Travel On Budget

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Looking for a great vacation budget planner to help plan your travel budget for that bucket list trip? The New Year often gets people thinking about the dream vacation they’ve always wanted to take. This year, make it a reality instead of just a dream by figuring out exactly what that dream vacation will cost and planning your budget to make it happen.

Don’t get caught off guard by unexpected expenses that make your travels much more expensive than you planned. I’ve created a travel budget calculator to assist you in planning your next vacation, and included some tips below to help you save money while you travel.

My travel budget planner is very easy to use for anyone familiar with Excel. And for anyone new to Excel, a few simple instructions will have you on your way to planning your next vacation and knowing exactly what it will cost you.

To get your free travel budget planner, and start planning for your dream vacation, simply subscribe in the right side-bar of this page where it says Register Now! (If you are reading this on your phone or mobile device, simply scroll to the bottom of this article to subscribe and receive your free Travel Budget Planner!) Simply put in your name and email and the free Travel Budget Planner will be sent to you. I promise not to sell your address or inundate you with emails.

Read on to find out more about using your free Travel Budget Planner, and get tips to plan your vacation on a budget.

Why You Need a Travel Budget

There is nothing worse that planning a vacation, purchasing your flights, and realizing too late that the cost of the hotels, meals, and other transportation is going to break the bank for you. There are always expenses people don’t think about, such as the cost of food each day, gas for the rental car, fares for taxis, tickets to get into attractions, the added fee for luggage on your flight, and the extended or international plan you will need to use your cellphone when away from home.

A vacation budget planner will help you to keep track of all those unexpected costs so you don’t get caught off guard and spend more than you saved for your dream vacation. Detailed planning and budgeting so you know exactly what to save for your trip will reduce the chances of encountering unexpected expenses and reduce your stress while you’re on vacation. And that’s the point, right? You don’t want to be stressed out when the point of travel is to relax and enjoy your vacation that you’ve worked so hard for!

Vacation Budget Expenses to Include

Everyone knows the obvious expenses for travel to include, such as airfare and hotel/Airbnb/VRBO, but it’s the not so common expenses and the little extras that can add up and add stress to your finances if you are not prepared for them. Below are some items to keep in mind when planning your trip.

Extra Costs for Air Travel Budget

There are always great deals out there for airline tickets (see Resources at the bottom of this article for links), but beware of the hidden costs that can add up once you’ve booked your ticket. These include extra fees for seat assignments, baggage, and even carry-on bags. Be sure to read the fine print on any tickets purchased to know exactly what is included and what will cause you to incur extra fees.

Seat Assignment Fees

Some airlines will offer screaming deals for tickets, especially for international flights, but after you book your ticket they charge you more money to get a seat assignment. Don’t be surprised if an airline charges you $40 or more to have a seat assigned after you purchase your tickets. I’ve seen these fees even go as high as $90 for each seat assignment.T his can add up, especially if traveling in larger groups.

Checked Luggage Fees

Everyone is used to paying for checked luggage these days, and fees of $25 to $40 per bag are not unusual. Checked luggage fees see to be higher with discount tickets, and can range from $40 – $100 per bag.

Additional bags beyond the first checked bag can also be very expensive, regardless of whether you purchased a discount ticket or not. A second checked back can cost as much as $200 per person. I highly recommend that you try to limit your luggage to one checked back and one carry-on bag. This will save you money, and it will be much easier to travel once you are at your destination if you don’t have so many bags to haul.

Carry-on Fees

Not too many airlines are charging for carry-on luggage, but beware that a few will charge and fees can range from $18 – $45 per carry-on. Airlines that often have discount tickets but charge for carry-ons are Allegiant and Spirit Airlines. If you find a great deal on tickets, I highly recommend that you go to that airline’s website to find out the fees associated with traveling with them.

Cellphone Charges for Travel Budget

Be aware when you travel that you can quickly build up your cell phone bill with unexpected extra costs. It’s a good idea to contact your cell phone carrier before you travel to find out your best options to have cell service at the most affordable rates. Roaming fees and data service fees can cause your bill to sky-rocket if you do not plan accordingly, especially if traveling out of the country.

Many cell phone service providers offer an international plan that can be purchased for a short window of time to cover your travel plans. My provider offers an international plan for about $60 that covers usage while abroad for up to 30 days. I activate the plan before I leave, and it automatically turns off 30 days after activation. This plan allows me to text, make calls, use my maps, post to social media, search the internet, and do anything else I want while traveling. Just be careful as there are often limits to how much texting, calling, or data usage you are allowed, but I have found my plan to be ample in serving my needs while traveling.

Car Rental Fees for Vacation Budget Planning

Renting a car while traveling can often be more affordable than using public transportation at your destination. It can also be a necessary expense if your destination doesn’t even offer public transportation options. Trains are a fantastic means of travel in eastern United States or throughout much of Europe, but the Midwestern and Western states are not so accessible by rail, and many more remote regions of Europe are also difficult to get to without a personal vehicle.

A quick search of Expedia, Eurocar, or going directly to rental car sites, and you will find many great deals on car rentals at most destinations around the world, but below are the other costs you will want to consider when renting a car.

Gas Expense for Rental Car

A quick search of gas prices in your destination, whether in the United States or abroad, will give you an idea of how much it will cost to fill the tank on your rental car. Most car rental sites will also tell you the expected mpg (miles per gallon) of your rental car, and if you map your route on googlemaps, you can easily calculate the number of miles you are expecting to drive.

To estimate your gas expense, divide the number of miles you expect to drive by the mpg on your rental car to estimate the number of gallons you will use. Then multiply the number of gallons by the cost of gas per gallon in your destination to get your total expected expense. If traveling abroad, you may need to estimate based on liters instead of gallons, and possibly on kilometers instead of miles.

For example, if I know that it will cost me $3.80 per gallon at my destination, my rental car gets 25 mpg, and I plan to drive 400 miles while at my destination, I would do the following calculation to figure out my expense:

400 miles /25 mpg = 16 gallons

16 gallons x $3.80 per gallon = $60.80 total gas expense

Explanation: If I plan to drive 400 miles, and my rental car gets an estimated 25 miles per gallon driving, then I will use 16 gallons to drive 400 miles (400 / 25 = 16). If I am going to use 16 gallons of gas at $3.80 per gallon, then it will cost me $60.80 total in gas to cover the miles I plan to drive (16 x 3.80 = 60.80).

Rental Car Insurance

Rental car insurance will be offered by the rental car company at the time you pick up your rental car. It is a good idea to have extra insurance to cover any damage or liability while renting a car. You will want to purchase the extra insurance if your personal auto insurance does not cover rental cars, or if you do not have any other rental car coverage.

My American Express card has a great feature that covers me if I rent a car. I had to “opt-in” on my credit card profile to get this feature, but every time I rent a car American Express automatically charges me $15 and activates rental car insurance coverage through my credit card for me. As a result, I am covered for any damage or liability while renting a car as long as I charge it to my American Express card, and I don’t have to contact them to activate the insurance.

Before you rent a car, I highly recommend you check with your personal auto insurance provider, or check with your credit card, to see what coverage you have for rental cars. If your coverage is not adequate, then I recommend buying the insurance through your rental car company to ensure you are covered should anything happen to your rental car while you have it.

Most rental car companies will charge between $12 and $30 per day for rental car insurance, so be sure to add this to your vacation budget planner if renting a car. This cost can add up, and it is tempting to skip the insurance, but you don’t want to get caught owing thousands of dollars for damage done to a rental car if your insurance or credit card does not offer additional coverage for rental cars. You never know when something unexpected can happen while traveling, such as being rear ended, backed into, or sideswiped while parked. No matter how careful of a driver you are, accidents can happen that are no fault of yours but could still cost you money if you are not covered.

Additional Driver Fees

If anyone other than the person renting the car will be driving the rental car, there may be a fee for the additional driver. Some rental car companies do not charge for additional drivers, and some do not charge for spouses as additional drivers. For those rental car companies who do charge for additional driver, the average fee is $15 per day for each additional driver, but can be as high as $65 per day for each driver. Be sure to check the website of the rental car company to find out the policies for additional drivers and if there are any fees associated.

International Drivers License

Some countries will require you to have an International Drivers License if you plan to rent a car, motorcycle, moped, scooter, or any other type of vehicle while vacationing. International licenses are easy to obtain and the cost is usually about $20 per person. Once you have the license, it is good on over 150 countries world-wide. For more information on obtaining an international license, click here.

Emergency Costs as Part of Your Travel Budget

While vacation budget planning, I highly recommend you include emergency expenses in your travel budget. I always budget for $300 to $1000 in extra expenses that I did not anticipate or for emergencies that may arise. The amount I budget for unexpected expenses depends on the destination of the vacation and how long we will be gone. I budget extra emergency funds for international vacations and a little less for stateside trips. I also include extra funds in the emergency budget for every additional week I will be gone. For trips in the US of up to a week, I will budget $300 – $500 extra. For an international trip up to 10 days, I will budget about $500 – $700 in emergency/extra funds. For an international trip of two to three weeks, I will budget an extra $700 – $1000 to cover unexpected costs.

By budgeting emergency funds, I am not stressed out if something unexpected happens that costs extra as I know I’ve already accounted for it in my budget. If I get a flat tire on the rental car and need to pay to have it fixed, it won’t break the bank. If there is an issue with a hotel or VRBO that I’ve booked and we suddenly need to find different accommodations at a higher rate because of short notice, I’ve got my emergency fund to help cover the added expense. If I decide that I really want to take the guided tour of the city that I hadn’t budgeted for but now seems too important to pass up, I can do that because of my emergency funds planning.

You just never know when something unexpected will come up, or when something will cost more than you planned, and budgeting for these situations will keep your stress low while traveling. And if you don’t use the funds, then you can put them back in your savings account to put toward your next vacation!

How to Use the Travel Budget Worksheet

The Travel Budget Worksheet is built in Excel and utilizes the tools in available in Excel to make building your budget easy. There are several tabs to the worksheet (along the bottom of the worksheet). The first tab, labeled 1 Destination is the basic vacation budget planner and can be used alone without any of the other tabs. The second tab is labeled Multiple Destinations, and utilizes the subsequent tabs to put together a more complicated travel planning budget.

To get your free Travel Budget Planner, just subscribe where it says Register Here in the right sidebar. Simply put in your name and email and the free Travel Budget Planner will be sent to you. I promise not to sell your address or inundate you with emails.

1 Destination tab for Vacation Budget Planning

The 1 Destination worksheet for travel budget building is best used for straight-forward vacations with one destination. To use the worksheet, fill in the cells that are colored in yellow with the information requested. The cells that are colored light blue will automatically calculate for you.

For example, if you fill in the yellow cell next to Airline Ticket with the cost per ticket, and then fill in the yellow cell next to # of Travelers with how many tickets you will be purchasing, then the blue box next to Total Airfare will show you the total cost for all the airline tickets you will be purchasing. The image below shows where I have filled in the cost of the airline ticket and the number of travelers in the yellow cells on the spreadsheet, and the total cost of $900 for airfare for the trip was calculated for me in the blue cell.

The worksheet includes cells to input your anticipated expenses for airfare, accommodations, car rental or transportation, food, and other expenses. At the bottom of the worksheet, the cost of all expenses is totaled for you. This will be the amount you can expect to spend for your entire trip.

Multiple Destinations tab for Vacation Budget Planning

The second tab of the spreadsheet is for planning vacations with multiple destinations and varying rates for accommodations. The cells in the Multiple Destinations spreadsheet are automatically populated from the subsequent tabs where calculations are made to determine total costs for various expenses. Below is an image of the different tabs used to calculate the various expenses.

Tabs of Travel Budget spreadsheet.

As you fill in the information on each of the light green expense tabs, the costs calculated will automatically populate on the darker green Multiple Destinations tab, and will be included in the total cost calculated for the entire vacation.

Each of the subsequent light green tabs has cells to input costs in more detail based on multiple destinations. For example. the tab for lodging allows you to input the nightly rate for up to 10 different destinations with different rates for each. For each hotel, Airbnb, or VRBO where you will be staying, you can input the nightly rate and the number of nights you will stay to get the cost per location and the accumulated total cost for all lodging combined.

The tab for Entry Fees allows you to input the cost of tickets to go to museums, shows, attractions or adventures. These are often unanticipated costs that can add up quickly, but they add so much to your vacation. Planning for them will ensure you have the funds for that once in a lifetime whitewater rafting trip, or seeing the cabaret in Paris, or gaining entrance to the famous Tower of London, or whatever else you might want to do or see to make your vacation perfect.

Start Saving for Your Dream Vacation!

Now that you know what your dream vacation will cost, you can start saving! Count how many months until your departure date, divide the total vacation cost by the number of months, and you will know exactly how much to set aside each month to save up for your dream vacation.

And you can relax, because you’ve planned your expenses well and won’t be caught off guard by unexpected expenses. With thorough planning, you will have anticipated every possible expense and be better prepared for to truly enjoy your next vacation.

If you need a couple of ideas for places to plan your next trip. Take a look at these articles and use the tool to budget out your next adventure.

Resources for Booking Your Travel and Finding the Best Prices

  • aResTravel – Great site for discount tickets to attractions, hotel packages, and more.
  • – Travel site to search for best prices on airline tickets and more.
  • Airbnb – Great way to book accommodations and adventures at much lower costs than hotels.
  • VRBO – Another money-saving alternative to hotels.

Questions, Suggestions, Comments

If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments, please leave them in the comments below. Happy travels!

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