Top Trip Calculators and Apps to Plan Your Next Budget-Friendly Getaway

The bags are packed, pet sitters are lined up and the kids are on a school break — there’s no better time to take a much-needed vacation. But have you considered the cost of gas, tolls and dining out along the way? Or for those traveling with a group, how will you divide expenses? A spring 2019 survey by Bankrate showed 60 percent of respondents who weren’t going to take a summer vacation were skipping their travels because they could not afford it.

When budgeting for a trip, several free tools can help with planning and reducing unexpected costs. Check out the websites and apps below to calculate travel costs before and while hitting the road.

Practical Money Skills Travel Calculator

A simple budgeting tool, the Practical Money Skills travel calculator is a fast and easy way to add up the estimated cost of hotels, meals, activities and any other vacation expenses (like lift tickets). When you’re finished entering the estimated costs, scroll to the bottom of the page and hit “Calculate.” Then you can decide what to cut from or add to your upcoming trip. Tip: This trip calculator is handy when you’ve paid for some expenses upfront and have a budget in mind, as it can help you nail down your spending plan before you go.

It’s easier to enjoy the views along the way when you’re not worried about your travel funds. Plan ahead with apps like Practical Money Skills and Travelmath.



From finding hotels and cities near airports to weighing the cost of driving versus flying, Travelmath is an all-in-one tool that can calculate nearly every cost for your next trip. The website (also an app) offers more than a dozen types of calculations, including hotel costs, time difference and direct flights versus connecting flights. Among this calculator’s features is the ability to plan side trips and other nearby activities. The program provides stats, listings and to-dos for area colleges and universities, plus information about neighboring towns near your destination. If there is a prospective high school grad in the family, check out this itinerary that turns a college tour into a family vacation.


This tool is for road travelers who simply want to know the cost of driving to their destination. Enter your destination along with the year, make and model of your car, and the GasBuddy trip calculator will provide the distance, total trip cost and amount of fuel to be used. If your long weekend getaway will take you across state lines (maybe to catch a few college football games or to explore four Southwestern states at once at the Four Corners Monument), this is a perfect tool to help calculate gas mileage and decide where best to fill up.

Before you take off on your next vacation, download GasBuddy and Hopper to discover the best nearby fuel rates and flight deals, respectively.



Think GasBuddy for airfare. If you want to see the best time to book a flight and get an accurate estimate of the cost, Hopper (and its fun rabbit logo) is a sound tool. Airfare rates are presented on a color-coordinated calendar, and you can organize and book your trip by destination up to a year in advance. Rates will change as your proposed trip nears, but Hopper helps figure out the ideal days to lock in your optimal dates with a price tag in mind. As for add-on fees like carry-on baggage and seat selections, Hopper takes these costs into consideration when completing the booking process. With the “Watch” function, users can keep an eye on rates for an upcoming vacation.

Opt for scenic routes while also staying attune to toll costs with TollGuru.



You’ve landed in your destination, picked up your rental car and even used GasBuddy to calculate the cost of fuel, but now your perfect driving route is filled with tolls. Sound familiar? Have no fear. Travelers can budget for these unexpected expenses with this toll calculator tool, available from the App Store and Google Play. The maps and toll station locators are not limited to the United States; TollGuru also tracks routes and rates in Canada, Mexico and India. (Don’t want to worry about carrying cash? Add on a Toll Pass Device/Waiver when booking your rental car.)

Whether you’re conquering mountains, cities or the national parks, make calculating costs simple with Splitwise, a free tool that can help divvy up costs between you and your crew along the way.



No one wants to spend precious vacation time deciding who is paying for what on your travels. Leave the complicated math to Splitwise. The Splitwise website and app let you keep track of how much your cousin spent on gas and how much your brother paid for dinner, so you can all make sure the vacation is fair and fun. The splitting functionality helps take into account other expenses (groceries, shared housing costs) and keeps from overcharging some travelers who might not be along for the entire trip. This travel budget calculator app is especially useful during group trips, whether you’re planning a guys’ trip to Denver or a girls’ vacation in Nashville. Start planning today by booking your group’s rental car reservation. Then, use Splitwise to divvy up the costs now or later down the road.


How do I calculate fuel efficiency?

A rule of thumb is 12 gallons for a small car or sedan and 15 gallons for an SUV.

Before your trip, when your gas tank is full, jot down your odometer reading. Then before you fill your tank again, take the next reading. The difference in the odometer numbers is how many miles your vehicle covered in one tank.

Now, remember the 12- and 15-gallon estimates? Divide your miles traveled by the gas tank capacity for your vehicle type to get your average per-gallon mileage. This will come in handy when figuring out that final fill-up before returning the rental car at the end of your getaway.


Reading 1: 1,000 miles

Reading 2: 1,300 miles

Total Mileage for a Tank: 300

Driving a Sedan: 300 / 12 = 25 miles per gallon

Driving an SUV: 300 / 15 = 20 miles per gallon

Why is this important?

You may want to know how many times you will fill up after flying in and driving out on your trip. If your destination is 250 miles away and your vehicle gets 300 miles per tank, then this is how you can run the numbers before hitting the road.

Distance: 525 miles (distance there and back, plus maybe a side trip to a national park, a couple of ballgames or a visit to a nearby relative).

Mileage per Tank: 300 miles

Tanks of Gas Required: 525 / 300 = 1.75 tanks of gas

Fill-Ups Required: 1

Safe Fill-Ups: 2

How can I prepare for outside airline fees?

While calculating the cost of a flight, the added fee for a carry-on bag or seat selection can come as a surprise. Prepare for the sticker shock by remembering airfare is usually all that is listed when booking a flight. When comparing rates, consider the cost of seats and baggage, as lower airfare does not always mean lower travel costs.


Airline A has a flight for $100, and Airline B has the same flight for $130. On face value, the $100 airfare seems cheaper, but the second option could be more affordable depending on how you travel.

Airline A, Bag and Seat: $40 / carry-on, $30 / seat = $170 total ($100 + $70)

Airline B, Bag and Seat: $20 / carry-on, $15 / seat = $165 total ($130 + $35)

Quick lesson:

While airfare is typically the highest single cost for travel, supplemental fees can add up and sometimes nearly exceed the cost of the flight. Keep this in mind when shopping around for the best deals and remember that free apps like Hopper are available to aid your budget planning and help you calculate travel costs.

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About the Author

Marcus Murphree is a print journalist-turned-senior member of a communications team for a Chicago-area nonprofit. Now a four-year resident of the Midwest, he has learned the life of the snowbirds, finding excuses to travel south for the winter or the best ways to batten down the hatches during record cold fronts along Lake Michigan.