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5 Steps to Create an Easy Vacation Budget Template

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Summer is coming, and it’s time to kick back and relax. Want to take a vacation but worried about what you’re going to spend? That worry can quickly undo all the relaxing you achieved while away. Take away the anxiety of overspending by using the tips below to set up your own vacation budget template. Whether you’re looking for a budget friendly vacation, or you want to keep your spending to a minimum, or you want to know how much your trip will cost before you book it, creating a vacation budget template will help you take charge of your finances so you can truly enjoy your time away.

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How do you make a budget for a trip?

Step 1 to Create a Vacation Budget Template: Determine Your Reason for Using a Budget

As I said before you may have any number of reasons for making a vacation budget template. It may be one of the ones I mentioned above: budget-friendly, keeping an eye on cost, or pricing a trip before booking, or it may be something unique to your situation. Either way, once you’ve created a vacation budget template, it will be something you can use year after year to plan every trip.

  1. You want a budget-friendly vacation. For whatever reason, you need to save money, but you also need to relax! It makes it hard to relax when money is an issue.
  2. You want to keep an eye on your spending. Maybe you’re not on a tight budget, but you always come back from vacation feeling like you’ve overspent. Use a vacation budget template to keep your daily spending on track with your comfort level.
  3. You want to know how much your trip will cost before you book. Maybe you’re not restricted by funds, but you still want to know how much you’re going to be spending. Use your vacation budget template to track all your research before your book anything.
  4. You want to compare prices. This really ties into #3. If you make a vacation budget template, you can easily compare different travel destinations or different options within the same area. It’s the best way to be smart about your spending when it comes to travel.
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Step 2 to Create a Vacation Budget Template: Choose Your Location

Before you can determine how much anything will cost, you must choose your destination. This is the fun part. Maybe you already have a place in mind, or maybe you’re using your vacation budget template to compare prices. In that case, you get to pick more than one location. It was Ralph Waldo Emerson that said, “Life is about the journey, not the destination.” So while, you do need to pick a location, part of gearing up for your trip is the planning phase. It’s exciting because it gives you something to look forward to.

Related: Enjoy the Breathtaking View from The Summit Inn

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Step 3 to Create a Vacation Budget Template: Choose Your Dates

Once you have your location picked out, you need to choose your dates. Maybe you have school-age kids, so you only have summers available. Just realize some locations may be more expensive during this time, like the beach, a cruise or a trip to Disney. In that case, opt for a less seasonal location, such as a national park, a camping trip, or somewhere in the North: Colorado, Maine, Canada.

If you aren’t restricted by travel dates, this is where comparing prices comes in handy. Off-season travel can save you hundreds of dollars on flights and hotels and makes for less crowds, which makes for a much more relaxing trip.

How much should I budget for a vacation?

There is no one right answer to this question. A one-week trip in your home state is going to be less expensive than a week-long cruise or a trip to Maui. However, using your vacation budget template, you can figure out the amount you’re are comfortable spending. After you’ve chosen your location and potential dates, now is the time to calculate your expenses.

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Step 4 to Create a Vacation Budget Template: Calculate Your Expenses

Vacation Budget Template Expense: Transportation

When calculating your transportation expenses, you’ll want to include your flights, personal car expenses, car rental, gas, and public transportation. Flights can range between $300-$500, but you’ll also need to include baggage fees and airport parking. If air travel is out of your price range or you’re just not up to flying, you’ll either need to take your own car or rent a car. I know some people opt to rent a car, so they don’t put so many extra miles on their own vehicle. Either way, you’ll need to include the cost of gas.

If you have chosen to fly, you’ll need to consider your transportation needs once you get to your location. You may need to rent a car, which you’ll need to include the cost of gas again. Or you’ll be taking public transportation: a bus, a taxi or an Uber. If you’re staying at a hotel, check the hotel website to see if they offer a free shuttle to and from the airport, especially if you’re traveling with a large group.

Vacation Budget Template Expense: Lodging

Unless you’re planning an RV trip, you’re going to need a place to stay. You’ll either be in a hotel, a rental property, a bed and breakfast, or maybe you’re staying with family or friends. Each of these options comes with its own pros and cons. A breakfast is usually included at most hotels, so that would save you money on your first meal of the day every morning. With a rental property, you are able to cook all your meals in the convenience of your own kitchen, saving about 1/3 of the cost of food, but that means you’re cooking and cleaning on vacation.

A bed and breakfast offers breakfast, obviously, many people to mingle with, and owners that are knowledgeable about the area. If you plan on staying with family or friends, I recommend not being too much of a leech. While they probably won’t expect to be compensated for your stay, it’s a nice gesture to buy groceries or cook a meal in return of their generosity. And you can ensure you have a place to stay again, if you should need it.

You may also have an additional hotel stay. If you decided to fly, you might need to book a hotel room at the airport for an early morning flight. Or if you’re driving, you may choose to split the trip and stay overnight half way. Just don’t forget to add in the extra hotel cost.

vacation budget template: cabanas over the water

Vacation Budget Template Expense: Meals and Snacks

Yes, I discussed food when I was having you choose your lodging, and here I go again. I can’t help it, I like to eat! But with all that travel, you’re bound to work up an appetite.

Let’s start with your travel days. If you’re flying and the airline doesn’t offer meals, I recommend grabbing something at the airport before you leave or getting something to eat for on the plane. Yes, airport food is more expensive. They have a captive audience. But I’ve been on flights that have been delayed and ones where we circled the airport for hours. You do not want to take the chance that you’ll be able to eat when you get to your destination. You’re also able to pack snacks in your carry-on, which is great if you’re traveling with kids. If you’re traveling by car, you can pack a cooler with all your favorites or stop at a restaurant.

Once you’re at your destination, you need to budget for each of your meals. Breakfast is usually included in most hotels. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t stay somewhere that doesn’t include breakfast because those places usually offer more food and a better variety. Just be aware that you need to include that amount in your budget. If you’re renting a property and can make your own meals, you’ll probably spend around $10 per meal per person, while eating out can cost around $30 per meal per person.

A way to get around worrying about the cost of your meals is by staying at an all inclusive resort or even considering a cruise. Your meals will all be covered in the price of your stay. However, you’ll need to include the cost of alcohol, soda, and in-room dining, as these are usually all extras charges.

Vacation Budget Template Expense: Activities and Souvenirs

Unless you’ve booked a beach vacation and plan on doing nothing but soaking up the sun and sand, you’re going to want to get out and explore. I could sit here and list out all the activities you could plan for your trip, but that is a different topic for a different day. Instead I’m going to suggest you make a list of all the must-dos for each member of your family and research each of them. If you can’t fit them all in due to time or budget, narrow it down to the ones you all agree on or each person’s top pick.

Also consider that whatever activities you do, you may want a souvenir to remember it, so budget for that as well. I would suggest at least $25 per person per day, depending on your location.

Vacation Budget Template Expense: Pre-Trip Purchases

This is the budget item no one really thinks about, but I’ve got you covered! If you’re driving (especially long distances), you should have your car looked over. If you need an inspection or oil change, get it done before you leave. Check your tires and the spare. Make sure everything is in working order, so you don’t end up stranded. It’s also a good idea to carry a car emergency kit, some basic car tools, and a first aid kit.

The most obvious pre-trip purchase is going to be your wardrobe. Maybe you need new shorts, tops, or swimwear. Or maybe you’re going to a location with a completely different climate: a skiing trip or cruise to Alaska. If you don’t wish to include all the costs of new clothes, you absolutely need to include the cost of items that are trip specific and you may not use often.

Include the cost of your toiletries and medications. This too is a reminder to pack these items. You’re not likely to forget your toothpaste, but you might not think about packing Imodium, Dramamine or even a poncho; things that might not be easy to find while on vacation or might be more expensive, depending on your location.

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Step 5 to Create a Vacation Budget Template: Start Saving

You’ve calculated the cost of your trip. The only thing left is to start saving! If you’re trip is more than a year a way, divide the total from your vacation budget template, and divide by 50. That’s how much you need to save every week for the next year. (I’m taking out two weeks for your vacation time.) You can adjust this based on when you get paid (weekly, bi-weekly, bi-monthly). If you’re planning your trip in less than a year, you’ll need to adjust your calculations accordingly.

If once you’ve calculated your budget, and you can’t save enough money in the allotted time, consider reworking some things: the location, the dates, the lodging or the activities you have chosen. I don’t recommend trying to do it for less by skipping meals or sleeping in your car. The point of any vacation is to relax, and you can’t do that if you’re hungry and not getting a good night’s rest. Maybe you just need more time to save for that perfect trip. It will make it that much better! And if you need some help, consider visiting a travel agent. They can save you money and are knowledgeable about most areas.


Once you’ve used the 5 steps to create your vacation budget template: determining your reason for a budget, choosing a location, choosing dates, calculating your expenses, and saving, you’re ready to book your trip. Bon Voyage!

Use our vacation budget template to make budgeting for your trip even easier.

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