How to Budget for a Mystery Trip

Where to go? A variety of choices for a variety of budgets!

Where to go? A variety of choices for a variety of budgets!

I don’t know about you, but when planning a trip, I don’t necessarily have a total budget in mind at the outset. I might be debating a few different destinations and end up picking one based on whether it’s the best time to visit one location or flight/hotel options are better in one case over another. So it’s understandable if, when you’re filling out our mystery trip questionnaire, you don’t know exactly how to arrive at the right budget number for your trip. So we’ve created a guide to help you calculate a suitable budget for a great trip.

What to include?

First things first: what your budget should cover. When you designate your travel budget on the MMT questionnaire, it will include:

  • A $300 research and planning deposit/fee
  • Transportation to and from your destination (typically airfare)
  • Lodging for the duration of your stay
  • Associated airfare and lodging taxes/fees

All other costs—such as meals, activities, souvenir shopping—are on your own once you get to your destination, so you can be as thrifty or lavish as you’d like!

Here’s how it works: Let’s say you decide your budget is $2,000 for two people. You will pay the $300 deposit upfront so that we can begin working on your trip. We then research and plan a trip for you using the remainder of your budget ($1,700) as the spending cap for your airfare, lodging, and associated taxes/fees.

We always aim to plan a trip that fits your specifications for the lowest cost possible. However, we have found that a weekend trip (Friday to Sunday) for two people is unlikely to cost less than $1,200. After the $300 deposit is paid, there is $900 left for two roundtrip flights and two nights at a hotel.

 

Dreaming of an all-inclusive beach vacation? For a weeklong trip for two, aim for a $3,000 budget.

Dreaming of an all-inclusive beach vacation? For a weeklong trip for two, aim for a $3,000 budget.

Don’t budget based on incredible deals.

We’ve probably all received a travel deal email or two advertising a too-good-to-be-true special for a 4-day all-inclusive beach vacation, including airfare, for something like $500. Sounds great! However, these deals often come with fine print that dampens the excitement: terrible flight itineraries, very limited date availability, and mediocre hotels.

We work hard to put together a customized mystery trip for you, and we want you to have a great experience. Therefore, it’s unlikely that deals like this are workable options, so you’ll want to budget based on typical, average prices for flights and hotels.

In terms of budgeting for your hotel, prices can change with all sorts of variables, but you should generally expect to pay at least $150 per night. We don’t typically book anything less than three-star hotels, so this price should get you a nice, clean hotel in a convenient location, but it’s not likely to have a lot of lavish amenities. If you’re looking for your hotel to be more of an experience or more luxurious, you’ll need to budget at least $300 per night or more.

A weekend visit to Honest Abe in Washington, D.C. could work for about $1,500.

A weekend visit to Honest Abe in Washington, D.C. could work for about $1,500.

Consider location.

Although your location is ultimately a surprise until you arrive at the airport, you do have some input. For instance, on the questionnaire, you will designate whether you’re open to both international and domestic destinations or just one or the other. Generally, the farther you travel, the more your flight will cost. If you definitely want to travel outside the country and you’re hoping that your mystery trip might take you somewhere in Europe or Asia, you’ll need to make sure your budget includes adequate money for that option. For point of reference, a good roundtrip flight from Chicago to Paris in mid-October (Saturday to Thursday) is tracking at about $1,000 per person (more for nonstop) right now.

The location you’re flying from will also impact your costs. Flights out of larger, international airports are going to offer better rates than ones out of smaller regional airports. For instance, using the same October dates, a roundtrip flight to Paris from Manchester-Boston regional (instead of Chicago O’Hare) is tracking at more than $2,500 per person.

Be realistic about the experience you want.

Everyone has different travel preferences, and we aim to plan a trip for you that fits yours. So, it’s important that your budget correspond with the type of trip you hope and expect to have.

Hoping for Hong Kong? You'll likely want to budget about $1,000 per person for flights.

Hoping for Hong Kong? You’ll likely want to budget about $1,000 per person for flights.

For instance, say you indicate that an urban destination is your top choice and that you don’t need or want a rental car because you’ll rely on public transportation. However, you also say that the hotel is not important to you and you don’t want to spend a lot of money on it. While it’s possible to find hotel rooms for $100 or less per night, these options are more likely to be located outside the city center, on the freeway, or near the airport. Choosing one of these hotels would mean that your home base for the trip would be in a non-ideal location, and more of your trip time would be spent in transit, rather than exploring. This situation could also trigger the need for a rental car because public transportation would not be nearby or practical.

We hope this helps you estimate a budget for your mystery trip, but if you have questions, you can always talk with one of our travel consultants. And if you’re ready to go for it, fill out our questionnaire to get the process started!

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