A Simple Travel Budget for Your Next Big Trip

Planning a major getaway? Here’s how to account for your various expenses.

Going on vacation is exciting, but it can be nerve-wracking from a financial standpoint. If you don’t account for the various costs involved, you could wind up overspending and landing in debt in the process. Here’s how to set up a travel budget for your next major trip -- and make sure you can manage the costs involved.

Man in backpack and straw hat facing away while walking into throng of locals in exotic locale.

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1. Travel to and from your destination

Whether you’re flying or hopping in the car, you’ll need to narrow down the costs involved in getting to your destination. If you’re flying, be sure to account for not just your airline tickets, but also travel to and from the airport and checked luggage. Keep in mind that if you have a good travel rewards credit card, you may be eligible for no-fee baggage. If you’re driving, you’ll need to figure out what you’ll spend on fuel and tolls -- or at least get a ballpark estimate. The exact number will depend on gas prices and how efficiently you drive. 

2. Transportation once you get there

Unless you’re staying at a resort where everything you need, from food to activities and sightseeing, will be on-site, you’ll need to pay for transportation -- so figure out what that will be. Will you be renting a car? Taking rideshares? Or walking and relying on public transportation? The first two options could really add up, so factor them into your calculations.

3. Lodging

You’ll need a place to stay while away. If you want to keep your costs on the lower side, it pays to look into renting someone’s private property through sites like HomeAway and Airbnb. Otherwise, you’ll need a hotel, so price out your options, keeping in mind that taxes will often be tacked on to whatever room rate you initially see listed.

4. Meals

The cost of food during a vacation can be substantial, especially if you don’t plan to prepare any meals yourself. Think about where you’ll be during your travels, and what sort of dining you’ll wind up paying for. There’s a big difference between sticking to diners and cafes versus reserving meals at high-end restaurants. Also, if you’ll be very active during the day, it could pay to visit a local grocery store and load up on snacks. Otherwise, you could easily pay triple if you’re forced to buy them from street vendors or machines during excursions.

5. Activities and entertainment

The way you’ll be spending your time during your travels will dictate your trip’s ultimate cost. If you’re paying to stay at a resort with beach access and a pool, and that’s all you’re planning on doing, then that’s an easy calculation. Otherwise, think about the things you want to do while away. Will you visit different theme parks? Go to museums? If so, research what tickets cost to avoid getting caught off guard.

6. Incidentals

If you’re taking a big trip, you’ll likely encounter a host of expenses that may seem minor on their own, but can add up collectively. For example, if you’re traveling internationally, you may need to renew your passport before you go. If you don’t have the right luggage to carry your belongings, you’ll need to buy some. If you’re hitting the beach for a week, you may need to stock up on sunscreen and extra warm-weather attire. And no matter where you’re going, don’t forget about things like tips for tour guides and hotel staff, and extra money for souvenirs.

The better job you do of budgeting for your next big trip, the better positioned you’ll be to save for it appropriately. That way, you’ll avoid taking on debt in the course of your travels, and the stress that comes along with it. 


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