You will obviously need money to travel. Even if you plan to work abroad, you still need at least money to buy your one-way plane ticket and enough to last a day or two. The best way to guide your efforts at putting money aside for your journey of a lifetime is to budget.
Some people go overboard with fixed budgets and draconian ‘no splurge’ rules, but your trip will be far more enjoyable if you give yourself a little bit of room. Do you really want to miss out on swimming with whale sharks just to save a few dollars? Or say ‘no, thanks’ to a safari through Tanzania, or hang out in your hostel room rather than at the hippest London club, all because your original budget didn’t include it? Traveling is also meant to experience new things that you never thought of, so let’s give yourself a chance.
Good budgets give you the chance to enjoy the odd bit of serendipity and allow for new possibilities. Plus, you could discover new ways to save during your trip or take a job to pay it off later. While you don’t want to throw away your money, you don’t want to miss out on amazing adventures, or haggling over every last penny.
The best way to start budgeting is to look at what you are spending when you are on vacation. Do you like to treat yourself to delicious meals, or would you choose front row tickets to your favourite artist show? Since we usually cannot indulge in everything, you can choose in which area you will restrain yourself a little bit, and which one you can go all in. As for myself, I often order one of the cheapest meal at the restaurant, or even eat street food, but I never say no to kayaking or a sport event. Choose your battle wisely, and your trip will be much more fun.
Guidebooks to your destination will give you a rough idea of prices. You have to know though that prices can go up very quickly, so make sure you have the latest edition or consider looking at our Travel Guides for rough ideas on costs, or our Complete List of Travel Costs for all countries in the world.
Then you can evaluate the cost of your trip by choosing the type of activities you want to do, the comfort level you need for your accommodation and the way you would like to travel around at your destinations.
Don’t forget the money you won’t spend at home at electricity, gas, food and the internet while on the road. This is another way of saving money.
It is difficult to plan for everything, and even so if your destinations are not decided yet, so build a little bit of ‘fat’ into your budget so you can afford a taxi ride to go back to your hotel when it’s late at night, or when you want to have something done quickly. Also, allow a little bit of money for emergencies, such as missing a plane.
No matter how thoroughly you plan it, no budget will capture everything, so you should overestimate a little bit. You can round up to your currency the cost provided by guidebooks. For example, if a guidebook says it will cost you $1,80 for a meal in Vietnam, you might round it up to $2. This way you will take into consideration price changes and currency fluctuation.
And if you round it up so well and didn’t spend your emergency funds, you can blow it up on your way back home.
Do you budget before going on a trip?