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How to make a travel budget

Updated on April 4, 2010

Traveling is very expensive. Even if you do very low budget travel, it will still cost you a lot more money than when you would have simply stayed at home. And also when you have loads of money to spend, a budget will give a general idea of expected costs. If you go on a trip, it is smart to make a travel budget in advance. This way you will have a general idea of what your trip will cost per day. This will prevent you from spending lots of money at the start, only to find out you have nothing left halfway through your trip. Or the other way around, be very tight at first, only to find you have more than enough money and missed out on all these cool activities you thought you couldn’t afford. But it can be hard to make a budget for travel, so here are some pointers on how to make a travel budget.

The travel budget plan

The main expense categories for your travel budget are accommodation, food, transport and activities. Some other categories are preparation costs and extra thing. So try to find out the costs for each of these categories, and you will have a general travel budget.

  • Accommodation

Are you staying in hotels, hostels or with friends? Each of these have different price tags attached. Do a google search for the average hotel or hostel prices per night, and multiply by the number of nights you will be on your trip. Prices can differ according to seasons, in the main tourist season prices are generally a bit higher, take this into account. Or if you have already pre-booked most of your accommodation, you will already know the amount you will need to spend.

  • Food

Try and google the average cost of food in the area where you are going. If you will cook for yourself every night, you food budget will be lower than when you plan to go out for dinner a lot. Also take into account the prices of alcohol at restaurants and bars. If you are on a holiday it is nice to go out and have a drink every now and then. These are often costs people forget to budget for, but can really mount up if beer, wine or spirits are expensive.

  • Transportation

How much are your flights? And once you are at your destination, will you travel with a hired car or by public transportation. Find out how much it costs per day to hire a car. Figure out how much buses or trains will cost you.

  • Activities

Different countries have many different things to do. Figure out if there are any tours or activities you would like to do while you are away. These could be museum entrances, safaris, kayak or bike hire, whale watching trips, guided glacier walks, bungy jumps, a spa, or anything else you want to do which will cost you money. What do all these things cost? Go to their websites to get an idea for prices.

  • Travel Preparation

For some countries you need to get vaccinations. Make sure you check if you need any types of visas, and whether they cost money. Or you may need to buy hiking boots, ski gear, summer clothes, or other supplies. A travel guide about your destination is always a great buy. Many countries have different plugs, so you might need to buy an adapter for your phone and camera chargers.

  • Extra things

Don’t forget to include things like souvenirs in your budget. You will probably buy something for yourself, and some things for the people back home, your family, friends and the neighbour who fed your dog, cat or hamster and watered your plants. Will you spend a lot of time at internet cafes? If you are away for longer periods you might need to do laundry a couple of times.

Did you find out all the costs for every category? Did you think of something I might not have listed here? Now put all costs together to get an idea of how much money you will need in total. Do you have this money? If not, you might have to consider cheaper accommodation, or taking some activities off your list.

Example: My budget for traveling the North Island of New Zealand

Hostels:             average 25NZD per night

Food:                    average 20NZD per day

Transport:             Magic Bus pass 439NZD


-       Tour around Coromandel                  80NZD

-       Rotorua Spa Day                            80NZD

-       Cultural Maori Evening                    80NZD

-       Lake Taupo Skydive                        250NZD

-       Bungyjump                                     130NZD

-       Rotorua White Water Rafting             80NZD

-       WaitomoBlack Water Cave Rafting  95NZD

-       Tongariro Crossing Shuttle Bus         45NZD

Extra things:

-       Laundry                          8NZD per week                                   

-       Internet cafes                   10NZD per week

-      Souvenirs and postcards  50NZD

I stayed for 3 weeks, so total accommodation was 525 NZD and total food was 420NZD. I cooked for myself most days, which is a little cheaper than 20NZD a day, but I went out for dinner on other days, which was a little more expensive. The food money also included drinks when I would go out. My total budget comes to 2328NZD for 3 weeks. On the days I did not do any tours, I went out for amazing walks and hikes (free). Some hostels had free bikes or kayaks the guests could use, so I did that too. Not everything you do has to cost money, but beware that a lot of things will.

Note that I did not include my preparation costs in this budget. I already organized my flights and visa a long time before I went, as this New Zealand trip was part of a large trip around the world.

While in Wellington I decided to do a Lord of the Rings tour I hadn’t budgeted for, and there were some other expenses I didn’t expect in advance. Eventually I ended up spending about 2600NZD in total. I made sure I had some extra money in my account I could spend, so these extra costs were not too much of a problem, and all the money went to things I did not want to miss out on and enjoyed.

Unexpected expenses

You will always run into unexpected expenses. Sometimes things like food or tours turn out to be more expensive than you thought. Or you might lose something that needs replacing (like cameras, shoes or whatever you brought). Or you will find a great extra activity you simply have to do. So always make sure your travel budget is not to tight and leave some room for these type of scenarios. Or make sure you have an emergency fund stashed away somewhere, that you could tap into for unexpected extra costs. Plus it will cramp your style if you stick to your budget too much, you need some room for spontaneity and fun!


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    • Special one profile image

      Special one 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Straight to point! Thanks for the information.

    • Mieka profile image

      Mieka 7 years ago

      Thanks everyone!

      I went away without a budget one too many times, and got stuck without money. Since then I've been budgetting like crazy, and I enjoy my travels so much more because of it. It is always good to know how much money you need for transport, food and accommodation, so you can spend the rest on tours and other fun things, without worrying about getting kicked out of your hostel!

    • cupid51 profile image

      cupid51 7 years ago from INDIA

      Budget is the most vital things before planning any travel! You have pointed out a lot of things which would be in use for future traveler.

      Thanks for presenting a nice and useful hub! Rated up!

    • lilian_sg profile image

      lilian_sg 7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for the example for New Zealand. Have bookmarked it in case I visit in future =)

    • brethodge profile image

      brethodge 7 years ago from USA

      I have read many articles on travel and budget but this one is bit different and organized. Travelling indeed is a very expensive affair.. if you organize it accordingly then it will become easy for you to travel.. Nice hub you have written.. thanks for sharing..