I would love to be rich enough to never have to worry about budgeting, but along with 99.999% of the population, that is not my reality. Moreover, I really do not want to work hard enough to have that much money :).
As far back as I can remember I wanted to travel, explore and even sometimes escape! 1 dollar / Euro or Pound has always meant to me a finite amount of freedom rather than power. I am much more of an explorer than a hoarder. I expect most travellers are the same.
In my early student backpacking days I once managed to hitchhike from Sweden to southern Europe. My budget was $20 / day and I stuck to it. That sort of learning can be excellent, but it does mean missing out on many important sites (i.e. entrance fees).
Returning to our consistent theme: there is no one right way to travel, budget dictates style and activities.
As a general rule there are a few ways to consistently manage costs when travelling:
- Longer trips reduce flight costs when averaged over the length of the journey
- Take public transportation whenever possible (as opposed to taxis or renting a car)
- Eat in public markets (when clean)
- Pick accommodation wisely; look for included breakfast, location (to avoid transportation costs), free parking (when required)
- Many young(er) travellers have long used youth hostels as the best budget accommodation when travelling. There are networks of hostels the world over and the option to self-cater (cook in the shared kitchen) can be an excellent money-saver. I have worked in a hostel on the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland and at the Calgary Youth Hostel. I enjoyed both experiences immensely almost entirely due to the opportunity this provided to meet travellers from around the world
- Stepping up from very budget lodging, the internet has made finding affordable accommodation much easier. When planning a trip I use all the sites including Expedia, Booking, etc to compare prices, but remain on guard for all the hidden fees!!!
Having worked much of my life as a guide – and running my own tours – I am obviously an advocate for package travel. If well designed, a tour will almost always offer you the best per-day value for trips of under three weeks. At Twomey Travel we offer a very specific consultancy service to help you navigate tour itineraries and packages.
The tour industry is referred to as Travel Trade and having worked both sides of the desk (promoting regions & developing products as well as leading tours) it has been interesting to learn how tight some margins are within the industry.
An investment friend of mine has a deal with his other banker-friends that if anyone ever proposes buying an airline, they are to be tied up and locked away!
I often feel the same about the hotel industry. Accommodation is almost always the the largest single cost of travel, (followed by transportation and food) and the industry in far more competitive than at first glance.
Prices are almost always negotiable, but the best rates are reserved for receptive operators (often behind-the-scene agencies that provide services to tour companies) and / or to companies directly. As a tour operator I will almost always secure rate far better than anything published – this savings will be passed on through the package rate, obviously allowing for some profit.
The published price of a tour is rarely the full story. Some companies include almost everything, whereas others sell a ‘shell tour’ where almost nothing – meals, excursions, etc – is included. While the pricing associated with many packages can be misleading, I like to see most excursions included (extras such as helicopter flights will always be optional), and I really like to see included breakfasts, however when all meals are included, the tour can end up being more about group reservation times rather than visiting all the sites!
Floating from port to port can be beautiful, relaxing and extremely comfortable. Cruise ships offer access to many distant ports not easily accessible and can offer outstanding value. Thus noted, there are so many hidden costs to cruising, one needs to be extremely careful.
Far from being all-inclusive luxury, there are a series of difficult costs endemic to the cruise industry. Most notable are the shore excursions. Some of these excursions can be so excessively priced as to easily double the costs of the trip.
Often when I have cruised with groups, I offer a walking tour in each port of call. Particularly for the smaller places this offers all the introduction necessary to enjoy the destination with spending ridiculous sums for very average tours.
Onboard costs can also add up. While food is generally included (some cruise lines have additional fees for specific restaurants), drinks can be very expensive.
All of this can be fine, but not understanding all of these extras can prove very expensive and surprising.
Budgeting is as important with travel as with any other activity. Many people value travel far above other costs and of course those of us at twomeytravel.com feel strongly about this. By choosing to spend on travel, we have to save elsewhere – but the memories really do stay forever.
A typical mid-level tour budget, including flights, should run between $200 – $300 (USD) per day. Small group and custom group travel always be more expensive as the operator cannot negotiate prices down.
Backpacking in Europe and North America still costs $50-$100 / day whereas in Asia, parts of Africa and Latina America can be half that …