Welcome to Travel Budgeting 101, a regular series that aims to help you with travel budgeting and saving before, during and after your travels. From rethinking how you save and budget for travel in the planning stages to making sure you have a fantastic time on the road without blowing all your hard earned cash; I’m aiming to make this series your go-to for travel budgeting inspiration.
The first installment in Travel Budgeting 101 focuses on choosing your itinerary carefully. Whether you’re backpacking through South East Asia or touring around Europe and America, if you’re trying to cover a lot of ground on your trip, you need to choose your itinerary carefully.
At the risk of sounding like grey nomads, Rich and I decided early on in our trip planning we didn’t want our travels on the way to Canada to represent a Contiki style blitz around Europe leaving us with no time to get lost in new cities. Having both travelled on fast-paced organised tours previously, we relished the opportunity to create our own itinerary and decide our travel pace city by city. It was all so exciting!
We started planning our travels between Australia and Canada with a haphazard list of random cities and countries we’d like to visit. Then we tried to piece it all together…
While I know a practical itinerary is something many travellers consider when planning their trip, the prospect of our first long overseas trip together made me completely lose focus of planning the whole itinerary properly.
When it came time to booking flights and actually organising the logistics of the trip we realised too much of our precious trip was being taken up by transit — not exactly what we had in mind. We were so excited about ticking numerous destinations off our travel bucket lists in one trip that we’d overlooked practical elements such as availability of direct flights, cost of flights and travel time; kind of strange for two overly organised people but I guess we were too excited for our adventures.
We originally had an extensive list of places across Europe and the USA to visit which we expected to take around three months.
When push comes to shove, we had the money there to do this trip. However, we felt it would be at the cost of not having as much travel funds at our disposal to take advantage of living such a short flight from the USA and Europe once we got settled in Canada.
After some research and more focused planning, we put together a one month adventure in Thailand and Europe. The new itinerary includes a week in Phuket, Thailand (for some quality relaxation) with the rest of the trip through Europe including Malta, Santorini, Mykonos, Athens and Prague.
As hindsight is rarely wrong, here’s how I would have planned the trip in a more practical way from the start.
Pick a country or countries
Touring around South East Asia, Europe or America—where do you want to go? Think about what kind of trip you want and plan around that. Whether it’s something laidback, a fast-paced jaunt around Europe on an organised tour or a volunteering holiday; the opportunities are endless.
Decide how long you want to travel and what you want to spend
Your chosen travel destination will impact your budget depending how far your local currency goes in another country. Are you happy backpacking and staying in basic accommodation or do you prefer hotels and air travel on your travels? This is something you need to consider. Obviously air travel and hotel accommodation is more expensive than backpacking, regardless of destination, and will take up more of your total budget. If this is the case, then you may opt to travel for a shorter time than you would if you were backpacking. It’s all about the kind of travel experience you want and know you will enjoy.
Use a website such as Skyscanner or Kayak to see where you can fly to within the region you’re travelling and compare prices. For example, after doing some research we realised we’d be spending a lot of time travelling from Greece to Italy—as originally planned—but we wanted to make the most of our travel time exploring new cities instead of twiddling our thumbs in transit. To find a new destination we searched direct flights from Athens and then decided which of those options excited us the most.
Start piecing it together
Once you’ve started deciding on different countries or cities for your trip, see how well your different destinations piece together. If your itinerary is leaving you with entire days of travel, and it’s making you feel exhausted just looking at it, take a step back to see if you can have the same experience in a closer destination.
Research accommodation options in your destinations
I’d love to visit Bora Bora one day, I also know the over-water villa I envision for that trip will be a large part of the travel budget. While I’m happy to splurge on accommodation, destinations with expensive and limited accommodation options may not be the best option for an entire trip. Alternatively if there’s a place that makes up part of your whole itinerary that will be particularly expensive, this can be balanced with another cheap and cheerful destination along the way. For example, we found booking our accommodation in Greece very affordable which made us happy to spend more on accommodation in Prague.
Pick out any big-ticket or specific activities you want to do
While making sure you stick to a daily budget will keep you on track, so will knowing if there’s any specific activities you want to do ahead of time. Identify activities you would like to tick off the list that may exceed your daily budget. That way you can still enjoy the activities that will make lasting memories without feeling stressed about dwindling travel funds.
Using these steps helped us put together a more focused and laid back itinerary so we’re spending more time getting lost in new cities instead of feeling lost in airports.
I’d love to hear some of your hacks for putting together a great itinerary. Feel free to share them in the comments below.