travel budget planning

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One of the most common questions that I get asked is, “How much money will I need to travel to X destination?” Well, that’s a complicated question and you’ll need a travel budget to determine that. It all depends on the cost of your flights, where you’re traveling to, what activities you have planned and more. When I tell them this, I usually get one of two responses: 1. I hear crickets chirping from the other end of my phone. 2. That sounds complicated so I’m out. I’m excited to share this post with you because I’m here to show you that budgeting for your trip isn’t as complicated as it sounds if you follow my simple guideline below.

Hold up, Disha. Why do I need a travel budget and how do I make one? First of all, creating a travel budget allows you to see precisely how much money you need for your trip and helps you plan your trip by taking the above factors into consideration. It’ll also give you a more realistic travel plan and serve as motivation to start saving up money for your dream trip. To make your life easier, I created a FREE printable that you can use when you’re budgeting for your next trip. Yep, you read that right. It’s $Free.99. My favorite F word besides freedom is free. Anyways, you can download it here.

Got it? Let’s rock and roll!

This post contains affiliate links to the products that I use and trust. This means that I might receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase using any of my links below. See full disclosure here.

Related: How to Save Money for Travel

Before You Go

How to Get to Your Destination

First, you need to figure out where you’re going and when you’re going. It’s important to keep in mind that some destinations are more expensive than others. For example, Norway is more expensive than Mexico. The time of year that you go will also make a difference. If you go during high season in, expect to pay more.

After you’ve chosen your destination(s) and dates, you need to determine how you plan on getting there. The most popular options are via flight, rental car, train, bus, or cruise ship. If you plan on going to more than one destination on this trip, calculate the costs of getting from Point A to B also. For instance, if you’re going to London for a few days and then going to Paris after that, don’t forget to add the cost of getting from London to Paris to your budget.

If you’re flying to your destination, remember to factor in the cost of checked luggage if applicable.

Hot Tip: Always compare prices before purchasing a ticket for a flight. You’ll often find a better deal by doing this. Sites like Skyscanner, Airfarewatchdog and do fare comparisons and will find you the cheapest prices. 

Determine Your Accommodation Needs

Your accommodation needs are going to vary depending on where you go and what your budget is. If you’re going on a luxury beach vacation, you might be thinking of staying in an overwater bungalow. If you are, can I come? I’m only slightly kidding. If you’re backpacking around Asia, you’re probably going to think about hostels or hotels.

Hot Tip: If you plan on staying at a hotel, offers every tenth night free. That free night adds up if you are taking a longer vacation. They also have options for hostels too. Also, guarantees the best prices on hotels, apartments and hostels. They both have a price match guarantee. 

Purchase Your Travel Insurance

I know we’re all trying to pinch pennies and save money for our next trip. However, don’t compromise your safety and peace of mind over a few dollars. Protect yourself against unexpected illnesses, flight cancellations, theft and more. RoamRight offers great prices and excellent customer service. Go to their website and get a free quote to see how much you can expect to pay.

Make Sure Your Passport Is Valid

Before I went to Europe last year, I had to get my passport renewed because I was running out of pages. I didn’t account for this in my budget and was a little devastated because it set me back financially. Go ahead and budget for this if you need a passport or you need to get your current one renewed.

Hot Tip: If you already have a passport, make sure it has six months of validity from your departure date. Some countries will deny you entry if your passport is set to expire within six months.

Account for Visa Fees (If Applicable)

If you come from a country that has a strong passport like the United States and the United Kingdom, you’ll be able to visit a lot of countries without needing a visa. At the same time, make sure you do your research and see if the country you are going to requires a visa. An easy way to determine if you need one is by visiting the embassy website for the country you are going to. Give yourself plenty of time to apply for a visa if you need one as the process can take a few weeks. You can use this website to check if you need one.

Figure out If You Need Vaccines/Medications

The cost of vaccines and medications add up, and it’s a good idea to budget for them. I spent $100 USD for my yellow fever vaccine and another $150 USD for my malaria tablets. Click here to access the CDC website to see their recommendations for vaccines, health notices and helpful information regarding your destination.

Think of What Else You Need for Your Trip

Think of anything else you could possibly need for your trip. Do you need luggage? What about a portable charger so your phone doesn’t run out of juice? Maybe you need a daypack to carry your belongings in while you sightsee during the day.

If you’re going to Switzerland in the dead of winter, do you have enough warm clothes to take? If you’re going to the beach, do you have swimsuits to take?

Hot Tip: Try not to spend too much money on these items. It can be tempting to buy a whole new wardrobe for your trip, but that’s money you can be spending on other parts of your trip.

On Your Trip

Think about How You Will Be Getting around Your Destination

Each traveler is different and will have different ways they prefer to get around their destination. For example, I’m a walker. Fun fact: When Amos and I went to Vegas for the first time, I made him walk 18 miles the first day we got there. This was almost five years ago and he’s still salty about it. Some of you might like to walk like me. Some of you may like to get around with taxis and Uber or you might like to use public transport. Write down the estimated cost for you to travel freely around your destination. Also, don’t forget to budget how much it will cost to get to your accommodation from the airport. Sometimes the airports are far away from the actual town and might cost a bit to get to town. If you are renting a car, don’t forget to budget for rental insurance, gas, parking and tolls.

Hot Tip: If you plan to use taxis, do some research beforehand about the best companies to use to avoid getting ripped off. I highly recommend Uber. However, if your destination does not have Uber, do research and see if they have another app similar to Uber. For example, Uber doesn’t exist in Koh Samui. However, they have a similar app called “NaviGo Thailand.”  

Budget for Food

Mmmm my favorite topic: food! If you’re trying to make this a super budget-friendly trip, make sure your accommodation has a fridge so you can store some groceries in there. You can still enjoy eating out a few times, but this will allow you to save money on a meal here or there. It’s smart to have an idea of what a meal costs in your destination. I like to use TripAdvisor for this because they usually have a price range for the cost of a meal. You also want to factor in the cost of snacks, coffee and drinks.

Hot Tip: Look for accommodation options that offer free breakfast so you can save money on a meal. Also, ask locals for their advice on restaurants in the area. Not only will they lead you to delicious local food, but you’ll also save money by not eating at a tourist-trap restaurant. 

Plan out What You Will Be Doing in Your Destination

If you’re going to New York City and plan on seeing a show on Broadway, see how much the tickets cost and account for that. If you’re going to Barbados and you want to swim with the sea turtles, do some research on this and write down the prices you are finding. Make a list of any kind of activity you are interested in and write down the prices so you have a general idea of what you’ll be spending.

Hot Tip: If you book in advance, you’ll sometimes save money. If you’re purchasing a tour directly through a company online like Big Bus Tours, Google coupon codes for the tour. I’ve always saved a few bucks doing this. In addition, Viator has tons of tours, day trips, things to do and sightseeing tours. It’s a great tool to use to make sure the tour companies you’re inquiring with are offering you a good price and aren’t taking advantage of you. 

Think about Souvenirs

I don’t really buy souvenirs for myself, but sometimes I like to bring them back to my friends. Make a list of people and what you want to bring back for them. It’s tempting to buy a lot of souvenirs. Keeping a list will stop you from buying more than you need and keep you on track financially.

Hot Tip: Buy all of your souvenirs from one shop. If you buy in bulk, the owner will sometimes cut you a discount if you ask for it. When we were in Peru, we bought tons of souvenirs from one lady and she gave us a nice discount.

Budget for Tips and Gratuities

This is something that we always take into consideration. There are so many amazing people we have met during our travels who have gone above and beyond to take good care of us. As a token of our gratitude and appreciation, we like to give them a tip. If you are going on a cruise, you HAVE to take this into account and budget for it. Often times, gratuity is not included in the cruise fare.

Hot Tip: It’s hard to determine how much you will need for tips and gratuity before you leave on your trip, but we take a few extra hundred dollars with us just in case. This amount is completely up to you though. 

Think about Foreign Exchange Fees and Currency Exchange

If you plan on using your credit card abroad, calculate what your company charges for an exchange rate. If you plan on exchanging currency when you get there, don’t be afraid to shop around to see where you get the best rate. These fees can add up and it’s important to account for them.

Hot Tip: Consider getting a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee if you’re able to. It’s also useful to have an ATM card that doesn’t charge a withdrawal fee. I have a debit card through Charles Schwab and I don’t owe anything for withdrawal fees. Charles Schwab has saved me hundreds and hundreds of dollars in withdrawal fees. 

Budget for a Local SIM Card

We all want to be connected to social media and our family while we’re away. Buying a local SIM card is cheaper than using your service from back home and the service is faster. Make sure you turn off roaming to avoid getting a $4000 cell phone bill. Once again, it’s hard to tell how much money you should set aside for this until you’re actually there. Do a search on Google for the major cell phone carriers in that country. Their website will give you general pricing information so you have an idea of what it will cost you.

Congratulations!! You just created your travel budget and you’re a step closer to making your trip happen. I also want to give you some sweet tips before you go.

  1. Always round up your travel estimate. I would rather have money left over after my trip than not have enough. For example, if you think your accommodation will cost you $640, round it up to $700.
  2. To determine how much you need to save to make your trip happen, take the total amount of your estimated travel cost and divide it by the number of months you have until you leave. (Estimated travel cost/number of months until you leave). If this number is unrealistic at the moment, start a side hustle to save extra money or adjust your timeline.
  3. It’s important to be flexible with your travel budget. The template I gave you is only a guide. It’s not set in stone. You may spend a little more or less on your trip than you initially planned for.
  4. Save extra money for unexpected events. It’s always a good idea to have something set aside for the unexpected. This could be something medical related or it could be for when you get an invite from a new friend to go out for dinner and drinks. I recommend setting aside 20% of your daily budget for this.

Related: 5 Ways to Achieve Financial Freedom so You Can Travel More

Have you created a travel budget before? If so, is there anything else you account for that I didn’t list? Let me know in the comments below.

I hope you found this article and template helpful for planning your next trip. Don’t forget to pin it for later.

a complete guide to creating a travel budget that actually works a complete guide to creating a travel budget that actually works a complete guide to creating a travel budget that actually works

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About Author

Disha is a travel and lifestyle blogger who has visited 85+ countries with South Africa and the Maldives being her favorites. She gets butterflies sharing her travel and life experiences through words. She loves freedom, sunflowers, and long walks on the beach with her husband. She's obsessed with helping others live a life they don't have to escape from. Lastly, she makes travel more accessible and attainable for others.

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  1. These tips are very useful! But honestly I’m personally very chaotic and spontaneous traveller so I don’t plan much. For me it works out very well but for those who need a feeling that they have everything under control it’s a great list of important points to keep an eye on!

  2. This article is pretty darn spot on as far as what you need to take into account for travel savings. My husband and I are big into food (who isn’t) but we usually always spent way more than expected.

    Now we purposely budget more for food in case haha. Whatever we don’t spend at the end of the trip can either go towards extra souvenirs or just for next trip!

    One expense that caught us off guard once was in Costa Rica. As part of their customs, you had to pay a fee to LEAVE the country! Haha it’s was around $35 USD per person but still something we were not aware of until we were leaving. So now we look at that as part of our budget too.

    Thanks for sharing this! It’s very well written!

    1. Sometimes we spend way more on food than we budgeted for. We usually cut back in another area when that happens. I didn’t know you had to pay an exit fee in Costa Rica. That’s important to add to the budget. Thank you for sharing that with me and for reading this post. 🙂

  3. I really enjoyed reading this post! Someday, I really want to travel to Ireland and I’m always looking for good travel budgeting tips. This post was great! Thanks!

  4. Great tips Disha….I never used to buy travel insurance (and honestly never even thought of making a travel budget until reading this!) but you never know what unexpected life events could come up! Thanks for sharing!

  5. I love these tips! I don’t know if I would have even thought about a local SIM card but it’s on my list now. Thanks!

  6. It is so easy to lose track of spending when traveling. This is such great information for keeping yourself on budget and to enjoy the vacation!

  7. Great tips! We often get so excited about the trip we forget to budget in the small things, and those add up very quickly! This is fantastic, pinning for later!

  8. I am all for saving money and you’ve listed out some really practical tips. Love the article. It’s really easy to lose track of all the expenses when traveling. So a bit of research on the destination usually helps to be prepared and aware of what’s coming your way! Thanks for sharing this!

  9. Great post!

    I do something similar, but without quite as much detail, then just go with the flow. I have to admit, we are not very good at saving money on holidays. We normally figure that it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, so we should focus on having a blast and doing whatever we feel like. I should take a leaf out of your blog and plan more for our next adventure!

    Having said that, I love hiking, so at least my favourite activity is cheap 😉

    1. Sometimes I struggle with sticking to my budget too if I know I won’t be able to visit again for a while. Thanks for reading!

  10. Great tips! Creating a budget is crucial. I love that you reminded us to budget for tips and gratuities. It’s so important to give them, and they can really add up if you aren’t prepared.

  11. Budgeting for a local SIM card is a brilliant tip! It’s something I always forget to do and then it’s money out of my pocket that I didn’t plan for on the ground. It’s not a lot of money, but enough for me to remind myself to put it in the budget for next time!

  12. This is some great advice! I do most of those things when figuring out a trip. I like to play what I call “flight roulette” and fly to wherever it is the cheapest! That helps with my budget a lot! I always forget about budgeting for tips and shots. Luckily my insurance covers the shots.

  13. These tips are all so handy. When I travel with my family we try to stick to a strict budget as it can get rather expensive if we don’t manage your finances. Being prepared is so important!

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