This summer I will have a whole 7 days holiday to use up, lucky me! (Does my sarcasm comes across?). So I am in the midst of planning a short, budget backpacking trip to hopefully satisfy my wanderlust. I am a bit of a dab hand when it comes to budget travel these days and planning a backpacking trip on a budget is actually something I enjoy! So I thought I would walk you through my method as I go. Then when the time comes for your next bout of exploration and you want to plan a backpacking trip on a budget you will have this as reference. Tried and tested by me!
1. BROWSE ‘EVERYWHERE’ ON SKYSCANNER
Backpacking on a budget can be made a heck of a lot easier if you are flexible. So I always start by searching ‘everywhere’ on Skyscanner, either for a particular month or ‘anytime’. In this instance I knew I wanted to go away in September so that narrowed my search down slightly. However, I had no idea where I wanted to go. But doing this always provides amazing trip inspiration and, as flights are usually a big chunk of your budget, getting cheap ones is important.
You can further narrow your search down by selecting direct flights only. When I know I have less time I do this to minimise the time I am in the air. I have 7 days holiday which with weekends means I am planning for approximately a 10 day trip. I might be able to stretch this slightly if I am lucky/ if my boss is feeling generous!
2. DECIDE WHERE TO GO
Research – this step works in conjunction with step 1. I always research the places I have found cheap flights for on Skyscanner to see if they tick all my boxes. Last year I backpacked around Southeast Asia so I knew roughly that I wanted to avoid Asia for this trip and go to an new continent for me.
Season – Another integral thing to consider when choosing where to go. You don’t want to be unexpectedly caught in monsoon season, likewise a harsh winter. It is also worth considering when peak tourist season is because to plan a backpacking trip on a budget is made a lot easier if the busiest period is avoided. I find the Conde Nast Traveller site great to search for ideal locations depending on month. I had wanted to go to Cuba this September but it is during hurricane season. I’d have to be quite unlucky to be there in a hurricane but considering 2018’s track record I decided not to risk it. So sadly Cuba is ruled out… at least for 2019!
Trip Length – how long can you backpack for? Also, how big is your budget? If you have a lot of time and not a lot of money it would be a good idea to go somewhere inexpensive such as Asia. That way your money will go further. I always say the longer the better but it isn’t always possible, like in this instance. 10 days isn’t a long trip and I am also on a budget so somewhere cheap was still a priority.
3. BOOK YOUR FLIGHTS
Yay, you’ve decided where to go! And I have decided on Zanzibar! When looking a little closer at the flights I realised I could save money by flying to near by Dar Es Salaam, mainland Tanzania. The ferry between there and the Zanzibar Archipelago is 2 hours long. It also means I’ll be able to spend a few days in Dar Es Salaam to do a safari which has been on my bucket list for years. Skyscanner usually shows you different airports within a country which is handy.
4. RESEARCH YOUR BUDGET
Accommodation + Transport – there are many things to consider when you plan a backpacking trip on a budget. Transport and accommodation will be a regular expenditure so consider where you’ll be staying. Couchsurfing is the cheapest way to travel and extremely fun in my experience. Hostel World is another great resource and it is great to get into the spirit of backpacking by staying a hostel, surrounded by other backpackers! If you’re hiring a car research prices as well as rough prices for busses or internal flights.
Food – again, another regular expense. Eat street food! Some of the best meals I had in Southeast Asia were from the street. It is also the cheapest option. I also recommend using other bloggers experiences to help gauge the prices for where you’re going. This tip can be used in relation to all budget estimates.
Day Trips/ Tours – are there any tours or trips you already know you want to do? In this instance I know I want to do a safari so I need to research where the best places to do one are, the best providers and the costs. Would it be cheaper to pre-book? I have no idea! Generally I don’t pre-book tours though. I will also budget a bit extra for any other trips or tours I come across that look worthwhile!
Cushion – it is always a good idea to give yourself a cushion. Backpacking rarely goes to plan. You meet people, your itinerary changes, you find amazing souvenirs which you have to buy despite promising yourself you wouldn’t come back with another bowl or magnet… Emergency money is also important where ever you go, better safe than sorry!
5. GET A BUDGETING APP
Now that your budget it roughly sorted you can get a budgeting app. I use Trail Wallet because I find it super user friendly. Input all your information and try your best to stick to it! I don’t always manage to but it still helps to see where money is going.
6. BOOK FIRST NIGHTS ACCOMMODATION
This isn’t an necessity. However, when you plan a backpacking trip on a budget you don’t want to be caught out with nowhere to stay and end up having to fork out lot’s of money. Therefore I recommend booking your first night. If you have any internal flights booked or other plans that are set in stone, you can book accommodation around them too. You know where you’re going to be if you have just got off a plane whereas the rest of the trip is more uncertain.
Depending on where you are going, booking.com will be the cheapest option. Especially if there aren’t any hostels, although most hostels can be booked through booking.com too.
How you plan a backpacking trip can make or break your budget. I didn’t prepare for Southeast Asia at all so I was lucky to stick to a decent budget! And once you get to your destination day to day budgeting obviously has a huge effect! However, budgets are only rough so make full use of the cushion if you have to. I always think, I may never come back here, so I don’t want to miss out on anything! Hope you found this helpful. If you have any tips let me know in the comments.