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Planning

How to Budget for Travel Without Totally Cramping Your Style

Get out your crystal ball or your Ouija board to answer this question. The answers you’ll get from either of those tools will probably be as accurate as what you can figure out on your own.

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But you say that you just can’t put your trust in those vague predictions. You want concrete facts and figures to work with. You read 'Is Going Better Than Staying? Travel or Job? It's Your Decision!,' and now you want to figure out how to make it all happen.

Okay then, here are some guidelines to help you try to figure out how much you need to save. Just remember that I warned you it won’t be precise.

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Let’s Get Started

You won’t be able to predict just how much money you’ll need for your trip. There are too many variables, including –

  • what kind of spender you are
  • how well you tolerate travel on the cheap
  • what kind of emergencies you have while traveling
  • many things that cannot be anticipated ahead of time.

You might think that you will be so excited about traveling that you will tolerate inconveniences such as cheap hotel rooms, meals at no-star restaurants, and so on. And those will definitely be on the schedule for you.

But you might find that you need some splurges from time to time in order to balance out the times when you’re watching your pennies. Take those splurges into account while you are estimating your financial needs.

To gauge the amount of money you’ll need in your total travel fund, all you can do is make your best estimate by gathering as much information about the places that you plan to visit, including costs of –

  • hotel rooms
  • meals at the type of restaurants you like
  • tickets to the sites you plan to visit
  • general cost of living
  • transportation to your chosen places
  • local transportation once you’re there
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Google Is Your Friend

You can find a lot of this information online. But keep in mind that travel costs may be more than you estimate. A good way to start planning is to do some research on the places you want to visit so that you can schedule destinations during ‘shoulder’ season rather than ‘high’ season.

Look up every place you want to visit and determine when the peak tourist season is. Then avoid it completely at that time – if possible. Whatever you want to see will still look the same after tourist season ends.

Not only are local costs higher during peak tourist season, but flights to destinations that are popular with tourists are generally more expensive during the high season. So, if you are traveling on a budget, avoiding tourist season can save you a lot of money both in transport to the destination and in costs once you arrive.

Yes, you’re probably saying that high season in any particular destination is high for good reasons, such as being the time for the best weather. And yes, you do not want to visit outdoor monuments during torrential downpours.

But since you are traveling long term, you do not have the same time constraints as vacationers. If it’s raining on the day you planned an outdoor visit, you can quickly re-group and do something else. Spend a day in your hotel or a nearby café writing in your journal and going through photos, leaving the outdoor visit for a dry day.

Being able to change plans on the spur of the moment is one of the perks of traveling without a strict schedule.

Keep in mind that all the pennies you spend eventually add up and take time off your trip. If your budget is generous, maybe this doesn’t worry you. But if your budget is a bit tighter, then you will be smart to avoid expenditures that seem very inexpensive at the moment, but add up over the long term and take days off your trip.

Estimate how much money you will need on a daily basis in order to do the things you want and to live in the style that you want. You can’t be 100% precise. Just make the best prediction possible – and then add another 20-50%!

What makes budgeting your trip so difficult is that most people try to use plans that are designed for other people. Hopefully you know yourself and your spending patterns better than anyone else, so just try to be as objective as possible in evaluating your daily expenses.

Once you have estimated your daily expenses, multiply that by the number of days that you hope to be traveling. Then, add what you have decided you will need as an emergency fund.

Now you have an idea of how much you will need for your adventure. You know how much you already have saved and earmarked for your trip, so you can now estimate how much you still need to save. How long it will take you to save the additional money that you need depends on your current lifestyle and how much you can cut back for additional savings.

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How About That Emergency Fund?

No one can predict what kind of emergencies will confront you while you are on the road, but you need to make your best estimate and set aside a certain amount of money specifically for those situations.

In other words, splurges won’t come from your emergency fund. Instead, your emergency fund should be saved for –

  • medical care
  • replacement of necessary items that break down or get stolen – laptop, clothing, etc.
  • flight for emergency at home

How much you put in your emergency fund will depend upon where you plan to travel. For example, if you plan to travel in Southeast Asia where emergency costs, such as medical care, are low, then that emergency fund can probably be less than if you will be going to Scandinavia where pretty much everything is very expensive.

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Budgeting Tips

There are several excellent books about budget travel. This post is not meant to cover this topic in depth, but below are a few general tips.

Every budget should be personalized for the person or people involved. Saving up to quit your job and travel is no exception. In order to create a budget that is going to work, you need to take enough time to plan things out realistically and cut corners wherever possible. This may mean that you’ll need to cut back on some of the things you enjoy so that you can hit the road as soon as possible.

When developing your budget, make sure that it will be flexible enough to handle those emergency situations. Sometimes things happen that you simply have to deal with. Make a realistic decision about how much you will put into your travel fund each payday.

Saving up for your travel is probably going to be the hardest part of planning for your trip. There are multiple online sites that are geared to help you save money. They give you workable techniques to use on a daily basis. Here are a couple sites that might help you –

One thing you can do is to simply stop before making a purchase to think twice whether you really need it. That may seem simplistic, but I’ve found that if I wait until the next day, I realize that the purchase isn’t one that I truly need. It’s amazing that the old advice to “sleep on it” can often give you the perspective you need to say no to a purchase.

Take a look at your current financial status. There are probably little expenses in many places that you can cut back on in order to save money. Each one of those little expenses seems insignificant when you spend the money, but they add up more quickly than you realize. You simply need to be aware of where you are spending these extra dollars and stop spending them.

Ways that can help you save money immediately include:

  • Examine your daily spending habits. Relying on restaurants for meals adds up quickly, and popular drinks can be expensive. Try taking food and drinks from home when you go to work.
  • Pay off your credit cards as quickly as you can. Making only the minimum monthly payments on credit cards means wasting a lot of money on interest charges each month. Paying interest is a waste.
  • Consider buying second hand items. Many online and local places give steep discounts on used items that work just as well as the new item.
  • Use generic brands whenever possible to save a few dollars.
  • Ask yourself how much money you would save if you were to cut out products for some habits that you may have been trying to quit anyway. Perhaps saving for the trip of your lifetime will motivate you to give up cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, or nights out on the town –thereby adding more money to your travel fund.
  • Do you have monthly paid memberships, such as tanning salons, gyms, and pools, that you could eliminate in order to save money? Do you really use them anyway?
  • Be careful not to purchase things that you will not use. This may seem rather obvious, but look around at the items in your home that go unused much of the time. For example, you may be able to eliminate some channels that you rarely watch as a way to economize on your cable/satellite bill. Or you may be able to reduce your cell phone package. Look for other ways in which you are regularly paying for things that you rarely use – and eliminate them.
  • This is the time to start using up the food in your pantry/cabinets. Most of us could probably eat for a long time with just the food that is currently in our homes.
  • Turn off the lights and appliances when you are not using them. Every time you leave the television, air conditioner, lights, or computer on when you leave the house adds to your electric bill. It may be only pennies, but these pennies add up.
  • Examine whether you can cut back on your current transportation costs. Would it be less expensive to take the bus to work instead of paying for parking?

You can probably think of other ways to cut back as a way to save more money so that your travel fund will grow as fast as possible. The ways to save will be different for each person.

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The Bottom Line

Keep the goal in focus. And keep your reasons for travel at the forefront of your mind. When you see something that you just ‘can’t live without,’ ask yourself which is more important – having that item or departing on your travels as soon as possible.

Start simplifying your life while you’re still at home saving money. Then when you hit the road, you’ll already be somewhat accustomed to a simpler lifestyle.

Only you know what will work for you. You may end up going without some of the little luxuries that you have become accustomed to, but once you’re on the road, you will find that those cutbacks will have been well worth the inconvenience.

Want to remember the information in this post? Save 'How to Budget for Travel Without Totally Cramping Your Style' to your favorite travel board on Pinterest.

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Kate

Hi – I’m Kate – shoestring traveler to Indonesia, Nepal, India, Tibet, Malaysia, Thailand, Spain, Russia, Siberia, and more – well-trained and loyal servant to 5 whippets and 2 Dalmatians – blogger about all things travel and dogs. Join me as I explore the amazing adventure that is travel.

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