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Budgeting for a Trip Around the World

The 6-part series on saving for a trip around the world will close with this post on the topic of developing a budget. While it may have fit better after we discussed establishing travel and financial goals, I wanted to save the best for last.

Truth be told, I did not begin to seriously research a budget until last summer, three years into my saving. I had begun to participate in the BootsnAll message boards, and came across a common type of Q&A where a member posts a budget, and requests feedback from everyone else. I decided it was time to write out a rough itinerary, and figure out how much my dream travels were going to cost.

First, I acquired a copy of Microsoft Excel from a coworker so I could easily organize and edit ideas and costs. Second, I picked up Rough Guide’s First-Time Around the World (A Trip Planner for the Ultimate Journey). Though the first edition I bought was written in 2003, it was a great starting place with a wealth of detailed daily living cost estimates for much of the world, as well as sample transportation prices for popular routes, and Visa info.

I used this information, combined with people’s feedback (based on experience), to associate a daily cost per day with each country on my itinerary.

I also assigned time frames (in weekly increments) to spend in each location.

I bolded the “must see” countries on my list, and ordered them in a west to east direction starting with New Zealand and ending with the west coast of the United States.

I posted the spreadsheet on BootsnAll, and received good feedback on my estimates (and it also lead to my first TV interview with NBC, to be posted shortly).

I then turned to the rest of the expenses I would accrue, such as start-up costs (which for me include travel insurance, medical insurance, and storage).

I did not include immunizations as I intend to use my employer sponsored health coverage.

I received a new digital camera as a Christmas gift, and will buy a used or inexpensive mp3 player within the next few months.

I did some cost estimations on airfare for the major legs of my trip (continent to continent) using Orbitz as I do not intent to buy a RTW ticket. I started a list of activities which I wanted to do in each region.

And then using formulas, I established the total cost of my trip, my net savings (gross assets minus debts), and remainder left to save.

I added a second worksheet dedicated to tracking my progress toward meeting the total trip cost, and broke the goals up into 4 timeframes. I added a third worksheet to track my pre-departure task list. And lastly (for now), I wrote up a list of my belongings, seperating what I intended to keep versus sell/store/donate.

David’s ‘Round the World Plan

As I continue to play with Google’s Docs & Spreadsheets application, I think I may use it to track my spending (vs budget) in real time as I travel. I believe this would help me greatly, and may also prove valuable to others in the planning stages. I could also use it to track the carbon offsets I buy along the way. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome!


Further Reading – Besides guide books, the Internet has opened up information sharing to us all. A good starting place is the BootsnAll message boards where you’ll find a knowledgeable and helpful audience for your questions.

Blogs are the newest way for travelers to share their budgets and actual trip costs. The 3 Lost Girls kept meticulous records of their year long travel expenses, and posted them recently in a 3-part series. This is the kind of detail which is very rare, mostly because it can be a rather boring proposition to keep track, then present back, such detailed data.

Saving for Travel is a website with a calculator for establishing a budget to one or more countries. Estimates are in British pounds.

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking uses and recommends: