How to start budgeting
I'm new to this forum, but have browsed and searched the site a good deal before posting. My husband and I have made the decision to plan for a trip of 3-4 months with our children. Because we will need to save for this adventure and because we'd like our kids to be a little older when we do it, we're envisioning traveling in about 2 years. We are not experienced travelers (our international travel to date has been limited to a couple of brief vacations in northern Europe), but we'd like to change. We just don't really know how to begin to plan. We haven't even decided what region of the world to visit. We feel like we need to get some kind of rough handle on how much money we need to save before we can think further about where we want to go. I know that everyone has a different idea of what constitutes an "affordable" or "comfortable" style of traveling, but still, I'm hoping that some of you experienced travelers can help guide us toward an understanding of how much money we will need to spend, so that we can set realistic targets for saving. Picture this kind of trip: We'd like to travel economically, and to put that in perspective, I'll say that I would not consider a $100/night accommodation to be a viable option unless it were extremely infrequent. We would want to eat out with some frequency, but in the sense of eating good but everyday food where locals do, not in the sense of 4-star dining. I envision staying mostly in rental houses or other arrangements where we can cook for ourselves, and maybe traveling by camper or something for some portion of the trip. Hostels aren't entirely out of the question, but I've never stayed in one so don't know what it would be like to stay in a hostel with girls ages 7 and 9. An occasional hotel would be OK if necessary, but certainly is not the traveling lifestyle we're looking for. I imagine we might fly between some destinations, but use trains sometimes as well. Basically we'd like to find some interesting places that would be fun and enlarging for us and our kids, where there are possibilities for making friends and learning about parts of the world that we currently know nothing about. We wouldn't want to give major cities a miss entirely, but would want to do more than hop from one world capital to another, checking off museum stops as we go.
So if you can, picture that kind of a trip, lasting about, say, 3 months. We'll be traveling from (and ultimately back to) the U.S. If you picture this trip in southern Europe (I say that so we're budgeting for a worst-case scenario, financially), can you give me any rough sense of what the cost for a family of 4 (including travel, accommodations, food, miscellaneous necessities, and a reasonable amount of non-luxury entertainment) might be? Are we talking about saving $5,000 or 5 times that? (Let's just say the dollar stays as weak as it is now.) If we avoided Europe and went just about anywhere else outside of North America, are we talking half the cost, 2/3 the cost, 1/3 the cost...what?
I don't know if these are even reasonable questions to ask. What I do know is that figuring out airfares seems like the easiest part, and yet not nearly enough to figure out how much money we'll need.
Thanks in advance for your help!
First thing I would do is plan on where you would like to go. If you are not set on Europe, then East Asia is not as exspensive and you can get much more for your dollar there.
In regards to Hostel vs other type of lodging, with a family, it often is cheaper to stay in a hotel then a hostel.
We will be riding our bikes through Central and South America (leaving Alaska in June - YIPPEE!!) and are planning on $1000-1500/month for the four of us. Since you would have travel costs on top of that, and you'd need more hotels (we'll camp when we're in the boonies), I would guess you would be more than fine with $2000/month. In all reality, I doubt you would actually need that much, but I would say have it available in case you do.
You can read about our little family adventure at www.familyonbikes.org GOOD LUCK!!
How about your kids? What sort of things do you think they can handle? I know, that's a hard one, i've got 2 young girls and I cant figure out where to take them on a 2 week trip.
I did take a long term trip before the kids and I can't wait to bring the girls to places like Turkey and Thailand. They are both easy to travel in, cheap, exotic and very welcoming to families.
we are still configuring our route and our plan is open-ended.....so it is daunting to think about where you'll be 10 months from the start of your trip lol.
one way to stretch your dollar (depending on your locale) is the home exchange option. you don't have to join the site to search them for possibilities in regions you want to stay. if you live in a popular region (or sometimes not so popular, but maybe at least near some attractions) it is a great option to swap homes....thereby eliminating your housing costs. some homes come with cars in the trade and give you the advantage of not having to rent one. there are lots of home exchange sites....but a place to start is homeexchange.com
we are starting our trip this fall and still have so much to do... and its easy to feel overwhelmed. that's what's so great about this online community! there are endless people (of experience) to ask all of our questions.
Based on your post it seems as though you've been on the Armageddon Pills web site (the mention of the M&Ms...)
Their site contains a pretty realistic discussion of expenses.
I've heard others mention a really rough planning figure of $300/day. Obviously you can do it for more or less, but as a very big ballpark, not a bad place to start. But I stress, there are millions of caveats to using this number.
Others have already helped you hone in on one of the biggest variables - where will you go?
Another way to think about this - what do you picture yourself doing?
One option for a trip like you are describing is to organize it around learning and volunteer opportunities. Attending a language school or working on a volunteer project for an extended period of time can organize your day, give added meaning to your trip and in some cases, reduce your costs.
I strongly recommend that you dive in and read as much as you can about the experience of others. There's a lot of great information, ideas and inspiration in the many family travel blogs out there.
There's another thread on this board with a very long list of family travel blogs. A good place to start.
Personally, I've discovered that it's hard to have more cash than you need while traveling, so I'd say anticipate it being more than you think. But rest assured there's a way to do it on whatever budget you end up with - I just find it helpful to aim high and stretch myself.
For Mexico/Central America, we used to do $30 a day, but that was a few years back, camping, with no kids. We have a six year old now, and I think if we were planning it today, I'd go for $100 a day plus airfare. That would cover food, ground transportation, cheap but clean hotels, and the occasional hotel or entertainment splurge. Really, though, it's hard to say. It could be considerably cheaper if you're staying in one place for longer periods.
As for the danger thing, you should definitely connect with some of these family travel bloggers. Nancy and CAJ both have great blogs, and CAJ has super list of other family bloggers. Tim Ferriss also posted a chapter excerpt from our book a while back - I'm sorry if this seems like a plug, but the chapter is about safety and family travel, and you can read it for free. It might help you think it through, if nothing else:
New Year, New You: How to Travel the World with (or without) Kids in 2008
Sabbaticals Made Simple
quote:But rest assured there's a way to do it on whatever budget you end up with
Do not let "a number" stand in your way... If you have an idea of what you will be able to afford, you will be able to find something great to do with your time!
There are as many budgets (and trips) as there are families who travel...
Most important is the desire to do it. I'm confident you can find a way.
Regarding the search for a number: It's not that we want to come up with some kind of number so that we can decide whether or not to travel, but rather so that we can decide how to budget, and when to plan to go. If it's going to cost, say, $10K, then we can maybe save enough to do it in 2 years. If it's going to cost, say, $30K, we'll need to save for longer. Obviously we're hoping that we'll learn it's possible to do the kind of trip we'd like for far less than $30,000, including air travel, but we just don't know. Currently we're excited about the idea of flying (from Chicago) to somewhere in Central or South America and traveling through some of those countries, mostly overland, for about 3 months. We have no details beyond that.
I also whole-heartedly agree on pouring over the family blogs.... You can a get a lot of great ideas from them and discover places you've never heard of......
I think on the safety issue, it's often one of perception - if you don't speak the language and the culture seems very 'alien' to you, you can feel unsafe even if you are perfectly safe in reality. Visiting a country like Malaysia, say, you are arguably safer than in the US, as long as you do your research on illnesses such as Malaria.
In the UK, we read about gun crime in the USA and perceive it as a pretty unsafe place compared to here. If you have local knowledge of a place it's easier to judge the risks. You don't want to take your children anywhere you don't feel safe, because you won't be able to relax and enjoy yourselves, but if you do your research, you can arm yourself with local knowledge and make a decision you feel happy about. For instance I want to know that I can get to a decent hospital relatively easily. I'm relatively relaxed about the threat of petty crime such as pickpocketing but wouldn't go to a country with regular kidnapping of tourists. You know what you feel comfortable with. That said, for me, one of the great things about travelling is the mild frisson of excitment/danger you get from trying something completely new and stretching yourself beyond what you would experience at home.
We have been traveling in Europe ( plus Morocco and Turkey) for almost 2 years now as a family, so have a lot of experience in this area. We live large on very little, so I would not eliminate Europe which seemed to be your first choice.
We have traveled and lived here in Spain ( in a gorgeous, very large home with ocean views) for less than friends who were in SE Asia in a hostel, so much depends on how you do it. I found the prices quoted on Armageddon Pills amazingly high. I can not fathom spending that kind of money to travel, yet they felt they were traveling cheaply.
Look at our website and you can see that we have been living very well and we live on 25K a year ( total costs for a family of three) while traveling and could live on much less if we did not like to splurge some.
I know most Americans have fear around Turkey, but it is a fantastic place, more modern than much of Europe, more ruins than Italy and Greece, the best hospitality/friendliest people in the world, great food and super cheap.
Rural southern Spain is fantastic in the winter and I would VERY highly recommend a trip to Morocco to do a Camel trek in the Sahara ( do it with Les Nomades), see Fez Medina and Ait Ben Haddou area. It will be more exotic than you are used to, but if you stay at the places we stayed at you will be well taken care of and have the experience of a lifetime. Maybe combine it with time in Spain and Portugal or France.
There are many places in Europe that you can stay at that can be done on a budget. We mostly go by RV ...which is a fantastic way to travel as a family and perfect way to see Europe ( like many European families). Rentals are another good idea, If you go by monthly rates you can even get better deals. If you stick to more rural areas and live like a local, it can be much cheaper than most people think.
Croatia, France, Italy,Spain, Portugal,Greece are all great places in southern Europe that you would love and could find ways to do for less in rural areas. You can walk and take public transport to cities and more popular spots, but just spend the bulk of your time where it is costing less. Families tend to like the rural areas better anyway as a few days in a crowded city is often enough.We sometimes stay in pensions, hotels etc but usually only pay 20/30 euros a night and I almost have never paid over 100 dollars a night even for the fanciest world class places we stayed. We never book ahead. Try to go off season or shoulder season and you will be happier and prices will be better.
We have lots of information on our website ( www.soultravelers3.com) or come join our facebook group and jump into the conversation with others planning trips:
The planning stage can be hard, but doing it is really easy. Go for it, you will have a blast where ever you end up going! Part of the joy of travel is stepping outside your comfort zone and just learning as you go. You all will gain strength just by doing it. Figure out how much you want to spend and then just build a trip around that.
I am always doing that
which I can not do,
in order that
I may learn how to do it.
I guess we can let you know on return how it really tuned out!
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