How To Create A Budget for Your Travel in Just 3 Steps

pink-pig1I’m the type of girl who asked her accounting class while rooting for my calculator, “What’s 11+9?”

Or counts with her fingers when adding simple sums.

Heaven knows why I haven’t been diagnosed with dyscalculia.

This was why it was often a pain in the neck to me to budget for my travel expenses. Excel sheets were too complicated for me. Finally, I’ve hit on a simple plan that required few gadgets and no software. All you need are:

  1. calculator
  2. pen and paper
  3. envelopes
  4. and your money, of course

STEP 1: If you’re traveling abroad, get the exchange rate of the country you’re going to. I usually go to XE for that and then when you’ve gone over to their site —take shortcuts. If you’ve got friends who stayed or have traveled to that place, ask them how much they spent on certain stuff. When I went to Thailand, a couple of friends have told me that they usually spent 300-1,000 baht a day on food and shopping. Since I work in China, 200-500 baht meant I would spend at least Y195/day. This is based on today’s exchange rate 1RMB-5.11 baht.

STEP 2: Ask yourself, “How many days are you staying?” and then calculate or do a rough estimate (I usually do a lump sum) of your travel expenses. I keep my list to a minimum of 5 categories. You’re free to tailor it to suit your needs:

· Your plane tickets

· Your pocket money, entrance fees, travel packages, food and shopping

· Hotel (don’t forget the deposit if you’re staying in a swanky one)

· Transportation

· Buffer

A buffer is very important. This is the emergency money you dip into when you gasp find that you have spent almost everything you have on that supposedly priceless antique. Always have a buffer. I’m always glad I’ve got one when I discovered I’ve got to pay for either excess baggage or airport terminal fees.

Here’s a sample of my estimated budget to Vietnam in which I stayed for 9 days. If you think you’re a big spender, you might want to have a bigger leeway on your estimated expenses. Again this is based on today’s conversion rates = 1USD -6.82 RMB and 1USD- 48 PHP or Philippines pesos.

· Plane tickets from Manila to Saigon – $191

· Pocket money, entrance fees, travel packages, food and shopping – $300

· Hotel – $200

· Transportation- $100

· Buffer- $150

STEP 3: Now comes the fun part. Take out some envelopes and label them with a travel category and then put the money inside. This prevents you from withdrawing money that might otherwise be used for your hotel expenses rather than if you keep all of the cash in one place. This often happens if you’re a big spender and love shopping. So whenever you pay for your hotel bills, you just fish out the money from your envelope and voila! You never have to worry if you’ve still money left over for your other travel expenses because you know they’ve got their own compartments.


The envelope method would also come in handy because you can easily see when you’re running low in one category. Your pocket money envelope almost empty? No problem. You see you’ll be leaving the country the next day and your hotel envelope still has a sizeable chunk left. Dip your desperate fingers into it (be sure to leave some for tomorrow’s bill!) and transfer the bills.

TIP: I always travel with some US dollars and some currency of the country I’m going to (since I’ve often go around Southeast Asia. I carry about $20 worth till I get a better exchange rate in the city center). This way it’s easy to get around and immediately hop on a local bus or taxi to go to my hostel without worrying how to pay the fare. This’ll also be extremely useful if you’re arriving in the middle of the night and the exchange counters are closed.

You can also use the envelope method for your daily expenses in life. Just swap the categories for food, rent, transportation, utilities and shopping.

Here’s a useful link you can use:

Travel Budget Calculator

Pink Pig Photo by: weddingssc1

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