Your Dream Trip in Reach: How to Budget for Traveling Overseas

Your Dream Trip in Reach

What’s on your bucket list? A week in Paris? Brewery tours in Ireland? Maybe you just want to see one of the seven wonders of the world! Whether you’ve already retired or you’re nearing retirement, it’s okay to start planning to help turn your dreams into reality. It may not be possible for you to hop on a plane and go today, but with a savings strategy, your dream trip can be within reach! Read on to see how to calculate your costs and budget for your trip.

How to Budget for an Overseas Trip

Before you start budgeting, you need understand your potential expenses.

Get an estimate of your expenses

Airline tickets

Perform a search online to estimate how much airfare would cost from your city to your dream destination. Since airline ticket prices are not fixed, the fee you research now will most likely change by the time you’re ready to book your trip. That’s okay – you’re just looking for a ballpark. This estimate will help set your budget’s baseline. As you get closer to the time to book, you can pull a new estimate, so you’re prepared for any cost changes.

Airline Budgeting Reminders:

  • You can often save if you travel in the offseason. So if your dates are flexible, try a few different options to see when you can get the best deal.
  • Don’t forget that some airlines charge fees for your bags, and that cost can add up if checking bags. You can check this information on most airlines’ websites. (Be sure to check each leg of your trip – checked bag fees are typically shown for just one way!)

Passport Costs

Passports are necessary for out-of-the-country travel. If you’re planning to go overseas, you’ll need to make sure you have one. And you’ll need to add the fees to your budget!

Here are some things to know:1

  • Passports expire, so if you have one but it’s been a while since you used it, check to make sure it’s still valid.
  • If you don’t have a passport, it will cost you $165* for the application and passport.
  • If you are traveling with kids or grandkids under age 16 who need to get a passport, it will cost an additional $135* per child.
  • If you simply need to renew your passport, it will cost $130*.
  • Passports can take between 6-9 weeks to be sent to you, so make sure to apply well in advance of your trip.

*Passport costs may vary.


You can search for a hotel the same way you research airline tickets — by getting an estimate beforehand to inform your budget and following up closer to your trip to get a current picture of prices. Be sure to take the time to compare hotel prices to find the best deal. There are tons of sites online, like Expedia, Trivago, and KAYAK, that make finding great hotels and comparing prices easy.

Think about what activities you want to do

What do you want to do on your trip — visit museums, eat your way through the city, or tour as many castles as you can? Even if you think you know which experiences you want to have, it’s always a good idea to do a little extra research.

Nailing down the places on your must-see list will allow you to look up admission costs and fees. Add those costs to your budget, and then factor in a wildcard or two. You never know what fun places you’ll happen upon when you finally arrive!

Don’t forget transportation

Are you going to be hopping from city to city? Do the activities you want to do require travel? Consider taxi fares, bus fees, and train ticket costs. These items are all important budget line items.

Health care

Budgeting for potential doctors’ visits when you’re overseas is a good way to keep from being caught off guard if something happens.

If you’re under 65, check with your health insurance provider to see what kind of protection you have overseas.

If you’re over 65, what kind of Medicare coverage do you have? Medicare Supplement insurance policies (also called Medigap) cover some medical costs while traveling in foreign countries, while some Medicare Advantage plans do not. Of course, you should always check with your provider on your policy’s limitations/requirements before traveling. If you have the basic Original Medicare coverage, you’d be responsible for 100% of costs incurred if you needed health care while overseas.

Understanding your health care protections overseas will inform how much you should budget for emergency line items.

Mobile phone fees

Though it’s not a necessity, if you want to be able to FaceTime your grandkids from a famous landmark or text pictures to your friends back home, you’ll need to talk to your phone’s service provider about international travel. This can get expensive, so make sure you understand what the fees will be and save for this extra cost.

Currency conversion

Your $1 may not go as far as a foreign country as it does here. But in some places, it goes further! Be sure to look up the exchange rate of your destination so you have an idea what to expect.

Like the airline and hotel process, the conversion rate can change over time. If you do research now, but plan to travel later, make sure you follow up again before your trip.

Unexpected expenses

What if your bags get lost on your trip? You may have to purchase a few things at your destination. What if your prescription medication is in that bag? These are just two examples of things that could come up, so it’s a good idea to budget extra funds so you’re not caught off guard.

If calculating itemized costs is more work than you want to put into vacation planning, some vacations for seniors make planning and budgeting easy! All-inclusive options like cruises and resorts make costs clear so all that’s left to do is budget.

Start saving

Now that you know the types of things you need to add to your dream trip’s budget, it’s time to start saving. This can get a little trickier on a fixed income, so it’s important to be efficient with your spending and get creative with your opportunities. That’s where a sound budget comes in! There’s good news — small changes can add up!

  • If you have a household budget, see if you can reduce every category outside of your bills. Even trimming $10 from your grocery bill or $15 for a movie ticket expense each month could make a big difference. Think about it: if you could trim $100 from your monthly budget, you could save $1,200 in just one year!
  • Add “Vacation” to your budget and start allocating any extra money to that category.
  • Do you have a hobby or passion that could be turned into a source of income? For example, if you like to make jam, you could double what you normally make for yourself and sell it to friends or family!
  • Get a side gig! There are numerous jobs perfect for seniors that don’t require full-time or long-term commitments. If you are living comfortably in retirement, you could get a temporary job and save everything you earn for your big trip!
  • Spend a little less on spoiling the grandkids – and get them a souvenir from your trip instead.
  • Cancel memberships you don’t use. For example, despite your best intentions, you simply may not use your gym membership. There are plenty of other ways to get your exercise, and the money you save could go toward your vacation budget.

Other tips

Search for senior discounts to see if there are ways you can save. Travel-specific senior discounts could help you save on transportation and lodging expenses.

If you’re not yet retired, start working travel into your retirement budget.

Enjoy Your Overseas Trip!

If you follow these steps, your globetrotting adventure awaits! Just focus on careful planning, be aware of your potential expenses, and make sure you watch your spending habits on the things you just don’t need. Want more budgeting tips? Get advice to tackle your finances here.


1U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs. Web page: Passport Fees. (01/23/2023)