Online Vacation Budget Planning
If you are planning a vacation, the first thing you need to do is set a budget, especially if you have a large family or money is generally tight in your household.
How much should I budget for vacation?
That depends on your family size. The average vacation costs approximately $1,500 per person. For a family of 4, this means around $6,000.
1. Spreadsheets and Templates
The basics of vacation budgeting can be calculated on a spreadsheet if you’re one of us who just love spreadsheets! It is useful for adding things up if you use the formulas on the spreadsheet.
You can find an easy and handy spreadsheet already set up HERE.
Download it, open it in Excel, make your calculations and keep it up to date.
Template.net also offers several different templates to choose from in various formats.
2. Tools and Templates
Some sites will allow you to plug the numbers in online and keep a running total of what you are spending.
A site like Budget Worksheets is useful because you can estimate, enter the actual cost, and calculate the difference on a range of vacation-related items.
There is another handy tool at Practical Money Skills.
The tools vary in detail, but they both will all give you an idea of what you need to calculate to start with so you will understand the basic cost of the trip. You can then start to add on the extras, food, drink, excursions and so on.
3. Foreign Exchange Calculators and Traveler’s Checks
A good foreign exchange calculator is important if you are going out of the country. While in many cases you don’t have to worry about changing your money beforehand because there are so many various ways to do this around the world, the fees can all start to add up if you are not careful.
There might be exchange fees, bank fees there, and bank fees from your own bank. It isn’t a good idea to carry too much cash either, for safety reasons. Travelers checks will usually only involve one set of fees and can be replaced if they are lost or stolen.
There are a range of apps for tracking travel budgets. Some are better suited to vacations than business travel, and vice versa. The top three are:
Trail Wallet – Travel Budget and Expense Tracker (iOS App)
This is easy to use and helps you keep track of your daily budgeted amount. Input everything you spend and it does the rest. The downside is it has no categories – all the costs are lumped together, but its cartoons and comments about your shopping can be amusing.
Trabee Pocket – Travel Expense (Android and iOS App)
As with Trail Wallet, you set your destination and your currency, if any, to help you know exactly how much you are spending. You can classify by cash or credit card and break down the costs into categories, food, drink and so on. The paid version of this app also allows you to export your spending report into Excel or plain text, so it is very useful if you do a lot of business travel.
Concur (Android and iOS App)
This app is ideal for business travel and will let you upload expense reports and download them as well to keep your company up to date with all your expenses. It can be used for budget family travel in categories if the other two options really don’t suit you.
Tracking Your Expenses on Vacation
Tracking your expenses on vacation is essential if you don’t want to overspend and end up with a huge credit card bill to pay off once you get home. There are a number of ways to keep track. The easiest is a notebook and pencil. The more complicated will be a spreadsheet, online calculator, or app on your smartphone.
Start by estimating an overall budget. Then deduct the upfront costs you have already paid to see how much you have left.
Many people prefer to set a per-day budget once they get to their destination, but this is not always practical because there can be hidden costs, forgotten costs, and cost of living issues.
You will have already purchased the tickets such as the airfare, or committed to train, bus or driving costs. You’ve also usually had to pay for the accommodation up front, and a car rental if you opt for one.
In many cases, you can get competitively priced package deals through websites like Expedia and Travelocity, which allow you to order all these items for one low price. In some cases, they might also offer various excursions as add-ons to the package.
It is important to do your research prior to going so you know what things cost. If you’re heading to Walt Disney World in Orlando, for example, it is important to know the regular price of the tickets versus the discount being offered at the travel site. The list price, for example, might be $100 per day per person, but you can get the tickets through the package deal for much less.
Other Costs Before You Go
Other costs might include visa fees, vaccinations, new clothes better suited to the climate, sunscreen, insect repellent and so on. All of these will add up.
Choosing the Right Accommodation
The websites will offer a range of accommodation, but it is important to pick something that will suit your family and lifestyle as well as your budget. For example, some inexpensive hotels include breakfast, meaning you only have to worry about two meals a day. Some suites will have a refrigerator, so you can buy milk and cereal for the kids and microwavable meals and save money that way.
Eating out, drinks and snacks can take a big bite out of your budget if youíre not careful.
The Location of the Accommodation
You might reject getting a rental car because you think you are saving money, or are nervous about driving overseas. But, factor in the cost involved in staying at the accommodation of your choice. It may seem cheap, but if you have to take taxis everywhere in order to see the sights, it can all add up.
Admissions to the attractions can really bite into the budget. Your per-day calculations should include these as well as your food and drink.
Some apps, like Trail Wallet, will help ensure you are not over budget, but they don’t allow you to put your expenses in categories to see where all the money is going. In this case, an online calculator or printed out spreadsheet can help. Or again, just write everything down in your handy notebook. Tuck your receipts into your notebook and do your tallies at the end of the day.
Cost of Living Overseas
In many cases, you will find the cost of living to be very different from what you are used to. In the US, for example, you can get a breakfast at McDonaldís for around $3 to $4, but go to New Zealand, for instance, and it will cost $7. Cigarettes and gas are hugely expensive in the UK compared to the US.
Know before you go and keep track of everything you spend, and you should be able to have a good time without going over budget.