Budgeting tools turn travel dreams into reality, even cruises

If the high price of air travel has you concerned about your upcoming summer vacation, its not without good reason. Prices are going up. If you worry about that vacation because of the incidental expenses, you are not alone. Those add up. Even if you’re heading out for a road trip, hiking or camping, unknown expenses are tough to budget. Still, there are some good resources you can turn to for relief.

People who are smart about money will tell you to have a budget and stick to it. They will also tell you that the answer to your budget worries lies in the answers to two questions:

How accurate is your budget? and Can you cover the total cost?

That’s easy enough for them to say, but how do you know how much things cost in places you have never been before?

BudgetYourTrip.com might just some answers for you. At this free online tool, users can sign up and create a budget. They enter their travel expenses by category and location, and can view charts and graphs of their budget too. Now here’s the good part; the expenses are then anonymously combined with expenses from other travelers. All of the expenses for each location are then computed using fancy math and statistics. Those numbers are then broken down by category and displayed for everyone to see as average daily costs for each city.

On a sample vacation, BudgetYourTrip showed us that a week in Tokyo could be done for $376.56 which works out to $75.31 per day. Not bad really.

A good budget for travel is one we have to get right, from the beginning, or we’re just fooling ourselves. An accurate picture of all expenses and an honest look at your available funds to pay for it are the foundation for any plans that follow.

Another good tool, reviewed by Gadling’s Amy Chen earlier this year is the Mint.com money-management tool.

“You can create plans for saving toward retirement and buying a house” Amy notes, adding “but I’ll be primarily using the site for its Travel Goals, which help you set — and stick to — realistic travel budgets”

Tools like these can help point us in the right direction when planning travel. Web-based social applications can help too. Getting to “know” others who have been there and done that will open doors to first-hand information that few tools can provide. A good example of how valuable that information can be is found in all-inclusive or nearly-all-inclusive vacations.

All-inclusive land vacations are easy, everything is included. Cruise vacations, on the other hand, have an all-inclusive nature to them as much is indeed included in the price. But while incidental cruise expenses can be tricky, they don’t have to sink the vacation.

Cruise lines have all the answers for what is and is not included in the price. There really are no hidden fees here but to say “It’s a great deal because everything is included in the price” is just wrong. Savvy cruise travelers know to stop by the CruiseCritic.com message boards for the very latest information. I made a bet once with a travel agent that I could find out the answer to a question faster than she could by simply logging on to CruiseCritic.com, asking the question in the right place and waiting a few minutes. I won that bet easily.

There are dedicated sites for all kinds of travel too that offer similar quick and accurate information. Twitter (#travel, #cruise), Facebook travel groups and other social tools can also provide similar real-time information.

Flickr photo by Public Domain Photos