A lot goes into budgeting for your career break. Where you go, how you travel, how much gear you need, how open you are to eating new types of food, and how much discomfort you’re willing to endure all have a major effect on how much money you will spend. And before you can spend it – you need to save it.
So where to start planning your budget?
Where to Go/How Long to Travel
Where you go and how long your career break is greatly affects your budget. If you want to spend a lot of time in places like Europe, the US, Australia, or New Zealand, then your trip is probably going to be shorter than most. If India, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and South America are on your short list, then your money will go much further.
Researching costs in different destinations is key to planning the budget. Budget Your Trip is a great site to see how much it costs to travel in certain cities and countries based on real travelers budgets. RTW Expenses is another great resource
Your biggest single expense is going to be your airfare. Buying a RTW plane ticket vs. buying your tickets as you go is also going to be one of the biggest decisions you make. It’s a hot debate when it comes to long-term travel, and there’s no right or wrong answer.
Here are a few things to realize off the bat:
• RTW tickets will most likely be cheaper.
• If you choose the RTW ticket option, you won’t be able to be as spontaneous.
• If you chose the “buy as you go option”, you’ll spend a lot of your time researching flights and destinations while on your trip.
Start researching accommodation options now. If you don’t have much international travel experience, you probably have some misconceptions about things like hostels. Many think that hostels are only for young, college-aged travelers looking to party all night and keep you from sleeping. While there are certainly many hostels like this, they aren’t the norm, and there are plenty of hostels out there that cater to people who aren’t in college or on their gap years, and there are many that are great for families.
The best way to go about budgeting for accommodations is to simply go to a budget site like BootsnAll, hostels.com, hostelworld.com, or gomio.com, plug in your city and dates, and start checking average prices. This will give you an idea of what accommodations cost in various places around the world. Remember to factor in which season (high, low, shoulder, rainy, dry) you’ll be traveling in, and keep an eye on holidays, festivals, and big events. Prices can double or more during certain times of the year.
Other accommodation options include Couchsurfing.com and Tripping.com. If you plan on doing slow-travel, staying in places longer, long-term apartment rentals through sites like airbnb.com and vrbo.com are also viable options.
Trying to figure out a budget for food can be a bit difficult. Many websites and guidebooks out there give you a pretty decent breakdown for food costs in the regions you plan on traveling in, but many are a year or more out of date, so always be sure to aim high. Food costs can vary wildly depending on many factors, and while some travelers can easily get buy on less than $5/day for food in many parts of the world, it takes some determination and creativity.
Check out the following money saving tips for food:
• Stay in hostels to take advantage of free breakfasts and kitchens for cooking your own food.
• Eat how the locals eat – this means markets and street food in many areas of the world.
• If you’re leery about street food, don’t be, just use common sense:
- – Street food is typically amongst the best and cheapest food in the region, especially in places like Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
- – When looking for street stalls to eat at, try finding one with the most locals – they know where to find the best food.
- – Look for crowded stalls with high turnover – this lessens the chance that food can spoil or go bad (refrigeration methods are questionable in some countries).
• Get creative – eat lots of fruit from local markets, pack a sandwich for a day of sightseeing, make sure you bring snacks on long bus rides.
Other areas to factor into your budget include entertainment and activities, overland travel (buses and trains), internal flights, visas, vaccinations, gear, and insurance among others. We cover this more thoroughly in our Career Break Basic Training course.