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How To Budget An Overseas or Extended Trip: Up-Front Costs

I recently debated this online, an online friend wrote a book about bike touring (actually riding all the way from Alaska to the tip of Chile – Changing Gears – recommended) and then was surprised because a reader of her blog objected to her not including the cost of the bike in the trip costs! She  assumed that someone who was planning on cycle touring would already own a bike and know how to use it! I wouldn’t count the bikes as part of the trip cost either – unless they were bought specifically for the trip, which seems like a very bad idea, even to me a non-bicycle tourer

You know, in the same way that planning a road trip involves having a car, an RV trip, an RV etc. I could see both sides though, and I decided to put together a list of up front costs (which diminish with time and is highly dependent on how much you travel) and daily costs (which vary more with the style of the trip).

Image (c) urbanists via flickr.com

Image (c) urbanists via flickr.com

Up-Front “Sunk” Costs

Health Related

Within the last few years, vaccinations have improved dramatically: Hepatitis A & B now gives effectively life-time immunity. others though such as tetanus still need to be updated every 10 years or so. Keep your record of vaccinations so you can set up what you need for the next trip.

If you are going for a long trip I’d also suggest that you have a dental check-up. If you need glasses then make sure you have a copy of your prescription plus a spare pair.

Bags and Luggage

I will cry when my trusty over 10-years-old backpack finally falls to pieces, it’s done many, many miles and we are know each other well! I am happy to pay good money for the right pack, it makes a huge difference to have a pack that fits you and suits you.

I change day bags more often, depending on the particular trip and how much tech gear I want to carry with me.

Tech Gear and Cameras

I use my camera more when I travel, but it’s not a “special” travel camera. If you are keen enough to use an expensive camera at home, then I’d suggest you take it with you, with appropriate insurance if it helps you sleep at night. If you want to upgrade to something like the Canon T2i, do so well before the trip. A trip of a life-time is not the place to be learning how to operate your camera.

The same can be said for any netbook, tablet or smartphone you take. Figure out what you need and get comfortable with it before you leave home.

Special Clothing for Travel

I have very little “special” travel clothing, but if your lifestyle is more formal than mine, you may find that some clothing just doesn’t get used at home. If this is your first trip though, I wouldn’t spend $100’s on clothing before you leave home. An awful lot of the “travel” clothing is all about the marketing. A thin wool Merino jumper will work as well overseas as at home regardless of whether it’s a travel brand. If you have a comfortable pair of pants then add some zips or an inside pocket to make them “travel pants”.

Almost all my travel shirts are men’s styles – women’s styles NEVER have pockets that are large enough to carry a passport in, luckily I am tall enough to wear men’s styles comfortably.

If you are doing a lot of walking, and you almost certainly will end up doing more than normal, make sure you have comfortable, well-used shoes with you. Blisters are miserable, and completely avoidable, so long as you have worn your shoes before leaving home. Again I buy quality for shoes, having found a well-fitting pair I don’t want them falling to pieces on me after a month or two.

(c) YuppiesOnFoot via flickr.com

(c) YuppiesOnFoot via flickr.com

Travel Gadgets

I keep these in a bag ready to go. None cost very much, most have done multiple trips, and I usually use them

  • Money-belt
  • Sink stopper/laundry line
  • Plug adaptor (for overseas trips)
  • A LED headlight torch – incredibly useful for hands-free light, I often use it even a hotel room because of my habit of reading in bed and the frequent lack of decent lighting
  • A charger for camera batteries
  • Small containers of shampoo and soap (I “borrow” these from hotels I visit)
  • Ear plugs
  • Small first aid kit rather than having to recreate it each time;
  • A small sewing kit (for the same reasons);
  • Small zipped bags – these I’ve got from everywhere including Amenity Kits on trains, to giveaway cosmetics, zipped and preferably clear plastic they are very useful for arranging small stuff and keeping it together;
  • Spare shoe laces – yes I’ve broken shoe laces and they can be quite hard to find if you are far from civilisation, or just in a city which doesn’t have a lot of  shoe shops in the area.

Your Vehicle and It’s Spares

And a tool kit to go with it as well. When we travelled Australia in an old 4WD we had basic tools with us plus light but essential spares including belts and other things that may break and immobilize us. Obviously with a bike you’d want to be able to repair a flat tyre.

(c) What atravesity via flickr.com

(c) What atravesity via flickr.com

Minimising Your Up-Front Travel Costs

The up-front costs are the easiest to quantify for any trip, and probably the area where people over-spend the most. Except for decent footwear, backpack, and vehicle (if appropriate), I try to minimize the rest of my costs. If you plan it’s also a great way for friends and family to help out by giving you useful presents, or even better, cash or vouchers. Don’t let anyone else buy a backpack or shoes for you, though! You must get what is comfortable and the only way to do that is to try the items on. Yes you look silly walking around a shop carrying a backpack with a pile of books in it and a pair of shoes, but it’s the only way to know if they fit properly or not.

In the next article I’ll talk about budgeting daily costs when travelling. Check it out here

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