Building a Travel Budget Like a Boss

Travel Budget

So you’ve chosen your holiday destination and know when you want to go, now it’s time to determine cost and start saving! If you’re anything like me, you’ll have an Excel spreadsheet that details every expense down to the cost of postage for all those postcards you bought. Or, maybe you’re more laid back about what you’ll spend where. Either way, don’t ignore making a travel budget! The last thing you want is to face post-vacation blues and an unexpected credit card bill. Or to constantly obsess over the cost of each thing you do on your vacation.


The way I see it, there are two strategies to building a travel budget: plot it out before your trip, or monitor as you go. Both are valid, but the former provides more peace of mind and is what I will focus on. Start simple by determining the cost of the big stuff.

Your biggest expenses will likely be transportation and accommodation. Look up flights and hotels before you get too far into the process and make sure you will be able to save enough to arrive comfortably and stay in the type of accommodation that best suits you

Next, fill in any must-do activities that have a price. For example, on a recent trip to Cartagena, I wanted to visit a restaurant that was featured by Anthony Bourdain on TV. While most meals in Cartagena would cost me no more than $15 USD, this restaurant had inflated prices and was more like $40 USD. Still a great deal for the amount of seafood I ate, but important to factor in to my budget if I was only expecting to pay $15. 

Finally, add some leeway to your travel budget. Make sure you have extra money allocated to your trip so that you can have guiltless splurges. You may find something you want to bring home that is more costly than that magnet you promised your mom. 

I’ve gathered some resources together to help you create a travel budget that works for you:

It did not disappoint! If you find yourself in Cartagena, Colombia, check out La Cevicheria!


I use spreadsheets for all my finances, including my travel budget. Below are some tools you might like to use to put yours together. I’m on the hunt for a good mobile app that works for both Android and iPhone for tracking travel expenses. I used GeniusScan back in the day for business expenses, but it’s more for taking pictures of receipts rather than tracking expenses. If you have something you love that works on both platforms, let me know in the comments!

  • Budget Your Trip – Type in a destination and see the average cost for trips of various lengths on budget, mid-range, and luxury travel styles.
  • Vacation Budget Spreadsheet – Piece together your expenses to see the big-picture of what you can expect your vacation to cost.
  • Hopper – A mobile app that shows the best time to buy a flight to your next destination.
Travel budget with spreadsheet
Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash