Spending your money without a plan will keep your adventures short
When budgeting for travel expenses, especially when your trip is more than a month-long, requires a detailed plan. If you allocate too much money to the wrong categories, you will end up returning home faster than you wanted to.
Your travel budget should be organized with the following categories, listed from the highest priority to the lowest:
- Traveler’s Insurance
- Personal Hygiene
- Data & VPN
Your transportation costs should always be your first priority because, without money for a train or flight, you aren’t going anywhere. You could decide to go on a long trek into the wilderness by foot but, even then you should invest in the proper hiking gear ahead of time.
The bag you travel with is also included in this spending category because how much you bring will determine how smooth your trip is. The more space you have in your bag, the more stuff you will bring along with you. Too much stuff can lead to traveling with a heavy bag and that is the last thing you want when on a long-term trip. Travel light and with only a few essentials.
I travel with a week’s worth of clothes, my laptop for work (you won’t need this if you aren’t working while traveling), and a few books. The heaviest part of my load is my book collection and I could still save space by buying a kindle.
Budgeting for the right accommodation helps to prevent you from staying up all night because your bed is as hard as a brick. If you buy cheap, you get cheap and the effects tend to ruin the entire trip overall.
You don’t need to book four to five-star hotel rooms to get comfort, there are many great and affordable hostels. Just always make sure you read as many reviews as possible and go price-shopping on more than one platform before booking your room.
Traveler’s insurance provides peace of mind
It goes without saying that if you aren’t prepared for the worst-case scenario, you will always be at risk of not returning after your trip. There are a ton of travelers insurance companies that provide very affordable plans. I don’t recommend purchasing a plan unless you’re traveling abroad for more than a month.
It is better to have spent money on insurance and not need it, than to need it and not have it. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a hospital bed in the middle of Thailand and you’re stuck with an $800 bill that you can’t get reimbursed.
Having a food budget is essential for, without food, you won’t be traveling for long periods of time. Fasting can help you save money while traveling, and help you to avoid traveler’s diarrhea, but you will need to eat eventually. The best way to save money is to avoid fast-food chains and stick to the local cuisine. After all, what better way is there to learn about another culture than by eating their food?
Personal hygiene and your laundry are next in this list because there are certain liberties you can take here while traveling. So long as you have the essentials covered — toothpaste, deodorant, body soap, lotion, and feminine products — you should be fine.
Don’t pack these items when traveling. Buy them in the country that you’re traveling to. They will be cheaper and you don’t run the risk of having a bottle open accidentally in your bag and spilling onto your clothes.
Laundry services tend to be cheap but, if you’re really trying to save money pack a sink plug and a climbing rope. These two tools can cost you less than $40 and you can use them to wash your clothes by hand and then air-dry them outside of your room (I discovered this hack through author Rolf Potts).
You can survive without wifi, it’s possible
Having a secure and constant stream of connectivity to the internet is important, but only if you’re working while traveling. You shouldn’t need to have constant access to social media or your email while on a trip, stay in the moment and enjoy the details of where you are.
Most coffee shops and hostels have free wifi and unless you frequently need to check your bank accounts, you won’t need to buy a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs are only useful in countries such as China that censor the internet.
Do you need that extra drink?
Your budget for recreation is mainly for any kind of tourist activities that you want to do, such as snorkeling or guided tours around a city. There are ways to have fun in a country without a tour guide or travel agency but, this usually requires that you meet and hang out with the locals.
Alcohol should be separated from your recreation budget as it can often eat up your budget faster than you think. If you enjoy nights out and having a couple of cocktails, keep to once per week.
Lastly, if you ever need to buy clothes because one of your pants ripper or if you want to buy little trinkets to bring back home, I usually allocate at the most, 5% of my total budget for these types of expenses.
I personally don’t like to buy new clothes unless I absolutely need to and prefer taking my clothes to a dry cleaner or tailor for repairs. And I never buy souvenirs because they take up space in your bag.
Your budget may not reflect these categories and how they are organized but, you should know which ones are most important to you. Proper preparation prevents poor performance, and even though you cannot prepare yourself for every surprise that will happen during your trip, you should try to mitigate any stress over finances. Budgeting for travel should be one of the first steps you take before leaving home — second only to picking which country you want to go to.