Although I’m an amateur traveller, I’d like to offer a few tips on preparing a budget for your trip. As a Canadian, I have travelled within my home country as well as a few international trips within North America and Europe. Travelling within Canada was easier to budget for since I didn’t need to worry about a travel visa, data plan extension for my cell phone, travel insurance, or money exchange. Travelling internationally requires researching exchange rates, travel insurance, price of travel (accommodations, food prices etc.), weather, travel visas (if required) and data for emergencies.
To start, I budget a set amount of money every month to add to my “Travel Fund”. Years of budgeting has allowed me to work within this amount for my travel needs.
I also like to travel as cheap as possible but still enjoy all that cities and countries I visit have to offer. This requires researching prices of accommodation, travel (flights, buses, trains, cycling, walking where possible), activities (museums, tourist attractions) and food.
Every trip will be different, but here are six things I research to plan a budget for the trip.
- Exchange rate. Often, prices quoted online will be in the currency of the country you will be visiting.
- Flights. I put in the dates I expect to travel. It is often more expensive to travel during holidays (i.e. Christmas vacation, summer holidays, reading week and March break).
- Average prices for the country/city I am visiting. I use this site and it gives average prices for food, accommodation, entertainment, transportation etc. Things to watch out for are holidays and large events in the cities you plan to visit. I once went to Montreal (Canada) for a weekend trip but it was during the Grand Prix weekend and hotel prices were almost double!
- Compare different types of trips. For Iceland I compared renting a car vs. a camper van, sleeping in the car/camper van vs. staying in a hotel/hostel, staying in one main city vs. travelling to multiple cities within the country etc. I love budgeting so researching different types of trips gives me a great idea of how much I can save by doing one form of travel versus another.
- Entertainment. I’ll research museum costs, guided tours (and if they are worth it), tourist destinations and their alternatives, local comedy clubs/tickets to events etc.
- Travel Visas. I’ve never personally travelled to a country where I’ve needed a travel visa but it’s an extra cost to research! You also want to make sure you get it in advance of heading out on your trip and give yourself lots of time to receive it.
I never budget for the cheapest option. You may not be able to get the cheapest flight available or the cheapest accommodation so I like to take the average. I always over-budget and add some money for extras. This gives me peace of mind if I want to splurge on a local drink at dinner or pay admission at a museum I wasn’t expecting to go to. I personally don’t want to miss out on an experience because I’m worried about that extra $20 or even $100. I don’t normally buy souvenirs but I always buy a postcard – they are small, cheap, easy to bring home and I’ve already started a collection! Instead of souvenirs for friends and family, I’ll buy something for a birthday/Christmas present that I know they’ll enjoy.