When we went to Europe I knew I had to go about it differently. I created an excel spreadsheet and downloaded the excel app on my phone. I budgeted a certain amount for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, shopping, hotel taxes that you can't pre-pay, transfers etc etc. I had booked a lot beforehand (tours, transfers) and paid for all our hotels out of 'normal' money and not Europe money.
After every single purchase, I would open my app and change the budgeted to what we actually spent. Sometimes I would write it in my notebook or keep the receipt and do it later. I rounded up because I don't like cents.
I budgeted $2,500 for our entire trip and we spent roughly $1,350.
A lot of this has to do with the fact that Rome and Paris were much cheaper than I was expecting, especially in regards to food. Dublin was easily our most expensive city food wise. But another reason was that it was so helpful to see the expenditure right in front of me. Having the excel spreadsheet on my phone really helped us stay on top of our spending and ensure that we didn't return home with no money.
However. After we returned, I discovered a new app, Trail Wallet, which is so much easier to use. I really wish we had used this in Europe, but I was excited to use it for Disney and of course, for all our future trips.
The bad news is that the app is only free for the first 25 items, so you need to upgrade ($3.99) in order to use it for unlimited amounts. Boo. It was worth it for me to purchase it rather than using the excel app, because it is simple, easy and pretty.
I use Mint for everyday expense tracking, but I love having this separate app for trip budgeting. I'm sure you can use it for everyday as well, but I haven't tried and I prefer mint because it automatically records my spending and I'm lazy and don't want to have to input it myself. I don't mind inputting it myself on a trip because I want it right in front of my face.
So I knew Disney would be more expensive per day than Europe, but I still wanted to keep it fairly reasonable. This doesn't include hotels, flights, tickets, transfers, everything was booked and paid for before we left. Our hotels were the most expensive portion of the trip, our flights were like $10 because of Southwest miles. Our travel agent (highly recommend, read why here!) organised all our hotels, transfers and tickets because she is amazing. Anyway, so we only needed this app for spending money and food. We purchased the Disney Dining Plan, so most of our food was covered.
I created the same excel spreadsheet to first get an idea of how much we would spend and need to save. I prefer to over budget and come home with money (or get to shop a little more) than to be too realistic and have no room to move.
In the numbers above, I was including what what we would have paid without the Disney Dining Plan. I was not planning on spending $1,500 on a week's vacation, I just like to over prepare.
Once I had my budget for the entire trip, I created a trip in the app, entered the budget and dates.
I created my own categories, DDP and OOP. DDP is for Disney Dining Plan and OOP is for Out of Pocket. Because we got the DDP, we had prepaid for a lot of our food. We still had to pay tips and for everything at Universal and airports. I loved being able to track how much we would have spent out of pocket had we not got the Disney dining plan (DDP is a bit cheaper than the value we got out of it). I also loved having it separated, so I could show KC exactly what we'd been spending.
So we only spent $350 on a week trip. Not bad at all. We only had to pay for food for 2 days (and airports) and a few souvenirs / gifts. Obviously we also paid for the dining plan a couple of months ago, but it was less than the value we got out of it.
This was a bit of a bad example because of the whole out of pocket vs not actually paying thing, but actually that's why I love this app, because I could do that. I could keep them separated. Next trip, I might switch up the categories into food, shopping, etc.
If you are very responsible with money and you're able to keep track of everything while travelling, this might not be for you. But if you're like me and you need it to be right in your face and to constantly keep an eye on what you're spending so that you don't go overboard, you should check this out. Also, this is totally not sponsored, by the way. I just really dig Trail Wallet.