Will and I budget every aspect of our lives; this doesn’t prevent us from having a good time, it just keeps up accountable and aware of our expenses each month. This budgeting habit remains true when we travel also. A lot of people see vacations as times of indulgences. While, yes I may eat that extra dessert or go for another glass of wine while abroad, I’m not going to go crazy and blow my monthly paycheck at dinner. If you reign in your expenses a little while traveling, you may actually be able to afford to do it more often…and that’s always good thing!
Preparing the Budget
Always know an estimate of what things are going to cost before you begin on your travels, that way you know when you are being ripped off or you are getting a good deal. Not only should you do general research but you want to make sure you remember it all.
Before every trip I create a Google Sheet with an estimated budget custom built for each trip. I try to also use it as an itinerary so everything is in all one place.
Here are mandatory items on my vacation budget every day:
- Snacks (a MUST for Will & I)
- Miscellaneous (always plan for more than you need)
If you are more of a fly by the seat of your pants kind of traveler you may not want to add itinerary items like I do on my budget plan, but I would at least have a running list with prices just so you have an idea.
Why Google Sheets
I like to keep everything organized together for my trips. I have a “travel” folder in my Google Drive with individual folders for every trip we have taken. In those folders I have informational PDFs, webpage screenshots or blog posts that are helpful. I like to save everything as a PDF so that I can access it offline. This is also where I keep my Google Sheets budget.
The nice thing about Google Sheets (more or less identical to Microsoft Excel) is that I can still access it offline and whenever I reconnect to the internet it automatically updates with my Google Drive. This means that I don’t have to keep multiple files on my phone, computer, and iPad with all different numbers.
How to use your Vacation Budget
I set up my budget so that I have daily totals that automatically add up as I put things into the cells and I have a grand total at the end of the trip. Use your budget as you go along each day. I put in the items more-or-less the moment we purchase them so I don’t forget. I try to update Will around lunchtime or on our obligatory afternoon snack break with how we are doing money-wise. This way we can adjust ourselves for the evening’s plans. Budgeting is not always negative! If you have extra money by lunchtime, you can budget a splurge dinner or an evening show.
Budget Wiggle Room
Never make your budget so tight that you have no room for emergencies or unforeseen wants. They always happen! I try to budget in $10-20 a day for “miscellaneous” items which can run the gamut from an emergency taxi ride to a broken pair of shoes to an extra coffee or present (all things that have happened!). And hey, if you don’t use any of your miscellaneous money then you can “save money” on your vacation and come in under budget. I honestly don’t know that has ever happened to me, but it’s always the goal. 🙂
Don’t be afraid that a budget will stop you from doing what you want to do on vacation! It will only help you to maximize your funds. Unless you are a wizard, you will spend money of your next vacation; wouldn’t you rather know what it will be before the bill comes in!?