Be Your Own Travel Agent Pt. 1 – Build a Budget

Flatlay of Calculator in bushes

If you find yourself on this blog, you probably don’t have thousands of dollars to drop on a vacation. Me either, welcome to the club! Therefore, you need to build a travel budget!

Before you book flights, take a look at your paychecks and determine how much money you would need for your dream destination and how much time it would take you to save that amount.


I fully believe that with planning, anyone can afford a vacation if they save money for a few months, research their destination, and are flexible with the time of year and port of entry.

Step 1: Look Up Currency Conversion (if necessary)

If you’re going overseas, you need to know how far your dollars can get you. This could be a huuuge help when planning the rest of your stay. For real time conversions and predictions visit .

Step 2: Begin with Transportation Costs

This will likely be your largest expense category next to accommodations. If you can’t get there on your budget, you certainly won’t be able to eat there. Don’t do Italy the disservice of a ramen noodle diet.

Add the cost of flights and then add on your transportation to/from the airport each way. Figure out if you’ll be using Uber or public transportation and account for those prices.

Step 3: Add Accommodation Costs

Compare costs on (here’s a $25 coupon), AirBnB (another $55 coupon!), or other travel sites. If you’re on a really tight budget, be open to staying in hostels, you can book a more private 4-bed room for only a few dollars more per night.

Step 4: Research the Cost of Food and Activities

Use blogs or tourism websites to see what it will cost you to visit attractions, the ticket prices for the train or subway, and an idea of average costs for your main need: food!

Plan as specifically as possible for activities with a set price and give yourself a general lump-sum amount for food. This way, if you want to go out to a nice place one night, you can afford it without question and then just eat cheaper the next night (never underestimate the pure joy of a 50 cent Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwich).

Step 5: Give Yourself a $100 Emergency Fund

Sadly, as much as I budget, I usually end up going over in at least one category, usually transportation. You don’t want an extra Uber, a missed train, etc. to spark your anxiety because you didn’t plan for the extra cost.

You’ll have some extra peace of mind during your trip and if you don’t end up needing it, treat yo’ self to some wine on the flight home!

Ready to See the Specifics?

This is an example of my full scale spreadsheet for when I’m on a tighter budget and need some accountability.

Sample Budget for NYC

Now that you’ve seen the example, download your own template to build your own customized budget.

Once you’re done making your budget, move on to a travel calendar!

Pinterest: BYO Travel Budget

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