How to plan your travel budget?

Plan your travel budget

In this post, we will explain what are travel costs and why is it essential to plan a travel budget, how to estimate and reduce travel expenses, and how to make a travel budget work with a travel plan.

Why planning a travel budget is essential?

A travel budget is a draft calculation of travel costs that you will experience during your trip.

A realistic travel budget allows understanding whether you can afford your desired trip or not. It allows you to improve your travel plan and to cut or increase travel costs where required.

A travel budget can be used as a savings goal for your upcoming trip. It shows how much more money you need to save before you travel.

When traveling a travel budget allows you to control your travel costs and not to overspend. Having your spending under control makes your trip smoother and less stressful.

When planning your travel budget be realistic and do not try to fit into the amount you can afford. Only a realistic travel budget can make your trip plan work.

When to start planning a travel budget?

Your travel budget calculation should be always based on your travel plan. It means that before you start planning your travel budget you need to create a draft travel plan.

A draft travel plan should include basic information about your trip.

  • the total length of your trip
  • list of destinations you are planning to visit
  • number of days you will spend at each destination
  • preferred transportation methods between destinations
  • number of hotel nights at each destination
  • activities you want to do

Once your draft travel plan is ready, start calculating travel costs that your travel budget can include.

What are travel costs and how to calculate them?

Travel costs are all possible expenses associated with your trip. Transportation, accommodation, and food costs are the most common examples of travel costs, which most of the trips include. The total amount of your travel costs make up your travel budget.

Research is a key to calculating realistic travel costs. When planning your travel budget it is important to gather as much information as possible about travel costs at your destination.

Below we provide you with the links to the most useful websites to calculate the most typical travel costs.

To find out what other travelers spent during a similar trip visit TripAdvisor.com, Wikitravel, or search for travel forums and travel blogs about your destination.

What travel costs to consider when planning a travel budget?

Below is a list of travel costs that most of the trips typically include. Based on your draft travel plan, exclude or add more travel costs to your calculation.

1. Purchases you need to make for your trip

Trip purchases include everything you need to buy before you travel. It can be clothes, backpacks, tents, cameras, drones, books, etc. All these items can be used for your other trips as well. However, as you will be paying for these items now these costs should be considered when planning your travel budget.

2. Flights to and from your destination

This section only includes flights to and from your destination. We have a post on how to find cheap flights, but for estimation only use travel search engines.

  • Skyscanner flight search engine to compare flight prices

When calculating the total cost of these flights, also consider such expenses as luggage fees, taxi or public transport to get to and from the airport, petrol, parking, hotel, the food at the airport, etc.

3. Transportation costs during your trip

This section only includes transportation which you may need once you arrive at your destination. Based on your draft travel plan, think of all transport you may require to complete your itinerary. It can be local flights, buses, trains, subway, taxi, car rental, etc.

  • Skyscanner flight search engine to compare flight prices
  • The Man in Seat 61 helps to estimate ground transportation costs
  • Rentalcars compares car rental prices around the world
  • browse your destination’s government transportation websites for public transport prices.

4. Accommodation costs

When planning your travel budget, calculate hotel nights carefully. Check if your draft travel plan includes nights which you are planning to spend on night flights, buses, or trains. Make sure you exclude these nights from the total number of hotel nights. If your total accommodation cost is too high, review your draft travel plan and consider staying at cheaper destinations.

  • Booking.com compares accommodation prices
  • Airbnb compares accommodation offered by locals

For more information, read our post about how to plan and find cheap accommodation.

5. Food costs

Food is one of the most complicated travel costs to estimate when planning your travel budget. It is hard to predict where and what you will want to eat or drink.

To estimate food costs you need to multiply the number of your trip days by your average daily food cost.

To determine your average daily food cost, first of all, think where you are planning to eat more often. You can either eat in the restaurants, buy ready meals at grocery stores or local markets or buy food at supermarkets to cook yourself. Then browse for restaurants and supermarkets prices in your destination. Consider adding some money for alcoholic drinks if you are planning to consume any.

Your daily food cost should include all daily meals, snacks, and drinks. A budget traveler typically spends around €20-30 per day.

  • Trip Advisor provides traveler reviews on all possible travel services worldwide including food costs
  • browse travel blogs and forums for food prices at your destination

6. Activities costs

Based on your draft travel plan check ticket prices and admission fees for your planned activities. Such activities as theme park tickets, festival tickets, guided tours may need to be pre-booked in advance.

  • Viator search engine for excursions and activities
  • Wikitravel is a web-based global travel guide
  • Trip Advisor provides traveler reviews on all possible travel activities worldwide

If you are planning to book some guided tours, keep in mind, that they may include transportation, food, and accommodation. Consider it when planning your travel budget and review your food and accommodation costs.

7. Passport and visa costs

Visa and entry requirements for your destination are extremely important to check when planning your trip budget.

Most of the countries require a passport that is valid for at least the next 6 months and has at least one blank page for visa stamps (sometimes two) upon arrival. Make sure you check your passport before you travel and if necessary make a new one.

Visa requirements vary by country and depend on your nationality. Some countries may require to obtain a visa in advance from their diplomatic office, some can provide a visa on arrival and some can be visa-free.

Do online research to check whether a visa is required for your destination and how much it costs.

  • Online Visa provides visa requirements for most of the countries in the world
  • contact a diplomatic office of your destination country for the latest visa requirements

8. Vaccinations costs

Vaccination is an essential part of your trip planning. Most of the countries have a list of recommended and some a list of mandatory vaccines a traveler must have to enter the country.

Start planning your vaccination at least 2 months in advance. Some of the vaccines have two shots and most of the vaccines start only working after 4 to 6 weeks after you get them.

Typically the price per jab is from €30.00 – €150.00 each, however, depending on your country some travel jabs may be offered for free.

  • contact your general practitioner doctor for information
  • browse vaccination recommendations and requirements in your destination

9. Travel insurance costs

Many travelers skip travel insurance costs when planning their travel budgets. However, travel insurance may help you reduce your travel costs in case of an emergency. Travel insurance does not make a big part of your budget and allows you to feel safe when traveling.

  • Worldnomads travel insurance for Europeans
  • contact your credit card company to find out what cover they offer

10. Mobile network and Internet costs

Consider how you will be using your mobile phone abroad when planning your travel budget.

There are several options to access the Internet and to make calls when traveling.

The most expensive but the most convenient option is to use your SIM card with a roaming plan. Roaming allows you to make calls, send text messages and use the Internet when you are outside your mobile provider’s coverage area. Roaming is typically not a cheap service. To avoid big bills contact your mobile network provider to check your roaming prices before you travel.

A cheaper option is to purchase a SIM card from a local mobile provider and to place it inside your phone. With a new SIM card, you will get a local mobile number and will be able to use it at the same rates as locals. When buying a SIM card check how many minutes of phone calls and GB of mobile data you are getting with it.

The cheapest possible option is to remove a SIM card from your phone and to use only WIFI. If you only turn roaming off, your phone will be still receiving calls and texts, for which roaming charges can be applied. Removing a SIM card completely saves you from roaming charges.

  • contact your mobile provider for roaming charges
  • browse local mobile providers at your destination to check SIM cards prices

11. Shopping and souvenirs costs

When planning your travel budget, think of the amount you are going to spend on shopping and souvenirs.

Try to stick to this amount when traveling. Shopping is a quick way to increase travel costs. Try not to buy on impulse and always compare prices before you pay.

Make sure your purchases fit into your checked or carry-on baggage and you do not need to pay extra for overweight at the airport.

How to make your travel budget work with your travel plan?

Once you estimated costs for all of the categories above, add them together and your planned travel budget is ready.

Now you know the total price of your desired trip and can understand whether your draft travel plan is within your reach.

If not, review your planned travel budget and think which travel costs you can reduce. Consider flying with cheaper airlines, using local transport, saving on eating out, searching for cheaper activities, or cutting on shopping. Search for lifehacks online on how to reduce travel costs in your destination.

Also, review your travel dates. Travel costs may drop significantly if you avoid traveling during peak seasons or important events at your destination.

If you cannot cut your travel costs, try to optimize your draft travel plan. First of all, review your travel itinerary. Look at the map and circle all destinations you are planning to visit. Use Google Maps and make sure your selected destinations are scheduled in the best possible way. Secondly, review your selected transportation means which you use to travel from one destination to another. Consider traveling by night buses or trains to reduce accommodation costs and to save time. Lastly, review your accommodation costs. Consider staying at cheaper destinations or further out from the city center.

You can only create a realistic travel plan once you plan a realistic travel budget.