Budgeting is part of the fun of trip planning. It’s the first step in my planning process, and it often makes me feel that I’m getting closer to making the trip a reality.
It’s not the same for everyone; budgeting can be a pain if you’re not the kind who likes to research and plan in advance.
But budgeting for a trip can give you a peace of mind, especially if you’re going on a long trip, and make sure that you won’t run out of money halfway through the trip. It only takes a few simple steps to save yourself from spending the whole trip stressing about cash flow.
Your destination will, of course, be the main determinant for your budget.
Your budget also depends on your travel style — you can save money by staying in hostels and Couchsurfing to splurge on activities like scuba diving and bungee jumping. It all boils down to what your priorities are.
Whether you are a novice or an expert traveler, keep in mind that you can travel the world without breaking the bank.
Here are a few steps to take when setting your budget.
Identify your big-ticket items.
Start with the biggest expenditure for the trip, which is usually the air ticket. There are a few things to consider to get the cheapest flights.
First, it’s best to be flexible with dates and destinations. Airfares vary depending on the day of the week, time of year, and holidays. It’s always cheaper to fly during the middle of the week than on a weekend, or during a major holiday like Christmas. I usually use Skyscanner to search for flights in an entire month to get an overview of airfares and pick out the cheapest day to fly in that particular month.
Instead of flying to a place with an expensive flight, fly somewhere nearby that is cheaper to get to. It’s also wise to be flexible on the route you take as well. Sometimes you can save hundreds just by taking a detour instead of flying direct.
Estimate your expenses for accommodation, meals, and transportation.
Once you have your destination figured out, check online to find the approximate cost of living in your destination.
Even if you don’t know how long you’ll be at each destination, you can work out a daily cost based on room rates and meal costs. For meals, expect to budget more if you are staying in a hotel and eating out for every meal. The budget for groceries if you plan to stay in a hostel or apartment with a kitchen. To get an estimate of transportation costs, learn how to get from one city to another, how long it will take, and how much each leg will cost.
Don’t forget to include expenditures on visas, travel insurance, and vaccinations.
Next comes the basic essentials for each major trip. If you are traveling for an extended period of time, now might be a good time to decide your rough itinerary in order to estimate the rough cost of visas and vaccinations.
Many travelers dismiss travel insurance as an unnecessary expense and waste of money. They couldn’t be more wrong. Insurance is not a luxury item, it is essential even for a one-week trip and especially so for active travelers who engage in extreme sports or visit unusual destinations.
Identify your priorities.
The most important rule for your travel budget is flexible. Be strict with your expenditure to make sure you won’t run out of money halfway or return home to a huge credit card bill, but allowing for on-the-road splurges will take the stress out of your trip. The worst budget is a chain at your leg pulling you away from the best (if slightly more expensive) travel experiences.
Deciding what your priorities are will help you decide how you want to spend your money. Would you rather spend money on scuba diving or on a nice hotel room? Do you want to eat meals at a fancy restaurant or enjoy street food? Would you prefer to go on a three-day trek into the mountains, or splurge on a helicopter ride? Do you prefer to keep your cash for souvenirs or experiences?
Remember to put aside a little bit of money for emergencies. This will protect the rest of your travel budget if you need to replace a ticket that you lost or pay for an emergency at the hospital. It’s always good to have some money left when you get home as well.
Start saving for the trip as early as possible.
Once you’ve worked out how much you need, then you’ve got a figure you can save towards. Some people make this number their screensaver or put it on their fridge using this saving goal as motivation to go to work every day. Saving for travel isn’t easy, but as long as you follow through and stick to your plans, you’ll get there in no time.