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How to Calculate Travel Expenses

Updated on February 17, 2013

Expense Tracking

Some typical budget tools to help plan your trip.
Some typical budget tools to help plan your trip. | Source

Affordable Vacations

Taking some time away from the chaotic deadlines at work or the everyday rigors at home is supposed to be a break to allow for relaxation and to unwind. Unfortunately for most of us who have planned a trip away the process itself can be just as stressful and frustrating as the things we are trying to get away from.

We all need some time once in a while to decompress from our everyday lives. For some people it is just a couple of days at home instead of running into the office, for others they may dream of taking a trip somewhere to enjoy their off time.

The good news is there are a few tricks that you can try to actually make everything a little bit easier, especially when it comes to figuring out how much your vacation will actually cost you.

Cheap All Inclusive Deals

One of the easiest ways out there to know exactly what you are going to spend is to look for deals that bundle everything together in one tidy little package. Many of the travel websites we all see commercials for have this as an option; they even pitch it as a way to save money since you are getting everything through them.

This is not only convenient by allowing you to book everything at one place but it will probably help you down the road if there are any problems with your trip, since you used one place for your flight, hotel and car.

These deals should list all of the primary charges but not necessarily all of the secondary ones. They might mention the taxes but possibly not any parking fees at the hotel; it is a wise move to read the fine print of the deal before clicking that final button to purchase the deal.

Speaking from experience always read the fine print, terms of conditions or anything else they throw in at the end of the transaction. Sometimes they are money related but I have even seen hotels not “guaranteeing” a non-smoking room even though that is what you already selected. If you are a non-smoker it is not a memorable experience to walk into a smoking room on day one of a vacation, it can set the whole trip off on the wrong foot and you might struggle to recover.

Budget a Trip

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Rent a Car Discounts

Getting a rental car can be a small cost or a big one; ironically the costs go up when you jump up to the next sized vehicle. I’m not suggesting you get the smallest tin can they have but don’t get that monster SUV if you really don’t need it. I’m over six feet tall and I can fit into a midsized vehicle without any problems.

Many companies will document all of the charges on the rental agreement, including taxes and any additional fees. Having these charges listed ahead of time will help you know exactly what the charges will be. Don’t forget to include your gas costs as well. A simple calculation of the vehicles mileage and how much driving you will be doing will give you a good estimate.

It will be an automatic reflex reaction to reject their offer to fill up the vehicle for you. Most of the time it is not worth it but I have rented cars where the cost they charged customers to fill up was less than the local gas stations. Jumping online the day before your trip, or using some of the apps out there, will give you an idea about gas prices so if they are going to charge you less than a gas station would take them up on their generosity.

Think twice about getting their rental coverage too. Getting all of the options can add twenty dollars, or more, to the per day charges and over a few days that adds up. Instead talk to your credit card companies about what kind of coverage they offer if you use their card for the car rental. Many of them offer very respectable coverage for free or a much smaller amount then what you can get at the rental counters.

Best Price on Hotels

Typically your hotel will be the second largest expense on a trip, next to flights. I usually don’t get caught up looking at the bigger named hotels because their big names can come with big costs.

We usually do our homework leading up to a vacation to see what areas we want to be in because it is no fun feeling trapped in your room after sunset, just to save a few bucks. Scanning the various websites for deals is usually a good idea too because sometimes you can find really good rates out there.

Don’t overlook hotels that offer meals and factor that into your analysis. If one location has hot breakfast that is one cost you don’t have to incur at a restaurant. A full hot breakfast might be worth the extra few dollars they charge instead of going out, which will be a much larger expense.

Find Cheap Airfare

Airfare can be an expensive part of your travel, especially for a family but there are ways to get around it if you are willing to look and plan ahead; one of the worst things you can do is book a flight within the last two weeks because that is when airlines historically increase their fares.

If you have some flexibility in your travel schedule see what the airlines are offering because it might be way cheaper to fly on a Tuesday instead of the weekend.

For my family we got a credit card that offered a very good miles program so for our future vacations we wouldn’t have to budget for major airfare costs. We use cards for all kinds of purchases out there so if we, as consumers, can get a little reward in return why not take advantage of it?

To put this into perspective our family vacation this year will be just shy of two weeks in New York and Washington DC. Using our miles we accumulated over the last year we had all four of our flights from California to the east coast and back covered 100%. All we had to pay was the normal airport and security fees; our out of pocket costs were sixty dollars. Not too bad when the flights would have cost us twelve-hundred dollars without the miles.

Expense Management

Miscellaneous Expenses

It is very easy to get buried in all of the numbers while budgeting for a trip. I usually write down everything I have found with as much detail as I need to remember where I found the deal.

After researching everything I then have a good handle on what my costs will be.

Some costs are hard to know ahead of time so you will need to budget for them like daily meals and souvenirs. Again use the internet to help you determine what kind of costs you will have to endure for food, that way you can set an approximate number per day and per person for the trip.

Combining everything will give you a good idea of what your costs will be for the complete trip. It will help you save up before you go away to help ease the sting of paying out a large sum to cover your travel expenses all at once.

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    • profile image

      Techvedicusa 3 years ago

      Hi Adjkp25,

      One of my friend is Going for enjoy holidays. I really like this post, I will suggest my friend to read this article before traveling. I will also follows your tips suggested by you.

      Thanks

      Techvedic

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 4 years ago from Northern California

      kittyjj - Trips are fun but they can be costly if you don't know how much things can cost ahead of time. I'm glad you liked it and thanks for commenting.

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 4 years ago from San Jose, California

      You're so right that it is very easy to over spend on a trip. And calculating the travel expenses ahead of time will help keep the spending within the budget.

      Great tips! Voted up and useful!

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 4 years ago from Northern California

      Marcy - There are deals out there if you just do a little bit of homework which it sounds like you have. Sometimes they are certainly worth it.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

      I keep getting calls inviting me to go on time-share tours, for deep discounts on the daily room rate. I have actually taken a few of these, and I do feel you can get a lot for your money. Some are better than others, but my favorite was a trip to Hawaii. I'm not sure about all-inclusives for me personally, since I don't drink . . .

      Voted up!!

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      Amy - It can be easy, as long as you don't let all of the numbers overwhelm you.

    • Amy Gillie profile image

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      You make it sound so easy! Thanks for the tips!

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      teaches12345 - Some investigation can really save you money when shopping for a flight. Good luck getting that great deal and enjoy your trip.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I am looking at flight information for a trip during the holidays. Your hub is very good and will help me to decide what is best and at what price. When flying you do have to book as early as possible to avoid the price hikes.