Once you have your passport and can legally travel overseas, the next thing to do is prepare your budget! Travel can be expensive, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be, especially if you plan ahead.

Typically the most expensive part of any trip abroad is the airfare. Flying during the less busy seasons such as in the winter is cheaper, but most students (and teachers!) are forced to travel in the summer during vacation. Unfortunately, this is also the most expensive time to travel, as it is the most popular. Round trip airfare to and from Charles de Gaulle airport (known as CDG) in Paris generally costs about $1,700 just for the plane tickets!

Your next biggest expense is your lodging, where you are staying during your trip. There are a lot of choices: special boutique hotels, chain hotels like Holiday Inn, hostels (where you share a room with other travelers in exchange for a very cheap rate), or even Airbnb or other home shares (where you stay with people who live there, even if you’ve never met them ahead of time). Personally, I prefer hotels so I can have a private room, but the more you’re willing to share with others, the cheaper it gets. I generally budget anywhere from $70-$120 per night for my hotels – bigger cities also tend to cost more, and you’ll pay more per night in Paris than you will in a small town like Aigues-Mortes.

Your third major expense is food. There’s a lot of choices here too! Fancy restaurants, simple cafés, street vendors, grocery stores, fast food and more are all options. I always suggest budgeting for a few special meals – for example, a really nice restaurant with rave reviews, or maybe a local specialty the area you’re visiting is famous for making – but most of the time, you can eat pretty cheaply. I typically budget about $50 a day for cheaper food options and then add up to $50-75 extra for a special meal (which might happen a couple times if I’m traveling for a long time or to different regions).

Your last category is all your miscellaneous spending. The subway rides, the tickets to various sites and events, souvenirs…it adds up fast! Again, bigger and more popular cities generally cost more money. I budget an extra $50 a day for these expenses in big cities and $25 a day for smaller towns. This is enough that I don’t have to worry about things and spend my entire vacation tracking every penny I spend; I also allow this to “rollover” into the next day if I have anything left!

Therefore, the total budget for my 6 week trip is:
Airfare: 1,700
Hotels: 4,000
Food: 2,200
Misc.: 1,600
Total Cost: $9,500