You might want to grab a piece of paper for this – or a digital notepad, you know. Roll up your sleeves, put on your fake glasses and dig out your abacus: it’s time to play little accountants. Well now, you can probably guess how advanced my mathematical skills are, since I work as a freelance writer. But what sounds like an attempt of self-sabotage, it’s actually my way to say a little caution never goes to waste. You may not be the best human calculator, and that’s fine: all you really need is a little organization.
We’ve already talked of how to save money and feed your piggy bank a good share of golden salami. However, you may now be wondering what exactly is that you need to spend on. There’s many “if” and variables to take into account. But while the outcome will be different for each one of you, here’s a few things you all need to consider.
Ask yourself what kind of traveler you are
Before we go any further, take a moment to figure out what expectations you have. Remember, this is a safe place: you won’t get judge for wanting a jacuzzi in your hotel room. Still, your travel style will affect your end budget, so I recommend a quick tea-and-meditation. No need to take one of those corny quizzes on the internet. Just sit and think of what you can’t give up and what could make your experience a ticking bomb.
You don’t have to radically lean on one side: it’s not black vs white and it’s not extreme adventure vs absolute luxury. You can always find that sweet, in-between spot that balances it all. Are you ok with sleeping with 8 dudes (farts and burps with no extra charge) or do you badly cherish your privacy? Will street food just do or you’re a sucker for Michelin restaurants? You need a Uber ‘cause your agoraphobia meets your claustrophobia when on a train? Some people are willing to get 10 layover flights to save money, but that would break the spirit of many others. In the end, it’s up to you; but better sort it out now!
Destination and duration of your travel
Where you go and for how long are intuitively the first things to plan. It might be discouraging to arrange a trip to the other side of the world, seeing how expensive flights can be. But you need to consider the costs of living that each place envisages as well! For instance, a plane from Italy to Southeast Asia is quite expensive, but the cost of everyday life there is an absolute bargain. On the contrary, traveling to Denmark or Norway is affordable, but food and accommodation will take a huge toll on your finances.
If your heart is set on a specific destination, start mapping out what places and cities you want to visit and how long you’ll be staying there. This first step will prove helpful while breaking down and adjusting your future expenses. You may find out you’ll need to save more money, or decide to sacrifice a few trips of the itinerary.
Flights, trains, buses and whatnot!
Now that you know where you’re going and for how long, let’s take a look at how to get there. Regardless of which transportation you pick, you can easily find deals and discounts on the web. Being flexible with your traveling dates is a huge plus, as it allows you to adjust your dates around the prices. Clearly, it’s not an option available to everyone – you might be forced to take a very specific slot on the calendar. You can then try to break down your travel in multiple stops, or cuts on a few things here and there.
Help yourself with websites and apps such as Skyscanner, Hopper, Wanderu, Flixbus and be on the lookout for those sweet deals.
Let’s get serious: Visa and Travel Insurance
A tourist Visa is yet another thing you need to factor in, depending on the destination of choice. The price can vary according to each country and the duration of your trip. Make sure to check whether you require one or not while budgeting!
Travel insurance is another tricky subject. Although it’s not compulsory, I’d still recommend getting one, for your own peace of mind. Even as a European, traveling around Europe with an EHIC may not give you full coverage. Based on what type of service you prefer, travel insurance gets increasingly expensive; but it’s still a valid safety cushion.
Everything that goes in your bag
This may be a fat 0 on your breakdown list. As a serial traveler, or hoarder, maybe you already have all the necessary supplies, as well as the right luggage. It could be a matter of simply gathering the essentials, with little effect on your finances. It’s still wise to make a list of all the items you need for your travel, and get an idea of the overall spending.
Accommodation: making a wise choice
Accommodation plays a huge role in your travel – duh, homeboy needs some sleep -, and truly, you don’t want to push your luck only to save a few bucks. Of course, if you’re trying to experiment and snap out of your usual traveling pattern, I ain’t stopping you! But as I mentioned before, make that hot tea and ponder what the most fitting choice is.
If you don’t have any sort of expectation besides pulling a Scrooge, then hostels are always the real deal. And if you’re faith in humanity is big enough, you can consider browsing Couchsurfing and crushing on a stranger’s sofa.
A further breakdown: daily expenses
You’ve done brilliantly so far; now it’s time to dig a little deeper. Researching on customs and average fares of your destination will favor both your budgeting and your chance of dodging scams. Don’t make the mistake of simply comparing the cost of living of your own country to the ones of your destination; you want to make sure what affordable really means for the local standards there!
Basically, you want to get a rough idea of how much you’ll spend every day. That includes all your meals, activities, souvenirs shopping and transportation. Traveling blogs and social media will be your research colleagues for this task, so feel free to scavenge the web in between those Netflix episodes. If you’re not too bored of stats, Numbeo will provide you with tons of data on the costs of living in every city in the world.
Spoiling and protecting yourself
Now that you’ve done the maths, cut your budget some slack. Yes, I mean it: for a split second, ignore those figures and open up your pocket a little more. Your stoic sense of duty should get some rest: you never know what wonders you may stumble upon while traveling! Regardless of your budget, there’s a chance you’ll want to buy that nice dress, or gift yourself an outstanding, unplanned dinner. I highly recommend you bring some extra cash with you, so make sure to count that in on your breakdown list.
Besides spoiling yourself, having some “unspendable”, extra cash on you is always a good idea. I know, you’ve saved up so much already and you want to spend it all on your dream travel; but don’t? Not impulsively, at least. It sounds like a pain in the ass right now – having to put savings on a side and declaring it untouchable. But on top of extravagant surprises, unfortunate accidents can also hit you at any time! And as I’ve said a hundred times before, better safe than sorry.
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