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How to Set a Travel Budget

Establishing a travel budget may not be fun (for most of us), but it is important for not spending more money than you have and for getting the most of your time at your chosen destination. Budgeting is more of a science than an art, which means you just have to follow a formula.

First, chose a destination. This should be the fun part, and having a clear goal in mind will keep you motivated while creating your budget. You’ll need to decide how you’ll organize your budget and choose ALL of the types of expenses you’ll need to include. The particular items that go in each category are up to you and based on your wants/needs. Budgeting categories generally include:

Air travel: airfare (total for all travelers), checked baggage fees, airport parking (total for all days), airport transfers

Ground travel and transportation: car rental (total for all days), gas, parking, tolls, ferries, rail tickets (total for all travelers), taxis, subways, public transportation

Accommodations and meals: room rate (total for all nights), breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks

Sightseeing and activities: tours, sporting activities and equipment rentals, entrance fees (amusement parks, zoos, museums), entertainment (theatre, films, concerts), shopping and souvenirs

The dreaded and vague “other”: passports, visas, vaccinations and medications, travel insurance, child care, pet boarding, luggage

If you’re working with different currencies, we recommend creating the budget using your own currency so that you’re really clear on how much you’re spending, but also include the currency of your destination in the table so you aren’t confused on the ground. (The XE currency conversion app also helps avoid confusion, which is why we included it in our 5 Best Free Travel Apps article.)

Once you decide how you’ll organize your budget and ALL of the types of expenses you’ll need to deal with, you’ll need to decide what kind of trip you can generally afford (low-cost, mid-range, or luxury). Then do a quick search online to find out how much accommodations and restaurant meals generally cost in your price bracket for your chosen destination. Fill in all the blanks and add them up to get your total budget.

Now that you understand the general structure of travel budgeting, here are some budget-building websites and apps that will help your planning even more…

Web

Independent Traveler offers an online travel budget calculator, but it’s only for trips within the US or UK (as it doesn’t give you the ability to switch between currencies.

Budget Your Trip allows you to view average travel costs according to destination. If you register with the site, you can create a trip and track your own expenses (plus anonymously contribute to the averages shown to other travelers).

Apps

These apps are designed to help you carefully track expenses while traveling (with one exception, noted below). They all work equally well, so see which one appeals to you in terms of design and user-interface.

TrailWallet (iOS)

Travel Pocket (Android, iOS)

MoneyWise (Android)
This app gives you the ability to switch between currencies, so even though it isn’t specifically design for travel budgets, you can certainly use it for that purpose.

Sites for Keeping Costs Down

TravelZoo… They’re not called The Deal Experts for nothing! Worldwide deals based on your departure country.

Holiday Pirates is a site or UK and European travel packages.

For discount flights, check eDreams and Skyscanner.

Drungli is website showing the cheapest flights available at any given moment from your departure point. It’s a fun adventure generator for both dreamers and planners.