Money. Yes, that’s what our theme is this month so I’ve turned to some experts to help us out. Though Bryan Tighe is not a solo traveler (he traveled with his wife Laurie to nearly 50 countries) he has become an expert on budgeting and, along with Lauries, publish BudgetYourTrip.com. They are also founders of Collective Lens, a non profit that helps promote the awareness of important causes through photography. Here’s their post…
Planning a trip can be almost as exciting as the trip itself. Where will you go? What will you see? The possibilities are endless, and the excitement builds with each passing day. Every aspect of the trip causes you to wonder in excitement and anticipate many amazing experiences.
That is, with one exception. No one ever gets excited about their trip’s budget. While your imagination is soaring, so are the costs. Figuring out these costs can be difficult, especially if you’re trying to spend as little as possible and get the best value.
Fortunately, you’re not the first to plan a travel budget. Here are some tips and resources to help you figure out how much you’ll spend.
Is it realistic to budget a trip?
Your actual budget, as well as your ability to plan your budget, will be affected primarily by the length of your trip. Short term trips will require less work and research to plan. If you’re only visiting a few places for a few weeks, finding hotel and restaurant costs can be quite straightforward. Because your trip is short, other minor costs become less important if they cause you to go over.
However, if you’re planning on traveling to many different places or for a longer period of time, you will be unable to plan every detail of your trip. Some people disagree with this. They believe that planning every detail of a trip is a realistic possibility. Unfortunately, they will soon find that their plans will change. But don’t fret, this is often a good thing. If you’re prepared for this, all will be OK. If you’re not, you will experience that nagging feeling known as “stress” that has no place on a vacation. So, let’s get on to budgeting.
Plan not to have a plan.
On our trips, we like to use the phrase, “plan not to have a plan.” Instead of planning every detail, we know that things will change and we plan for it. In fact, we embrace it. The same can be said for your trip finances, not just your schedule and activities. Planning for change and flexibility both financially and emotionally will keep you from setting yourself up for disappointment. Ideally, you’ll be open to new experiences, and your budget will be, too.
Know your travel style.
When planning your budget, first you need to understand your travel style. Are you a hostel-bound backpacker, or do you demand a suite at the Four Seasons? Most people are somewhere in the middle, but that’s quite a big range. Know what standards of accommodation you will need, because this will directly affect your budget.. Are you willing to share a bathroom? Do you need a TV in your room? Transportation works the same way. If you use the local bus in most places you can save a lot of cash, but it won’t be nearly as comfortable as a taxi, a rental car, or even an all inclusive tour.
Choose your destination according to your budget.
Next, you’ll need to know what the overall costs for travel and vacationing are in the country or region you’ll be visiting. Huge price differences can be found in different parts of the world. Europe and the U.S. tend to be expensive, while many places in Asia or South America are significantly cheaper.
Know your average daily expenses.
The next step is crucial to figuring out your budget. You’ll need to determine the average amount that you will likely spend per day in each of the regions that you’ll visit. (This will probably be the same for most cities within a country.) You’ll need to factor in the cost of your hotel with food, transportation, and entertainment expenses such as museum entrance tickets and organized tours.
- Accommodation expenses are the easiest to research, as many online hotel booking sites are available look up costs for your desired comfort level. Keep in mind, though, that many of the cheaper and smaller hotels do not list themselves on such websites. You may need to use a guidebook or get personal recommendations.
- Food and transportation expenses can be more of a challenge. Guidebooks and websites will often give you an accurate overview.
- Entertainment expenses can vary widely. While many museums or tours will post their prices online, many other local activities will have to wait for your instant discovery. Again, the open minded adventurer in you will love stumbling into these experiences, but your bank account will be timid. Have a set amount planned per day for such expenses.
Finally, buffer everything with some backup money in case you accidentally go over your budget, have an impromptu splurge at a nice restaurant, or discover that something has gone wrong.
Once you have determined your average daily budget for the places you’ll visit, then you can simply calculate the costs for a specific number of days. Then add on the cost of transportation to all of your locations. Fortunately, this is the easiest part to research. Airline prices are all over the internet, as are prices for train tickets and long distance buses in most foreign countries. Otherwise, guidebooks, travel forums, or BudgetYourTrip.com can help you find prices that are not usually posted online.
Now you should have a nice solid number that is the approximate price of your upcoming trip. Many people add on a little extra, just in case. But you might have already done that while determining the average daily costs for your destinations. Either way, now you have something to shoot for. It’s time to start saving and packing!
You may also be interested in Travel Money: when to make and when to break the budget.