So, you have to create a travel budget.
If you’re anything like me, this is something you have probably been avoiding.
Preparing a travel budget can be a daunting and overwhelming experience, with endless estimates, and often erratic or doubtful results. You can never truly know if the budget is going to work out until you actually embark on your journey. But they are important so that you can be better prepared for the unexpected. So, with that in mind take a deep breath. It’s ok, everyone else hates making a travel budget too.
The budget is one of the most dreaded things a person must create to effectively travel. No one wants to think about how much money their spending or try to find ways to cut their expenses. However, it is necessary. Some women (myself included previously) don’t believe they need a travel budget because they will be alone and will only be tracking the expenses of one person. Or they will think planning is pointless because travelling alone is cheaper than traveling in a group. Being whimsical and positive about your upcoming trip is fine but the reality of travel and unexpected costs will add up if you don’t do your research and at least loosely plan how you plan to spend your money.
Solo travel can be unpredictable and expensive. Drawing up your budget ahead of time will help you realize the true cost of your trip and allow you organization and peace of mind if something unexpected happens. If you have a budget, you can easily refer to it and adjust your plans accordingly.
Travel can be expensive – but there are ways to bring costs down. You just have to take the time to research and be open-minded with cost saving tips.
Where do I begin?
Things to think about before you even start
Remember that in addition to budgeting for your actual travel, there’s also what you’ll spend getting ready to leave – the startup costs, the upfront expenses. Here are just a few examples of the kinds of things you’ll have to keep in mind:
- You’ll have to choose a backpack or a suitcase which can set you back anything from $30 to $300 and more. The type of travelling you are doing will determine if you need a pack vs. a suitcase.
- Then there’s the rest of your travel gear and accessories: clothes, good boots and shoes, and the various products – creams, toothpaste and other toiletries.
- Do you need medical attention before leaving? International travel vaccinations can be quite steep if your insurance doesn’t pay for them. You also should be sure you have filled all prescriptions you plan to bring with you before your trip. Check with a clinic or your doctor.
- Have you gotten a passport? If you will be travelling outside your own country you will need one of these. In the US you can wait up to 6-weeks before traveling to apply for passport and receive it before your trip. Depending on how close your trip is you may even have to pay for expedited shipping. You also will have to pay for the passport photo to be taken.
- Do you need a visa? The visas for some countries can cost hundreds of dollars.
- You’ll have to factor in the cost of comprehensive travel insurance, especially if you come from a country like the United States, like me, where health insurance is private and costly. Travel insurance is a MUST. Imagine breaking your leg in the middle in Belize and having no way to afford medical treatment or surgery out of pocket there.
- And finally, there’s the cost of international transport, your flights, trains, buses, lodging, entertainment etc.
This is a brief and general list. Not all of these will apply to everyone but, this list does give you an idea of what you need to try to keep in mind when planning your adventure.
So, now that you’ve covered the basics, it’s time to make your budget.
Talk to other travelers about their experiences. Ask friends for tips and advice from people who have travelled to your destination before.
To make your research easier I’ve compiled a list of some great tools, sites, and blogs that can help you plan both your budget and your itinerary.
You have to start by laying out what you think you’ll be spending. I find excel spreadsheets to be the most helpful. If you’re like me, and are extremely bad at math you will appreciate a ‘plug and chug’ excel template for budgeting.
Cost of travel in countries: figure out how much things cost abroad
There are plenty of resources on the web that provide information on the cost of travelling. Do you research and use multiple sources. It’s important to remember that some sites are paid to display certain information and can be misleading. Below I have compiled some useful sites that can help you determine how expensive a country or region can be.
- XE.com: can help you determine currency exchange rates and will help you calculate your money exchange.
- Travel Independent: a guide to some of the world’s most popular travel destinations. This site gives you simple and relative information on country highlights, ratings, and expenses.
- Budget Your Trip: View typical and average travel costs for thousands of cities and hundreds of countries around the world to help you plan your next trip’s budget.
How to actually plan your travel budget
What do you actually include in your budget? What proportion should go to accommodation, and how much should you set aside for food? Is there anything you can do without, or substitute? What steps do you actually have to take to get your budget done? I’m not going to go into specifics on searching for flights and lodging. I will address finding affordable travel and accommodation in a later post.
- Nomaic Matt: staple travel blog is a must to follow for any traveler. It is full of extensive information on countries and the ins and outs of planning a trip.
- Lonely Planet: extensive online travel guide to nearly every part of the globe.
- Bootsnall: an amazing planning resource. While it tends to be angled at longer-term travel, that doesn’t matter. This is the gold standard and wildly useful.
- World Travel Guide: online guide that offers information on what to do to before travelling, what to do while there, and even gives historical and cultural information.
- Wild Junket: a step-by-step process that shows you exactly what you have to do to end up with a travel budget.
- Maphappy: this article shows you how to prioritize high-ticket items and isn’t aimed at the backpacker crowd.