Budgeting your trip…
How much will my trip cost? Ahhh… The question everyone asks, and the one that has no straight answer. The only response I can give you is, only you will know when you budget it. But what I do can tell you are the things you should consider when budgeting your trip.
You need to be aware that trips cost more than just what you spend on the road. There are Pre-trip expenses, Trip Expenses, and those little “ghost” expenses that we don’t take into account, but that could add up quickly and get us out of budget. Here is a breakdown of the most common expenses:
Pre-trip expenses – These include EVERYTHING you need to get before you start your trip.
- Passport: This could cost about $100 plus the cost of the passport pictures (around $6). This has to be done with at least two to three months in advance since this process can take a while. There is expedited service for $60. Make sure you get all the details about Passport applications.
- Visas: Some countries can require entry visas that can range between $30 and $300. Check with your destination webpage to see if they require an entry visa.
- Travel Insurance: The prices vary depending on the type and extent of insurance you decide to take, the duration, and the place of residence. But to have an idea, the regular insurance of a one to two weeks long trip can range between $50 and $80. World Nomads is one of the most trusted travel insurance companies among travelers. Before heading out on the road, get a quote to keep your travels safe.
- Vaccinations: Ask your local doctor about the necessary vaccinations. Prices vary depending on your place of residence and what you need. A good starting price can be $100.
- Backpack: These can range between $80 and $300+. It all depends on the brand, design, and capacity. A good price range for a decent to good backpack is $100 to $200. I don’t recommend spending on an extremely expensive backpack. Being expensive doesn’t mean it’s better. Just get a backpack that fits you and that meets all your needs. See more tips on how to choose a backpack.
- Toiletries: How much you spend on toiletries depends on what you use and like. You can get generic stuff from discount stores like Target and Wal-Mart and save a lot of money, or you can get branded stuff at a higher price. It all depends on you. But a safe range goes between $50 and $100. Keep in mind that you should buy travel size toiletries. First, it won’t take much space on your backpack; second, you could take your backpack as a carry-on on your flight. Find a list of toiletries on this Packing Check List.
- Other Accessories: Some essentials like an umbrella, flashlight, poncho, utensils, power converter, money belt, and many other stuff that might be specifically necessary for your trip. A good range can be between $75 and $150.
- Airplane Ticket: The average price for short flights can be between $150 and $600, and for long flights between $700 and $1500+. The Airline industry is highly volatile, so prices vary every day. See tips on finding a good airfare.
- Train Tickets: This varies depending on your destination and trip duration. Europe has passes that can cost between $300 and $800. The United Kingdom has passes for about $200 to $500. The United States has passes for $350 to $600. Africa and Asia have cheap train tickets that can go from $1 to $100+. It all depends on the country and length of the trip. See tips on choosing the best European train pass.
- Accommodations: Good hostels can start from $20 per night and hotels from $60 per night. Of course, the prices vary depending on the city you are visiting. Get tips on choosing cheap accommodations.
- Travel Guides: Most travel guides range between $15 and $50. Lonely Planet now sells individual chapters. You can buy only the necessary chapters for your destination. Also, not carrying the full guide saves space on your bag.
In general terms, Pre-trip expenses can range between $700 and $2,000+. You can cut some of these expenses by owning already some of the accessories and backpacks, and by selecting cheap airfares and accommodation.
Trip Expenses – These are all the expenses you incur while traveling. These are usually budgeted when you plan your trip.
- Food: If going to Europe and the United States, a decent daily budget is from $25 to $40 depending on what you eat. In some parts of Asia, it can be from $15 to $25 daily.
- Local Transportation: Take into account taxis, subways, trams, buses, regional trains, and other methods of transportation. A good average (depending on the city) can be for about $50 to $150 per week.
- Going Out: This budget I leave open to your discretion. If you’re a party monster, then budget for beers, nightclub entrance tickets, night cabs, etc.
- Sightseeing: Of course you want to sightsee and go on tours. You might not be taking tours every day, but it’s good to have a daily budget between $15 and $40. City passes are good to save money on sightseeing.
- Souvenirs: Liked that museum postcard, that necklace, that t-shirt, and many other stuff? Then by all mean buy it if you have the money. There is no way to budget accurately for souvenirs since this is something we will not know until we get to the store. But I usually have a starting budget of $200+ (And I’m not a compulsive buyer). This budget depends on your buying trends.
Your trip expenses can range between $600 and $1500+. This varies according to destination and length of travel.
Ghost Expenses – These are the expenses we don’t usually budget accordingly.
- WC fee – Europe is well known for charging between $0.50 and $1.00 for using the restroom.
- Exchange Rate and Fee – When exchanging money to a different currency there is an exchanging rate that is slightly different (below) than the current exchange rate. This difference is considered the exchange place fee. Also, they can charge anything from $0 to $6.00 (additional) depending on the amount of money you exchange. It is always recommended to exchange a large sum of money, but only if you expect to use it.
- ATM Fees – A good way to “exchange” money is by withdrawing the foreign currency directly from your bank account. Most banks charge a $5.00 transaction fee plus a 1% exchange fee. This option is better than exchanging if you withdraw a large sum of money. Some international banks or affiliated banks don’t charge the transaction fee if you withdraw on specified banks.
- Train Station Lockers – Most Train Stations count with a locker room. Prices can go from $4.00 for small lockers to $8.00 for large lockers. Usually, the rental is for 24 hours.
- Hostel Towels and Bed Sheets – some hostels don’t include towels and bed sheets on their prices. These can be up to an extra $5.00.
- Tips – The tipping culture varies considerably between countries. People in some countries could feel offended or give you a weird look when you offer a tip while people in other countries will expect a tip and get mad if they don’t get it. Check in your travel guide what is the customary tip on your destination. If a tip is usual, then a 15% will do fine.
- Random Snacks – We always find some random local snacks we want to try. A budget of $5.00 to $10.00 per day could do more than fine.
- Laundry – If you’re doing a long duration trip, then probably you will do laundry. Budget $10 to $20 per every two weeks for laundry and detergents.
- Restocking Toiletries – For long-term travel, add $50 to $100 per month to restock on your essentials.
As you can see, these usually unaccounted expenses can add up to become an important part of our travel budget. I recommend, that after you add ALL of your “expected” Pre-trip, Trip, and “Ghost” expenses; you should add a 5% to %10 percent for any emergency or just to be comfortable and have a safety net.
This might sound contradictory to the process of budgeting, but I recommend that as soon as you have a rough idea of how much your trip will cost; feel proud of yourself (for budgeting a cheap trip), keep that general amount in mind, and toss it away. Your budget should be a guideline, not a restriction. If you want to spend more on something, go ahead and have fun with it. Later you can compensate by spending less on other stuff.
Please, know that ALL the prices mentioned above are estimates. Your trip could cost more or less. Let’s hope that it cost less…