It’s almost an accepted inevitability that you will blow the budget and spend more whilst engaged in any kind of travel. This is fine if on your yearly holiday and of course budgeting to feel like you are blowing the budget is absolutely fine. I would go as far to say I encourage it under those circumstances.
But I have an issue. I don’t go on yearly holidays as such. In some ways I live in a near constant state of travel. I’ve been in New Zealand for most of the year and although I spent much of that time settled I traveled and was unsettled at the beginning and at various times when trying to get to see the beautiful country.
Before that I moved loosely around USA, Canada, UK for a few months and before that lived in Egypt for some time. For the last month I have been around the UK, here for weddings and traveling around to see friends and family.
In two weeks, I return to New Zealand and guess what? We are hitting the road again Wwoofing (a post coming soon to explain what on earth that is).
I LOVE my life, I am very very lucky but of course all of this cannot be sustained on the blasé “I’m on ‘Oliday” mindset I used to have when going on a 2 week snowboarding trip in my younger more grounded days.
Money is something you have to constantly think about and being unsettled is a real budget buster, if you don’t think about how to keep your finances grounded and make plans and use of what you have to hand.
The little things do add up. An overpriced sandwich from a gas station, a few more drinks at a rest stop than intended, an overpriced tourist activity you never intended on doing.
Like all things in life being aware changes everything. Thinking on each action enables you to make better decisions and planning can help you avoid potential issues.
If you know you are going to be out of abnormal situations the normal reaction is to either forego your normal budget or expect that you can stick to it despite the different circumstances. Having a standard travel budget in place is a good idea and also building a travel fund into your normal day to day budget is highly recommended. Of course each trip is different so it will need individual tailoring but at least it will be something on your mind and the very first step to not going overboard.
Food is something I still seriously screw up on. I think things like “I’ll be fine with just a few handfuls of trail mix through to dinner”, or “I’m sure I can grab a cheap healthy sandwich”. The problem is, all too often I end up starving with only expensive options to hand. I am getting much better and highly recommend you make meals and take them with you. Bean and salad wraps are my travel food of choice or a basic sauce and brown rice but I am trying to develop some meals that i like that can be made on the road too.
If you have access to a microwave then brown pasta or rice and sauce can be easily prepared. Raw vegetables with a little dip like hummus make for a great affordable snack and you can always put together a wrap or sandwich with little effort. These options will usually be much cheaper than an eating out option.
This means you have to plan a little by finding a supermarket and making a shopping list. Travel with a small chopping board, a knife and fork and a nice to chop things with as well as some Tupperware. A small little food prep survival kit can easily be put together.
You will have your flights booked, car rented, long bus rides paid for but it’s a near fact some aspects of travel won’t reach your budget without some forethought. Look at where you are going and if taxis will be needed. Make sure if using gas you know the gas price in the area you will be in and make sure you know how much local public transport costs.
Make sure you bring good shoes and plan your days to avoid extra assisted travel as much as possible. What i’m saying is walk whenever possible. It’s almost free and only costs a little extra food and some minor ware on your shoes and clothes. Oh it costs time but you often end up finding and coming across new things.
Also in some cases hiring a bike or a more economical vehicle can save you a fortune.
Travel brings these scenarios. You may have wandered into a bar for a sandwich and a glass of wine. Next thing you know it’s 12 hours later, you have 5 new friends and you are singing Karaoke. Or a bored day may end up in you visiting an unplanned tourist trap, paying silly money for entry, buying an overpriced fried lunch and some trinkets on the way out.
Obviously planning your days can prevent a large amount of unexpected things. Having to be somewhere at a certain time can curb spending too and you’ll have food on you if you follow the food tips.
However you don’t want fun to be destroyed and adventurous unplanned scenarios make for a better life experience. Sometimes you have to go with the glow and avoiding an over-blow-out can be as simple as coming out with a set amount of cash and a small emergency pot. Putting a round of drinks on your card is much easier than using your paper money!
The image above is me engaging in some unexpected fun, going over the largest (7metres high) waterfall they can legally take new rafters over in the world. I don’t regret it and it wasn’t planned but it did cost me $80 un-budgeted. If I had planned for this I could have cut the previous days budgets a little to allow for this and not be out-of-pocket.
Never pay full price
I don’t coupon much in day to day life. Much of this is because I live simply. However whenever you have plans to go anywhere that charges to get in or buy something you may get lucky if you look for a discount. The fact is most places know they will get more business if they charge a high price and then advertise a supposed saving through a coupon. However often bad planning or just not thinking means you end up paying full price and having access to a discount.
A google search is often enough to turn something up but lots can be found in the free publications and information centers you tend to find in places you are traveling too. If you look you’ll find restaurant, attractions, activities and more all with a heavy discount. You’ll seriously wonder what possessed you to ever pay full price.
Awareness of what is free
Freebies save an astonishing amount of cash for me. It could be something like walking an extra 2 miles to see a natural rock formation that you would have to pay to see closer to town, finding some free hout pools or going to free cultural events for enjoyment. In cities there is always a massive amount of free activities. It could be free museums and galeries or something like Bearpit Karaoke (in Berlin) or the weekly Tamba drumming (in Montreal). Free music on streets and in parks, street festivals and more can always be found. The internet is often extremely helpful in hunting down these cheap gems. Knowing what is free will stop you from settling for paid things that are no more fun or worthwhile.
You can’t travel everywhere with a full wardrobe and sometimes you need to pick something up on your travels. I’m a big proponent of trying to buy used items if you can as I don’t like waste. Of course box store sometimes sell clothes very cheap but the throwaway culture just adds to our earth’s woes. So buying a quality used item can be done for cheap and fill your needs. Most places have used clothing stores. If you refuse to do this then traveling briefly outside of the tourist zone is essential. A pair of swimming shorts in a beach-side store will cost more than in the normal shopping area of the town as just one example. You may also find local markets selling local style clothing if you are our of your normal surroundings. Dressing like a local is always something very cool and fun to do too!
I have touched on this already in the post but it’s important. Your mindset is essential for all the success of keeping a reasonable budget while you travel. If you resent what you are doing you won’t enjoy your travel. If you feel restricted or you need to work not to feel that way. To me it’s refreshing to live and travel in a simple way and it makes me feel good and under less pressure if I don’t spend a lot of cash. I didn’t always feel this way and it took a lot of thinking about my own feelings towards things and asking questions about what really mattered in my life.
I’d love to hear from you. I’m just one man with one opinion on things and can’t cover everything. Often a great post is made in the comments so please open up and share your thoughts.
Thanks a million.