Introduction: How to Plan a Trip on a Budget

To most people, traveling can be a stressful experience. The reality of it is, though, that planning is the most important part; your goal should be to plan a trip well and enjoy a week away from distractions and - most importantly - stress. Planning a week-long trip takes time; planning a trip that’s both fun AND cheap takes skill. Lucky for you, this Instructable will explain the steps needed to carry out the planning of your next week long vacation (and hopefully save you the money, time, and stress that you would have otherwise encountered).

Step 1: Pick a Destination

  • It’s all up to you actually. Try to compensate for all constraints to make your plan possible.
  • Make a list of backup plans. Price and weather are constantly changing. If you plan to travel a long distance by air, keep an update of light delay in the winter and hurricane seasons in the country.
  • Traveling to warm destination in the winter: Miami, San Antonio, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hawaii
  • Experience snow and mountain experience in the summer: Alaska, Minnesota, Colorado.

Step 2: Find a Place to Stay

Looking for a place to stay is always a big concern when traveling. With a limited budget, you won’t always get what you are looking for. Here, we offer instruction for people who are desperate for both vacation and money, such as college students, to look for either just a decent shelter to stay overnight or a cozy home-liked accommodation. Now, count your money and follow these steps:

Choice 1: Hotels/Motels:

  • Go to
  • Enter the city you are traveling to and the dates, hit Find Hotels.
    • If you know exactly what you want: location, prices, ranking, etc, this is the very first website you want to go to because it has hundreds of filters for your preferences. I
    • In addition, TripAdvisor has the most reviews of travelers and is constantly updated. If 800 different people say Yes for a hotel, we know what you would say.
  • Go to You go here to compare money and ranking.
    • Once you enter city and dates, this website is pretty straight forward in guiding you to the list.
    • Keep in mind Orbitz usually has promotion codes which you can see on home page. Ex: it said 15% off in Figure …
    • If the prize of the same hotel listed in tripadvisor is higher in here, apply the promotion code and then compare prices.
  • Now, if none of the hotel/motel in two sites meet your need, another interesting tool to find hotel is
    • Make sure you choose Express Deals.
    • You will be prompted to enter dates and destination.
    • Scan through the search results. Click the one that you like. Priceline will give you the price and area that your hotel will be in, not the exact name of the hotel.
    • One drawback is no review here to read. However, the quality of the hotels is guaranteed to be the same.
    • Only until you process payment, will you know the exact hotel. It sounds tricky at first, but you can get the very best deals of many 4 star-ranking hotels from priceline.

Choice 2: AirBNB

  • AirBNB allows you to search for rental room/apartment worldwide. This is good for a large group traveling together.
  • This home-liked accommodations are all well-furnished. We encourage you to play with the filters to narrow down your choice.

Choice 3: Free Accommodation:

  • Stayed in a friend’s place is the best way to save your budget. Make sure you know that person well enough before asking for a favor. Safety is your priority.
  • Being honest and direct when asking your friends if they are comfortable with your staying for a few days.

Step 3: Transportation

There are more ways to get from point A to point B than you might expect. The best thing to do when planning out transportation for a trip is to take every detail into account and weigh all the options. The main factors when deciding on transportation are typically number of people traveling, how long your trip is, and where your destination is located. In addition, cost is usually be the biggest deciding factor. Follow these steps to decide which mode of transportation is best for you!

Choice A: Flying

  • Flying is the most reasonable means of transportation if time is the most important factor and if you're willing to spend a little more for a plane ticket.
  • Flying can get you to and from your destination the fastest, which gives you more time to spend at your destination.
  • Flying is the most expensive form of transportation, but is more reasonable if there are not very many people going on the trip, as each ticket costs the same amount per person. The total cost of the trip will add up fast.
  • Flying in the USA:
    • Domestic flights in the USA are less expensive than most international flights, but are still relatively expensive when compared with flights in other countries (especially in Europe where budget airfare is extremely popular).
  • A personal recommendation for budget travel is Spirit Airlines (, Figure 3a). Tickets are cheap, and serve a multitude of major cities; however, be careful to look out for overcharges! Baggage costs extra, so packing light will save you money! (See the next step on Packing!)

Choice B: By Car (Road Trip!)

  • Flying and driving provide for extremely different experiences. The two main differences are in cost and time.
    • Cost: When you drive in a car, you can usually fit up to 5 people for approximately the same overall cost, making it much more cost-efficient. A big turn-off from flying is that the cost is a increasing linear factor; whereas, driving has a decreasing linear factor. This means that if a plane ticket costs $400, the overall cost would be $2000 (still $400 a person), and if the cost of driving a car was $400, then each person would really only be paying $80.
    • Keep in mind that more time will be spent getting to the destination than if you had chosen to fly. A majority of the time on your trip will most-likely be spent on driving and sleeping.
    • Reasonable distances for driving to a trip destination are typically 16 hours or fewer. This is for a week-long trip, so you can expect to spend a total of about a day-and-a-half or less driving.
  • Consider taking a rental instead of your own car!
    • Rental
      • Advantages:
        • No maintenance (most rental cars are in great shape!)
        • High MPG on most cars (Miles per gallon)
        • Easy pick up and drop-off
        • You can choose the size of car you want, meaning you can plan to pack more or less stuff
      • Disadvantages:
        • Costly - Most companies will charge daily, which can add up quickly
        • Most companies won't rent to anyone who is not 21 OR rates will increase for renters under 21
    • Own Car
      • Advantages:
        • No rental costs
        • Anyone with a driver's license can operate the vehicle
        • Familiarity with the car
      • Disadvantages:
        • Maintenance check-ups are highly recommended (and expensive!)
        • Putting a thousand miles on your car decreases its value
        • Depending on what you have, the MPG or space may not be as good as a rental
  • Overall, driving in a car is a good idea for closer destinations, longer trips, and more adventures! Flying has its benefits, too, since most people would rather spend a majority of the time at single destination.

Choice C: Other Options

  • If any of the previously mentioned modes of transportation aren't quite what you're looking for, then no worries!
  • There are still other options for travel within the US. Multiple bus companies have routes that span various parts of the nation, and trains are still a thing! (Who knew?) This Instructable won’t go into detail on these forms of transportation; however, if you are interested, here are a few websites that can provide more information:
    • Megabus -
    • Greyhound -
    • Amtrak -

Step 4: Packing

When packing for a trip there are a couple of hacks that you can do to ensure that your trip will be more efficient. These tips will help to make sure you don't have extra costs for replacing items, being over weight limits, having to buy items on your trip, and having to make extra stops.

  • Make a checklist of every item you plan to take. It easy to forget simple items such as chargers, toothpaste, and socks.
  • Plan outfits before leaving. This will insure that you maximize your space.
  • Pack plastic bags for dirty clothes
  • Place your heaviest items in the bottom of your bag
  • Roll clothes instead of folding
  • Place breakables wrapped in socks inside of your shoes.
  • Place a cotton pad or ball on top of powder makeup to keep it from breaking (Figures 4a & 4b)
  • Use an old glasses case to store chargers and headphones (Figure 4c)
  • Place your liquids in a separate plastic baggie.

    If you decide to drive there are a couple more tips to make your trip go smoother
  • Use a shower caddy to hold food to make eating on the road less messy
  • Print out an instructable like above for how to change a tire found from (Figure 4d)
  • Keep small bills on you to pay for tolls
  • Use a shoe as a cupholder if your car doesn’t have any or if you need to take a break from double-fisting it (Figure 4e)
  • Use a duffel bag instead of a suitcase, duffel bags are easier to stuff into a car than a structured suitcase.
  • If you are planning on stopping on the way to your destination, pack an overnight bag because moving luggage is time consuming and tiring.

Step 5: Activities/Food

This is the part of the trip that is unique for each trip. However, there are a few ways that will universally save you money no matter the destination.

  • PLAN-since you are already here, I'm assuming that you take planning seriously already. It is important to do your research ahead of time to avoid paying ridiculous inflated, tourist fees for activities.
  • Use sites like Groupon or LivingSocial. These will allow you to save a TON of money on super fun activities for a group.
  • Pack snacks for your road trip or flight. Airport food is expensive and who wants to live off chips and McDonald's for a two day drive?
  • If where you're staying has a kitchen, USE IT! It will always be cheaper to dine in rather than dine out. Plus it makes a fun night to have a big family style dinner

In conclusion, traveling with a budget is both challenging and rewarding. It is certain that you will ponder for hours to make decisions on how to enjoy the most while pay the least. Hence, trip planning is a such a crucial life skill that you can integrate into many other things.

Dont give up when the plan does not run smoothly as you wish. It takes time and experience to be a good planner. Finally, money is an essential part, yet don't let it prevent you from traveling. Health and passion will help you determine an amazing trip. Enjoy planning your next trip, and feel free to leave feedbacks here.