Travel Tip: How to Plan Your Trip & Create a Travel Budget

a man and woman looking at a laptop

If you know you want to take a trip in the future but you’re not sure how to start planning or budgeting for it, you’re not alone. A friend contacted me yesterday to ask for help planning a trip and estimating a travel budget. I thought I would share my answer in case anyone else finds it useful.

1. When do you want go?
The time of year impacts everything — what you’ll want to do and see, and particularly how much it will cost to get and stay there. So spend a few minutes figuring out when you might want to go.

Are there any festivals or holidays you want to see?

When is the weather best?

2. How are you getting there and how much will it cost?
Once you’ve narrowed down possible dates, it’s time to start looking into your transportation options and costs. Unless you already have specific dates in mind you can pick sample dates to get a general idea of how much tickets cost. This is not set in stone — you might find a great deal or the prices might fluctuate before you buy — but it will give you a general idea of what to expect. It might also help you figure out if one time period is better than another.

3. What area of the city do you want to stay?
Costs of transportation, accommodation, and dining can vary wildly in some cities. Do a little research and identify the areas that are most appealing or most convenient.

4. Where will you be sleeping?
Will you be with friends or family or will you be paying for accommodations? Check out your hotel options as well as private residences like AirBnB. If the costs are quite pricey for your sample dates, look into using hotel points for free nights. Depending on when the trip is you may be able to earn enough points to help offset the cost.

5. Where and what do you plan to eat?
If you’re visiting a destination with some restaurants in mind, be sure to budget for it! Perhaps you want to grab lunch instead of dinner at a top rated restaurant. Or even if you’re keeping it simple,  in locations like Iceland even McDonalds can run $15USD+ for one person. Numbeo is a useful site for making quick food cost calculations. Be sure to account for snacks and drinks as well as breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. In Bangkok for instance, food is cheap and wine is outrageously expensive.

6. What do you want to do while you’re there?
Make a rough list of any attractions you want to visit and their admission costs. This might also prompt you to start keeping an eye on Groupon or Goldstar for discounts.

7. How much shopping do you plan to do?
If picking up souvenirs for friends and family or taking advantage of stores not available at home are part of a perfect vacation, make sure you factor in spending money.

8. Check if there are any visa fees or exit taxes.
This only applies for international travel but some countries require a visa for entry or a departure tax which can be pricey.

And if you really want to get into the travel budgeting nitty gritty…

9. Will you need to park your car or get a ride for you flight/train/bus?
Estimate how much you might need to spend on a cab, Uber, or parking fees. If you’re gone for longer than a weekend, it can really add up.

10. How are you getting to/from the airport or station to your hotel?
It can often be a long, expensive car ride from airport to downtown, make sure you’re accounting for that or investigating cheaper transportation options. Ride.Guru is a quick way to get fairly accurate estimates.

11. Are you renting a car or taking public transportation during your stay?
Use sites like Orbitz, Hotwire, or Autoslash to get a sense for how much a rental car might be.

12. Will you need to pay for parking at any point?
Parkopedia is a good resource for both estimating costs in the area and finding good deals.

13. If driving, are there any major tolls along your route?
In most locations you’ll be fine, but always good to be prepared. It can cost $10 or more each way to get into New York or across the Chesapeake Bay.

Doing your homework up front will help you get the most out your holiday and since these costs are just estimates, you can probably find ways to save money along the way. I don’t know how to easily create an online calculator (if anyone else does, please share!) but here is a spreadsheet you can copy to help with the travel planning. You’ll want to add more rows if you’re visiting multiple cities or locations.


Full Disclosure: I may receive affiliate credit from links in this post or on this site which will help fund my travels. Thank you for your support!

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