When I tell people about my trips or travel plans, I often get the same response: "I wish I could do something like that".
It is only recently that I have started to respond with, "You probably could. Have you looked into it?"
I never thought I would take myself to half the places I have gone in my first (somewhat unemployed) year out of college. However, when planned correctly, it can be more accessible than you think!
It is a sad fact that big trips usually produce big bills. Flights, lodging, food... it all adds up fast. Just like living, you need to eat and sleep, but you'll also want to visit museums, try restaurants.... train to a new city, plane to a new city... every single day. Usually, you will not be working. How do you ensure you will be able to take care of yourself when traveling for an extended period of time?
The key is saving and budgeting... I know, groundbreaking. When done correctly, big trips don't need to have a big price tags. Furthermore, traveling for a longer amount of time often is relatively cheaper than short term travel. I equate it to buying in bulk to cut cost. Long term travel is bulk travel.
My budget for 3 months in Europe could easily have been spent in 3 weeks in Europe. As I said, the key is saving and budgeting.
3 STEPS FOR CREATING A BUDGET FOR YOUR DREAM BACKPACKING TRIP:
1. CALCULATE THE COST AND SEE WHAT IS POSSIBLE FOR YOU
We are going to start with a little math. Start by doing some research and seeing how much lodging costs per night in your desired destination. Find an option that meets your standard of living and price range. Depending on where you are in the world, hostels can cost anywhere from $2 to $25 USD a night. Not okay with a hostel? Renting an apartment on sites such as Airbnb and VRBO can be very reasonably priced, especially if you are staying there for an extended period of time.
Additionally, if "fine dining" isn't a priority, food in the form of street food and/or groceries can easily be kept between $5-15 USD a day. Add the two together, throw in $10-20 USD a day as "wiggle room" for bus tickets, souvenirs, drinks, ect, and voila! There is your daily budget.
Now for the hardest part of making a budget, and the ultimate travelers dilemma: are you more concerned with time or money?
If money is your priority, divided the total amount you are willing to spend by your daily budget. Now you have the number of days that you can travel for.
If time is your priority, multiply your daily budget by how many days you can be gone. Now you have your total amount to spend.
2. RESEARCH YOUR FLIGHT
The world of airfare is generally very overpriced and confusing to navigate. To get reasonably priced airfare:
book in advance - The sooner the better!
be patient/don't book the first flight you see - You can't determine what a reasonably priced flight is by looking at one flight. Compare as many flights as you can find on as many platforms as you can think of to create an "average price" (so you can find one thats cheaper than it).
be flexible - Plan your trip on leaving, "sometime in September" and returning, "sometime in November." You can then pick the cheapest flights in those entire months. This is much cheaper than conceding to whatever the cost is for one specific weekend. Many sites have "flex month" features... use them (Orbitz, SkyScanner, Google Flights, ect.)
3. SAVE A SEPARATE AMOUNT FOR YOUR FLIGHT
I keep the cost of the "to and from" flights completely separate from my daily budget. I try to pay for them with what I call "spare money," even though it is by no means actually spare money, and just my own money being compartmentalized differently. Once you find the perfect flight, purchase it immediately so you do not miss the good price. After that, pay it back to yourself bit by bit.
Find $20 in your coat pocket? Immediately put it into your flight savings. Empty out your piggy bank? Put it straight into your flight savings. If everyone is going to the bar and you stay in, put $20 into your flight savings. As often as I can, I try to put what I would have wasted on drinks (or coffee) into my flight savings. When you start saving your spare money, you will be surprised how much you waste every week. Eventually, you will be able to pay off your flight this way. Even if you are doing this past the return of your trip, eventually you will pay off your flight. Because I am constantly booking airfare, I automatically deposit $30 a week into my flights savings.
If you truly want to travel, all you have to do is prioritizing paying for it. Big travel doesn't need to have a scary cost associated with it.
For example, if you want to travel for 60 days, spending $50 total a day, your travel budget will be $3000. If you prioritize putting aside $300 a month ($10 a day), you will have your dream trip paid for in 10 months!
If traveling is a priority for you, saving and budgeting is the key to making it happen!