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When it comes to traveling there are many ways you can go about doing so. Most importantly: I believe you can travel, no matter what your financial circumstances might be.
It’s just a matter of what your mindset is and which lifestyle you want to lead while traveling.
In part one and part two of this blog series I went into what to pack and how I plan my trips in general. In this blog post I want to tell you about the different possibilities of traveling on a certain (or no) budget and will then get into the different aspects of planning your travel-expenses.
First off, there are a few different ways to go about traveling on a budget.
Traveling (nearly) for free: It is possible, it can be pretty tough though. I’ve met the one or the other traveler that actually travels this way and I respect them a lot, but for me it wouldn’t be a long-term option. A hitch-hike every now and again or surfing a couch at times- sure- but I personally find any more than that too stressful and a bit risky at times, depending on where you hitch-hike etc. I do sometimes stay with friends or other travelers I’ve met along the way though, which is always a great option (in this case though I would always pitch in when buying groceries or whatever else).
The backpacker-style: The typical backpacker has it a bit rough at times, aswell. Pasta and pesto almost every night, hopping from hostel to hostel, sleeping in dorms, turning round every penny five times.. This is what I have done during most of my past trips and it’s pretty cool. I still stay in hostels, but the more I travel and work at the same time I also stay in Airbnb apartments, Bed and Breakfasts, or whatever else to have some peace and quiet from time to time and be able to work. Which leads me to category, number 3:
The nomad-style: The nomad-style is a very minimalistic way to travel. You don’t need much aside from your laptop and a good internet connection. A digital nomad will probably spend a bit more on accomodation, might not look for the absolute cheapest flight, but one that will not take 48 hours to get you to a place, just because it’s cheap. And a nomad will usually spend a bit more on food (not necessarily going out to eat, but just spending a bit more on healthier, more nutricious foods and taking the time to cook a good meal). Another difference is that a nomad usually won’t hop from place to place every few days, but stay in one place for weeks and months at a time- which saves a lot of money!
I myself am kind of hovering between the backpacker and nomad-style at the moment and like to combine the two.
So, for me it roughly boils down to three things when I’m calculating the budget for my trip: Accomodation, transportation and food. Naturally, there are a few other things that will cost money, but these are (or can be) the major money things that will eat away at your budget.
When planning my budget it really depends on the type of trip I’m going on. It might be a week of camping in Spain, a road-trip through Germany, a weekend trip to Prague or 2 months in Columbia. If I know I’m staying in a place for a longer period of time, I will probably look for room in a shared apartment or book a place via Airbnb**. If I’m traveling around a lot I’d probably stay in hostels (you don’t really get settled in one place this way, so I think it’s cool to meet some people along the way. Also, with Airbnb you usually have a minimum of nights you need to stay).
I generally try to spend about 8 to 15 € per night, which in Europe would usually be the cost of a bed in a dorm (in cities like Venice you’ll pay more like 25 € per night in a dorm!), whereas in Mexico it can be a beach cabin or small Airbnb-apartment.
The freebie version: Couchsurfing (great experience, would definitely recommend it!), Wwoofing, Exchanges, Visiting friends or travelers you’ve met before, wild camping (illegal in many countries)
This also is something you need to consider when planning your budget. If you’re not traveling too far: Do you want to go by car? Take a train or bus? Go by plane? Or if you’re going further places: You’ll most probably get there by plane, but how do you want to get around on site?
When traveling by myself I usually hop on a plane and when I’m there, I get around by bus (I love going by bus, by the way. Such a great way to see a lot while getting around!) or by train.
Depending how much you want to actually go from one place to the next, of course you’ll be spending way more on transportation than if you stay in one spot for a long time. So I definitely recommend taking your time!
The freebie-version: Of course, hitch-hiking (a great experience, but I wouldn’t want to make it my usual means of transportation, it can cost some nerves), by foot, by bike, by skateboard, by horse.. There are some exciting stories out there concerning the ways people have gotten from one side of the planet to the other!
I personally have never been one for eating just pasta every day when backpacking. Yeah, it might be one of the cheapest ways to go, but it would be such a shame to stick to that for weeks at a time. Go to the market, get some fresh fruits and veggies, maybe stock up on a few general things such as rice or oatmeal and then switch it up every now and again! When traveling I nearly always book an accomodation where there is a kitchen included. I love to cook myself, it’s cheaper, I can cook more than one meal at a time and retain it for the next day- and every now and again I can go out to eat and try the local cuisine (to then try and cook it myself, too! Makes for new recipes!).
Depending on where I go, I generally plan in about 5 to 10 € per day for food, no matter if it’s to go out or buying groceries to eat in.
The freebie-version: That might be a bit more tricky and adventuresome than in the other categories (See the movie “Into the Wild” for reference, just please don’t do the same as Chris McCandless and eat some random, wild roots, that killed him in the end.. Come to think of it, that example might not be the best.. :-D). I have had the one or the other free meal, but it was never because I was consciously looking for one, but because there are just some generous people out there that have invited me to eat in their homes (also an amazing experience, by the way!).
Further expenses are activities, such as certain tourist attractions, renting a bike or surfboard, boat trips, yoga lessons or whatever else. You also need to think about health and maybe travel insurance, depending on where you want to go and how you want to travel. Other expenses you might want a small financial cushion for: Anything that might go wrong, such as having to advance money for medical treatments, you need to replace some of your equipment that’s broke or has gone missing, you need to return home unexpectedly and so on.
Here’s a little example of how I calculated the costs for my almost 4-month Eurotrip in 2014 and in the end it actually did come out to about that.. These are of course just daily estimates, thus I never spent these exact amounts on the different categories.
accomodation: 15 €
food: 5 €
activities: 10 €
= about 30 € per day
about 30 € per week = almost 600 € in total
Total= 4300- 4500 € for 18 weeks
As you can see, I spent a lot of money on activities on that trip and traveled to a new place every few days, which really gets expensive after a while, especially because I had to take the ferry a lot when traveling between the Greek islands. I always tried to stick to my 30 € a day and I usually still do (unless I’m outside of Europe). And every now and then I got in one of those Freebie-options aswell 😉
So, I hope I was able to give you an idea of how you can travel on a budget and how to calculate ahead what you will be spending on your trip.
Do you spend more or less on your trips? Have you ever tried the freebie options? Any other ideas or thoughts on traveling on a budget?
Check out the other parts to this blog series: