Planning you gap year budget is one thing, but everyone always forgets about the pre trip expenses! Make sure you plan accordingly and don’t get caught out by blowing your budget before you even get on the plane!
These are the expenses that will eat into your budget before you have even started backpacking. Unfortunately there is very little you can do about them, they are what they are, and they are necessary. So the best thing to do is proportion part of your budget specifically for them when you are saving for your trip.
Non routine vaccinations, namely the ones that the NHS don’t give you automatically throughout your life but are still recommended for travel in certain parts of the world, are not free. You will have to pay for them. Prices range from approximately £40 to £100 GBP depending on where you get them and what you need, and if you need a few then the costs can really add up. I have heard the question ‘is it worth it’ so many times over the years, with backpackers choosing to take their chances without them instead with no problems at all, and the only answer I can really give to that is in the form of another question, do you want to risk your health for the sake of a bit of money?
I’m not trying to be a doomsayer here or deploy scare tactics to get you to spend money on vaccinations, the truth is the odds of you contracting many of the diseases are relatively low, in some more than others, but if you do get them then the consequences can be quite severe or even fatal. As a health professional I can only ever recommend certain courses of action, but sometimes our recommendations are stronger than others. It is up to you whether you choose to follow the advice or not.
Depending on where you are going you may need to take antimalarials. If you do then you will obviously need to buy them and they don’t come cheap, especially if you are going for an extended period. See a travel health professional before you go to see if you need them or not, and if you do, don’t let the fact that you haven’t budgeted for them risk your health.
I know, everyone hates paying for insurance, myself included. But it’s a necessity so just bite the bullet and do it. The best advice is to shop around and make sure that the policy covers your entire trip and everything you want to do in it. There is no point in paying for the cheapest, basic cover for a month when you will be away for six weeks and want to go mountain climbing which your policy doesn’t cover (yes, people do this and still assume they will be covered).
This will probably be the biggest overall expense of your pre trip planning. If you’re like me you will be horrified at how expensive flights have become in the last few years, especially if you got spoiled by the low prices of the early to mid noughties. Unfortunately this is just the way it is now. A combination of high fuel prices, ridiculously punitive taxes (especially in the UK), a lot of smaller airlines going bust or being swallowed up by the larger ones and a consolidation of a lot of routes, flights have just gotten increasingly expensive, and this situation is not likely to resolve itself any time soon.
There are a few ways to minimize the costs however. Flexibility is key, especially if you can travel anytime and take advantage of the occasional flash sales that airlines or companies like STA travel offer. Looking a few days or a week on either side of the day you actually want to fly can sometimes save you hundreds of pounds too, and obviously try to avoid peak times like the summer holidays, where they unfairly double or even triple the normal price. Odds are you will still pay out a fair chunk of your budget on the flights, but with good timing and a bit of luck, you still may be able to get a cheap flight for the same price as a decade ago.
A lot of backpackers, especially first time travelers, spend an absolute fortune on their kit before they head off on their round the world adventure. Expensive backpack, check. Whole new holiday wardrobe, check. The entire stock cupboard of the outdoor survival shop, check. You really don’t need to spend all that much at all. Obviously a few basics such as a good backpack (but not necessarily the most expensive one), a first aid kit, some mosquito repellent and a travel towel are good buys, but then a weeks worth of comfortable clothes suitable for the environment you are travelling in and a few other bits are all you need. I know all those expensive and flashy survival tools, camping gear and other bits that you see on the shelves of the outdoor shop you got your backpack from look tempting, but unless you plan on roughing it in the jungle Bear Grylls style, you don’t need it so put it back.