How to Create a Vacation Budget (Part 2)

If you haven’t read the first post   How To Create a Vacation Budget (Part 1), you might want to start there.  🙂

After you have collected all of your budget numbers, you’re ready for the next step:  putting it all together.

Two Ways To Put Your Budget Together:

  • Organize by Day (Total Cost for Day 1: hotel, fuel, admission, food etc…     Total Cost for Day 2 for those same things….etc…)
  • Organize by Category  (Accommodations costs for the entire trip, Fuel costs for the entire trip, Admission costs for the entire trip, etc….

    Photo in Public Domain:

Again, it really doesn’t matter HOW you combine or organize these numbers, as long as you DO IT!


Here’s what a typical Daily Budget would look like on my “budget page”

  • Gas:   350 miles/25 mpg/$3.50 per gallon – Cost  $50  (I always round UP on fuel costs! )
  • Accommodations:  Days Inn   $74.87
  • Meals:  Breakfast at the hotel/ Picnic for lunch/ Supper at a park with the camp stove/ ALL food brought from home  Cost: 0  (My ‘take’ on this is that we would eat if we were home…  Since all the food is brought from home, it’s not a cost of vacation)

    Photo Credit: CC Lic.

  • Admission:  Museum  2 adults $7; 2 children $4. – $2 coupon for 2 adult admissions:  $18


A Category Budget would look something like this:

  • Accommodations:  $386.91  (entire vacation)
  • Fuel:  800 miles total/25 mpg/ 3.50 per gallon:  $115  (rounded up, of course)
  • Meals eaten “out”:  $65
  • Groceries:  $50  (We’d buy groceries if we were home so this isn’t a cost associated with vacation)
  • Admission to museums, state parks, :  $76 AFTER coupons
  • Souvenirs/Purchases:  $50


As you can see, it doesn’t matter how you compile the budget number.  It’s only important that all the expenditures make their way onto the list.  You can do this on the computer, or write it out with a pencil and paper.  Just get all the numbers down.


To reiterate what I said above about food from home or grocery costs….  Though I need to budget for that money so we have the funds available for those grocery store trips, I do NOT consider it an actual ‘cost’ of vacation.  Buying groceries is something I would do even if we were home.  We HAVE to eat regardless of whether we’re at home or on the beach…or in the mountains…   🙂

SIDE NOTE:  As long as I have to buy those groceries and prepare those meals, isn’t it  MUCH More Enjoyable to do that in Yellowstone….or Pensacola beach…..or Yosemite than in my own kitchen at home?  🙂

NOW…..Add all your numbers up….

…And you have a vacation ‘cost’.

Last Thing:  Add a ‘cushion’ to your budget.  This is the ‘extra’ money for unexpected expenses.  For a vacation with a $740 budget like above, we would plan for $840 just to allow for unexpected EXPENSES…  This is not to cover unexpected expenditures (purchases or souvenirs); it’s to cover unexpected expenses (like that unexpected trip to Wal-Mart mentioned in Pt 1 of this article).

Are you done now?

Well…..Now, here’s the clincher.  This budget ONLY WORKS IF YOU FOLLOW IT WHILE ON VACATION.  Simply writing it all out beforehand, then going ‘wild’ with spending once you’re on your trip will NOT work so well….

On your trip, write down what you spend….every single expenditure.  Write down every time you fill up with gas.  Write down what you spend when you check into that hotel.  (no surprises here as you knew the cost before you left)  Write down what you spend when you buy the tickets for your planned activity.  ESPECIALLY write down what you spend at that unplanned ice cream stop.  (Just the act of ‘writing this down’ will help to keep this type of thing ‘in check”)

As I said, we’ve never come home OVER budget.  We almost always come home UNDER budget…a few times we’ve come home right ON budget.  We do this by planning (reservations and bargain shopping) writing out a budget beforehand, then tracking expenditures while on vacation so we always know where we are with the budget.  That keeps us on track.  This really DOES work!!  I know, because we’ve done this for 25 years!!



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