Budget Your Trip

About this time realization sets in.  There is so much you want to do or see, so many countries you want to visit but unfortunately you do need to pay for it.  Many people see that line in the travel book “only $26 a day” for a country and get mighty excited.  They believe that with that logic that they can sit up a month in a country for about $780.  Now yes that can be true and if you are frugal you can live fairly nicely in some countries for that or less but there are always start up costs that you need to think about.  Backpack? Vaccines? Toiletries? Transportation? There is actually a lot to think about when budgeting for a trip.

Fear not, we have got you covered! We have even created a basic budget Excel sheet that you can download now and start plugging numbers into as you work down this page.  Just finish each section by adding your estimates into the worksheet.  OK on to the budgeting for your backpacking trip.

First you need to understand what the basic cost per day it will be in the country / countries you will be visiting.  In most guide books you will find a range on the summary page of that country.  First you need to understand what this number represents, normally it will be lodging, food and a beer or two.  It is everything you need to survive and normally survive well.  When estimating for a trip we suggest to take the high number especially if you will only be in country a for a few days.  Now this number has the ability to also start covering travel once you are in country for around a week.  You don’t end up spending all of your per Diem and so the $8 bus trip ends up being covered.  Don’t count on this though for budgeting because it is better to have more money than too little.  Take the cost per day for this country and multiply it by the number of days you will be in that country and write it down in your budget.  Do this for each of the countries you plan to visit. 

(If you are using the worksheet take this number and add it into country 1 and in the next cell add how many days you expect to be in that country.  Do that for each country you will be visiting and the sheet will total all this up for you.)


Next you need to think about the travel you will be doing, getting from place to place on your journey.  How much will your initial plane trip cost to take you from home and back.  Next how much will it cost for the planes, trains, buses or boats that you will take you around to where you need to get to?  Now you may think it is difficult to find these prices out but a simple search like “how much is a bus from Hue to Hoi an” in Google and will produce many results. Start writing this information down.

(Again if you are using the worksheet just put in your numbers in the appropriate area)

We have come to the big ticket item now, searching for airline tickets. Getting to your destination and back will normally be the largest chunk of your budget so saving here gives you money to spend on your trip. First jump on to kayak.com, CheapoAir.com, or Vayama.com and do a quick search on flights approximately when you want to go, or exactly if you know that now. Set up and save alerts on the site as well so you can monitor the fluctuation in prices carefully. Jot down the cost of this ticket and then see if another city might work better as a starting city.  Here are some rules you should follow when searching for flights:

  1. Book flights 21 – 45 days in advance. Other than last minute deals, you will pay more as your date to leave approaches because airlines consider you a business traveler.
  2. Never, ever fly on weekends! Try to fly on Sunday or between Tuesday and Thursday.
  3. Try not to fly within 7 days before or after a holiday. Check your destination’s local holidays and festivals as well.
  4. If you are buying a round-trip ticket, staying longer than 90 days usually results in a higher fare. Check on just buying two one-way tickets instead for the extra flexibility.  You can also set a fictional return date and pay the change fee later.
  5. You may find cheap flights after midnight EST in the middle of the week. This is when airline databases are updated and sometimes you can grab a cheap ticket that has been returned back to the system. Some experts recommend booking on Tuesday nights.
  6. Search for flights at all times throughout the day; you never know when a cheap ticket has been released to the system.

Equipment is your next budgetary concern.  You need to purchase your backpack, day bag and other travel necessities.  At this time you wont necessarily need to start to need to worrying  about a Packing List but it is not a bad idea to take a look at the things you could be needing to take with you and ‘guesstimate’ what you have vs. what you will need to purchase.  Make a quick search of the internet and find average prices of items and write them down or into your budget sheet if you are following along.

There you are, you are on your way to with a more detailed budget!  If you used the worksheet we hope you have found that helpful as well.  This budget is not complete at this point but you should get the picture on where you need to go with it.  Also understand this budget will fluctuate up and down as you decide on your purchases or decide you do not want to bring other items but this will give you a good start on the remaining of your budgetary planning.

Passports, Visas, Vaccines and Other items need to be budgeted for as well but we will cover these in the next sections, so lets jump over to the Passport & Visa section now and get all this official paperwork taken care of!  If you have your passport and/or know you will not need a Visa for the country or countries you will be visiting you can jump right on over to Vaccines section.

Download Budget Worksheet