Budget Travel Checklist

Creating a travel budget isn’t all about boring spreadsheets and searching for low-budget bargains — a finely-crafted budget is designed to maximize your total travel experience. In this budget travel checklist, we will guide you through the process of creating a budget that will help you afford your dream trip and make the most of your travel experience.

Can You Afford to Travel?

Let’s start by addressing the most important question: Can you actually afford to travel? While you may have dreams of globetrotting and living your best life in distant lands, it’s essential to assess your financial situation before making any plans.

The amount you have to spend on your trip will need to be proportionate to the place you are visiting. Some destinations can be done on the cheap, while others will require a larger investment. Factors such as accommodation, activities, and distance from home can all impact the overall cost of your trip.

Before you book anything, take the time to break down the potential costs of your dream trip and compare them to the amount of money you realistically have available to fund it. Sometimes, it may be better to put your plans on hold until you have saved up enough cash to truly experience a place rather than rushing to get there and missing out on some of the best parts.

The Two Approaches to Travel Budgets

Whether you are a plan-well-in-advance traveler or more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person, there are different ways to approach setting out your budget based on what works best for you.

Plan Your Adventure Well in Advance

The most traditional way to book a vacation is to think of somewhere you want to go, plan your vacation dates, and decide how long you want to stay. This kind of advanced planning allows you to book time off work, plan trips around school semesters, and gives you the opportunity to firm up plans before you leave.

Knowing when and where you are going also has another advantage — it gives you plenty of time to save up the cash you will need to truly enjoy your time there. Booking in advance means you can research your planned itinerary and potential expenditure, and maybe even save enough extra for upgrades or luxuries to make your adventure truly special. This kind of planning is a great incentive for saving hard.

Travel Based on Your Bank Balance

If you want to take your cash and get the heck out of dodge, you can work backward to identify the most amount of fun you can have for your money. If you are feeling lucky and know how much you are willing to spend, the world really is your oyster.

The internet has made impulse traveling even easier, as you can simply hit up any number of booking sites to find an exciting destination, suitable flights, accommodation, and excursions in just a few clicks.

Another way to make your budget go further is to think outside the box. Visiting popular destinations out of season, taking shorter vacations, or looking at places away from the main tourist trail can all make your money stretch further.

Consider a trip to the legendary Yosemite National Park during April or May, for example, to experience some of the most iconic open spaces in America before the schools let out. Or, visit the beaches of Miami or the Florida Keys during September and October when tourists shy away from the increased risk of stormy weather.

You can also look at alternatives to more traditional resort destinations to get more bang for your buck. Consider a trip to Reno instead of Las Vegas, hit the slopes in Winter Park instead of the sky-high prices in Vail, or take in the history of Williamsburg and avoid the price tags of New York or Los Angeles on your next city break.

Travel Budget Template Worksheet

To help you plan and keep track of your travel budget, we have created a free, handy Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. You can download our travel budget template here:

Travel Budget Considerations

When planning your travel budget, there are several things to consider. Break down your budget into subsections to make it easier to plan and stick to:

Passport and Visas

One of the most essential elements of your travel plan will revolve around the legal and local requirements for travel to and from your destination. Research any visa requirements and restrictions before you fly, and be sure to have all the necessary documentation before you leave.

Different countries have their own entry requirements, including restrictions on how much local currency you can bring with you and how long you can stay. For example, if you are traveling to or through any of the main 26 European countries, you must know the requirements of the Schengen Agreement, which eliminates borders and assumes that travelers will be able to enjoy up to 3 months of visa-free travel. This will change in January 2021 with the introduction of the ETIAS.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is essential for any trip. It provides coverage for medical emergencies, trip cancellations, lost baggage, and other unforeseen events. While it may be tempting to skip travel insurance to save money, it is not worth the risk.

Shop around and speak to different providers to find the best travel insurance policy for your needs. Look for coverage that includes emergency medical expenses, repatriation expenses, cancellation or curtailment coverage, lost baggage coverage, travel delay/missed departure coverage, journey disruption coverage, personal liability coverage, legal expenses coverage, and electronics loss/theft and damage coverage.

Additionally, consider any additional coverage you may need, such as winter sports coverage, terrorism disruption coverage, cruise coverage, business coverage, and sports equipment coverage.

Remember that your domestic health insurance may not cover you when traveling overseas, so it’s important to invest wisely in travel insurance.


Before traveling to certain parts of the world, it’s important to ensure that you have all the necessary vaccinations to protect against common diseases. Research the recommended vaccinations for your destination and consult with healthcare providers for advice.

Vaccination costs can vary, but as a rough guide, some common travel vaccinations and their approximate costs include:

  • Cholera: $45 for a single-dose oral vaccine
  • Hepatitis A: $115 for a single-dose vaccine
  • Japanese Encephalitis: $290 per injection for a series of 2 doses given 4 weeks apart
  • Meningococcal Disease: $135 for a single-dose vaccine
  • Rabies: $3000 for a series of 3 or 4 injections over 4 weeks
  • Typhoid Fever: $60 for a single oral dose
  • Yellow Fever: Up to $350 for a single shot

Additionally, consider taking antimalarial tablets to reduce the risk of contracting malaria in certain regions. The cost of antimalarial tablets can range from $20 to $260 per pack.

Clothes, Gear, and Toiletries

When packing for your trip, consider the clothes, gear, and toiletries you will need. Be mindful of the destination and pack accordingly. Consider compiling a capsule wardrobe with versatile clothing items that can be worn in various ways to save space and weight in your luggage.

Avoid buying new items for every vacation and reuse your favorite clothing items, such as bikinis, flip flops, and party dresses. Only replace items when necessary.

For gear and toiletries, consider the necessity of each item and opt for travel-sized products or decant full-size products into smaller travel containers. Avoid taking expensive gear that increases the risk of loss or theft.


The cost of flights can vary widely depending on factors such as destination, airline, direct or connecting flights, time of day, time of year, and booking timing. To find cheaper flights, consider the following tips:

  • Use points and miles if available.
  • Book flights as early as possible to avoid price increases.
  • Be flexible with your travel dates and times.
  • Consider discount airlines for short or domestic flights.
  • Sign up for email notifications from airlines to receive discounts and flash sales.
  • Use aggregation sites to compare prices, but don’t settle for the first price you see.
  • Consider booking connecting flights instead of direct flights for potential cost savings.


The cost of accommodation can vary depending on the type of accommodation, location, and time of year. Consider the following options to save money on accommodation:

  • Hotels: Book directly through the hotel, include weeknights or Sunday nights in your stay, and be flexible with your location.
  • Airbnb: Rent a private home or vacation apartment for more affordable and unique accommodations.
  • Camping: Consider camping to save money and enjoy the great outdoors.
  • Hostels: Stay in hostels for budget-friendly accommodations, especially in expensive cities.
  • Rent a recreational vehicle (RV): If you’re traveling by road, consider renting an RV for both accommodation and transportation.
  • Car rental: Evaluate the cost of renting a car versus using public transportation, especially in remote or off-the-beaten-path destinations.

Local Transportation

Research the local transportation options available at your destination to save money on getting around. Consider the following tips:

  • Buy daily, weekly, or monthly travel passes in advance.
  • Bulk buy tickets online or via an app.
  • Take advantage of discounted fares for students, families, seniors, or children.
  • Avoid traveling during peak commuter times.
  • Look for deals on public transportation, such as flash sales or discounts for group bookings.

Attractions and Activities

Research the attractions and activities available at your destination and factor in the costs when creating your budget. Look for discounts, city passes, and money-saving ways to experience the best attractions. Consider the following tips:

  • Check local listings magazines or newspapers for free events and coupons.
  • Subscribe to online discount sites like Groupon for discounted ticket prices.
  • Take advantage of reduced entrance prices at off-peak times or group discounts.
  • Look for free entertainment options in big cities, such as street performers and shows.
  • Research costs for activities like water sports or guided tours and look for discounted prices.

Walk-Around Money

While you may have budgeted every dollar, it’s important to have some pocket money for unforeseen expenses. Keep a small amount of cash on hand for items like water, sunscreen, or entrance fees to additional attractions. Ensure that you keep your money safe by not flashing large amounts of cash and keeping your notes and loose change in a secure location.

Gifts and Souvenirs

If you plan on buying gifts or souvenirs, be mindful of your budget and choose items that have special meaning to you. Avoid buying unnecessary trinkets and focus on unique mementos that you can treasure forever. Consider the cost of gifts and souvenirs when budgeting for your trip.

Websites to Help Research Travel Costs

To help make your research easier, there are several websites that provide valuable information on travel costs and destinations. Some popular websites include:

  • A comprehensive travel website that offers tips, guides, and resources for travelers.
  • Budget Your Trip: A repository of travel costs gathered from thousands of travelers, providing a comprehensive guide to the cost of your trip. You can create a personalized travel budget on the website.
  • Nomad List: A resource for remote workers, digital nomads, and travelers, offering information on destinations, places to work, neighborhoods to stay, and the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals.
  • Expatistan: A website that provides cost-of-living information and allows for comparisons between different locations. It offers insights into the expenses you can expect at your destination.

The Best Apps for Travel Budgets and Expense Tracking

To help you keep track of your expenses while traveling, there are several apps available. These apps can help you manage your finances and stay on budget. Some popular apps include:

  • Trail Wallet: An easy-to-use expense tracker that allows you to record your expenses, set spending limits, and view reports. Available on iOS.
  • Trabee Pocket: A sleek and easy-to-use app that allows you to track your expenses, categorize them, and create expense reports. Available on iOS and Android.
  • TripCoin: A concise expense tracking app that allows you to add expenses and view reports. Available on iOS.
  • Wally: A comprehensive finance app that helps you track your money, set budgets, and manage your expenses. Available on iOS and Android.
  • Splitwise: An app for splitting expenses and keeping track of shared costs among friends or travel companions. Available on iOS and Android.

Saving for Your Vacation

Before worrying about managing your finances while traveling, it’s important to have the funds to afford your vacation. Saving for your trip requires careful planning and commitment. Consider the following tips:

  • Set a savings timeline: Determine how long it will take you to save the desired amount for your trip by setting a monthly savings goal.
  • Multiple savings accounts: Separate your travel savings from your regular bank account by setting up a separate savings account.
  • Visualization: Keep track of your progress and motivate yourself by visualizing what your savings can afford. Set milestones and reward yourself for reaching them.

In conclusion, creating a budget and managing your finances while traveling is crucial to make the most of your trip. Plan your spending, research costs, and look for ways to save money across all aspects of your journey. By being mindful of your budget and making informed decisions, you can have an amazing travel experience without breaking the bank.