Travel Budget Template: How to Create Your Own Travel Worksheet

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Travel Budget Template

Daydreaming about an epic vacation is basically a requirement these days. When you’re in those planning stages, the world is your oyster – hitting the crystal clear waters of the Maldives, trekking through the rainforests of Costa Rica, and touring the vineyards of Tuscany. The possibilities are endless!

But here’s the real tea – turning that $10k dream trip into a very real, very booked reality often comes down to one key factor: how well you budget and plan ahead. We’re talking spreadsheet skills on a splurge.

An amazing $500 vacation is 100% doable with some savvy moves. Which is why we’re sharing our travel budget template to help you get serious about your next adventure. 

In the meantime, unlock the financial membership that helps you get more for less!

Why is it important to use a travel budget template?

Using a travel budget template helps you stay organized and avoid overspending during your trip. It allows you to plan ahead and make informed decisions about how to allocate your funds for food, activities, accommodations, transportation, and other expenses. 

At the end of the day though, overspending on vacation is a rookie move nobody wants. A vacation budget template can prioritize the most important experiences, identify areas where you can cut costs, and enjoy your trip without worrying about draining your bank account.

Get serious about your finances and learn more about budgeting fundamentals here.

Introducing the travel budget template

An effective travel budget requires extensive research of your destination. Your budget for Bali, for example, could be significantly less than that of Paris. Researching costs for the desired destination ahead of time can help you decide where to allocate your funds, and what to prioritize.

To get started, you can use MoneyLion’s vacation budget planner and adapt it to your travel plans. The template makes it simpler to plan for vacation and ensure you’re allowing enough. If you’re worried about overspending, you’ll need to allow extra in the budget for the unexpected that can come up when traveling. 

MoneyLion Travel Budget Template

Understanding travel expenses

When planning for travel expenses, the easiest place to start is the fixed expenses. That’s why you’ll see them at the top of many vacation budget worksheets. These usually include flights, rental cars, hotels or other accommodations, and anything else that you can book ahead of time and pay in full. 

Fixed expenses won’t change. Once you book your flight, you won’t need to pay more for that. The same is true for accommodation if you plan ahead. Variable expenses are anything that could change based on your activities, situation, or other factors. Food, public transportation, activities, and entertainment are all typical variable expenses. 

For example, if you choose to eat out more or visit the theater, your expenses could be higher. You can also get tips for Europe on a budget and use that as inspiration for other trips. A downloadable travel budget template can make keeping track of all your fixed and variable expenses easier. 

6 Tips for sticking to your travel budget

Sticking to that travel budget – easy breezy or straight nightmare? It all comes down to how much wiggle room you packed for the unexpected. 

We understand how tempting it can be to splurge once you’re chillin’ at the beach or on top of the ritziest rooftop bar with views for days. 

We’ve put together these tips on sticking to your travel budget to help you stay laser-focused. 

1. Track expenses diligently

During your trip, make a habit of tracking every expense, no matter how small. Use a budgeting app, spreadsheet, or a simple notebook to record what you spend each day. This will help you stay mindful of your spending and identify areas where you may be overspending. 

Apps like MoneyLion are the ideal go-to when it comes to a 360 view of your finances. If you use a single credit card in a digital wallet, you’ll also be able to easily track your total spending. 

2. Set daily or weekly spending limits

Set those daily or weekly splurge limits across all expense categories – eats, activities, souvenirs, you name it. 

You could also set a maximum total limit with some discretionary funds. At the end of the week or vacation, you can choose to use those funds for an extra activity, souvenirs, gifts, or other extras. 

3. Use cash for variable expenses

For a more clear, cash-based approach, you can withdraw a fixed amount of cash for variable expenses like meals, entertainment, and shopping. When the cash is gone, you’ll be less tempted to overspend on these discretionary items. This works well in the US, and even better overseas when you would have to convert currencies. 

4. Pack snacks and meals

Dining out for every meal can quickly eat up (pun intended) a significant portion of your travel budget. Pack snacks and non-perishable foods, and consider accommodations with kitchen facilities so you can prepare some of your own meals. Other ideas to save on food include:

  • Consider doing picnics with simple or prepared foods for some meals.
  • Bring a hotplate or other small cooking device to make some meals in an accommodation without a full kitchen.
  • Eat out at lunch to get the same food for less.
  • Stop at a local grocery store and pick up fruit, yogurt, or other breakfast items to save on the first meal of the day.
  • Bring snack bars, nuts, and other non-perishable snacks from home and keep a few in your bag to avoid impulse hunger purchases. 

5. Avoid impulse purchases

Before making any non-essential purchases, like souvenirs or luxury items, take a moment to consider whether the item is truly worth it and within your budget.

Instead, decide on a discretionary budget for total trip expenses. You could spend this on an extra activity, souvenirs, clothes, gifts, or anything else. If you spend that budget at the beginning of the trip, you don’t have many more options. 

For that reason, if you’re staying in the same place, you could make mental notes or take photos of all the items you’d like to buy and decide which is the best choice towards the end of the trip. That way, you’ll make sure you get something really special, and choosing it can become part of the experience. 

6. Review and adjust your budget regularly

Periodically review your spending against your budget and make adjustments as needed. If you’ve overspent in one area, you can look for ways to cut back on other categories to stay on track. Or try to readjust in the following days. For example, if you overspend on food one day, opt for lower-cost, simpler food options the next day. 

Adjusting and optimizing your travel budget

While planning a travel budget, you’ll need to consider all expense categories. In MoneyLion’s template, you’ll find detailed categories, including:

  • Transportation: Airfare, train, and bus tickets, local transportation such as taxis, Uber, rental cars, gas, parking, tolls
  • Accommodation: Hotel or rental accommodation
  • Food: Restaurants, groceries
  • Activities and Entertainment: Tickets/tours/attractions, shopping/souvenirs, other activities
  • Miscellaneous: Travel insurance, visas/entry fees, other expenses

To reduce total expenses, you’ll want to find ways to save on the biggest expenses. For example, you could use credit card points or airline miles to save more on airfare, accommodation, and even car rentals. 

You should also be sure to build in a “vacation emergency” or “buffer” fund so that you don’t blow your budget when something unexpected happens. How much extra you should build depends on the length of the trip, total costs, and the destination. 

For example, a weekend car trip might only need a $100 buffer, while a two-week European vacation could need an extra or emergency fund of $500 or more. 

Budgeting is about give and take. It’s a fluid process. That means you’ll need to make some tradeoffs. But with planning, you should be able to have an amazing vacation and not miss the expenses you opt out of. 

You could skip a fancy meal and instead opt to buy tickets for an off-broadway show. Or, you could choose to skip the snorkeling outing in favor of a sunset sail. While you’ll miss out on some activities, if you find out they were amazing, you can also make sure to plan that option for your next trip. 

Final tips on keeping your vacation on budget

Let’s be real – doing your homework on that destination, mapping out a solid budget, and scheming for those long-term goals? It’s a little extra work upfront. But put in those proactive prep hours and you’ll be cashing in serious savings when it matters most!

A trip budget template can help keep you accountable and ensure you’re having amazing experiences while keeping your bigger financial goals in mind. 

With a travel worksheet, you can ensure that you have options to take more vacations and reach long-term financial goals. While planning your trip, you can also check out the best budget travel insurance


Why is it important to create a travel budget worksheet?

Creating a travel budget worksheet can help you plan ahead for vacation expenses. It can reduce the chances of coming home with debt, while also helping you clarify your priorities for activities and experiences. 

What are the main categories of expenses to include in a travel budget template?

The main categories of expenses in a travel budget template are transportation to arrive at the destination and once you’re there. You’ll also need to include accommodation, food, and experiences or activities. Other categories vary based on your needs. For example, you could budget for gifts or souvenirs. 

How can I estimate costs for each expense category in a travel budget?

In order to estimate costs for each expense category in a travel budget, you’ll need to research local costs ahead of time. For example, if an average meal out in Paris costs $30 with a high-end meal of $100+, budgeting $20 a day for food will only work if you’re cooking for yourself. Getting an idea of local expenses can help you stay within your final budget. 

What if my actual expenses differ from my estimated budget?

If your actual expenses differ significantly from your estimated budget, you’ll need to readjust or cut back. You could use your buffer, or cut back in one area so you have more of your budget available for your priority experiences. 

How can a travel budget worksheet help me save money?

A travel budget worksheet can help clarify your financial goals and keep you accountable while spending on vacation. It can be easy to get swept up in experiences and local prices and spend more than you planned. A travel budget worksheet can help keep your bigger financial goals in sight so your vacation doesn’t derail other travel plans. 

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