Never have another travel budget disaster again!
But whether you rough it or seek out satin sheets; and no matter if you are taking a jaunt to the next town or heading out to parts unknown; this budget template should cover every eventuality and help you gain an accurate estimate of your total trip cost. Remember that the cost of a trip isn't just the bottom basement flight you found on the internet -it's the sum of every cup of coffee, the new backpack, those dour passport photos, and every single carton of Chibuku.
So here's to trips you can afford, locations worth saving for, and never suffering from post-travel credit card shock again!
Travel Budget Notes
- Some of these costs are annual expenses and you will not incur them on every trip.
- A lot of these expenses apply to international travel and you will not incur them on domestic trips.
- A number of terms are interchangeable. For instance, when I say 'transportation costs from home to airport' you can just as easily substitute rail station, bus station, or ferry dock.
- Remember that a budget template is not a cash flow template. While it might cost you $5000 to travel for 5 weeks, you could be paying for the majority of your trip 5 months before you leave home. Knowing how much a trip will cost you and calculating when and how those costs are distributed are two different things.
- There is a world of difference in the budgets for a 10 day roadtrip through Nova Scotia and an 18 month round the world adventure. I tried to be as comprehensive as possible to explore every possible budget category. This template is merely a starting point and you are invited to modify it to suit each and every one of your trips.
Getting Ready to Go
- International flight costs (including taxes, airport improvement fees, etc).
- Domestic/short haul flight costs.
- Flight booking costs (including convenience fees and telephone booking fees).
- Flight upgrade costs (such as pre-selecting your seat, paying for premium economy).
- Trip cancellation/travel insurance costs.
- Trip specific courses and training (like a dive certification course or language program).
- Guide books (don't forget language guides and maps).
- Subscriptions to communication and Wi-Fi providers (such as Boingo internet).
Money Saving Tips: Dedicate time and effort to research the best possible flight prices - this is a huge expense with huge potential to save. Small measures of flexibility in departure dates and airports can save significant money. Read the fine print of your credit card insurance to learn exactly what is included and excluded for health, car rental, trip cancellation, and other forms of coverage.
Passports and Paperwork
- Photos for passports, visas, memberships (include extras in black & white and color)
- Passport fee
- Visa application fee
- Transportation and/or courier costs to get paperwork to government offices.
- Airport and border pre-clearance programs (such as Nexus and Global Entry).
- Memberships (such as Hostelling International card, ISIC card, auto assistance clubs.)
Money Saving Tips: Looking to save $25-$50? Visit national chain stores, like Wal-Mart or Shoppers Drug Mart, to get your passport and visa photos. Photography studios and camera stores charge double the price for the identical service. Scan new passports and visa documents and email a copy to yourself and leave a hard copy with a trusted friend to save hassles on the road.
- Visit to a travel medicine clinic for consultation.
- Doctor and dentist visit for pre-departure checkup (including bloodwork and tests).
- Medical letter fees (in case you need your doctor to fill our pre-departure insurance forms or write a note attesting to you general health).
- Extra costs for regular medication (in case you are stocking up in advance of trip).
- Specialized medication costs (such as anti-malarial pills, just-in-case general antibiotics).
- Heath based guide book (such as Lonely Planet's Healthy Travel Africa).
- Donation based membership to International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMAT) (A tax-deductible donation get an annual membership that provides access to comprehensive medical information and medical service information around the world.)
- Health insurance costs.
- For long term travellers: health insurance often has a deductible that is more expensive than the cost of minor treatments. Consider budgeting for several small medical visits per year of travel.
- First aid kit purchase (see some additional information here).
- Specialized heath related supplies (such as sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and mosquito nets. If you are looking for a high quality, free standing net, IAMAT sells La Mosquette at cost. Basic nets are less expensive). Check out our guide to malaria prevention for the value traveler.
- Veterinarian visit and vaccination costs (in case you will need to board your pet at a facility).
Money Saving Tips: A lot of these expenses can be reduced by choosing to access certain services overseas, such as getting travel vaccines in Bangkok, You need to do thorough research to determine if the cost savings are worth the convenience and risk. If you are due for a routine vaccine like tetanus you can often get it for free through your family doctor or community clinic.
Special Household Costs
- House sitter.
- Plant watering service.
- Lawn care and snow removal.
- Pet sitter.
- Security and alarm costs.
- Short term storage (such as parking your car in a garage).
Money Saving Tips: Remember to set up a way to transfer cash to roommates for your share of common bills while you are away. If your household and pet needs are being tended to by a volunteer friend, remember to budget for a generous thank you gift.
Gear and Packing
- Something to put it all in (a backpack or suitcase).
- Something to organize the stuff in the backpack or suitcase (like packing cubes).
- A small bag for day excursions.
- A wardrobe (packing lists vary, but count on needing at least three each of underwear, socks, tops, and bottoms - with a bit of luck, you will have lots of travel suitable clothing.)
- Sports and swim gear (including swim suit, sarong, sports bra).
- Trip specific equipment, like snorkeling gear or climbing gear.
- Footwear (including flip flops or shower shoes).
- Outdoor protection (such as a raincoat, umbrella, sunhat).
- Travel linens (such as a sleep sheet, travel towel, laundry kit)
- Things to keep clean (aka toiletries -and a carry case suited for this task).
- Things to look pretty (aka makeup, accessories -and a carry case suited for this task).
- Things to keep it all safe (like a money belt and a padlock).
Money Saving Tips: Invest in quality, not quantity. If you are making several small trips, try to space out gear purchases to one item per trip. Considering buying gently-used products instead of new. Personally, I often under-estimate gear expenses - don't let them sneak up on you!
- A way to keep in touch with home or the next hotel (like a phone or phone card).
- A way to keep yourself entertained (such as devices for e-reading or movie watching).
- A way to record your memories (including camera, lenses, memory cards, tripod, cases).
- A way to do your work (if necessary).
- Headphones or ear buds.
- Spare memory sticks.
- A power pack to keep everything juiced up.
- Converters and adapters.
- A way to back everything up (like an external hard drive)
Money Saving Tips: With a little luck, you can spend very little on electronics, for both the sake of your budget and the safety of your gear. Old and dull is much less appealing than new and shiny when it comes to thieves. If you travel with valuable gear, register each item with your insurance company.
At the Airport
- Transportation to the airport - early morning taxis are pricey!
- Luggage checking fees. Here's how I avoid them.
- Meal at the airport (face it: what else are you going to do?).
- Airport Wi-Fi fees.
- Treats and snacks and drinks for the plane (or food purchased on board).
- Pre-flight entertainment (such as an e-book or audible book, a movie download, a stack of magazines.)
- In-flight entertainment (such as on-board Wi-Fi: check here for a comprehensive guide).
Money Saving Tips: Novels, magazines, candy, and snacks are much more expensive at an airport than your neighbourhood drug store. Stock up before you leave home. A quality filtration-style water-bottle will soon pay for itself over the cost of post-security bottled water. If you are saving on transportation when a friend wakes up early to drive you to the airport remember to buy them a souvenir to say thanks!
- Car rental (click here for some rental savings tips).
- Car rental "extras" (such as adding a second driver).
- Car rental insurance.
- Car rental gas costs.
- Pre-departure car tune up (for roadtrips!)
- Pre-departure car supplies (such as roadside emergency kit).
- Round trip transportation to and from airport at destination.
- Public transportation costs (buses, subways, ferries, multi-passes).
- Taxi costs.
- Parking costs (including hotel parking costs - don't forget to budget for valet tips).
- Hop on, Hop off tour costs.
- Transportation in and around your main destination (such as taking the train or bus to a second destination).
Money Saving Tips: Hop-on bus tours rarely excel at transportation OR tour guiding, let alone both. You can save money by buying a regular city bus ticket, as most cities have a bus route that covers all major attractions. Airport taxi costs are often prohibitive. Make friends on the plane and split the costs to the city center (or help each other figure out the subway system and use your savings on a pub night!)
- Daily cost of accommodation x ____ days (including taxes).
- Potential surcharges for one night stays.
- Resort fees (remember, there are additional taxes on resort fees).
- Cleaning fees (for cottage and home rentals).
- Non-refundable deposits (such as a key fee).
- Wi-Fi fees.
- Incidental fees (such as locker rental, towel or linen rental fees).
- Tips for housekeeping staff.
Money Saving Tips: Never be afraid to negotiate! On several occasions, I have saved 10% at 'fancy' inns and cottage (even those guaranteed to sell out) simply by asking for an early booking discount. Most urban hotels and hostels are more expensive on weekends, while campgrounds and national park lodges are the same price every night but offer steep 'low season' discounts.
Food and Drink Costs
- Daily cost of three meals x ____ days (including taxes and tips).
- Daily cost of snacks x ____ days.
- Daily cost of non-water, non-alcoholic beverages (for us, this is coffee, coffee, coffee).
- Daily cost of drinking water.
- Alternative to bottled water (such as UV filter or filtration water bottle).
- Cost of alcohol outside meals (such as going to a pub, buying wine for hostel friends).
- Utensils and supplies (such as sporks, travel cups, cooler bag).
- Just-in-case food resources (such as instant oatmeal, granola bars, soup).
- Delivery and surcharge costs for room service.
Money Saving Tips: Buying groceries is less expensive than visiting restaurants, but not if you are changing locations and always leaving food behind. Make new friends and take turns cooking. Buy ingredients that easily lend themselves to multiple recipes and bring along Ziploc bags to transport leftovers.
- Daily budget for entertainment, activities, excursions, museums, galleries x ______ days.
- Daily budget for evening entertainment x ____ days (we always forget to budget for this! This includes things like going to the movies, late night cafe hangout).
Donations to free attractions.
Membership fees for places you might visit again.
- "City passes" for multiple attractions.
- Equipment rentals (like bike rentals and canoe rentals).
- Convenience fees and surcharges for online, in person, or phone ticket purchases.
- Tips for tour guides.
- Tips for concierge who arranges tickets, special events.
- Special splurges (such as theater tickets or a hot air balloon ride).
Money Saving Tips: I live by the motto "If it's free, I go and see. If I pay, I stay away". Explore every free option you can! But take comfort: even paid attractions have discount days. There are discount movie nights, cheap previews at the theatre, and free days at the art gallery.
- The same airport expenses as per your departure.
- Special departure taxes (I'm looking at you, Myanmar and Malawi!)
- Transportation from the airport back to your home.
- The bill for your airport parking fee.
- At least three meals of takeout (there are always some eating out meals when you return home to an empty fridge).
Money Saving Tips: Many longer term parking lots offer online coupon codes or special discounts for autoclub members. Before departing for your trip, hide $100 in cash at home for your back-home grocery purchasing. You'll be happy you set aside some money just for this!
- The cost of lost wages if you are a salaried employee who cannot take paid vacation leave.
- On the road laundry costs.
- Donations to those in need.
- Bribes. Don't look at me like that! You may encounter it at some point or another.
- Gambling and assorted vices.
- Postcards and postage.
- Thank you gifts.
- The money lost in surcharges and commissions for foreign exchange.
- Cost of credit card and bank machine surcharges.
- Cost of discount membership programs (such as coupon books or the "Entertainment Guide").
- Communication costs (such as SIM cards, phone cards, long distance charges, roaming costs).
Money Saving Tips: Embrace doing laundry on the road! I sure do. I'm happy to spend a relaxing hour or two reading my book while the laundromat hums away. And with the money I've saved compared to hotel dry cleaning, I can pay for days of treats.
Special Long Term Costs
- Long term storage costs (including storage unit cost, moving company costs and/or friend-bribe costs).
- Cost of first and last month's rent, along with damage deposit upon your return.
- 2 weeks of living expenses (only if you are certain you are coming back to a guaranteed job and will only have to wait 2 weeks for that first pay cheque).
- 3 months of living expenses (if you are not returning home to a guaranteed job).
Money Saving Tips: Not all long term travellers sell their belongings, so I did not include these "earnings" in the budget. I did, however, include storage costs for everyone, as even the purgers will likely need to pay for the costs of gas to drive those final special boxes to mom's house - and buy mom a thank you meal! If you are leaving an apartment before your trip (and can dig deep for some super human discipline), tuck away the money saved from your last months' rent and damage deposit to mitigate those costs upon your return.
Add up all the costs above.
Add 10% for emergencies.
And that's how much your trip will cost you!!
More Than Expected? Travel Can SAVE Money!
- Public transportation.
- Household expenses (such as toilet paper, cleaning products, personal supplies).
- Membership and subscription fees (such as suspending gym memberships or newspaper costs for a month).
- Car insurance costs (if you are gone for several months and no one is using your car, investigate the pros and cons of dropping your insurance to the bare minimum while away).
Notes: Sometimes the money saved from these reduced costs cannot be transferred over to a travel budget as there are always pre-departure tasks that suddenly seem more urgent when you know you are going to travel, like fixing little things broken in the house, servicing the furnace and air conditioner, or cleaning out the gutter. Upon your return, your first week of grocery, gas, and household expenses will likely be higher than usual.
Reworking the Numbers? Consider This!
- Coupon books.
- The Entertainment Guide.
- Museum or Gallery Memberships with reciprocal agreements.
- Discounts for Autoclub members.
- Credit card benefits.
- Age based discounts for children and seniors.
- Education based discounts such as ISIC card, student ID card, teacher's card, alumni card.
- Profession based discounts such as military personal, art or science instructor.
- National parks membership.
Staying on Track
Personally, since I am obsessed with lists, it makes sense for me to plan things out! I create a mini list for each day of the trip, detailing the estimated costs I will incur for accommodations, food, transportation, and entertainment, as well as a master list of more generalized items (like souvenirs and laundry). If I'm over or under, I'll note it at the bottom of the page and I'll try to even things out the next day if I'm running over budget (and if I'm running under budget - well, I'll always find a way to splurge!)
Once again, remember that a trip budget is not the same as a cash flow template. Some trips will require a significant amount of the cost to be paid long before you leave home (like purchasing that airfare & all inclusive package 5 months in advance), while others will require very little advance spending. You have to choose what makes the most sense for you, your finances, and the type of trip. Just keep in mind that every trip will have some advance-purchase expenses and no trip is truly all-inclusive and there will always be in-the-now expenses.
I hope you can take this template as a guide, customize it to your own style and needs, and make it work for you and your travels. Bon Voyage!
I'd love to hear from you - has any budget category caught you by surprise? Do you create a trip budget? And do you stick to it?! What advice would you offer a new traveller looking to stay on track?
On the tightest of budgets? Our $200 Challenge provides inspiration and practical help! Here's how 2 people travelled for 2 days with just $200 in:
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