Tracking your expenses on vacation is essential if you don’t want to overspend and end up with a huge credit card bill to pay off once you get home. There are a number of ways to keep track. The easiest is a notebook and pencil. The more complicated will be a spreadsheet, online calculator, or app on your smartphone.
Start by estimating an overall budget. Then deduct the upfront costs you have already paid to see how much you have left. Many people prefer to set a per-day budget once they get to their destination, but this is not always practical because there can be hidden costs, forgotten costs, and cost of living issues.
You will have already purchased the tickets such as the airfare, or committed to train, bus or driving costs. You’ve also usually had to pay for the accommodation up front, and a car rental if you opt for one.
In many cases, you can get competitively priced package deals through websites like Expedia and Travelocity, which allow you to order all these items for one low price. In some cases, they might also offer various excursions as add-ons to the package.
It is important to do your research prior to going so you know what things cost. If you’re heading to Disney World in Orlando, for example, it is important to know the regular price of the tickets versus the discount being offered at the travel site. The list price, for example, might be $100 per day per person, but you can get the tickets through the package deal for $40 per person - a significant savings.
Other Costs Before You Go
Other costs might include visa fees, vaccinations, new clothes better suited to the climate, sunscreen, insect repellent and so on. All of these will add up.
Choosing the Right Accommodation
The websites will offer a range of accommodation, but it is important to pick something that will suit your family and lifestyle as well as your budget. For example, some inexpensive hotels include breakfast, meaning you only have to worry about two meals a day. Some suites will have a refrigerator, so you can buy milk and cereal for the kids and microwavable meals and save money that way.
Eating out, drinks and snacks can take a big bite out of your budget if you’re not careful.
The Location of the Accommodation
You might reject getting a rental car because you think you are saving money, or are nervous about driving overseas. But, factor in the cost involved in staying at the accommodation of your choice. It may seem cheap, but if you have to take taxis everywhere in order to see the sights, it can all add up.
Admissions to the attractions can really bite into the budget. Your per-day calculations should include these as well as your food and drink.
Some apps, like Trail Wallet, will help ensure you are not over budget, but they don’t allow you to put your expenses in categories to see where all the money is going. In this case, an online calculator or printed out spreadsheet can help. Or again, just write everything down in your handy notebook. Tuck your receipts into your notebook and do your tallies at the end of the day.
Cost of Living Overseas
In many cases, you will find the cost of living to be very different from what you are used to. In the US, for example, you can get a breakfast at McDonald’s for around $3 to $4, but go to New Zealand, for instance, and it will cost $7. Cigarettes and gas are hugely expensive in the UK compared to the US.
Know before you go and keep track of everything you spend, and you should be able to have a good time without going over budget.