Budgeting for couples’ travel

Money is one of the most difficult issues to deal with when travelling, especially when you’re travelling as a couple. Getting the money together is one issue, but once you’re on the road you also need to manage it — you have to decide what to spend it on and be careful not to waste it.


The most important thing you can do is talk. Sit down before your trip and talk about your expectations about how you plan to spend your money. One of the first things you’ll need to decide is:

To share or not to share?

If you’ve only been dating for a short time, you’ll probably keep your money separate, while if you’re married or have been together for some time, you might have joint finances.

Euros money

Is this money “mine” or “ours”?

If you’re spending your own money, you possibly won’t get upset if your partner suddenly decides to blow a large proportion of his cash on (in your opinion) a quite stupid activity — it’s his money, after all. But such actions are going to affect the trip anyway, because if one partner runs out of money either the trip will end sooner than planned, or the other partner will have to support the first. It’s always worth discussing large purchases.

Talk again

If you’ve decided to share finances, make sure to discuss how you’d like to spend it. If one partner is looking forward to a one-week luxury retreat that will use half the budget, and the other wants to backpack for a year, you’ve got some negotiating to do. If an awesome (but slightly expensive) opportunity comes up, discuss it together and work out if it’s something you’d both like to do, or if it’s really important for one partner. If only one partner wants to do it, perhaps she could do it alone, and the other partner could choose a treat of similar value later in the trip.

Don’t count pennies

Don't count pennies.

Don’t count pennies.

Some people like to keep records, but in my opinion it’s not useful to write down every cent you spend. Instead, set a daily budget and stick to it. This is easiest to do if you use cash rather than cards — every morning, put the day’s budget in a separate wallet and use only that. If you pay for something with a card, take the cash out of the wallet and put it away.

This is a really easy way to limit overspending — if one of you wants an ice-cream but there’s only $10 left in the budget for that day and you still have to eat dinner, save your treat for the next day.

Your budget needs to be realistic — if it’s too low you’ll just get depressed — so think carefully about how much it should be, and be ready to change it if necessary. You’ll need less in Southeast Asia than you would in Switzerland.

It might also help to keep your daily budget just for food and activities, and to pay for accommodation separately, or by keeping a separate fund for special activities. Whatever you do, talk about it as a couple and make an action plan together — if you’re both on the same page, things will go a lot more smoothly.

Planning a trip together?

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We wrote the the Art of Couples' Travel to help other learn from our mistakes.

Art of Couples' Travel talks about the real nitty gritty of trip planning, safety, romance and relationships on the road.

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4 Responses to “Budgeting for couples’ travel”

  1. Sam March 4, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

    This is a really important subject, and feels very relevant to me at the moment! With my partner of 7.5 years, we’ve come across some stumbling blocks on our first long-term trip together, and the most important way to deal with them has been by communicating. For example, I ended up with quite a lot more money saved than he did, and while we don’t have fully merged finances, we talked about it and made the decision to travel anyway, mostly on my money. Even if the trip doesn’t last as long as we’d hoped, I won’t be disappointed, as the point is doing these things together and sharing the experiences.

    • Craig and Linda March 6, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

      Hi Sam, yes – we’ve got completely shared finances and it’s still an issue! Communication, as you said, is key. I see you’re blogging at now — looks like an amazing time… and yes, Chile is expensive. Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay are worse :(

      • Sam March 6, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

        Oh dear!

      • Craig and Linda March 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

        :) It’s not too bad… and totally worth it!

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