HOW TO BUDGET FOR TRAVEL
It can be difficult to know how to budget for your trip and how much to save. Looking online for accurate cost estimates for a country can be confusing with the variety of travel styles out there. So rather than giving you an estimate of the costs of a particular country, here is how I approach budgeting for my travels, regardless of the destination.
1. LOOK INTO THE CURRENCY EXCHANGE RATE
And compare average prices for similar items. Although slightly obvious, an exchange rate does you no good without the additional comparison of item prices. Sure, the exchange rate might seem amazing, but you never know if it will cost you triple the price for the same beer or meal. When visiting New Zealand, our Canadian dollar was faring better than the NZD, but their cost of living was higher as well.
2. FIGURE OUT YOUR ACTIVITIES
For every country you visit, you'll need to decide what it is you want out of your trip. As soon as I started looking into travelling to New Zealand, I knew my focus would be on adventure. Start by choosing the activities you label as 'must dos', then the ones you'd like to do, and don't bother with the things you aren't interested in.
3. PICK YOUR CITIES BASED ON YOUR TIME AVAILABLE
Now that you know what activities the country offers you, you can see where your activities are concentrated and possibly a visible path through the country (i.e. "well this one is so close to that one and we can't miss this one which takes us to this...").
You might end up with too many cities, but that's okay! You can go through and narrow it down to the necessities. This route likely won't end up working and won't be your final itinerary (we ended up planning a route of cities that led over a mountain range), but it gives you a frame to work with.
Tripadvisor forum is a great place for critiques on itineraries.
4. BREAK YOUR BUDGET DOWN
Categorize. I broke my budget down into Accommodation, Activities, Food, Travel (bussing, flights, etc.), Drinking, and Miscellaneous. Yours can vary based on your interests and travel goals. You won't be able to avoid spending on accommodation or travel, but you can determine the level of comfort you'd like and negotiate your budget to accommodate.
5. PRICE IT OUT!
At this point, you know what activities are must dos, and you know the cities you'd like to get to. Hopefully you have an idea of why each city interests you and what you would like to do when you visit it.
So how much does bungy jumping in Queenstown cost? Add it into your budget.
If you know you would like to go for drinks in the nightlife city, or will be living out of your pack in the wilderness for a few days, consider that in your budget! If you are in a big city and will be staying in a hostel or a hotel, consider that in your budget! If you know one city has an amazing but expensive restaurant you need to try, consider it in your budget!
6. PICK YOUR BATTLES
You should have an approximate estimate for the main attractions of Accommodation, Food, Travel, Drinking (or your substitute), and Activities. Miscellaneous will remain blank until you track your actual spending over your travels (in the planning stage I utilize it only to determine if I spent an extra $5 or $50 a day, what it would cost me over the course of the trip).
Basically, now you pick your battles. A pattern will begin to emerge, days you will spend a lot and days you will spend very little. Summarize it all into a final budget total, and an average per day. If your end budget isn't viable for you, adjust your expectations- don't go out for that dinner and drinks this night, stay at a campsite or hostel instead of that expensive hotel in this city, etc.
My focus was adventure, so I was willing to sacrifice luxury accommodation and a few cheap meals for an extra bungy jump.
As always, there are a lot of variables depending on your style of travel, but this should give you a basis for your approximate budget, which will be fine tuned (until almost completely accurate) as you book activities and lodging. If you have any more questions about budgeting for travel don't be shy and leave a comment or contact me!