The key to accurately planning future expenses is to keep track of current expenses. (That’s true for any budgeting, not just Walt Disney World vacations.) I’d like to share with you a resource that I use to help me with my vacation budget planning.
You can download trip planning worksheets from www.touringplans.com absolutely free. I’ve been using these worksheets for several years now and love them. They come in different sizes, from 8 ½ x 11, for use in a 3-ring binder, down to day planner size. I use the day planner versions, and keep them in my fanny pack while at the park.
That’s where my favorite page, the “Daily Budget” worksheet, comes in handy. It has boxes for you to track how much you spend on each meal, souvenirs, parking, and so on. There are blank spaces at the bottom for you to add your own categories. For instance, I add gas, Mousekeeping, and bell services. I keep everyone’s receipts and each day, I fill in how much we spent on each category. If I add the columns together, I know how much we spent each day. When I add the rows horizontally, I know how much we spent on each category over the length of our trip. By using this worksheet to keep track of our expenses over several years, I can predict with a great deal of accuracy how much my family will spend on each meal (whether counter service or table service), souvenirs, and gas for the road trip.
Another planning sheet that I use a lot is the “Daily Activities.” I print one out for each day that we’re going to be at the parks. It has spaces for to you enter which park you’re going to, its hours, ADR information, and list your planned or actual activities for morning, afternoon, and evening. There’s another budget section where you list planned and actual expenditures. At the bottom of each of the two pages is a small blank section for your notes. I use these sheets not only for planning, but as a mini-diary while we’re at the parks.
There’s also a “Lodging” worksheet, where I can list the name, phone number, reservation number, and other information about each place we’re staying while on vacation. It allows me to keep all of the information on our rooms, both on-property and along the way, in one handy place.
I begin my vacation planning with the large “Vacation at a Glance” page. This isn’t anything fancy, just an 81/2 x 11 page with columns for each day of a week. I put the day and date in the box at the top of each column and then list which park we plan to visit, what restaurant we plan to eat at, and so on for each day.
There is also a “Trip Planning Timeline.” This starts out a year from your vacation and progressively gets closer, all the way up to the morning of departure. Each step, it has a comprehensive list of things to accomplish. For example, twelve months out, it reminds you to order the Disney vacation planning DVD, research hotel options, and make room reservations or book a package. At the six months point, you need to make ADRs and purchase Cirque de Soleil tickets, if desired. Thirty days before leaving, this worksheet reminds you to reconfirm your flight schedule and make arrangements for your pets. I used to use this to plan my trips, but recently, I made my own planning checklist, using this as a guide.
I’m sure you could do this sort of budgeting and planning electronically. Until recently, touringplans.com had an electronic version. Someone with better Excel skills than I could make their own worksheet. There are probably apps that serve the same function as these planning worksheets (although I’m not aware of any). But if you don’t have an iphone, or are like me and feel more comfortable with pencil and paper, these worksheets are great. And even if you are tech-savvy, check out these worksheets and see if you can make use of them, or even improve on them.
Contributed by: Mark (NDD #102). Mark is our resident “how to save money while living the Disney Driven Life” expert