Vacation Cost Calculator: Google Sheet to Budget and Organize Your Trip

You’re planning a trip and wondering – how can I keep track of expenses? What is the best flight option that will save me money? Am I going over my budget? After countless trips around the world, I’ve created this vacation cost calculator in Google Sheets to help.

Below are the details on how to use this vacation cost calculator. If you’re ready to give it a try, head to this link to subscribe and download it for free!

Table of Contents

How to Use this Vacation Cost Calculator

Step 1: Research your destination and set your budget

Before doing anything else, you need to research your destination and see what the average costs for visiting it are. Depending on where you’re going, you may find that you need a bigger budget or that your budget will stretch further than you expected. You may also figure out that it’s better to choose a different destination.

For example, you may want to head to South Africa for 10 days, but you figure out that flights alone from your city are $1100. You decide you can set a budget of $2200 for the trip. You’ll need to look for budget accommodations and cheap eats to make that budget work along with activities.

Place your budget at the top of the vacation cost calculator. As you update it with things you’ve booked, the total cost will change. The pie chart will also change to show you how much you’ve spent on each category.

Step 2: Search options and compare flights/hotels

Now that you’ve got an idea of your budget, you can start researching the options for flights and hotels. These tend to be the biggest costs, so it’s best to start there. You can also often find great deals on these if you look in advance. 

Place your different options into the vacation costs calendar, compare based on your preferences, and once you’ve decided – book! The trip calculator will give you the option to compare costs and times, take your own notes, and leave how many stars overall you feel that particular hotel or flight is.

Make sure you check the box for which things you’ve booked so that your costs are calculated and updated at the top and in the chart on the calculator.

budget break down for vacation
example cost break down for vacation

Step 3: Search options and compare rental cars/activities

Now that you’ve got your biggest costs set up book other things that you may need, like a rental car and activities. These categories work the same as the others where you can compare, take notes, and write down all the details to compare in detail the costs and calculate how much you’ve spent. 

As a reminder, none of this has to be done all at once, or in this particular order exactly; it is just important that to calculate your costs, you keep track of at least what you have booked! I like to do it in this order because I feel like calculating costs is a great way to make sure you’re saving money and keep an eye on your budget.

Step 4: Leave room in your budget for other miscellaneous things

We’ve pre-booked and compared prices on your major costs, but there are other things like food and souvenirs that you will want to leave room in your budget for. Don’t forget these as you calculate costs and leave some wiggle room at the end for those things!

sunset in mykonos old town harbor greece

Tips for Saving on Your Trip

If you’re here, interested in this trip cost calculator, you’re probably using it to pay attention to your costs. In addition to using this tool as a great money saving tip, there’s a lot of other things you can do to save on travel that I’ll outline below.

1. Plan Ahead

  • Book Early: Flights and hotel prices tend to be lower when booked well in advance. I love using Google Flights and Hopper to track flights and book when they drop. You can find more about this in my step by step to save on flights.
  • Travel Off-Peak: Avoid peak seasons and holidays, choose a different time or leave a few days before the peak weekend holidays to avoid the higher costs. I have done this in several places, most notably my $260 flight to Copenhagen in winter 2024, my honeymoon to South Africa for $2200 a person (with all hotels, flights, and safari), and Puerto Rico for $67 RT.
  • Check deals on discount websites: The best deals are often booked far in advance through sites like Travelzoo, Gate 1, and CheapCaribbean, which regularly offer excellent deals for trips 6-9 months out. Black Friday and Travel Tuesday are also great times to look.

2. Flexible Dates and Destinations

  • Use Flexible Date Searches: It’s pretty incredible how much you can save by choosing a different weekend or day to travel. Websites like Google Flights, Skyscanner, and Hopper allow you to search for the cheapest days to fly within a given period. 
  • Consider Alternative Destinations: Some places offer similar experiences but at a lower cost. You can also just save a destination for later and use the “explore” feature on Google Flights to go anywhere instead. Being flexible like this always saves money.

3. Use Deal Websites and Apps

4. Use Points and Miles

  • Frequent Flyer Programs: Accumulate miles through airlines’ frequent flyer programs and use them to book flights or upgrades.
  • Credit Card Rewards: Use travel credit cards that offer points or miles for purchases, and redeem these for flights, accommodation, and more. You can save a lot by using rewards!

5. Budget Accommodation

  • Hostels and Guesthouses: Stay in hostels, guesthouses, or budget hotels. For more affordable lodging, especially for longer stays, check Airbnb, Vrbo, or similar services.
  • House Sitting: Websites like TrustedHousesitters and N’Tice offer opportunities to stay in someone’s home for free in exchange for taking care of the house.

6. Transportation

  • Public Transport: Use buses, trains, and subways instead of taxis or rental cars. Many cities offer unlimited passes, which means you can ride as much as you’d like for a fixed price, which can help too.
  • Walk or Bike: Explore the destination on foot or rent a bike, which is often cheaper and allows for more immersive experiences.

7. Food and Dining

  • Eat Local: Avoid touristy areas for dining. Local spots often offer more affordable and authentic options.
  • Cook for Yourself: If you have access to a kitchen, buy groceries and cook some meals yourself.
  • Eat at nicer places for lunch: Look for lunch specials or fixed-price menus which can be more economical than dinner. If you have a nicer place you want to visit, go for lunch instead.

8. Activities and Attractions

  • Free Attractions: Visit free attractions like parks, museums (check for free admission days), and public beaches. Research a location before visiting to determine the average cost.
  • City Passes: If you plan to visit a lot of top attractions, consider buying a city pass, which often offers discounted entry. I love doing this when traveling to a new city.
  • Discounts and Coupons: Search for discounts, coupons, and group rates. Groupon is a good website to look at!

Get the Vacation Cost Calculator in Google Sheets

Now that you’ve got your tips and understand how to use this calculator, you’re ready to subscribe and make a copy for free! If you’re still interested in how to use this, check out the video below for more details and a quick walkthrough.

Stay on top of your travel expenses with this vacation cost calculator. Easily plan, compare options, and ensure you stay within budget.
Stay on top of your travel expenses with this vacation cost calculator. Easily plan, compare options, and ensure you stay within budget.

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