Managing Your Travel Budget

Many of you love to travel whenever you get the chance. Vacation days are spent jet setting off into an exotic location and summer breaks are great for family travel. However, traveling can also be stressful times, especially when you think about how much it is going to cost you. But, here’s the good news. With these tips, you can have a wonderful time and at the same time keep your costs down. Here are some great ways to manage your travel budget.

Plan ahead and set your budget

Planning ahead means you get the best prices because airline tickets and hotel rooms are often cheaper when you book them six to nine months ahead. It also means that your trip is organized and you don’t waste time and money running around like clueless tourists and being laughed at by the locals.

Set a budget and be realistic about it. Itemize what attractions you want to see and what activities you want to do. Check the entrance prices and if they have relevant discounts for senior citizens, students, etc.

Look for great deals

There are lots of great deals that can be found on the internet right now. From cheap airfares, to hotel rooms, if you look hard enough, there should be something for you. You don’t even need to book an entire holiday package, just choose elements that would make the trip extra special for you. Maybe buy a half price coupon for this Michelin-starred restaurant that you’ve always wanted to dine in, or a two-for-one deal for rides and attractions. Don’t forget to read the terms and conditions before you buy.

Sometimes, you can find great deals when you visit your neighborhood travel agency. They might have taken a back seat to travel websites and internet bookings over the last decade but they can offer lower prices to get your business. Travel agencies sometimes commit to a certain number of bookings on a particular tour, and when they can’t reach those numbers they will often sell it at bargain prices. And nothing beats have personalized service from a travel agent that you know, especially when it comes to dealing with problems like cancelled flights.

Buy foreign currency when exchange rates favor you

When you are going abroad for vacation, you may want to stock up on local currency of the country you will be visiting. Ask banks and other licensed foreign exchange shops in your hometown if you can purchase that currency from them. Monitor the exchange rates and buy when the US dollar is stronger. Don’t forget to double check the authenticity of the bills.

Do preliminary research if you plan to exchange your dollars once you reach your destination. Find out where is the best place to exchange money. Airports and hotels often exchange your dollars for a much lower price and may charge an additional service fee.

Check the fees table of your credit card

Call up your bank and ask about the additional fees that get tacked on your credit card bill when you use it abroad. Apart from the higher foreign currency rates, banks sometimes add as much as 5% point-of-sale surcharge every time you swipe your card abroad. If you plan to charge a significant amount, that 5% would add up to a significant dollar amount. It might be advisable to bring more cash and charge less.

Don’t forget the incidentals

When budgeting, you always think about big ticket items like tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, etc. You often forget about incidentals such as bottled water, the morning newspaper, and that cute souvenir magnet you saw at the corner store. When you total them, you’d be surprised as heck that you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on these little things. And since these are often cash transactions, you might end up short in your cash reserves. Don’t forget to add miscellaneous items when you set your budget so that you bring the right amount of money.

Tally your expenses daily

It is important to keep track of how much you’ve spent over your vacation. You have set a budget and you want to know whether you have followed it or have gone way over it. It’s a good method to be realistic and not go way over your head. You don’t want to be shocked by your credit card bill when it arrives once you get home.

There are many personal budgeting apps out there for your smartphones and tablets. Choose one that you are comfortable with. Although, you know what’s the best? A small notebook and a pen! Yes, it might be the digital age but nothing beats the might of the pen, especially when traveling.

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Dominique Brown

Dominique Brown is a financial planner, landord, personal finance blogger and video blogger. He is the owner of where he talks about everything from being a new father to his worst financial mistakes. He has been featured on The Huffington Post and H&R Block. You can find him either on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube or Instagram.


  1. Christian L. says

    Might I add one thing here? I suggest building emergencies into your travel budget. Either have an amount saved just for emergencies or consider it in your overall budget.

    I got stuck in London without my luggage when I was supposed to take a train to Paris the next day. I had to eat the cost of that ticket AND buy another train ticket to get there a few days late. Be prepared for the unexpected when you’re far from home!

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money


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