Getting your budget right is an essential part of making sure your gap year runs smoothly, and getting the basics right from the start can make the whole planning process easier. Before we get into the detailed side of budget planning, let’s just start with the absolute fundamentals. There are essentially three parts to any budget. The pre trip expenses, including the cost of the flights themselves, your daily budget and your emergency funds.
Pre Trip Expenses.
These are the essential expenses you are going to need before you even set off on your big trip. The flight itself – or flights as the case may be – is an obvious one. Without that you obviously going anywhere but this will take one of the biggest chunks out of your budget.
Then you will obviously need to buy a good backpack and a few other packing essentials, but you really don’t need all that much. As long as you have a good quality pack, that is the main thing. I promise all of those fancy gadgets in the ourdoor survival shop will not be needed.
Next is travel insurance. I know you don’t want to spend money on insurance, no one does, but it is absolutely essential. Buy this alongside your flight and consider the cost just a part of that. Trust me, the expense now is minor compared to the potential hundreds of thousands you could potentially spend on medical costs if the worst happens. It just isn’t worth not getting it.
If you need to get any visas for the places you are travelling to, this will also need to be factored in.
Finally, and this is the one everyone always forgets about until the last minute, is potential antimalarial medication and vaccination costs. In the UK your routine vaccinations and boosters are available for free on the NHS, but travel vaccinations are not and you will have to pay for these at your GP or Travel Clinic. Which ones and how many you need will obviously depend on where you are going and your own past medical history, but depending on how many you need the costs could run up to hundreds of pounds, with the cost of each individual vaccination averaging between £50 and £100, sometimes more.
You just can’t get around pre trip expenses. These are so often overlooked by people who get carried away with saving for their big adventure and then find a big chunk of what they had planned for activities and accomodation has to be spent before they even leave, and then they have nothing left to spend on travel itself! Don’t make that mistake.
When you finally set off on your big round the world adventure you will have to plan for your daily costs of living. These include your accommodation, food, transport, activities and other random daily costs you may incur on your travels.
This budget depends a lot on where you travel, obviously Europe in general will be more expensive than most of South East Asia and how much you spend on each of these things will depend a lot on your style of travel as an individual. Are you an extreme budget backpacker staying in the cheapest dorms and only eating street food, or are you a flashpacker who has a bit more to spend and want a bit more comfort?
The very rough daily average for a round the world trip is about £30 – £50 GBP per day. That’s £840 – £1500 GBP a month or £10,080 GBP for the whole year.
So an average basic budget in a popular backpacker destination like Thailand will cost you around £10 per night (or less) for a hostel, around £10 per day for food and drink (excluding alcohol) around £5 a day for transport and £5 a day for an activity. A mid range budget will see you get a nice private room for between £10 – £20 per night, around £10 per day for food and drink (excluding alcohol) around £5 a day for transport and £15 a day for activities.
You can of course be extremely frugal and spend much less than this, but you can also blow this budget out of the water and spend triple that daily budget on a single meal at a posh restaurant. Most travellers tend to be somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, even if many lean more to the frugal side of things more often out of necessity. Your budget also depends where you go too. This average daily budget will see you live it up like a king or queen in most of SE Asia or South America, but won’t last five minutes in parts of Europe or Australia. So if your trip is predominantly taking in cheaper, less developed countries you won’t need anywhere near that much, but you will conversely need a lot more if you plan to spend significant amounts of time in places like the UK, Western Europe, Australia, Mexico Singapore or Japan for example.
Splurging And Over Budgeting.
Now it is always a good idea to over budget very slightly. So if you budget £20 per day for accomodation for example based on a nice mid range private room, but predominantly stay in hostels or cheap beach huts and only spend between £5 and £10 per night for long periods, that will leave you a lot of room to splurge from time to time on a budget blowing, flashpacker luxury hotel or unique accomodation experience. The same is true for activities, make sure you budget enough per day to cover all the things you may want to do, even on the days you know you will simply be enjoying free activities like exploring a city or lazing on the beach with a book. That means that when that amazing once in a lifetime activity comes along you won’t miss out.
Finally a back up plan is absolutely essential on any trip and you should have emergency funds in place for that unexpected flight home or for when an unexpected emergency arises. A credit card is okay for this, but ideally you should have some cash funds set aside too.
You are backpacking the world for a reason, to have an amazing time, see new places and experience new things. So while budgeting and being frugal can give you the means to do that it really isn’t worth under budgeting and travelling with so little money that you can’t afford to take advantage of some of the amazing experiences you will come across when you are out on the road. Getting your PADI certificate, taking a course, splurging on a nice meal or something that you love doing, all of these things and more cost money, and it really isn’t worth passing up on them just because you don’t have the money.
This is why it is essential that you plan ahead for everything you may want to do and make sure you get the budgeting right before you go.