My Favorite Travel Budget Planner and Calculator
My kids and I have our travel goals, the first being to visit all 50 states before my son heads off to college. July 2014 was to be our trip to North Dakota and Minnesota, states 38 and 39, but we had to sadly postpone for a year. Airline ticket prices were just a little high for the summer and didn’t fit within our budget.
Our budget. That was quite the joke. Postponing our vacation made me realize that despite travel being our passion, I had no real plan or travel budget for making it work financially. I turned to the internet for help and came up with a few tools like a travel budget planner and a travel budget calculator that I really liked.
Travel Budget Planner – Mint.com
Mint.com is a great web-based tool for general budgeting and tracking of finances. It connects to your bank accounts for real-time tracking and analysis of your budget.
My favorite part of the site, though, is the goal setting. It specifically has a section for setting vacation goals. This travel budget planner walks you through a series of steps to determine your travel budget. Start by entering the number of days you’ll be traveling and how many people are traveling. The program then calculates costs in five categories: flight, hotel, car, food and activities. The user has full control over the dollar amounts for each category; the program simply multiplies by the number of nights or the number of people, in the case of flights.
On the next screen, the user enters the planned travel date, then the amount to save per month is calculated. You also identify the bank account where the funds will be saved and Mint.com will then let you know on a monthly basis how you’re doing on achieving your goal. For the experienced traveler, this simple travel budget planner may be all you need, and it can be inspiring to see the steady progress towards your goal.
Travel Budget Calculator – Dollar Times
Want a more detailed travel budget calculator? Dollar Times offers a detailed online spreadsheet to estimate your travel costs. They use seven cost categories: transportation, insurance, lodging, things to get here, things to get there, food and drink, and tickets. Under each category, are specific items to consider, several of which are ones I wouldn’t have thought to include such as airport parking, road tolls, and gifts for hosts. The same site provides a road trip calculator to estimate the cost for gas. It’s a really useful travel budget calculator, but I particularly like it as a starting point to build my own spreadsheet.
Getting the Kids Involved with Your Travel Budget
I believe it’s important for kids to understand money and how to prioritize expenses. I especially believe in valuing experiences over things. Getting kids involved in the budgeting process is an important step in helping them understand these choices.
I really like this lesson plan available from Scholastic, where kids are walked through planning a vacation, starting with a total amount available, deciding where to go, then deciding on what options are possible within the given travel budget in terms of how long to stay or how far to travel.
The Project Outline Sheet can easily be tailored to your family. The second page of the Project Outline Sheet is the Vacation Cost Sheet where the kids make choices about how to spend money. Choice A: Fast food for all meals? $15/person/day. Choice B: Good breakfast and dinner, with fast food only at lunch? $25/person/day. These choices are continued with lodging type, theme park tickets, and car type.
The web site also provides a Calculating Vacation Costs worksheet for the kids to tally up costs in all categories. It’s a great way for kids to see how our choices impact the type of vacation you can take within a given travel budget.
Budgeting is a somewhat painful but necessary part of life for the vast majority of us. A travel budget planner and travel budget calculator can help make the process a little easier and certainly more fun.
You may also enjoy:
- 20 Best Ways to Save on Travel
- Seven Easy Ways to Save Money on Vacation
- Free Things to do with Kids Throughout the United States
- Vacation on a Budget – Travel Smart, Sightsee Cheap
- Save Money on Travel with City Pass and Memberships
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Andrea is a single mom in Arlington, Virginia with a 15-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. Her children took their first trips when they were just four…