The most important issue to consider when traveling is your budget. Whether you are going for one month or six, good budgeting is essential to ensure you complete the traveling experience without having to go home early. However, creating an accurate travel budget can be extremely difficult without good research and careful consideration.
There are several important elements to factor in when estimating travel costs. The hardest to gauge is the average daily living cost for each place you visit. This includes accommodation, food, and drink and will, of course, vary from location to location. The best way to find out this information is by asking someone who has lived in the country or has traveled around as a backpacker as they can speak from experience.
If you are not lucky enough to know someone with suitable knowledge, then many resources online or in budget travel books will offer good guidance. Once you have come to a figure for an average daily cost in each country, this then needs to be multiplied by the number of days you will be spending in each to give your final figure.
Transportation is arguably the second most important consideration for your travel budget. Think about how you intend to get around from place to place whether it is by coach, bus, tube or on internal flights. It is easy to overlook some transport costs as they are not always apparent and sometimes more expensive than you would think.
When I traveled to Europe for a backpacking trip, I forgot to budget for airport transfers. This is a huge error because we had lots of flights and ended up paying a lot for airports with poor connections to the city. Also, note that you will incur transport costs within cities and not just getting between cities. Especially when the city is large and you have not got much time, you will turn to the tube, bus or cab to get you there quickly. If you are traveling in a tour group, transport costs are normally included in the price or you pay local taxes to the leader to cover these costs.
Ultimately, the size of the estimated transportation cost will be determined by the amount of overland travel planned. For example, flying in and out of Auckland will have significantly fewer transport costs than flying into Auckland and then back out of Christchurch; it all depends on your planned trip and preferences. Note that overland travel is the best way to really see a country and where true adventures begin; it should be included somewhere on your journey. Budgeting for transport is the hardest element to predict because you do not know when you are going to get lazy and hop on that bus.
The last big travel costs to consider are the activities you are likely to partake in, and souvenirs you may buy. I have grouped these together as they pose the same problems when estimating potential payouts. This is because sometimes you know exactly what you want to do and buy at a location. For example, a person going to Queenstown, New Zealand may know they want to do a bungee jump and that they will want to purchase photos or videos of it. Another individual may just turn up not realizing the possibility of a jump, and payout the money unexpectedly without having budgeted for it. It is best to overestimate your budget for activities as these can be the experiences that will linger in your mind forever, provide the best talking points, and produce the best photos.
I hope that has illustrated the difficulty in budgeting well and shows that for many first time travelers their estimates are based on limited knowledge and self-performed research. Due to the unpredictable nature of traveling, you will spend money on things you would not normally, and you will encounter numerous hidden costs that you had not taken into account. The last piece of advice I can offer is to add 10% onto the price you are predicting. This will make sure you do not fall short of money on the way around and give you a higher target to strive for when saving. Who knows, you may even come back with a fiver left over.