How to Build a Travel Budget
This is the 7th post in a Step-by-Step Guide to Planning Perfect Family Trip. Click here to start back at Step 1.
Yay! The itinerary is complete and by now you know quite a lot about the place you’ll be visiting.
But before we can go booking anything just yet, it’s time to re-visit that old budget!
Yes, I know, I hate to be a Debbie Downer. But making sure your dream vacation still fits within your budget is a super important step. You don’t want to go on a vacation feeling stressed because you went into debt to get there. That’s why before I book anything, I like to build my budget and make sure it lines up with my savings goal.
There are a lot of costs to think about when putting your travel budget together. It’s not just flights and hotels that will cost you: for us the trouble is keeping costs in line once we’re actually on the ground! Eating out, groceries, souvenirs, Ubers…all these little things can really add up!
So let’s take a realistic look at our travel costs and fill them in as we go:
You should already have some pretty solid figures for transportation (most likely, airfare), but double check to make sure there haven’t been any drastic increases in fares. Hoping things have stayed pretty consistent, go ahead and fill in your travel costs on your budget.
PS. Wondering if you should buy a seat on the plane for your not-yet-2-year-old? Read this.
Aside from flights, do some quick research and add in any other miscellaneous transportation costs you might have (rental car, metro passes, trains between cities) and estimate for gas, an Uber to and from the airport, etc. (PS. a quick Google search is great for estimating taxi or Uber fare).
Take a look at your top choices for accommodations, whether that be a private rental or hotel. Hotel prices tend to stay pretty consistent, so you can count on those not changing much, but don’t forget to add any final taxes or fees which can really affect your bottom line.
Availability of Airbnbs is always up in the air. Someone could literally rent a place you like out from under you in seconds, and the best and cheapest options always go first. That’s why I save a few of my top choices and check back in on them frequently. The last thing I want to do is plan a trip around a rental that’s already been booked! Having flexible travel dates helps with this too, as you can simply shift your trip by a week if your original dates have now been taken.
You have your itinerary all put together, so it’ll now be easy to make a list of any activities you want to do and what they’ll cost. This isn’t for things like estimates for shopping or spending at a local market, but rather exact costs that you know you’ll have: entrance to museums, tour tickets, etc. If you haven’t already, check the official website for these attractions for the most up to date information, and fill these in on your budget.
Food & Drink
Meals can be a tricky one to estimate, but for the most part, we’ve found that the price of eating out is pretty similar across the country and really depends on the type of the restaurant you’re going for.
We love to eat, so spending money on good food is an important part of the traveling for us. For nice dinners out, I typically estimate around $75 for the two of us (plus our toddler who usually picks off our plates). For more casual lunches or evening take out, I might estimate $30-40.
These are the same numbers as what we might typically spend for a nice lunch or dinner in our home city, and in most cases they are pretty accurate across the board (unless you’re traveling to a notoriously spendy city like San Francisco or New York City – then you may want to bump them up a bit).
And of course, there are countries where it won’t cost nearly this much…Southeast Asia for example. So, if you’re looking for a good baseline and don’t know what to expect, try Googling “cost of living in [Country]”. You’ll get a good idea of the average costs for things in that country.
Lastly, we’re always buying at least a few groceries when we arrive so we have snacks and milk on hand in our rental. So give yourself a little buffer there and add in an extra $20-30.
Oh, gosh. Miscellaneous costs. This is an infinite category!
These little costs can really add up if you aren’t planning for them, but luckily they are also the easiest to cut out if you looking to save a few bucks.
Think about all those little extra costs you have when you travel, and add some estimates into your budget. Airport parking, baggage fees, shopping…don’t leave anything out.
If you’re looking for more clever ways to cut down on these expenses, read 10 Realistic Ways to Cut Your Travel Expenses!
Putting it All Together
Now comes the moment of truth. How much will this trip actually cost?
Add up your totals for each category to see where you land. How are things looking? Still where you wanted to be?
If not, don’t panic. Take a step back and look at your costs. Are there some things you can cut out to save a little? Can you downgrade to a smaller rental or cut out an expensive museum that you don’t really have that much desire to see anyway? Or can you save a little more each week to get you to your number? It’s ok if it doesn’t come out perfectly. But adjustments are key.
Next up is the last step…BOOKING!
Read Next: 15+ Ways to Save Big When Booking Travel
Check out the full step-by-step guide:
Step 3 // How to Start Saving NOW for Travel
Step 5 // How to Use Google Maps to Plan Your Trip
Step 7 // How to Build a Travel Budget
Step 8 // 15+ Ways to Save Big When Booking Travel
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