How to plan your budget for a Long Term Trip?


How much is it going to cost me?

This is the biggest question i had when i first started planning for my 6 month adventure.  I searched many a travel blog looking for some formula or a quick answer as to how much things were going to cost. The answer i found was – it depends.

Theres budget and then there is budget. Some people were travelling to South America on $20 a day, couch surfing, cooking for themselves and spending there days walking the streets and taking photos. Others where spending $40 a day, sleeping in private rooms in hostels or air bnbs, occasionally eating at local restaurant and doing some other activities that cost money. I read one great post by bloggers, along dusty roads, and they went to Machu Piccu for $1, by walking the 30 odd km along the rail way tracks. Now thats commitment to budget travel.

So regardless of what other blogs say, all i can do is give you my experience and what i did. Im sure I’ll have to do another post in future, once I’m actually on the road, but for now i can tell you what i did to plan my budget for my upcoming trip and my trips in the past, albeit not as long, but still they required some forward budgeting.


First of all work out the items that are going to take the biggest chunk out of your budget.

In my case:

  • Flights (international)
  • Pre travel vaccinations and medical care
  • Travel insurance (Very expensive for my, but a nonnegotiable)
  • Gear that i didn’t already have (Backpack upgrade, Sleeping mat and Camping necessities)
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Excel was my best friend when planning my budget!


So even before you look at how much your Trip is going to cost when you get there, you can see how much its going to cost you to even think about getting on a plane and leaving. For me, prior to even leaving Australia, I’d Already spent $3415. This number could have been cheaper if i didn’t need to buy a new backpack or camping gear, but even without that I’m still looking at around$3000 before i can even leave.

So once you get over the initial shock of, holly shit i can’t afford to pay that right off the bat and still have enough to spend when I’m actually travelling, a trick i like to use to make the pre travel blow easier, is to try and book and pay for some of these things in advance. Planning to leave yourself ample time to book and pay, not only lessens the blow on your wallet, but it allows you time to hunt for the best deal and not get ripped off by booking the first thing you see, due to lack of time to do your research properly.

For example it took me about a month of scouting airfares, watching them fluctuate, figuring out which city would be most economical to fly into, which airline had the cheapest whole airfare (watch out for added extras/costs), before i actually booked a flight. And then when id found a price i was happy with, i asked numerous travel agents to quote me for the same day, same destination flight and when the flight i had found was cheaper than any of the quoted prices, i asked if they had a price beat guarantee. They did, and often do, so my price was matched, but i got my flight booked through travel agent – something i would recommend for long haul flights, as if anything goes wrong, you have someone who can be on the ground working to fix it – and if its the same price as just booking yourself online, then what do you have to loose.

Search engines like Kayak, Sky scanner, amongst others are helpful when comparing flights

The same can be done for travel insurance and even vaccinations. I called 4 different medical practises to see how much my Yellow fever vaccination was going to cost and how much the doctors fees were. Surprisingly the cost at all 4 was different. The Vaccination itself was the same price, but the doctors fees varied, so shopping around – even for medical expenses- payed off in my case!

Okay so you’ve sorted your Pre trip expenses, now you’ve got to look at how much your going to want to spend/plan to spend while your actually travelling.

This will of corse only be an estimate, as you won’t know how much your actually going to spend until your in the thick of it but you can take a pretty educated guess.

So you look at what the 3 biggest expense are while travelling:

  1. Accomodation
  2. Food
  3. Transport

So Firstly Accomodation. I start by researching how much accomodation is in each place. For example Canada’s Dorms for a single bed in a large dorm are around/upwards of ~$30AUD a night (depending on where and when of corse), where as in Mexico and Guatemala you could find a nice bed in a dorm – or if your lucky a private room for ~$10-15AUD. So already you know that if you try and stick to a budget of $30 a day while in Canada, your not going to be eating, exploring or doing anything really- but $30 a day while in Central America might be doable.

Gorgeous courtyard at my Hostel in the heart of Thamel, Nepal.

Secondly Food.  You have to eat obviously, but there are a few ways you can cut down on costs. MAXIMISE free hostel breakfasts. Alot of hostels offer them these days, and if you have a big breakfast and take some fruit or bread as snacks/lunch during the day then you get 2 meals that you don’t have to pay for! Winning! I always take free breakfast into consideration when booking hostels. In Canada I know I rarely will be eating out, as this is likely to cost me anywhere from $15+ AUD per meal, fruit and veg and home cooked meals is most likely to be how I eat to save money. Alternatively in Central and South america, there are street vendors and local restaurants that will give you a decent feed for anywhere from $1-10AUD. So its likely ill be eating off a few vendors while I’m there.

Buying off local street vendors is a cheap and healthy way to eat while abroad!

Thirdly Transport. How are you going to get from A to B. Again depending on where you are in the world this will cost you anywhere from cents to hundreds of dollars.

For example looking at the first leg of my upcoming trip, my main forms of transport will be:

  • Bus Greyhound bus Vancouver to Golden: $80AUD
  • Riding: Calgary to Canada: FREE with the exception of leg power (hopefully without any breakdowns)
  • Calgary to the Rockies (Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise etc): Car hire, $900AUD for 12 days, split between 4 people ~$19 per day
  • Calgary to Mexico Flight: $305
  • Central America Transport to be determined: planning to use chicken buses and local transport anywhere from $1-$10 (usually people report that its $1 per hour your on the bus)

Once you have taken all these things into account and research how much accomodation, transport and food is in each of your destinations, a simple excel spread sheet will add it all up for you and you will have created yourself a rough budget.

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Check back soon for individual budget breaks downs, for Canada, Central and South America.

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