For me, South America was my first overseas trip where I had to sit down and really think about what it was going to cost me. Why? A few reasons, mainly the length of the trip. There were other factors too: South America isn't a cheap place to get to from Australia ($2200-$3000 return in peak season) and I was planning on going for a length of time that would require me to quit my job – scary stuff!
Thankfully, there were heaps of great places out there offering advice – Nomadic Matt and Adventurous Kate to name two of the best – and there are always experienced travellers on online forums willing to share their knowledge. I thought I'd offer my take on a few things, which could come in useful if you're planning a trip of your own.
I earn just under $45,000AUD (about the same in USD, approx. 30,000GBP) as a graduate teacher in Australia, after tax. I started by looking at my fortnightly income and unavoidable expenses:
Income per fortnight: ~$1700
- Rent $280 (including bills)
- Phone $55 (Lock-in 24 month contract – biggest mistake of 2011!)
- Food $140
- Fuel $40 (1992 Magna Wagon drinks the stuff)
- Social $50
- Spanish lessons $15
- Other: Insurance, medical and emergency coffee. $50
- Rainy day money $100
Making this list and deducting essential expenses showed that I had just over $1000 a week of disposable income. As an added bonus, if I didn't spend the extra $100 I allocated per fortnight as 'Rainy day money', I was able to save that too.
To discipline myself, I made sure that as soon as I was paid each fortnight I immediately transferred $1000 (plus any money left over from the last fortnight) into my savings account. There's nothing more exciting than breaking double figures in your savings for the first time!
Now, what about the hidden costs? As it turned out, there were quite a few things I didn't consider when initially sketching out the budget for my trip:
- Vaccinations $400 (some of this can be claimed back if you have the right private health cover)
- Travel insurance $587 via WorldNomads
- Essentials for the trip – my most expensive purchases were my backpack, $160 from Kathmandu, and my camera, $550 (but I was lucky enough to receive $300 in vouchers from colleagues and friends!)
- Passport(s). I'm lucky enough to be a dual citizen and the $275 outlay for a new British passport will save me $300+ in Visa costs when I'm overseas. $275 doesn't sound like much when you consider the passport is valid for 10 years – less than 8c per day!
Other essentials add up too – Malaria medication isn't cheap, my solar charger (iPhone, iPad, camera) cost me $40 on eBay, I had to buy extra medication for travel sickness and also invested in some extra gear – a microfiber towel and combination locks for my bag.
As a general rule, I'd suggest you write down what you think you need, what it will cost, and then double your budget. This should leave you with no nasty surprises.
As I begin my trip, I'm up to the fun part – figuring how much money I can spend each day! I'll let you know how I budget for my daily spending in a future post.
[Photo credits: Featured image by 401(K) 2013, Flickr)
Have you saved for a big trip before? Share your experiences below!