Travel budget list

So, you are thinking about taking a vacation.  You want to do it with a budget and no credit card headache when you return.  How will you do it?  Well, keep reading for tips on how to make your budget and stick to it!  The first thing you need to do is figure out where you want to go and how much it will cost to get there.  Let’s say you want to drive about 4 hours away, and stay at a hotel for 5 nights.  First you need to figure out how much it will cost to drive round trip 4 hours.  I drive a huge gas guzzler, so that would cost me roughly $120.  Hopefully your cost on gas will be much cheaper!  Then you need to find a hotel and price that.  Don’t book it yet, just figure out how much it will cost.  Vacations are much cheaper in the off seasons (i.e. when kids are in school!) but even if you travel during the summer/holidays, you can still do it as long as you plan for the expenses.  Ok, back to the hotel.  I like to use to find hotel ratings and prices.  I have never gone wrong using a recommendation from trip advisor!  They also have ratings for attractions and restaurants.  I wish they paid me for this tip, but sadly, this is just me telling you what works! 😉 So, lets say you find a hotel for $100/night, but then you go to the hotel website and enter your AAA number and you can get it even cheaper.  If you are military, you usually can get the best rate! And deservedly so!  Thanks for your service!!  Alright, so this $100/night hotel can be reserved for $80/night with some searching around. Either at the hotel website or even travel sites like or  Check around, but make sure your site is reliable and not a scam.  I have booked using both of those sites and they are legit!

So, now we have $120 in gas and $400 for the hotel ($80×5 nights).  $520 doesn’t seem too bad for a vacation…but we are not done yet!  We need to budget food.  That will depend on your family and your taste in food.  For our family of 6 (5 that eat off of their own plates!) I usually budget $120/day for food.  Then you need to add in parking if your hotel has paid for parking.  You also need to research sightseeing/amusement parks or state parks and add those admission/parking fees to the list.  This can vary widely based on your desires and budget.  We also budget for spending money.  Depending on where we go, we usually budget $50-$100 per person.  Don’t forget to budget for passports if needed.  And if you already have one, check the expiration date.  They actually expire 6 months before that date, so if you are nearing it, make sure you renew before you leave home!  If you fly, you also need to include airport parking/flight/rental car/taxi.  But you get the idea.  Every little thing is put into the budget before you even book your trip.  Then when you are finally done with adding everything up, throw in an extra 10% for issues that may come up.  You may break your sunglasses and need to buy new ones.  Your plane may be delayed and you may need to pay for an extra meal you didn’t count on.  Having a little cushion is a huge stress reliever.  If you don’t use the extra money, that is just more you can throw to your emergency or savings account! I also added a line for things you may need before you travel.  For instance, our upcoming cruise stateroom has a shower only, so I have to buy an inflatable tub for the little guy before we leave, but I am budgeting it into our trip fund.

For quick reference, here is a list of expenses you may incur.  Then, when you have it all saved up, you can book that mini-vacation, dream vacation, family reunion, or relaxing cruise!


Airport parking:

Rental car/gas or taxi:


Gas to drive there, back, and around town:

Hotel/hotel parking:


Spending money:


Tips for services:


Little things before you leave: Sunblock, snacks for the road, bottled water, new walking shoes, etc.

10% overage:


Now, add that up and divide by the number of months you have (or need) until you have all the money for your trip saved up! That gives you a timeline of when to book things, and when you are planning on leaving.  It will show you how much you need to save each month to meet your goal!

*Most, not all, flights are the cheapest about 6 weeks before you plan to leave, and book it on a Tuesday!  This, of course, does not hold true to holidays or high season.  Book those asap, especially if you have a set date that you have to take to ensure you get a flight!  I like to use or my skyscanner app to check out cheapest prices, then I go to that airline page to book.*

**Don’t forget to make sure all your bills at home are paid before you leave, so you don’t have to deal with that while you are gone!**

I hope you have a wonderful/stress-free vacation!



After we went to Universal and nursed our sore feet, we spent three fun days at Disney!  We decided to cut out Animal Kingdom since there was so much construction there, and we only had one park per day tickets.  Magic Kingdom was fun and we were able to score extra fast passes (thanks Mom!) so we got to ride on all our favorites.  The kids also got to ride double here with the baby swap as well.


Buzz Lightyear ride


In front of Cinderella’s castle!


Gaston fountain!


Philhar Magic show!

The second day we went to Epcot.  The younger ones were finally tall enough to make their own roller coasters and that was a lot of fun!  My hubby and I snuck away for lunch at Le Cellier in Canada, our favorite restaurant there.  It was nice to have a date alone.  My parents were with the kids and of course, they all had a blast together as well.  The baby napped and the kids enjoyed the Innovations.  They redid Test Track and it is now our favorite ride at Epcot.  You need to try it if you go there! It is so much fun!


Creme Brûlée at Le Celier. Yum!




She looked everywhere for these Mickey Ears!! She finally found the last pair!

The last day was spent at Hollywood Studios.  Toy Story Mania is still a favorite ride and we ate at the 50’s Prime Time Diner.  The Brown Derby is my personal favorite, but we didn’t have a date their this time because we wanted to stay together as a group, and the kids wanted to go to the 50’s diner!  The younger ones tried the Rockin Roller Coaster (they hated it, the adults loved it!).  We had a wonderful trip and can’t wait to go back!  The kids will spend a few days this winter with their uncle at Universal/Islands of Adventure while Hubby, baby, and I go on a cruise to the Western Caribbean.  The best part of our trip was that it was all paid for before we left home.  Spending money budgeted for everyone, food money (including our date) set aside, even airport parking was budgeted.  So when we arrived home we had nothing but fun memories of a wonderful vacation!  No credit card bill hanging over our heads. I encourage you to try and vacation with cash saved up and no headache when you come home!!!


The real carriage used in the new Cinderella film.


Phineas and Ferb!


We always have to get a picture with the Florida snowman!


Toy Story mania!

Trip to Universal Orlando/Disney World April 2015

This vacation was so exciting for me!  All of our kids have gone to Disney as a baby, and our new little bundle of joy was no exception!  He, (9 months old), absolutely loved it and did wonderfully well!  Our first stop was to Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure for a day with my husband’s family (and meeting up with good friends!) and then 3 days at Disney World with my parents.  We had such a blast!  We made a quick stop at the beach first, which had the perfect waves for boogie boarding!  Our little one did not like the beach very much at all, but I got some cute pictures!


At the beach

As is common in FL, it rained poured for almost the whole day at Universal/Islands of Adventure.  Some might think that is a bad thing, but since we were only there for one day I welcomed the shower!  We also went on a week day which meant that with those two circumstances put together, we hardly had to wait in line for anything!!  I did ax the stroller in favor of a baby carrier and umbrella for this day because who wants to push a soaking wet stroller around?!  We got around a lot faster with just the carrier.  I won’t lie, by the end of the day my feet were killing me, but we had so much fun, I didn’t care!!

Our kids love Harry Potter, so they were super excited to experience both parks and the Hogwarts Express train ride.  You can only ride the train if you get a park to park ticket.  If you only buy a ticket for one park, you miss our on this opportunity.  It has different views each way it travels, so make sure if you ride the train you ride it both ways at least once! Another neat thing that happens when the park is fairly empty is that all 3 of my kids got to do the wand experience at Olivander’s, when normally only one child in a group gets picked.  You get to try a few wands and when “your” wand picks you, there are lights and wind and is a pretty cool experience!  You can choose to keep the wand that chose you, or you can pick a different one after the experience.  2 of the 3 kids kept the wand that chose them, and my frugal child chose a cheaper non-interactive wand.  While walking around the parks, your wands can activate and move things around throughout the park, when they wave them just right.  But it costs extra for that feature.  The rides were a lot of fun, and there were not too many rides that the younger ones couldn’t ride on.  The baby swap here is better than at Disney, you get to sit inside and watch a movie or at least get out of the sun while you wait to swap.  They also let the other people in your party ride again with you, so the kids all got to ride double on the rides!  (When busy, they only let you bring 1-2 people with you when you swap).  Disney lets you bring 3 people with you for the swap, but you have to wait outside with the baby, then they give you a fast pass. Still nice, but I preferred Universal for this. Here are some pictures of Universal:


Just arriving for the first time ever to Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure!


So excited to ride the Hogwarts express with their uncle!


The wand that chose her!


In front of Hogwarts Castle with the family!


Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes! Chocolate frogs (which are huge and didn’t melt!) and Pigmy Puff’s!


She had a great day and didn’t want to leave!

Most of the pictures we got at Universal were at the Harry Potter Land, partly because of the rain!  But we really did enjoy the rest of the park as well!  Next post: Disney World!

A lot has happened!

Wow, I can’t believe it has been so long since I last wrote a blog post!  Since March, we have gone on vacation to Universal Orlando/Disney World, moved to a new house, and now are planning a cruise/kids are going back to Universal.  So I will have a lot to blog about and after our cruise, I will also have some posts on cruising with a baby/toddler!  This will be a first for us and I already have researched a lot of new tips and tricks for cruising with a baby!  So stay tuned if you are interested in traveling with a big family, or traveling in general, with a budget, and without the stress that credit cards bring you after you get home from your vacation!