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Budgeting for holiday to the US


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#1 JomoMum

Posted 12 June 2019 - 06:13 PM

We’re planning a holiday to the US to do Disneyland, and possibly New York or a Route 66 Road Trip. It will be in another 18 months-2 years.

We’ve never done an overseas holiday and I feel like I’m missing things when it comes to a budget.

What sorts of provisions did you allow for? Food, sight seeing, travel, entrance fees etc. I don’t necessarily mean amounts for each, I’m happy to work that out, but just maybe the actual things you had forgotten about at all?

Thank you

#2 PhillipaCrawford

Posted 12 June 2019 - 06:23 PM

Having just returned from 6 weeks O/S to Canada and Iceland, just with DH- you first need to work out what sort of travel you are looking for.

Are you going to self cater the majority of meals or eat out 3 times a day?

Does a days travelling mean paying for attractions/tours regularly or does it mean driving somewhere gorgeous and going on a bush walk or a walk around city streets?

I packed a thermos and our first day started with a trip to Walmart where as well as groceries I bought a kettle - coffee makers do not make tea - or cup noodles for that matter.
Our meals on the go tended to be picnics - including at one stage when supplies where running low cheese and vegemite sandwiches at a botanic gardens.
While we had some meals out they tended to be budget. Dinner was often cans of soup in the hotel microwave, but honestly after a day touring we preferred to relax rather than head out anyway

But we travel cheaply as possible. So sort out your priorities in what a holiday is to you.

#3 excellent

Posted 12 June 2019 - 06:33 PM

Don't forget to factor in the cost of travel insurance!

#4 José

Posted 12 June 2019 - 06:39 PM

dont forget to tip! so factor that in.

#5 Oriental lily

Posted 12 June 2019 - 06:48 PM

Also remember the very sad conversion rate to USD from Aussie . I am going to USA in the start of October ( Wisconsin to stay with friends then Disneyland/ Anaheim for a week ) and it shocks you that a ‘good deal’ in the US is still expensive after you convert it . Run of the mill accomodation for two people for 7 nights close to the parks is nearly AU $3000 . Then for two 4 day hopper tickets is AU $1100. It adds up so quickly .....

I also don’t find eating out in the USA particularly cheap either .

#6 Cimbom

Posted 12 June 2019 - 06:54 PM

Other things that can add up:
- Drinks, snacks, coffees, ice cream etc when out and about
- Public transport or Uber (or petrol, parking, etc if driving)
- SIM cards for phones if relevant
- Shopping, even small items
- Clothing for climate (new winter coats etc if relevant)
- Tips and tax on top of meals out and also sales tax on purchases. Using your bank card overseas can have lots of fees - get a fee free card before travelling (Citibank is good)

#7 aluminium

Posted 12 June 2019 - 06:57 PM

I try and pre-book as much as possible: hotels, flights, car hire, activities/tickets/tours. And what I can't pre-book, I look up and cost before leaving.

We just spent 5-weeks in Canada/USA. We stayed in hotels w/ included breakfasts, grocery shopped and ate salad/breadrolls/hummus for lunch and ate out most night. Family of 4 - $60 - $100 p/ restaurant meal incl tips and tax.

#8 José

Posted 12 June 2019 - 07:30 PM

yes, remember to add tax!
our prices are total price, invlusive of GST.
their prices are not. tax is added at the register.

#9 qak

Posted 12 June 2019 - 07:34 PM

Taxes, tipping & resort fees - $$$$

#10 jayskette

Posted 12 June 2019 - 07:45 PM

you will always spend more then budgeted. have at least 2 methods of payment.
get travel insurance with unlimited medical cover as a minimum, and in your case car rental excess insurance.
include tips of 20% for restaurants.
remember the AUD costs getting to and from USA including airport spends, car parking etc.

#11 born.a.girl

Posted 12 June 2019 - 07:51 PM

We're just back today from a trip which included three weeks in Canada.  Not sure if the US is the same, but most prices in Canada do not include tax.  If you live there, it's no doubt normal for you, but I sometimes forgot, and the tax varies by state, up to 17%. Often the prices are just stated 'plus tax' but if you're not familiar with the taxes (and even with the same state they can vary depending on what it is) it can add up.

You do have to decide up front if you're going to be budget eaters, which means your meals out are prepared beforehand and liquids are water, because that's also something that really adds up. We're now comfortably off and mostly eat out, and compared with budget trips we've done in the past, with self catering, the difference is huge.

Agree with PC, you may often just get a coffee maker, which both doesn't make tea, and doesn't make any other hot drink, either - hot chocolate for example.

The addition of a microwave can make the world of difference to a basic room - soup & bread rolls is a meal.

TBH, if I were again going somewhere that didn't have tea kettles, I'd take our Birko.  We took that to NZ with us twice when we had our niece with multiple intolerances and used it endlessly.   Dodgy catering can drive you batty.  If you have something that can boil an egg, heat water, soup, veggies etc it makes a huge difference.

(Even the kettle we just had in Manila didn't boil, it got hot then refused to go further.  Hot might be fine for coffee, but useless for tea - we had to request a kettle we could actually get a rolling boil on.)

#12 born.a.girl

Posted 12 June 2019 - 07:59 PM

P.S: I know Citibank is an excellent debit card, haven't got one yet, but we've used out 28 degrees credit card for overseas trips now for several years and have been very happy.   No annual fee, no currency exchange fee,and the exchange rate they use is that advertised on xe.com each day.  Did a little test last year and on the same day, it came out better by far.

#13 Reader

Posted 12 June 2019 - 08:16 PM

We had a very bad experience with the Citibank card. Despite us informing them of our travel plans and giving them our US mobile numbers, the first time we tried to use an ATM in New York, they locked us out. After contacting them and having them unlock it, it happened twice more so we gave up and used our ING card. Got home to find a message from them on our home answering machine saying there was overseas activity on our card ...  it was our transactions ... We cut the cards up!

#14 ~THE~MAGICIAN~

Posted 12 June 2019 - 08:41 PM

View PostReader, on 12 June 2019 - 08:16 PM, said:

We had a very bad experience with the Citibank card. Despite us informing them of our travel plans and giving them our US mobile numbers, the first time we tried to use an ATM in New York, they locked us out. After contacting them and having them unlock it, it happened twice more so we gave up and used our ING card. Got home to find a message from them on our home answering machine saying there was overseas activity on our card ...  it was our transactions ... We cut the cards up!

We had the exact same experience with ING while in the US this year!

#15 Dianalynch

Posted 12 June 2019 - 08:49 PM

The exchange rate...may not be in 1-2 years what it is now...there are predictions the Aussie will go lower over the next couple of years, I hope that doesn’t happen but I’d factor in a potential drop in value

Dh and I went on our honeymoon 10 years ago, the Aussie was half the value of the euro, that stung

#16 Lucrezia Borgia

Posted 12 June 2019 - 09:08 PM

you may have factored this in, and others have covered it - but we’ve just booked accom for NYC and DC - both hotels have given us a quote but there is a “disclaimer” that taxes (whatever that might entail) would be extra. so we are factoring in a buffer for that.


#17 hunter4

Posted 12 June 2019 - 09:30 PM

Some other costs to think about if you are planning on driving is tolls (most toll roads are toll tag only these days) and GPS (either through phone data or a stand alone device).

Also I don't know how old your kids are but would you need car seats?

The biggest expense we find is food, so as others have said think about what you want to do for catering.  We generally either get hotels that provide breakfast or just buy a couple of plastic bowls and have cereal for breakfast (but you may not get a fridge in your room to keep milk), then do lunch as a picnic in a park after going to a shopping center and dinner out, but there are many other options.

Another option is breakfasts can be a relatively cheap meal to eat out  (2 pancakes, 2 eggs, 2 bacon for $9) so you could look at doing a big breakfast every morning skipping lunch and having an early dinner.

also remember that if you eat out a lot vegetables can be scarce I found having picnic lunches with lots of fresh veges from a supermarket was good for some balance.  

With taxes - especially hotel rooms, there is generally a state tax and a federal tax so it can add up pretty quickly.

A lot of attractions cost less of you purchase ahead of time online.  If you don't want schedule too much you can always do this just the day before- just bookmark all the sites so they are easy to get to.

#18 PhillipaCrawford

Posted 12 June 2019 - 09:32 PM

We have used a Citibank card with no problems for 5 years+.
When we advised them we would be O/S this time we gave them the email as a contact - since we wouldn't be using our regular number while away. They ended up making contact when we stuffed up an automatic petrol pump and it looked like there were duplicate transactions, but because we answered the email unlocked the card immediately. So that might be something to be aware of.

We applied for 28 degrees to have an extra and that was a nightmare first getting established, then adding me and finally the limit was way too low.

And I agree with born a girl remembering to factor in taxes on top of the fee drove me batty.

Also if you are going to the US be very aware of their Visa requirements and apply early  personally we chose our flights to Canada to avoid touching down in the states.

#19 lozoodle

Posted 12 June 2019 - 09:47 PM

We just did two weeks - crammed in Disneyland, Hawaii, San Fran and a bunch of other bits. All up I think we spent about 18k for the 5 of us but we did go pretty cheap a lot with the food and self catered quite a bit.

#20 born.a.girl

Posted 13 June 2019 - 06:01 AM

View PostReader, on 12 June 2019 - 08:16 PM, said:

We had a very bad experience with the Citibank card. Despite us informing them of our travel plans and giving them our US mobile numbers, the first time we tried to use an ATM in New York, they locked us out. After contacting them and having them unlock it, it happened twice more so we gave up and used our ING card. Got home to find a message from them on our home answering machine saying there was overseas activity on our card ...  it was our transactions ... We cut the cards up!

View Post~THE~MAGICIAN~, on 12 June 2019 - 08:41 PM, said:

We had the exact same experience with ING while in the US this year!


Wow, that's pretty poor.  I'm fastidious about letting card companies know our whereabouts and when, but am not 100% confident there won't be a problem, even though I've not had one in three different multi-country trips in recent years.  Handy to be reminded that we should all, always have a backup.

ETA missing word.

Edited by born.a.girl, 13 June 2019 - 10:44 AM.


#21 born.a.girl

Posted 13 June 2019 - 06:06 AM

View PostLucrezia Borgia, on 12 June 2019 - 09:08 PM, said:

you may have factored this in, and others have covered it - but we’ve just booked accom for NYC and DC - both hotels have given us a quote but there is a “disclaimer” that taxes (whatever that might entail) would be extra. so we are factoring in a buffer for that.

That's why I prefer to pay upfront.   I know one time I'll get caught having to claim from travel insurance rather than just a free cancellation, but until that happens I'll prepay if I can.  Strangely, found that quite hard to to in Canada apart from airbnb.

Good thing Manila's cheap, it wasn't obvious how much the taxes were (and tourist taxes - which I agree with - can add more), but they were 22%.

#22 PhillipaCrawford

Posted 13 June 2019 - 06:17 AM

Booking.com guarantees that the price you see on booking will be the price paid.
That price is higher than dealing direct with the accommodation but the ability to cancel for free - most places- was really helpful this trip. I had booked most places almost 12 months before and did a bit of alteration in the final 3 months

#23 overlytired

Posted 13 June 2019 - 09:51 AM

View PostPhillipaCrawford, on 13 June 2019 - 06:17 AM, said:

Booking.com guarantees that the price you see on booking will be the price paid.
That price is higher than dealing direct with the accommodation but the ability to cancel for free - most places- was really helpful this trip. I had booked most places almost 12 months before and did a bit of alteration in the final 3 months

I found the opposite: Booking.com told me that a room was available when it wasn't. Reserving a room is usually cheaper through the hotel's website, and there are rates for refundable bookings. In case of any issues, you're also not dealing with an intermediary.

If you're self-catering and buying groceries, there are often interesting "buy one get one free" deals (cereal, bread, snacks, etc), although not always the healthiest.

When crossing the street, look LEFT first (I'm Canadian living in Canada and this was THE biggest adjustment when we visited the UK).

Tolls, as PP mentioned. They are usually progressive (i.e. pay a small amount every X distance) so have a number of $1 bills and quarters handy.

#24 born.a.girl

Posted 13 June 2019 - 10:32 AM

Still on the credit cards ...we had an experience exactly a week before our last year's trip, with our 28 degrees card being used fraudulently.   Risk you take unfortunately using it so much online before a trip.  Because our cards had different numbers, only mine was blocked, and my husband's was free to still be used.

Our Westpac credit cards, both have the same number, and I double checked with them and both would be blocked in the event of one being used fraudulently.  Neighbours had the same issue with the CBA credit cards.

No idea if 28 degrees is still the same system as we've had ours for decades.

#25 born.a.girl

Posted 13 June 2019 - 10:38 AM

View Postoverlytired, on 13 June 2019 - 09:51 AM, said:

I found the opposite: Booking.com told me that a room was available when it wasn't. Reserving a room is usually cheaper through the hotel's website, and there are rates for refundable bookings. In case of any issues, you're also not dealing with an intermediary.

If you're self-catering and buying groceries, there are often interesting "buy one get one free" deals (cereal, bread, snacks, etc), although not always the healthiest.

When crossing the street, look LEFT first (I'm Canadian living in Canada and this was THE biggest adjustment when we visited the UK).

Tolls, as PP mentioned. They are usually progressive (i.e. pay a small amount every X distance) so have a number of $1 bills and quarters handy.


Oh crossing the street ... it's a wonder more tourists are not killed this way.  When in Rome a Japanese man came very close to being run over by a bus - the bus had to swerve significantly to miss him.

I just keep looking both ways -fortunately our last trip being Canada, Cuba and Philippines, it was consistent.  I also found it well nigh impossible NOT to also look for cars coming from left - e.g. if turning left in Canada.  I knew it was ridiculous but to not do so went against all of my instincts.

Canadian drivers are excellent, and sooooooo respectful of pedestrians.  Not that I did a lot of driving - one day around Calgary and one day on Vancouver island. The public transport in Toronto and Vancouver was fantastic so didn't need to.




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