Please sign in to post.

Trip Budget

Good day, my friends:

How much do you budget for your trip, everything included? How often? Every year?

How long or how many nights? How much per day for meals, tours, sites, transportation, entertainment, and things of that nature? Do you have a separate bank travel account for saving or use credit?

Include family or partner in the total.

Posted by
381 posts

I would back into it from the other end. How much money do you have to spend? How much time do you have? Where do you want to go? What do you enjoy doing?

Posted by
115 posts

In one of Rick's guidebooks, I think it was either "Best of Europe" or "Europe Through the Back Door," I remember seeing a very helpful chart that helped estimate expenses according to (1) the areas of Europe to be visited and (2) personal travel style (budget/mid-range/luxury). Rick's guidebooks are really good.

Posted by
1221 posts

I'm a moderate travel hacker, so I include hotel points and airline miles in my kitty when I start to kick around ideas and time frames with the idea of using those to help stretch budget and time frames and allowing for other fun stuff elsewhere in the trip.

For us, my parents are taking me and the Spousal Unit on a river cruise for the Big Trip of 2019 (they're all about pre-spending the inheritance while everyone is in reasonably good health and able to have some fun before the nursing home years take everything), and we're going to do some independent travel on either side of that. Spousal Unit wants to spend a couple days in Switzerland before the cruise. I note that it's an expensive place, but he's already going outside of his comfort zone by agreeing on the cruise at all because it's probably not his thing.

But hey for a couple days in Amsterdam I've found a great deal for my IHG/Holiday Inn points balance- almost new Holiday Inn Express in a part of town that works well for us, breakfast included, and it's zero out of pocket (not free because even with points and miles, there's an opportunity cost for using those) instead of €200 a night. I don't have a firm budget for Switzerland yet because every time I start to look around I want to shut down my computer and whine a little, but if we've not spending €600-€800 on hotel in Amsterdam now, I figure we've got a little more wiggle room for Switzerland.

As for budget or destination first, I've got a list of places and we tend to go back and forth between domestic and international. It doesn't help that I live in an area with expensive local airports and the nearest competitive fare airport is 4 hours one way of a drive. This year we did the Utah national parks as The Big Trip, we don't camp, and hotel prices in Moab and near Zion NP make London seem cheap (the state of Utah does a really good job of global marketing and creating demand for that kind of trip). But with some planning, we managed to get the plane tickers for close to free by redeeming airline miles for them, and the Zion leg was another hotel points redemption at a well-kept Holiday Inn Express with amazing red rock views out our front window and from the pool and right next to the shuttle bus stop to the national park (the parking situation near Zion also resembles London these days) and those two things helped offset how much we were paying a night for an extended stay hotel in Moab- when possible, I like those for the full kitchen and the chance to eat our takeout food back at the room on real plates with proper cutlery.

I know there's an anti-chain hotel bias here, but I've found that playing the loyalty program does help us stretch the vacation budget, and the hotel chains are increasingly adding a brand for less generic properties- Hilton has Doubletree ('when you don't know what else to do with a property, bring in the cookie ovens and slap on that logo') Accor has Mercure, and IHG and Marriott also have their 'non-conforming' brands these days that can yield soem redemption gems with a little work.

Posted by
106 posts

I would love to go every year if i can. We are family of three. I usually like to go for two weeks. Our travel style is budget travel. Yes. I do have separate saving account for travel and put monthly contributions.
The last 3 years i was able go every year. The cost will depend on your destination, time , style of travel and number of people.
I think i spent total $6k for 3 people last june for our Munich, Salzburg, Berchtesgaden, Fussen trip. Not renting a car. All were done by train.

Posted by
8654 posts

It really doesn’t matter what others spend when it comes to planning your trip/your budget.
1. Do a little research into the prices of accommodations that you would want to use in the areas you are interested in. Some people are happy with hostels, others like 4 star. Lots of options in between. Get a sense of what the typical cost is.
2. Decide on how many meals you will “eat out” and just how fancy you want those meals to be. Some people can live on picnic food the entire trip. For others, a special restaurant meal is an important part of the experience. Then set a daily food budget.
3. What do you want to see or do? What kind of admissions costs are there?
4. Transportation. How do you plan to move from one place to another? What is the typical cost?

I do encourage you to match your spending to be less than or equal to the money you have available. If it doesn’t seem like it is enough, save longer or reduce costs. Don’t take a vacation on credit.

Posted by
3034 posts

Man, these are some good thoughts. Lane, good idea determining first what you can afford, like a mortgage chart advising how much you can pay for a house.

We ensure we can afford at least six nights when travelling overseas, with around $100-$150 per night for a hotel or VRBO. Daily spending is a tough call. I'd guess about $150/day. Flights maybe $800/each flying say from Washington to London.

We'd like to go to Iceland and Scotland but doggone it's expensive. Viking or other river cruise also on the list... RS Italy.

Posted by
11496 posts

Carol well done! Great guidance!

I use an Excel spreadsheet to plan our trip and I am increasingly less-focused on the budget; However, I have personal guidelines. I aim for an average of Euro 125.00 per night for lodging. On an upcoming trip that includes a couple of apartments at Euro 70 per night (total of 21 nights) and a hotel at Euro 250/night for 2 nights, with a few others in between over the course of a seven-week trip.

I plan about Euro 100/day for meals and many trips we undercut that as we cook in apartments when we are on long stays. The shorter the stay the more we spend on food because we end up in restaurants instead of cooking, so if we have 4 or more nights in a place we rent an apartment and cook in a couple of dinners. This has been true for us all over Europe. Even in Switzerland, we have managed on this budget.

If you want to get granular, it is easy enough to detail transportation costs. List out your tos and froms and look up train fares (or short hop flights) on the relevant websites. City passes and/or site entries are easy enough to research online and pop into the spreadsheet.

We lived in Europe for some time which made the transportation a dream: no overnight flights from the U.S. Now that we are living on the West Coast, obviously we have that expense, but we are still going every year. We stay for several weeks as we have the time now and can amortize those long-haul flights by staying awhile. No separate bank account but we are spending the kids' (potential) inheritance.

Posted by
2485 posts

For Germany, my wife and I get by on $150 per day, everything ( not including airfare ) included. In Italy last spring, it was probably twice as much since I included some organized tours. In Iceland, it was about the same as Italy, but only because I didn’t eat at any restaurants.

If I had stayed in the hotels that I stayed in with my family 50 years ago, Germany would have been closer to $1000 per day.

Posted by
468 posts

If I am going on a trip with friends instead of my husband, I will budget roughly $150-$170 per day, including lodging, local transportation, attractions, food and drinks. I am retired from an airline, so my expenses for flying out of the US are very minimal. My friends and I usually will stay in a comfortable but modest small hotel, with triple beds (and always a private bathroom) in a central location. We stayed at a two bedroom/two bathroom apartment in Barcelona last year, which was unusual for us, but we found a really good deal. Splitting the costs with them for the room obviously helps my budget a lot. We are not the type to go to fancy restaurants, but do enjoy eating in small local eateries and stopping for dessert at least once a day. We generally take public transportation or walk, other than when going to/from the airport. Usually we will spend ten nights in Europe, not counting the travel days. We have been trying to go on a trip about every 18 months, although last year, we also managed to go to Israel for almost a week in addition to Spain for ten days.

When my husband travels with me, the budget is considerably more, because he likes a bit nicer hotels and we also have to board our dogs, which is a hefty added expense.

We don't have a separate bank travel account. We put as much of the travel on credit cards as possible, due to the convenience and the absence of a foreign transaction fee with our credit card company and then it is paid off completely when the credit card statement arrives.

Posted by
14580 posts

It depends on whether I am traveling solo in Europe or with the Mrs and family. That factor dictates the style and the style dictates the budget. I pay attention to the exchange rate Euro vs $ and how its effect on the cost of the trip.

Basically, I am a budget traveler, always flying non-stop in Economy (sardine can seat for ca 11 hours) to Frankfurt, Paris CDG or London, usually round-trip, but not always. No problem for me backtracking to London or Paris.

When I travel solo, obviously, I have far more options, such as staying in a hostels, not likely, but just depends on where as an option not to be precluded, taking night rains as I tailor the travel routes, using a rail pass, staying in 2 star hotel-Pensionen, non en suite rooms, choosing where to eat, either at the train station, picnicing in the hotel room at dinner, or restaurant with the occasional splurge,

Also choosing which sites to visit, the type of hotel to stay at. Staying in an apt or using Airbnb is not an option, regardless of how many nights in one place...two or 14 nights.

On transport costs....I take public transportation, all the different trains, subway, buses, Renting a car is not an option.

Since retirement I have been fortunate to make it back over every year, all in the summer, except once in April/May those two weeks. The minimum duration is 2 weeks, the max so far is 12 weeks, since retirement the max has been 9 weeks.

Ideally, I aim to do a trip, UK plus Schengen for a max of 100 days between May and early Sept.

On the daily expenses....In Austria and Germany I mainly pay in cash. That's the way it is done there, I oblige. In France, England, and other countries I use the credit card way more often but not exclusively...just depends where and how much is the purchase. In the late 1990s I used a credit card in Paris to pay for groceries at Monoprix and it went through, no problems.

I spend some money on souvenirs but not much...just depends where and what.

Posted by
2403 posts

We just spent 3 weeks in Europe in June/July. We take a vacation every year, but this was our first Europe trip in 15 years. We have a travel savings account that we deposit to every month. In January I found what I thought was a great fare from Portland to Frankfurt, returning from Munich for about $750/each. So we committed to the trip and really started saving! Rental car was about $650, and gas, tolls and parking added about $350 for transportation. We stayed in 2 bedroom apartments (2 adults & 2 teens) for between 80-125€/ nt. We walked down to the bakery for breakfast every morning (about 10€/day). We cooked about three meals and ate out the rest of the time. Lunches cost 50-60€ and dinners cost us 60-80€ (No alcohol, but usually 4 sodas which cost more than beer/wine at about 4€ each!). My youngest son and I usually shared a meal and a soup/salad. We always had too much food. We had ice cream/dessert every day (about 2€ each). Sometimes we skipped dinner and just had ice cream!
Sightseeing budget varied by day. Some days sites were free (St. Marks), others had high admission fees (Postojna caves in Slovenia about 30€/ each). I had a spreadsheet of what we wanted to do, and what each place cost so we could budget. For us, we splurged on experiences - paragliding over Salzburg, cave & salt mine tours, a gondola ride. Things we can’t do at home. We’re not “foodies” but we sought out places with spectacular views for lunch almost every day, knowing that the food might not always be the greatest. We were never disappointed. We will forever remember those meals, even if we don’t remember what we ate.

Keep in mind that living at home costs money - food, gas, eating out, entertainment. When your traveling your spending that money, just in another location. So part of you travel expense is offset by what you would normally be spending at home, if that makes sense.

Posted by
11368 posts

We work hard to find the best airline deals for our destinations and use miles whwn we are able. Then we research ad nauseum the places we will stay whether hotels, BnBs, apartments. Google street view, multiple resources for reviews, prices etc. The flights are long and the most difficult part of the trip as well as a large expense. We decided long ago to extend our trips abroad to compensate for the expense and hassles of the flights. We stay a minimum of three weeks but we are retired and have no restrictions on how long we are away. Extending our trip length makes better use of the cost of flights so that is a major busget decision. We can stay on the ocean or a lake in Europe less expensively than in the US by carefully researching the multiple options online. We have only had one hotel disaster and one apartment diaster in more thirty years of international travel.

Posted by
7466 posts

As an engineer, I can tell you all kinds of stats. Everything listed is for my husband & me combined, and the number of days is the number of hotel nights. Transportation is by train or occasional bus. Hotels, etc. are chosen for location, aiming for the center of a historic district, so we are walking almost everywhere. I spend a lot of time during the year researching to maximize our time & the money we choose to spend, but we don’t avoid spending money when we’re there to enjoy. Trips usually include at least one very nice event, such as an opera, gondola ride, etc. which cost more.

2017 - Spain for 21 days in Sept/Oct., $5031 total but used miles for our flights
2016 - Italy & France for 17 days in Sept., $6583 total but used miles for hubby’s flight
2015 - Germany & Austria for 16 days in Sept. for $8235.
2014 - Switzerland & Italy for 14 days in Sept. for $8496.

For trips where we purchased flights with dollars, the overall pie chart distribution was:
Airplane tickets - 35%
Lodging- 30%
Meals - 19%
Events -9%
Transportation - 7%

So it’s better budget-wise to go every other year and stay twice as long than every year since airline tickets are a huge piece of the budget pie.

Posted by
7466 posts

To answer your other questions, we didn’t start traveling to Europe until our kids were out of college, so a trip to Europe was in our yearly loosely planned budget. The money is in the bank before we would go.

Posted by
4175 posts

Some years ago I read that for a moderately priced trip, not budget, not fancy, you should expect to average something like $150 - $180 per person per day. That's for everything except airfare. On 5 trips with my husband, that's spot on for us -- even including boarding our dog.

Ideally, I'd go annually, but I've only been on 8 trips since 2009 when my husband made his first trip to Europe. We missed 2010 because we did 2 months on that first trip and I needed to save for the next one. (I pay for the overseas trips.) In 2014, he made his last overseas trip, choosing to fly only in an emergency situation after that. I missed 2015 for health reasons, but got back on the horse in 2016 with six weeks solo in England and Scotland. In 2017 and 2018 I did RS tours with extra time before and after.

The longest trip was the first one at 2 months. The shortest was this year at 23 days. Most were 4 weeks to a month. If it weren't for my dog, I'd always travel longer. Before you ask why my husband can't take care of him, it's because he (husband, not dog) goes to the Pacific Northwest to race his open-wheel car for 5 months in the summer. He rents short-term apartments which usually don't allow pets.

I do not have a separate travel account. I pay for as much as I can upfront by CC before I leave and don't get much cash in Europe unless it's more commonly used wherever I'm going. I do not get European currency of any kind before I get to Europe.

On the Best of Scandinavia trip this summer, I used my CC more and cash less than on any trip I've taken. I got minimal cash in Stockholm, even less in Denmark (and then just for coins to use in a laundromat in Ærø) and used no cash at all in Norway. More cash was needed in Amsterdam because my B&B owners wanted cash payment. Still I didn't bring many € home for my next trip.

Posted by
3034 posts

A wealth of useful and interesting information here. Jean, you've convinced me to stay longer in the future. We usually plan on a week as that's usually enough time to see the sites on our bucket list, but it would be nice to hang out longer, which as you said isn't necessarily that much more expensive than staying at home.

Posted by
1103 posts

Many people gag over the price of a trip to Europe, but sometimes they are not considering the cost of a “normal” vacation. The cost to be evaluated should be the incremental cost over and above the cost of the so-called normal vacation.

Posted by
5697 posts

I used to prepare a detailed spreadsheet, with costs in euros and dollars as lodging and transport reservations were made, estimates of eating at €100/day for two, dogsitter .... Now we just go on the trip and spend what needs to be spent and I figure out how much it cost after we get back. (Credit cards plus ATM cash.) Kids know we're spending their inheritance.

Since we're both basically frugal (OK, cheap) we know what level of hotel/restaurant we are comfortable with. Try to balance out high-priced cities (Paris) with lower-cost areas (Budapest.)

Usually we go for a month to 6 weeks, April-May or September-October or Christmas markets December-January.

Posted by
3034 posts

We avoid June through August, which we learned from living in Germany eight years. No AC in many cases and a flood of tourists.

Posted by
14580 posts

Very true that in many or lots of places in Germany there is no AC, which is another factor that dictates the expense budget. If one stays at a 2 star hotel or Pension, you can be sure that no AC is available. Those are the places I stay in Germany. You're lucky sometimes even to get a fan in the room when there is no AC.

If you stay at a 3 or 4 star hotel, you might well get the AC or a fan. I have very limited experience with a 4 star place since I won't pay extra for AC...not a necessity for me.