How to make a travel budget?

01 December 2022 by National Bank
travel budget

A travel budget is a tool to help you travel with total peace of mind. It can even help you manage your spending so that you can afford to get away more often. Whether you’re dreaming of relaxing on the beach or hitting the slopes, read our guide to making a travel budget so that you can make your dream trip a reality.  

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Expenses to include in your travel budget

The key to making a successful travel budget is to go through each category of expenses and try to come up with realistic estimates of your costs.

Don’t skip this step, no matter what type of trip you’re planning. If you’re arranging your trip yourself, take the time to think about each of the following expenses and budget for them, if applicable:

  • Transportation
  • Accommodation
  • Food 
  • Tourist activities
  • Travel insurance
  • Vaccinations/medication
  • Visas/passport renewal
  • Clothing and equipment (e.g., suitcases, swimsuits, tents)
  • SIM card or data plan for your cell phone
  • Etc.  

Even on an all-inclusive getaway down south, you might still have some additional expenses to plan for. 

These include:

  • Tips
  • Taxis (e.g., to and from the airport)
  • Excursions
  • Souvenirs and gifts you might want to bring home. (Will you be able to resist that novelty fridge magnet of a lizard wearing sunglasses?)

To draw up a successful travel budget, you’ll need to take into account your income and fixed expenses (such as rent or mortgage loan payments) to find out how much you can afford to spend on your adventures. Try out our online budget calculator and read our article: How to make a personal budget.


Transportation

Transportation is often one of the biggest costs in a travel budget. Here are some things to consider:

  • Plane tickets 
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Tip: Save on flights

Take advantage of off-peak rates or last-minute deals. You might need to travel at irregular times, but it could save you hundreds of dollars. 

 

  • Parking costs: To leave your car at the airport, for example.
  • Travel between the airport and your hotel
  • Vehicle rental: Think about getting car insurance abroad, if this isn’t included with your credit card.
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Tip: Save with your credit card

If you have a rewards credit card, you can redeem your points for travel discounts. Some cards also offer insurance, including coverage for medical care, luggage, flights and vehicle rental. Here are 5 reasons to use a credit card when you travel.

 

  • Public transportation: Depending on your destination, you may be able to buy a pass for trains or rapid transit. Do some research ahead of time to maximize your savings.
  • Taxis
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Tip: Save on transit costs

You can also save on transit costs by opting to get around on foot whenever it’s safe and possible to do so. Walking is a great way to explore a new place and burn off a few extra calories if you’ve overindulged in the local cuisine!

Accommodation

Take the time to thoroughly research your accommodation to avoid any unpleasant surprises when you arrive. Check out online reviews, photos and social media .

Travellers on a more limited budget can take advantage of off-season pricing . Hostels may be a good choice too. What’s more, they usually have a communal kitchen where you can do your own cooking. Renting an apartment gives you the same option, but often comes at a higher cost. 

Is the van life calling?
Good to know: Even if your vehicle is equipped for sleeping in, you’ll still need to budget for accommodation costs. It may come as a surprise, but in some places it’s prohibited to sleep on public streets, even in a camper van. This means that sometimes you’ll have to pay for a spot in a campground. On the plus side, you’ll be able to take a hot shower! 

Want to find out how much you’ll need to set aside every week or month to finance your trip? Check out our MyIdea tool for help drawing up your travel budget.

Food

It’s important to enjoy yourself when you’re on vacation, so make sure you allocate some money for eating out . But if you want to save on food costs, avoid eating in restaurants at every meal. 

Stock up on groceries at the local store and pack your own simple meals for breakfast and lunch. Do some research on the cost of living in your destination so that you can budget the right amount per day.
You could also pack snacks, like dried fruit and cereal bars, and buy fresh fruit locally, to keep you going throughout the day.

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Tip: Go green

Instead of buying water in plastic bottles, bring along a reusable bottle that you can refill (if the local water is safe to drink). You’ll do your part as a responsible consumer and save some money in the process.

Activities

Allocate a certain amount for activities, then shop around and decide which ones you want to prioritize. Even if you’re taking an all-inclusive vacation, remember that excursions and trips often cost extra. 

Be sure to check out all the different rates on offer , for students, seniors, children, residents of Quebec, etc. You may be entitled to a reduced rate .  

In many destinations, you’ll find a wide range of free activities, such as guided tours from a local resident. This is a great way to discover the major sights in a new city. However, if you stop to sample some local specialties, you may need to pay the costs (for yourself and your guide).

Finally, if you’re planning on renting equipment, like an electric scooter, a paddleboard or a bike, remember that you’ll likely need to leave a deposit . Make sure you have enough credit available on your credit card to cover it.

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Tip: Save on museum costs

Many museums offer free entry on certain days. Time your visit to take advantage of the savings.


Preparing for unexpected expenses in your travel budget

Things don’t always go to plan: A lost suitcase, a bout of food poisoning, a sprained ankle... Minor mishaps are common when travelling, but you’ll be able to dine out on your story after your trip. Especially if it’s not too serious and the story has a happy ending. It pays to expect the unexpected and build a cushion into your travel budget to help you cope with these kinds of expenses (while you wait for your insurance to potentially reimburse you). 

You should also set aside a small amount for spur-of-the-moment purchases, like souvenirs. 

Don’t forget...

Your toothbrush and a travel insurance for the duration of your trip, if your credit card doesn’t include it, so that you can travel with peace of mind.

Before jetting off or hitting the road, don’t forget to notify your financial institution that you’re travelling abroad. Transactions carried out abroad can trigger fraud detection systems and lead to your card being frozen to protect you. If you set up a travel notification, there’s less chance that you’ll lose access to your debit or credit card during your trip.

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Tip: Foreign currency

Did you know that you can skip the visit to the branch or foreign exchange office and order your foreign currency online instead? You can also see the exchange rates for several currencies.

Once you’ve finished your travel budget, you’ll have a much clearer idea of how much your adventure will cost. To help you make your dream a reality, take advantage of a systematic savings plan. It allows you to put money aside by setting up automatic debits from your bank account, with no withdrawal fees, at the frequency of your choice. So, where are you going to go?

Would you like to discuss this with us? Contact your National Bank advisor or your wealth advisor at National Bank Financial. Don't have an advisor?

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