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Cost of Travel: Tracking Spending When You Travel

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This post describes how tracking your spending when traveling can inform future budget decisions.


We leveraged a mobile app to keep track of our expenses while on the road.

Jon is a long-time user of Mint.com, a budget and tracker planner. Mint.com connects to your credit and debit cards so all purchases made digitally automatically appear on an aggregated report. It’s a fantastic tool to understand your net worth, debts, FICO and credit scores etc.

Prior to the trip, I found a purpose-built mobile app called Trabee Pocket Travel Expense that tracks spending across credit card, debit card and cash. As Jon and I would likely be using cash in countries who preferred that method of payment, we needed something that made it easy to plug in our numbers. Data entry is a manual process but it enables you to track cash spending within a few strokes.

Jon and I weighed the differences between Mint.com and Trabee and decided to use Trabee to track our costs for this extended trip.

A few of my favorite Trabee’s features include:

  • Create “trips” to track spending over a particular duration of time
  • Denote which currency you want to use — Trabee converts the cost from your home currency
  • Create categories relevant to your spending
  • Real time analysis of your costs broken down by category
  • Exportable data

We initially tracked the following categories:

  • Flights
  • Visas + Reciprocity Fees
  • Accommodation
  • Transportation (non-flights)
  • Shopping + Miscellaneous Expenses
  • Sightseeing & Entertainment
  • Food (all meals, coffee, groceries)

After collecting three months of data, we had some insight into our habits. We noticed that our “food” costs were high and wanted to investigate further. We created more granularity in that category:

  • Flights
  • Visas + Reciprocity Fees
  • Accommodation
  • Transportation (non-flights)
  • Shopping + Miscellaneous Expenses
  • Sightseeing & Entertainment
  • Wifi
  • Laundry
  • Coffee
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Snacks
  • Libations (Drinks)
  • Groceries

Following our trip, we pulled together a master analysis of our per-country, per-category spending over 18-month trip.

My detailed Excel spreadsheet broke down these categories per country, and then an analysis of each category for all countries within our 18 month trip.

Travel Spending Case Study

Once you have a template the works for you, the rest is (relatively) easy

Once you’ve created an analysis template that works for you, you can rinse and repeat on an on-going basis.

1) Keep track of your spending ; 2) plug in the data to the formula; 3)analyze which categories carry the highest costs for you and; 4) budget accordingly.

We learned about our spending habits that helped us plan for future travels. We adjusted our spend higher in some categories (activities and restaurants) while reducing our budget in others (inter-city transport).


In this post, What It Costs to Travel — Short & Long Term, we overview the cost of travel. We explore how creating daily spending bands can provide a budgetary framework for your next trip, whether short or long term.

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