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5 Tips for Creating a Vacation Budget that Works for You

Chris Gottschalk

Chris Gottschalk About The Author

Apr 11, 2023 4:45:00 AM

When you first learn how to create a vacation budget, the process seems easy enough. Just list all the expenses for your upcoming vacation, and you can use the total expenses to set a financial goal for your vacation, see where you can save money or even alter your vacation goals to be more affordable.

However, once you actually start creating a vacation budget, you might have some trouble figuring out what your expenses are, especially if you’re creating a vacation budget for the first time. Fortunately, if you follow these five tips for creating a budget, you’ll be able to make a spending plan for your vacation that meets your needs.

Use These Vacation Budget Travel Tips to Plan your Next Trip

Tips to Create a Vacation Budget

Determine Your Priorities

When you’re creating a vacation budget, the most important thing to remember is what your priorities are for your trip. Some people think a good vacation involves traveling somewhere new, while other people think the most important aspect of a vacation is the chance to relax, Still others might just want to do something they haven’t done before.

You’ll also want to consider what activities you most like to do on vacation, such as:

  • Tent camping in the wilderness
  • Kayaking
  • Resting on the beach
  • Golfing
  • Visiting a theme park

While you’re considering your vacation priorities, you’ll also want to think about the priorities of your partner, not to mention your children if you have them. Take some time and talk with your partner about your priorities on a vacation and come up with a plan that will satisfy everyone. This will not only make sure everyone is happy with the vacation, but you’ll also have the chance to get to know your partner better.

Make your vacation goal a SMART goal!

Start Setting Goals

Research Vacation Costs

Creating a vacation budget really begins when you start researching costs. However, it’s also the point where a lot of people stumble. How do you come up with a good estimate of what your vacation will cost?

While estimating expenses might seem challenging, the truth is it’s not hard, especially once you’ve had a little practice. Start by creating five categories for your vacation expenses:

  • Travel expenses: airline tickets, gasoline, train fare
  • Room and board: motel fees, campground fees, Airbnb rentals.
  • Activities: theme parks, tourist attractions, equipment rentals
  • Food: groceries, restaurants
  • Souvenirs

There might be other categories you might create as you’re making your vacation budget, but the majority of your expenses will fall under those categories.

Once you have those categories listed, start listing all the expenses you can think of based on your vacation plans. If you’re flying to Disneyland, you’ll want to list expenses like airfare, ticket prices, souvenir costs, motel prices and meals in the park and out of it. If you’re going camping in northern Minnesota you’ll want to think about gas prices, camping equipment and groceries.

If you’re having a hard time coming up with potential expenses, you can get help from several aids online, including the free downloadable vacation budget from First Alliance Credit Union.

When you get your expenses listed, the real work begins. You need to put a dollar amount to each expense, and the only way to do that is to research prices. In most cases, this just means going online and seeing what the rates are for flights to your destination or hotel prices.

Of course, the Internet has a lot of helpful websites that can make this task easier. You can go to Google Maps, for instance, and see all the hotels at your destination, not to mention restaurants, attractions and pretty much anything else. As a bonus, you’ll also get reviews and essential information about these places.

Another good travel website is TripAdvisor, which has comparable information to Google Maps, but also offers information on travel expenses, as well as suggestions for popular travel locations. You can also look for independent travel blogs, which can give you the kind of in depth, boots-on-the-ground information about where you’ll be vacationing that you can’t get from quick reviews.Essential Vacation Budget Tips

Look for Hidden Expenses

In addition to the main costs of your vacation, you’ll want to think about the hidden costs of your trip. These will be things like:

  • Cab fare
  • Tips
  • Snacks
  • Parking fees
  • Coronavirus testing
  • Wifi

Trying to estimate these expenses can be a little tricky. However, you can still do some research and figure out what each of these items will cost, as well as how often you think you’ll use them. If your vacation involves seeing the sights in Chicago, for instance, you’ll want to look at the parking costs around the city and think about how often you’ll need to use the paid parking lots.

Build Flexibility Into your Budget

The biggest fear most people have when creating a vacation budget is this—what happens to the budget if something unexpected happens? What do you do if you spontaneously decide you want to take in another attraction? What happens if your flight gets canceled and the next flight won’t be available for two days?

The best way to account for these surprises is to build some flexibility into your budget. Create a budget category specifically for dealing with emergencies.

A good rule of thumb is to make your unexpected expenses category 10% of your total expenses, but if you want to manually calculate your unexpected expenses category you’ll want to think about what unexpected expenses you might run into, such as:

  • How much money would you need to stay in a motel for two or three nights?
  • How much money would you need for a minor car repair?
  • How much do attractions in your vacation locale cost?

This flexibility should be able to handle most emergencies. If it doesn't, though, you can at least take comfort in the fact that it will keep you from having to charge the whole amount to your credit card or dipping into your emergency fund.  

Got questions about creating a budget? Ask us!

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Build Your Vacation Budget with First Alliance Credit Union

Creating a vacation budget can be a little tricky, especially if it’s your first time. However, by determining your vacation priorities and researching potential expenses, you’ll be well on your way to creating a vacation budget that works for your trip. You can even build flexibility into your budget by creating a category for unexpected expenses.

If you need help planning for your vacation, become a member of First Alliance Credit Union today. In addition to downloading our vacation budget template free of charge, we also offer traditional savings accounts where you can set aside money for a vacation, as well as a rewards credit card that will help recoup some of the money you spend on vacation expenses.


We do our best to provide helpful information but we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information presented in the article, under no circumstance does the information provided constitute legal advice. You are responsible for independently verifying the information if you intend to use it in any way. Additionally, the content is not intended to be reflective of First Alliance Credit Union’s products or services, for accurate and complete details about our product and service information you must speak to an advisor at First Alliance Credit Union.