How to Budget During Vacations

Budgeting can help you avoid overspending during vacations.

Budgeting can help you avoid overspending during vacations.

Preparing for a vacation often entails setting aside a significant amount of disposable income, especially if you are traveling with a family. Without sticking to a budget, it's easy for vacation spending to spiral out of control. The basics of budgeting on vacation involve preparation, planning and tracking spending in real time. You can use several tricks to avoid going over budget.

Plan your budget before taking your trip. Making reservations for lodging and buying tickets for entertainment beforehand reduces uncertainty about the amount of money you will spend. Estimate how much money you plan to spend on food per day per person, as well as the amount of money you plan to spend on souvenirs and gifts.

Track your spending in real time. Set aside a small amount of time each night to tally expenses accrued during the day. If you find that you have spent beyond your budget on a certain day, do your best to curb spending the next day.

Stay on budget by saving money on food. While eating is a necessity, it isn't necessary to pay for overpriced food. Avoid paying high food prices at airports or restaurants by buying groceries and packing snacks and sandwiches to eat in a park or other pleasant location. Ask locals where they eat, since local eateries often have lower prices than restaurants that target tourists. Avoid the overpriced food in the hotel minibar.

Ask about discounts. Many hotels and attractions offer discounts based on membership in AAA and other organizations. It never hurts to ask. In addition, hotels often stock pamphlets and books of coupons that offer discounts on local attractions and restaurants.

Enjoy the hotel. If you have booked lodging in an expensive hotel with a lot of amenities, take a day or two to unwind by the pool or read a book on the balcony. After all, the purpose of most vacations is to relax. If you can avoid spending money on entertainment and activities for a couple of days, it will help you to stay on budget, and you will be getting the most bang for your hotel buck.


  • One way to curb spending and track expenditures is to carry cash for all purchases other than hotel and car rental. Make a withdrawal every two or three days of the exact amount of money you plan to spend, and make sure you don't touch the credit card except in the case of emergencies.
  • If you plan to spend most of your time outside the hotel, consider a budget hotel rather than an upscale one. If you are traveling to a location where you have close friends or family and it is comfortable for you, ask if you might be able to stay with them instead of paying for lodging.
  • Booking transportation in advance is a great way to save money on getting there and getting back.

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