Vacation plans dancing in your head? Dreaming of a week in Bora Bora, or a week in Yellowstone National park? One of the best ways to turn that dream into reality is by planning. And the first step to planning a vacation is to establish a budget – how much money can you afford to spend on vacation. Next and equally important, is to establish an estimate – how much might that vacation cost. Establishing a realistic estimated vacation cost can ensure you don’t break the bank. It’s also a great incentive to save for that dream trip to Bora Bora, even if it is three years’ out.
Estimating vacation costs is a must before booking any travel plans, and it’s not as hard as you might think. So what’s stopping you? Let’s get started on estimating your dream vacation’s costs!
Determining Estimated Vacation Costs
Found awesome airfare to Hawaii? Great! But do you know how much those hotels are, or how expensive it is to dine out in Hawaii? London “on sale?” It’s a great vacation destination, but also very pricey. Determining estimated vacation costs before booking can help keep you from spending more than your financial budget can handle.
So where do you to begin estimating the costs of a potential vacation? What costs should you include? Any vacation cost that’s above and beyond your day-to-day expenses if you were not on vacation should be included. Most vacations will have the same basic expenses, and that’s where you can begin your estimate.
Begin by breaking vacation expenses into three main categories, as I have done here. Add in expenses you expect to incur during the vacation. Listed below are expenses that most vacations will incur. Then estimate how much each line item might cost for your destination. Be realistic, now!
Traveling To/From Destination Expenses
- Car travel expenses. Determine trip mileage, then gas costs for the entire trip.
- Airline travel expenses. Include not just ticket fare, but airport parking fees, checked baggage fees and other “airport time” costs too.
- Car rental fees and taxes.
- Other transportation costs such as airport transfers, taxis, and toll road fees.
- Airport departure taxes when return home from abroad.
- Trip Insurance. Highly recommended if you are prepaying your vacation.
At-Destination Vacation Expenses
- Hotel fees. Include room taxes, resort fees, internet access fees. They add up fast.
- Home or condo rental fees, including cleaning fees.
- Tours, excursions, and other entertainment costs.
- Food costs. Estimate three meals a day plus snacks. Adds up fast when you have kids.
- Gas costs, taxi fees, subway expenses, toll road fees.
- Souvenirs. Collect tee-shirts or trinkets? Include estimated costs of these too.
- Going on a cruise? Don’t forget your cruise gratuities. That can be $100’s.
At-Home Vacation Expenses
- Pet Care. Fido and Fluffy still need to be fed. Include kennel or dog sitter fees.
- Home Maintenance. Do you need to hire someone to take care of your house or yard?
Extra costs incurred at your home while on vacation are often forgotten in the travel budget. I know I’ve forgotten them! These costs can add up quickly, too.
Check visa fees, currency exchange rates, foreign credit card transaction fees, departure taxes or other fees you might need to pay. Also check vaccination requirements if traveling to a more exotic destination. That exotic destination might highly recommend, or even require, specific vaccinations beyond what you and your family already have received. Not all insurances will cover the more unique travel vaccination requirements.
Estimated Vacation Budget Done!
You’ve done it! Now add 10% for those “just in case” events, like forgotten sneakers, unexpected fees. Plan a little extra for those unknowns that always seem to pop up. Then use your estimated vacation costs as your guide and turn that dream into reality!
Handy Tools To Estimate Vacation Costs
Need help setting up a travel budget? Try one of these three very handy tools to help estimate your vacation costs:
Trying to decide if driving will be more economical than flying? Run the numbers through Travel Math’s Fly Or Drive calculator.
Do you estimate your vacation expenses before booking your next vacation? Have any vacation cost estimating tips to share? Or do you just wing it? Let us know in the Comments section below.
Images from BenoitMahe, TaxCredits, 401(k)2013, and BalajiB via Flickr,