Seven on Sunday – Ways to Budget for your Backpacker Dream! (Part One)

So. You want to go on amazing ‘trip of a lifetime’ (I discovered quickly that you can have more than one 😉 ) and the biggest question is – how to budget for the darned thing? Today I present Seven Ways to Budget for Your Backpacker Dream! Sorry to split it into two parts again – but it got so long and detailed I really didn’t have a choice!

banner ways to budget pt 1 copy

  1. Research and decide where you want to go

I mean, you might already have a dream, but what you need to know is – what will you do with your time? As I’ve grown older I have researched and planned a lot more stringently than I used to – and this helpful but not essential. The thing is, if you want to go to the USA and don’t know say about Disneyland (ok bad example) you need to make sure you have the time and budget to do it.

Sydney Opera House from the ferry.
Sydney Opera House from the ferry.

Having said that, there is something in rocking up to a place and discovering what it has to offer. And I was much more of that mind when I started backpacking in 1999. And the fact is still that I often find things I hadn’t planned on do on the road and change my plans. 2011 – my last big backpacking trip, is perfect example of that. Flights were changed left right and centre. SO – find the balance that suits you.

Vietnam 2011
Vietnam 2011

passport 6a passport 3a


2. Work out how long you want to go for and when

The timing of your trip will dictate more than just the weather you encounter. Think festivals and events, think whether it’s an expensive time of the year to go. Consider what’s important to you as you travel. It’s cheaper for flights and accommodation at certain times of the year. You might find that these times see less tourists which may be a good or bad thing for you.

How long can you go for? If you’re wanting to keep a job, maybe it’s not so long. MAYBE you want to quit everything and go for as long as the money lasts. If so, you need to have some idea about how far your money will get you.


            3. Work out what kind of places you want to stay in and how you want to travel

Obviously, money will stretch less far if you want to fly business class and stay at the Hyatt. I travelled 7 months in 1999 all up on around $18000 AUD. I had a round the world ticket (economy) that with taxes was about $3800 that included 24 flights. No, it’s not that cheap today (mostly because of airport tax and fuel surcharges) but RTW flights still represent great value for money – as long as you don’t include South America!

The plane stands ready!
The plane stands ready!

$18000 I imagine would have been less than the cost if I did it all in business class. I don’t think I ever paid more than $50 AUD for a bed for the night. London I think was around $40 (very hard place to get value for money accommodation).

To make that money last In Europe, Australia, the USA etc you are going to have to do dorm rooms for the most part. However, there is couch surfing these days where you can find a free bed in people’s homes. Accommodation in South East Asia and India is often excellent value and you can find your own room for under (well under in some places) $20 a night.

Twin room budget hotel in Auckland.
Twin room budget hotel in Auckland.

So it’s all about quantity versus quality and finding the right balance, and if you’re lucky, the right bargain. Obviously your money lasts longer in countries where things are cheaper, so if you’re really determined to get away from it all for a good length of time, know where your dollar, Euro, Pound, Rand, Rupee, etc etc will stretch the furthest.


                4. Planning your budget – flights

Presuming this trip is not a spur of the moment thing, you’ll have some time ahead of you to plan things out and shop around. Don’t jump in straight away unless it’s the bargain to end all bargains. Keep in mind that airlines periodically have their own sales, and then there are times of the year where everything seems to be on sale – such as this weekend in Melbourne we have the Flight Centre Travel Expo where you’ll find deals on flights, accommodation, tours, hotels and more.

I’m booking my ticket for South America through them. Although it’s not because of the Expo LAN has Santiago return from Melbourne for $1199AUD. If it wasn’t on sale it would be near to $2000. If I budget $50 a day, that’s over two weeks worth of trip I’ve had added on.


Look for bargains – follow relevant airlines to where you want to go on facebook so you know when they are having a sale. You can use something like Webjet to scan multiple airlines, however they charge a booking fee and a credit card fee which on the Australian site is over $60 so I don’t recommend booking through them. I found the fares to be cheaper on the airlines’ own sites too (marginally).

And of course, Round the World tickets are perfect for those who want to hop from continent to continent. You can, if you take a simple itinerary , get them for under $2000, which is comparable to a return ticket from Australia to Europe. This are harder to book online. Best to see a travel agent.

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