Real Travelers Share The Most Exciting Trips They’re Planning In 2020 & How They’re Budgeting For Them

Photographed by Beth Sacca.
A new year means new opportunities to explore the globe. Of course, taking advantage of those opportunities often requires some planning and budgeting. While plenty of real travelers are already getting a jump on that process, it's not too late for you to prepare for an exciting trip in 2020, especially if you draw inspiration from others.
Ahead, 11 women share the trips they're most excited about taking this year, along with insights into how they're going to make that trip happen. From travel websites to weekly budgeting tricks, these travelers are determined to reach their travel goals in 2020. And, with the following approaches, you can too.
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Kalah, 25

Occupation: Social media strategist
Where do you live? San Francisco, CA
Where are you planning to travel for your most exciting trip of 2020?
Cape Town, South Africa
Why did you choose this destination for your 2020 trip?
2019 was deemed the "Year of the Return" to Africa, 400 years since the first slaves arrived in modern America. Though I wasn't able to travel to Africa last year, it has always been a dream for me to see and experience Africa. It's something that I feel will be good for my soul.
What are you looking forward to most about this trip?
I'm looking forward to meeting and hearing the stories of locals and being immersed in authentic South African culture. That's something that I always look forward to doing on my international trips.
How are you planning this 2020 trip?
I love planning adventures! It's like the perfect pregame before the experience. I look for flight deals with Hopper, Skyscanner, and Google Flights. After booking the flight, I search for Airbnbs. Since I'll be there for 2 weeks, I want to book both an affordable accommodation and a luxurious one. I look for things to do in the area by DMing locals on Instagram (lol), surfing hashtags, and watching travel guides on YouTube.
Do you know how much this trip is going to cost?
The flight from SFO will be between $900 and $1200, pending final booking. My share of the housing budget is $500. And I plan to have over $1,300 in spending money.
How are you planning to pay for travel expenses associated with this trip? Are you doing anything special to budget for it?
I plan to finance my flight through Affirm that will split it into three months' payments. I also love that Airbnb allows you to split payments in half. I've been keeping up with budgeting using Smartsheet and skipping morning coffees.
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Kaitlyn, 26

Occupation: Photo editor
Where do you live? New York, NY
Where are you planning to travel for your most exciting trip of 2020
I'm planning a hiking trip to Arizona and Southern Utah.
Why did you choose this destination for your 2020 trip?
My dad has always wanted to take a trip to the southwest, and I love hiking so for the holidays this year, we decided not to get each other big gifts and to instead take a trip together!
What are you looking forward to most about this trip?
I'm excited about hiking, camping, getting out of the city, spending some time with my dad, eating good food, and all that comes with traveling to a new place.
How are you planning this 2020 trip?
Like most trips I take, I'm planning this one in Google Docs and Sheets to organize potential costs and all the things I would like to do. I've used Reddit quite a bit for hiking recommendations. Other than that, I've just been doing a lot of Googling to see what kind of options there are.
Do you know how much this trip is going to cost?
I'm guessing that my part of this trip will cost around $1,000 including flights, car rentals, and lodging. I also need to budget for the cost of boarding my dog while I'm away which can cost up to $900, so that's a huge expense.
How are you planning to pay for travel expenses associated with this trip? Are you doing anything special to budget for it?
I'm planning on taking this trip in the fall, so I have some time to budget. I plan to use my savings when needed but I also plan to put aside any money I can until then via freelancing jobs and to try to spend as little on myself as possible (packing my lunches, no spontaneous shoe purchases, etc.) until the trip. Also if I can convince a friend to watch my dog, that will cut a lot of my costs, so I'll start buttering them up now.
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Ashley, 33

Occupation: Director of legislative affairs
Where do you live?
Chicago, IL
Where are you planning to travel for your most exciting trip of 2020?
Turkey/Israel/Jordan
Why did you choose this destination for your 2020 trip?
I've traveled nearly everywhere except the Middle East.
What are you looking forward to most about this trip?
Food. Food. Food.
How are you planning this 2020 trip?
I combed every travel website like Condé Nast, Roads & Kingdoms, Eater, New York Times, Travel + Leisure and put together the best-of list. I will be using a travel company for Jordan but haven't decided which one yet. I use the app Hopper to book flights.
Do you know how much this trip is going to cost?
Around $10,000 to $12,000
How are you planning to pay for travel expenses associated with this trip? Are you doing anything special to budget for it? 
I put aside $500 from every check.
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Ariana, 24

Occupation: Airline supervisor
Where do you live? New York, NY
Where are you planning to travel for your most exciting trip of 2020?
Singapore, Bali, Phuket, and Kuala Lumpur
Why did you choose this destination for your 2020 trip?
In 2019, we did a big all-around trip, and early 2020, we will be doing a small trip to Spain and Paris so it's about time we did a BIG Asia trip!
What are you looking forward to most about this trip?
The tropical weather!!! The food! The new atmosphere!
How are you planning this 2020 trip?
When we start our planning phase of the trip, I usually make a Google Doc and a Google Sheet, and I will share it will my boyfriend. All our notes go into the Docs and all our expenses go into the Sheets. Instagram is our #1 travel planning. My boyfriend and I love pictures so Instagram is a good way to find places we would love to go and take photos!
Do you know how much this trip is going to cost?
I'm very good at estimating budgets. If we want to splurge on this trip, it might be close to $5,000 in total to do EVERYTHING. If we want to be frugal and on a budget, it will be around $3,500 for EVERYTHING.
How are you planning to pay for travel expenses associated with this trip? Are you doing anything special to budget for it?
If we plan months ahead, we usually book every paycheck we get, starting with the most important things to book from the least important. Every check part will be buying airfare. Then two weeks, it'll be hotels, transportation if needed, tour packages, entrance fees. All that.
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Lisa, 25

Occupation: Technical advisor
Where do you live? Leicester, England
Where are you planning to travel for your most exciting trip of 2020?
Asia! Thailand to Bali to Malaysia
Why did you choose this destination for your 2020 trip?
I've always wanted to visit.
What are you looking forward to most about this trip?
Snorkeling and monuments
How are you planning this 2020 trip?
I'll use Skyscanner's monthly/yearly view to see the cheapest month to fly and travel between the cities, and I'll use Airbnb for accommodation.
Do you know how much this trip is going to cost?
Around £800 to £900 per flight and accommodation, another £400 for spending.
How are you planning to pay for travel expenses associated with this trip? Are you doing anything special to budget for it?
I'm putting aside £200 per month from my pay.
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Katie, 25

Occupation: Communications and press
Where do you live?London, England
Where are you planning to travel for your most exciting trip of 2020?
South America
Why did you choose this destination for your 2020 trip?
I know a few people who have been to Brazil and really recommended it, so my partner and I planned a two-week holiday to Rio and Buenos Aires. He then decided he didn't want to go because of financial reasons, but by that point, I was so interested in Latin American culture that I decided to do a bigger trip on my own. So that will be a four-month trip to South America to Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and a bit of Chile. I'm saving Rio for mine and my partner's original trip.
What are you looking forward to most about this trip?
Having some enforced time on my own, though that's also probably the thing I'm most worried about too. The sites I'm most looking forward to are the Bolivian salt flats and Machu Picchu.
How are you planning this 2020 trip?
I could go into a LOT of detail about this because it's such a long complex trip, but to give you a summary, I booked the flights direct with British Airways, booked my bus pass through STA Travel (in-store) and also a 15-day G-Adventures tour. I got a travelers handbook for my leaving gift from work and aside from that, it's been a lot of TripAdvisor, YouTube (specifically Kara and Nate, they're the best), and Facebook (specifically the solo female travelers' network group and the South American backpacking community group).
Do you know how much this trip is going to cost?
A lot. I reckon £2,500 pre-trip then £2,000 spending money.
How are you planning to pay for travel expenses associated with this trip? Are you doing anything special to budget for it?
I’ve done a lot. Firstly, I quit my full-time job to go into a temp job, which though less stable/secure does pay better, so I get an extra few hundred a month for doing very similar work. The downside is I get no annual leave or sick pay, so of course, I quit my full-time job in October and have been battling colds/flu-y illnesses on and off since then. I also didn't get paid anything when the office was shut over Christmas, which wasn't ideal. That said, I enjoy being paid weekly as it has encouraged me to save a little and often, rather than trying to save a big chunk at the end of the month. I'm also giving up my flat, which I love, to move back home in March, the month before the trip, so I'll be able to save on rent for that month, and I'll get my flat deposit back, which should be about £1,000. So basically a lot is riding of the month before the trip in terms of saving.
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Jenifer, 26

Occupation: Writer
City you live in: Jersey City, NJ
Where are you planning to travel for your most exciting trip of 2020?
Jerusalem, Israel
Why did you choose this destination for your 2020 trip?
It's the most sacred and oldest city
What are you looking forward to most about this trip?
It has always been my mother's dream to travel there so I'm looking forward to spending time with her on this mother-daughter trip.
How are you planning this 2020 trip?
I plan on creating a Powerpoint Presentation with all our options, maps, and information gathered to plan out an itinerary. I plan to use Airbnb and reviews will be a huge factor for where we stay. Most importantly, I'll be asking friends for recommendations.
Do you know how much this trip is going to cost?
At least $5,000
How are you planning to pay for travel expenses associated with this trip? Are you doing anything special to budget for it?
I'm using the budgeting template on excel, putting money aside bi-weekly, and researching best budget options for traveling.
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Michele, 47

Occupation: Forensic analyst
Where do you live? Louisville, KY
Where are you planning to travel for your most exciting trip of 2020?
Palm Beach
Why did you choose this destination for your 2020 trip?
For the Pink Retreat, a Lilly Pulitzer gathering, where women wear their Lilly, go to events, etc.
What are you looking forward to most about this trip?
Making new friends who love Lilly as much as I do. This will also be my first trip since having brain cancer surgery. It's really important to me!
How are you planning this 2020 trip?
I'm using Hilton Honors to book the first night because I'm flying in early. For flights, I went straight to Delta for the best airfare.
Do you know how much this trip is going to cost?
Not yet.
How are you planning to pay for travel expenses associated with this trip? Are you doing anything special to budget for it?
Setting money aside each month so I can enjoy everything when June comes around.
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JD, 23

Occupation: Business development representative
Where do you live? Denver, CO
Where are you planning to travel for your most exciting trip of 2020?
Paris
Why did you choose this destination for your 2020 trip?
My group of friends decided to do a reunion trip.
What are you looking forward to most about this trip?
Exploring a new city, trying new dishes and flavors, visiting the museums, and spending time with my friends.
How are you planning this 2020 trip?
We are using the Paris Pass, it is super convenient and has most of the museums covered, including the fast line. The pass, depending on which tier you get, includes also public transportation so we can use the subway and buses at no additional cost.
Do you know how much this trip is going to cost? If yes, how much?
Flights were $600 round trip, Paris Pass is €200, and about $500 to $1000 to spend the week we're there.
How are you planning to pay for travel expenses associated with this trip? Are you doing anything special to budget for it?
I've been saving money every month to spend there, and I'm lucky enough that my parents are handling most of the expenses for me
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Tiffany, 25

Occupation: Bank customer service
Where do you live? Auckland, New Zealand
Where are you planning to travel for your most exciting trip of 2020?
Southeast Asia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and South America.
Why did you choose this destination for your 2020 trip?
I haven't visited my hometown in almost four years, and I'm excited to travel back with my partner and make the most of being so close to other European cities before we move to South America to teach. We are road tripping New Zealand for one month, traveling around SE Asia for two months, visiting Liverpool, England for one month, Europe, and then South America!
What are you looking forward to most about this trip?
Seeing how much my city has changed, meeting new family members and seeing old friends!
How are you planning this 2020 trip?
We're using Skyscanner to compare flight prices, Groupon for all our city break deals, and Bouji On A Budget.
Do you know how much this trip is going to cost? If yes, how much
$30k+
How are you planning to pay for travel expenses associated with this trip? Are you doing anything special to budget for it?
Work, work, work! No online shopping (boo)
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Karina, 26

Occupation: Editor
City you live in: Brooklyn, NY
Where are you planning to travel for your most exciting trip of 2020?
Greece (Santorini and Athens — I have no interest in Mykonos since I'm a bed-by-10 p.m. kind of lady and have literally never been to a club)
Why did you choose this destination for your 2020 trip?
My twin sister and I have been wanting to essentially recreate our favorite scenes from the 2008 cinematic classic The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 for years now and are finally hoping 2020 is the year we can make it to Santorini. We also both LOVE Greek/Mediterranean cuisine, beautiful architecture, nature, and walking, so it's been at the top of our list.
What are you looking forward to most about this trip?
The food and scenery!! I'm also hoping to stop by Athens to visit some sites since I used to be really into Greek mythology.
How are you planning this 2020 trip?
I have brand loyalty to Expedia but have also used Google Flights and Hipmunk to try and get the best deal on airfare. I also want to do plenty of research on sites like Refinery29 (and maybe Reddit) to see how I can make the most of my time there. I'm a Virgo, so I sometimes like to type out an itinerary for somewhere I've never been before to make sure I hit everything on my list and when possible, try to make reservations in advance for restaurants I want to eat at. I'm generally organized and am pretty good at planning, so I usually do most of the booking and organizing regardless of who I travel with — My sister is not like this.
Do you know how much this trip is going to cost?
We haven't booked anything yet, but I'm estimating around $2,500 total.
How are you planning to pay for travel expenses associated with this trip? Are you doing anything special to budget for it?
I believe in doing small things every day to save money and am all about building good, easy financial habits. I almost always meal prep, which I enjoy because I love to cook and try new recipes; bring my own tea or coffee so I don't have to buy it daily; and I don't really shop that often since I work in Beauty and only buy clothes when I need to. I technically have more than enough money to pay for the trip in full now, but I am actively going to be saving for this too over the next couple of months. Another goal of mine for 2020 is making progress on paying my student loans, so I'm going to try to allocate as much money as I possibly can to make both that goal and this trip happen. I usually only take one "big" vacation a year, so I'm also trying to remind myself that I deserve a treat to myself!
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