Budgeting. Either you love it or hate it. I can’t say I’ve always been the best budgeter, but through my travels around the world, I have learned what you need to plan for – and the certain things you just can’t anticipate. So as you begin planning your solo trip, start with the below. I promise you, you will feel better knowing you have a budget and plan in place as you start to get down to the nitty gritty of your trip.
First, check out my post Breaking it Down for more details on where to begin when planning your solo trip. The first step is truly saying, “YES, I AM GOING ON A TRIP ALONE!” And relish in that incredible statement. But once you’ve done that, you then need to:
- Figure out where to go.
- Set a budget for that destination/length of trip.
So that’s where this post comes in. I am going to break down how to budget for your trip, and where you should (and definitely should not) be spending your hard earned money. So let’s begin!
Budgets Start HERE
Start with a simple spreadsheet. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, just a row for each type of expense and a column each for your budget, actual spend and difference so you can see how you’re tracking over time.
Are you looking for a budgeting spreadsheet? Why not try my printable eBook The Forgetful Traveler, which has a budget worksheet in both PDF AND EXCEL! Wohoo!
Break Down the Costs
There are a few types of transportation costs you might encounter when booking and while on your trip. Think airfares, car hire, gas, rail/bus tickets, transfers or public transportation.
Basically you need to get to your destination somehow. Even if it’s in your own car driving just a few hours away, you will encounter the cost of gas, so remember that as you plan for the following options:
Obviously, if you’re traveling overseas or across a large country or continent you will need to start with airfares.
I like to use websites like Google Flights, Kayak or Skyscanner for this. Input your destination, approximate dates, and search. This will bring up a bunch of different results from different airlines at different times of day, some via other destinations. You don’t need to go into specifics at this stage, just scroll through and average the costs.
If you’re planning on traveling by rail or bus during your trip, you will need to find an average cost for this as well. Unlike with airfares and car hire, there isn’t one website that covers the whole world for rail and bus tickets so you’re going to have to do a bit more looking around for this one.
A suggestion is for you do an internet search, for something like, “rail tickets Europe.” Depending on which country you’re from will depend on the results, but usually you will find a reputable website on the first page of results that will provide you with a way to search for rough prices. Once you have an average cost, add it to the spreadsheet.
Finally public transportation. This is going to be the hardest to determine and will depend on where you are traveling to. If you’re headed to a big city then this cost will be higher than if you’re visiting a smaller city or town where you’ll likely get around on foot.
Do an internet search for the public transport website for the city you are visiting. There you will find information on tickets and prices for passes etc. When we visit a big city we usually budget for around two trips on public transport per day.
The next biggest expense for your trip is likely to be your accommodation. The first thing you need to do is determine what style of accommodation you want for this solo adventure.
Here are our go to resources for each of these accommodation styles:
- TripAdvisor.com– I always start with trip advisor, because you can read reviews of places, see where they are in town, and you can even check if the place you like is available, and it will take you to the right website. A good one-stop-shop.
- HostelWorld – As the name suggests, you will find hostels on this site along with budget-type hotels.
- Airbnb – Unique apartments and rooms all over the world. I have used AirBnB all over the world, and highly recommend it! Email me if you need a few recommendations in places like Barcelona and Paris.
- Couchsurfing – As the name says, find a couch, usually free, to sleep on in someone’s home. These aren’t always couches and sometime can be a bed or a whole room. I have never done this but have always wanted to try!
Food and Drinks
Working out how much you’re going to spend on food and drink will depend on what type of food experience you like.
If you love street food, don’t mind cooking your own meals from time to time in the hostel and drinking little or at backpacker-type bars, then your budget will be very low. If, however, you like the fine dining experience and lavish cocktails in flashy bars with equally great views, then your food and drink budget will be high. And if you like a little of both, like me, that’s ok too! Consider all of this. If you know in Paris you want to go all out, but in Prague you might consider the street food, then budget that. What does an average cocktail cost? What about the street food? And your morning coffee run? Add this up to give yourself a rough estimate.
The best (strong) espresso in Paris, France
What to See
This is where a good guide book will come in handy. I always reference my favorite guidebooks from Lonely Planet at this point to get prices for the key attractions in the place we are visiting. It’s quick and easy and you don’t need to make any firm decisions about what exactly you’re going to see and do, this is just to get an idea of price.
Things like travel insurance, souvenirs, and other miscellaneous expenses will ALWAYS come up. Plan a lump sum for these expenses, and really stick to it. Don’t go over for that amazing Italian leather jacket unless you must have it. Consider those once-in-a-lifetime expenses, as well those things that are just weighing down your backpack. I love collecting things like coasters, tickets, receipts, and gluing them into my journal (see my story on creating a travel journal, and how you can too). Not only are they light, but they are FREE! Sometimes you don’t need the giant snow globe to remember how fantastic a trip is.
How to Reduce the Budget
There are ways of reducing your budget with a bit of creative thinking. Here are a few things I do if I feel my budget is getting a little out of control:
- Mix it up a bit with your accommodation, especially on a long trip. If you like sleeping in luxury try adding a few nights in a cheaper form of accommodation like a hostel.
- Research free activities and events going in your destination and look up museums websites for days they offer free entry. I also swear by free walking tours!
- Purchase food at a local market or supermarket. Not only is this cheaper, but it will give you a great insight into the food that the locals eat. Then set your see.
YOUR TURN! How do you save money when you travel? Answer in the comments below!