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How to Use a Travel Budget Planner Template to Help You Save Money

My least favourite part of booking a trip is figuring out my travel budget.

Most people can relate.

Money often means limiting our wild travel desires, cutting trips short, or skimping ahead of time to save up for that big trip.

This is usually the step that takes the longest for people trying to plan their dream solo trip. They get caught up on how much money they’ll need, how to find the costs of things abroad, and how to keep track of it all.

It’s a very real challenge, but I’m about to make it a whole lot easier.

I’ve developed a travel budget calculator and a travel itinerary planner template to help you plan your dream trip in moments. All you need is access to the internet and you’re ready to become a travel budgeting pro.

I’ve also included tips on how to find prices, the best sites to compare prices, and how I travel on a budget while still getting to do all the things I want. Seriously, I lived in Europe for 8 months on less than $750 a month! And I still went hot air ballooning in Cappadocia.

Are you ready to learn my secrets?

Moving abroad? Save more in booking your flights and accommodations by using this platform!

Get Your Free Travel Budget Template and Trip Planner

To help make your life easier, I’m sharing a free copy of the templates I use to plan all of my trips – including my budget calculator.

To get your copy, sign up below and I’ll send it directly to your inbox.

I’ve even included a sample travel budget within the calculator template so you can see a real budget I used to go to New York City.


8 Tips to Make Budgeting for Travel Easier

Money on an atlas in front of a camera as someone plans their travel budget with a calculator
Photo (c) Unsplash

Step 1: Determine Your Max Budget

Before I start figuring out my travel budget, I like to determine the maximum amount I’m willing to spend. This is best for short trips, as Gap Years and month-long adventures will have changes as you go along.

For example, if I plan to spend one day in Zurich, I’d determine the maximum amount I’m willing to spend on that day trip. This number isn’t based on what you’ll actually do and, in fact, should be a bit wildly high.

So for a day, I might say I’m willing to spend 500 Swiss Francs.

Having this sort of insane amount as your maximum budget doesn’t mean you’re going to spend it all. It just means that when you start freaking out about the cost of flights or the cost of a tour you really want to do, you can look at that giant number and know you’re well beneath it.

Don’t worry, we’ll determine a realistic budget by the end of this guide. So for those of us that need real numbers or we might actually overspend, there’ll be a firm number to come.

Step 2: Research Essential Costs

Most travellers forget about essential costs – but not this guide! This wouldn’t be a pro “How to Travel Budget” guide otherwise.

What are essential costs?

They’re anything from Visa costs to travel insurance to vaccinations. Anything you need to buy just to get to the destination and be safe falls under essential costs.

I often include a pack of cold pills or allergy meds in this section, even if I haven’t bought them before I leave. I get sick really easily when I travel, so it helps me to know that money is already there waiting.

You can find essential costs to include in your travel budget on your government’s travel advisory board. These sites are amazing for having up-to-date information on what vaccines your government recommends before you go to your destination. They sometimes list Visa information as well.

For full Visa information, I always google “Visa + [destination] for travellers from [your country]”.

It’s not the most elegant formula, but some countries have different boards that deal with their Visas for travellers so it can be hard to find on their government website.

I always recommend that travellers going anywhere for longer than 2 days get travel insurance. If you’re going for a weekend, be sure your credit card has some built-in travel insurance in case anything happens. This can help with car accidents, lost luggage, and flying you back if you’re ill.

My favourite travel insurance provider is Safety Wing. They offer amazing services and have always been helpful when something’s gone awry on my travels.

👉 Find out how much it costs to protect your trip today with Safety Wing travel insurance.

Man looking over map with an ipad, camera and highlighters to determine his travel budget planner
Photo (c) Unsplash

Step 3: Research Your Activities

Most travel budget planner guides start with your flights and accommodations first.

I don’t like that method, as it often means you overspend on those items first and have to cut out the awesome things to do when you arrive.

I believe that the things you do when you travel matter more than your flight or where you stay. Sure, you don’t want to be flying in a shipping plane or staying in a shed, but you can definitely downgrade to a shared dorm in a hostel to be able to go on that third food tour (…something I’ve definitely never done).

For more tips on planning your trip, check out my How to Plan a Travel Itinerary guide!

When I’m planning my budget, I start by looking at my “must do” activities. I choose 3 things I desperately want to do in a destination and make sure they work with my budget calculations.

For example, when I moved to New Zealand for a year, I knew I wanted to go skydiving. It’s a pricey activity (running upwards of $300 NZD for the simplest package). Since that was vital for me, I made sure I had the money to afford it, which led to me skydiving in Taupo from the highest height they had thanks to some extra savings.

Make sure these items go in your budget first. Then you can fill in other activities as maybes, since they’re less important to you.

These can be removed if flights, accommodations, or other costs are significantly higher than you were prepared for.

Moving abroad? Save more in booking your flights and accommodations by using this platform!

Airplane aisle with full seats and a flight attendant walking towards the camera
Photo (c) Unsplash

Step 4: Research Flights and Accommodations

Now that the fun stuff is chosen, it’s time to fit in the required costs on your travel budget template.

I’m sharing my favourite tools to help you save money on these less vital travel experiences.


After I have my 3 must-do activities in my budget, I start researching the bigger costs: flights and accommodations.

Technically, I should say “transportation” rather than “flights”, as I often prefer to take trains to save money (as you can tell from my Not All Sleeper Trains are the Orient Express travel story).

This is where you have to do some extra leg work to find cheaper options that may not be as straight forward. For example, it may be cheaper to fly to a neighbouring city or create your own connecting flight than to take the pre-made plans by airlines.

I use Skyscanner to help me find the best flight options around the world.

Skyscanner is a great resource that’s easy to use and shows flights from every airline you’ve ever heard of (and some you haven’t). They’re a big part of how I managed to fly to New Zealand from Canada for only $200!

For train travel or buses, I use Trainline.

It’s a resource very similar to Skyscanner that pools all of the available train or bus services in your area to help you find the best/cheapest option for your transit.

(I used them so often during my 8 months in Europe that whenever I typed “t” into my search bar, Google automatically tried to send me to them.)

Looking to get around via car? Find the cheapest car rentals here!


Accommodations are trickier to start researching. You have to have some requirements to help you limit your search.

Are you alright staying in a hostel or shared accommodation? Do you need your own room? Would you rather spend more on a place with a kitchen and save on your food budget, or skimp on the accommodation so you can eat out? Or is a vacation not a vacation without being in a hotel?

I like to come up with 3 (I seem to really like that number) must-haves with my accommodation. My #1 is almost always Wifi, as I’m a professional travel blogger and need to work as I travel (and I’m a Netflix addict). My #2 and #3 often have to do with location (as I learned when I was Alone in Amsterdam, having a hotel outside the city can be detrimental).

Depending on the location or the type of trip, they may also include things like cost, check-out policy, having my own space, access to a kitchen, or the ability to meet people.

Once you have your must-haves, it’ll be a lot easier to figure out how to travel budget for accommodations.

These are my favourite sites for finding budget-friendly accommodations:

Woman hiking on a green mountain top to represent free activities to include in a travel budget template
Photo (c) Unsplash

Step 5: Estimate Your Daily Expenses

You still have to be human around all that exploring your doing. That means factoring in daily living expenses, like the cost of food or coffee.

This sounds complicated, doesn’t it? I mean, how are you supposed to know how much it costs to eat breakfast in another country?

That’s where my favourite Travel Budget site comes in: Budget Your Trip. This site accurately recommends the cost of everything in countries around the world. I don’t find their total budgets or accommodation recommendations super useful, as I prefer to get those costs myself.

Whenever I travel, I always use Budget Your Trip to price out how much I should budget for food every day (at minimum) and how much to budget for transportation. I usually add $25 to their recommendations for food to have money for snacks or extra meals. Occasionally, I add in a fancy meal to treat myself and note that increase in the food budget.

While these aren’t going to be the exact costs you spend on subways, buses, and lunches, they’ll help you have a sense of what it’ll cost. This means that you can have a more well-rounded travel budget with fewer surprises when you’re abroad.

If I had used Budget Your Travel when I went to see the little blue penguins in Dunedin, NZ, I wouldn’t have spent $400 on taxis by accident.

Map with money, a camera, and a compass as someone plots their travel itinerary to budget for their trip
Photo (c) Unsplash

Step 6: Don’t Forget Extra Funds!

This is a step I haven’t seen in any How to Travel Budget guide on the market. And really, how could they forget it?

We’re travellers. That means we want to have some money for fun stuff!

Maybe you want to go clubbing in Montreal, shop on Rodeo Drive, or get a tea set for your friend in Morocco.

You’ll need money for that.

That’s why I always add two extra rows to my travel budget: entertainment and shopping.

I’m not a big shopper, but sometimes a trip demands it. Like when I go to New York and decide it’s time to refresh my whole wardrobe after 3 years of not shopping. I need to know how much I’m willing to spend before I go (even if I might start upping it as I see more pretty things at Anthropologie).

Make sure you factor in your extra money to give you the freedom to actually spend it. Otherwise, you might start taking it out of your total travel budget and miss out on things you really wanted to do.

Step 7: Finalize Your Budget

Now that you’ve got a sense of what your trip is going to cost, from things to do to your bonus shopping budget, it’s time to finalize your travel budget in your travel budget planner template. The calculator will have helped do most of the work, but now you can determine if you need to make any changes.

This is where we’re going to get that realistic travel budget that I talked about in Step 1.

Go over your travel budget and see if you’re comfortable with the costs of things. If not, make changes.

Maybe you had a museum on there as filler, but you don’t really want to spend $40 on admission because you don’t actually care about it. Take that thing out so you can justify the amount you intend to spend on drinks in Ibiza.

When I’m done amending elements of my trip, like maybe taking that flight that’s an hour later even if it means I’ll have to rush to the airport from work, I get my final travel budget for the trip.

I always make sure I have the costs converted into my local currency so I can understand exactly how much it’s going to cost me.

It’s a lot easier to think you’re spending less when you haven’t converted the British Pound to Dollars yet.

Bikini, budget planner, phone, passport, money and sunglasses on a white bed spread
Photo (c) Unsplash

Step 8: Travel Budgets are Made to Be Broken (or At Least Bent)

As millennial solo travellers, we often get obsessed with budgets. There’s so much information out there about travel hacking, saving money, or travelling for free that we feel like we need to be accomplishing that, too. Or that it’s bad for us to be spending money on travel.

But it’s not.

You’re allowed to spend however much you want on a trip, because it’s your trip.

That means it’s totally ok if you end up buying an extra sweater in Berlin or needing to visit that $40 museum because it’s too rainy to do anything else.

Remember that travel is about enjoying yourself. That’s a great reason to spend money – much better than drunk buying things on Amazon you’ll shove in a closet for two years.

This is where the maximum budget comes in again. When you’re beating yourself up for how much you spent on a box of chocolates in Geneva, you can remember that you’re still massively under your outrageous maximum budget.

So if you feel like you need that box of chocolates, you get them!

women on boat surrounded by sharks on an idyllic trip that's budget-friendly
Photo (c) Unsplash

Closing Thoughts on the Travel Budget Template

With the help of my top-secret How to Travel Budget tips and my Travel Budget Planner Template, you’ll be budgeting like a pro!

Use this guide to help you plan your dream solo travel experience – whether that’s a weekend trip, a year-long adventure, or a solo staycation.

No matter what your dreams are, don’t let money hold you back.

You can always make more of it, but you can’t make more time to do the things you want!

That’s why I said screw it when my budget went haywire after I couldn’t get a job for a month in New Zealand and headed to Cape Reinga to see the Maori path to the underworld. It’s why I valued a sunset canoe tour in Toronto over the extra freelancing client I knew I’d need to get.

Create your dream trip, figure out how much it costs, then go for it! Your travel budget planner will help you calculate how much you need so you can stick to your travel budget.

Moving abroad? Save more in booking your flights and accommodations by using this platform!

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