can spend his day at the pool or reading).
2. Mode of transport
If the destination of your choice is at a drivable distance and both of you don't mind driving; it's always a good idea to take your car. If airplanes and trains are the only option then booking in advance is a must (and yet you can't be assured of a reserved train seat :p). Also, don't forget to include your travel cost while planning your budget lest you forget all about it. As obvious as it may be, keep an eye on discounts and be really good friends with people who get credit card points or better still invest in a credit card that offers you many discounts on your airfare (never done this myself since I am paranoid about pending debts).
If you suffer from motion sickness or simply want to reach the destination of your choice as soon as possible and don't want to spend time in a car- plan well and plan thoroughly. Last minute cancellations and delays have spoiled a trip too many so keeping an alternative route AND mode a part of your plan is smart.
3. Save, save and save
To win some, you have to lose some. Eat out less, shop less and travel more! The amount of money all of us spend on luxury taxes and other unnecessary expenditure in a month equals to at least two trips; okay at least one trip! This is certainly not to say that you should not live the way you'd like to and not indulge in the small joys of shopping and sushi. But if travelling is on your mind, perhaps a little planning will help. Do make sure your partner is as passionate about travelling and is willing to give up on a few things for a week long trip in freezing Auli.
It's important to be on the same page and it's certainly essential to be honest with your partner. If you'd rather stay home than travel 15 hours only to see snow peaked mountains and sip cold tea - LET YOUR PARTNER KNOW.
4. Impeccable research
Most of us don't like researching and going through endless blogs about what to do, what not to do, 10 places you need to see, 10 placed you shouldn't see and the likes. But someone has to make the effort. Ask around, read all travel blogs that interest you and who knows it may lead you towards your perfect holiday. From train schedules to flight fares to petrol prices, from must-stay at hotels to heavenly homestays or rugged camps - know what you want to do on your holiday and how much it will cost (tentatively).
Should there be a specific place you'd like to visit on your vacation or a specific activity that interests you, find out the cost and include that in your budget. When you are at your holiday destination, you don't want to constantly worry about money and whether or not it's in your budget; so you may as well be prepared.
5. Always keep a little extra
Couple trip or no couple trip, keeping aside extra cash is a must. Holidays are unpredictable, even with all the planning (thank God)! Though some of us travel for the element of surprise, it's also smart to carry an extra bundle of cash as well as to keep your card handy. For all those places where ATMs are far and few, the extra cash can be a life saver.
Flight delays, missed flights/trains, illness, love for the place, uncontrolled shopping sprees - anything can be the reason for your expenditure crossing the line. Instead of beating yourself over it, use the extra cash, you very smartly saved.
Now each place offers many surprises and things to do, would you want to let go of something due to lack of cash. Come on, an air balloon ride may cost 20k in Turkey but you can't not do it! That's bizarre and unfair to all the months of relentless saving and budget planning. So be prepared for surprise offerings and the many "I have to do this/eat this/wear this" moments.
I really hope this helps and leads to many trips well within your budget. In this midst of planning and budgeting, don't forget to have crazy fun because at the end, that's all that counts.