Budget for your Solo trip
Right now you have finally booked your solo trip, whether you have months, weeks before you actually leave, it’s time to make a checklist.
Before we move on, make sure these things are sorted
- You have a valid passport which will also be valid the entire length of your trip
- You have sorted out your visa which was explained in the Booking your solo trip
- Your flights are sorted for the correct date especially if you didn’t book flights via Trek America
- You have the correct insurance, also done via Trek America.
Once those are sorted it’s time to start looking at the next items on your check list to sort out.
- Budget for food including daily snacks, drinks
- Budget for tips including the trek leader
- Budget for extras like activities
- Budget for shopping/spending money
- Pre-paid currency card and what money to take
So let’s begin with
I’m going to refer to my trip for this and as I did 80 days, this will be the maximum. It is recommended to have $10 per day for food kitty.
For my trip this was $800. We didn’t have to pay this in one go , it was done as two payments. This does seem very large but remember if you’re doing a 14 day trip, that’s only $140.
Now the food situation is pretty much this, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Early on, the trek leader will ask you for the food kitty money. Then you will make your first stop at Walmart. This place has everything so be prepared to be amazed.
Every trek leader is different and more often the trek leader will split you into groups. Some cooking, some cleaning and some cleaning the van. When it’s your time for cooking, try to have an idea of some easy, quick meals. Food is often prepared on a gas hub, there will be no microwaves, toasters etc. So choose basic stuff that can be given to the whole group.
Don’t worry if you’ve never cooked before, you’ll soon learn.
Breakfast was usually cereals, yoghurts, fruit, pancakes.
Sometimes it may rain and on this occasion we had breakfast at a petrol station early on in our trip.
Lunch was sandwiches, rotisserie style chicken, a combination of things.
Dinner was rice, chicken, burgers, hot dogs, curries.
The $10 a day though doesn’t just cover food, will cover extras like drinks, and extra food for hikes. Depending how well the trek leader budgets, it could be used for even more.
We had enough in our food kitty to allow us 6 nights in cabins, an extra hotel night in New Orleans and at least 3 fully paid for meals out together.
You won’t be eating three meals a day at camp, that just doesn’t happen. Days at hotels, hostels, you’ll be eating out. Free days you are in control of what you eat so make sure to budget for those days. Though remember most hotel stays include breakfast.
You will also want to budget for snacks and drinks on the road. You’ll be spending a lot of time in the van travelling and more often people want to snack. Plus it’s always nice to try some of the chocolates and sweets from a different country.
I had always hated beef jerky but during the trip, someone gave me some to try. Then I was hooked. Sweet baby Rays Beef Jerky is by far the best.
Now as you will be eating out often unless you’re choosing to starve yourself, you will need to grow a custom to tipping.
Where I’m from you don’t have to unless you want to. In the States, if you don’t tip the minimum, these workers won’t even make the minimum wage. But trust me it’s definitely worth tipping the staff in restaurants that serve you. Never met such friendly staff in my life. Even those who weren’t serving me but just waiting to find us a table, would make conversation.
Custom to tip at least 15%-20%
Now usually the people you want to tip are those who serve you as in waiters, guides. You won’t need to tip those serving you at fast food places or supermarkets etc.
Now this leads onto the Trek Leader. You don’t have to but its advised to, think about everything this person is going to do for you. From day one to the last day. These people will drive you everywhere, entertain you, guide you, help you, befriend you.
Without these trek leaders, pretty sure these trips wouldn’t happen. On the website it is recommended $10 a day per trek leader. Make sure to budget that in as well. You can choose the amount to tip whether it’s more or less.
EXTRAS & ACTIVITIES
Activities is an easy one to budget for, all the treks listed will have details of paid extras, these are only if you choose to do them so if you can’t afford them or just don’t fancy climbing, snorkelling etc, then you can skip them.
I tried as many as possible as it was a once in a lifetime trip so made sure the ones I 100% wanted to do, I had enough for.
Now this one is harder to budget for, when you arrive at a city for day or two, it’s up to you where you go, so make sure you think about transport, if it be the subway, taxi, Uber, bus etc. You might choose to do a city tour bus, or a museum.
Cities like New York, you might want to budget in Empire State building, 9/11 memorial and more.
This is probably my biggest regret of the trip is not looking at the places where we had free time and planning ahead. You only have a limited time in these places so you want to see as much as possible and not spend ages planning on the day. Lucky enough the group I was with, was quick at making decisions and wanted to see similar stuff.
So for example, if you have an entire day free in New York, ask yourself, what do you want to see there and try a figure the best way to fit most if not all of it. Definitely worth it.
This one is going to be different for everyone. Some have expensive taste, others like the bargains. You will have a chance to buy souvenirs in many places so think ahead of the sort of stuff you’d like to come home with to remember your trip.
One couple on our trip tried to get magnets of everywhere we went and I’ve seen their fridge since we got back, its completely covered.
I bought a lot of clothing, so much I had to leave a few things behind but it was just the older tatty stuff I had worn throughout the trip.
One thing I would tell myself to do is not to pack so much clothing particularly t-shirts as a quick visit to Walmart and I could pick a t-shirt for under $10 which whilst writing this, I’m actually wearing one of them now.
When it comes to gifts, presents for family/friends, try to avoid anything fragile especially at the start of your trip as you’ll need to be careful for the rest of it then.
I bought a picture frame for my Mum in Nashville which was in the first month of our trip, managed to get it home in one piece. I did buy a few vinyl records whilst away and good thing I saved doing this till the last week as I would have hated trying to keep an eye on them the entire trip.
So now you can work out most of your budget and what you need to save.
Next is how you decide to carry/take all that money. Well best thing you can do is get yourself a pre-paid currency card, I recommend this one (link).
If you’re only going for 14 days, then put most of your money on it and the rest as cash.
If you’re doing a long trip like me, then budget two weeks worth on it, with a little extra.
Have some cash for at least two to three days,
Make sure to check your day to day plan so you have enough cash for activities etc, you can pay by card in most places but still it’s easier to use cash.
You will make a lot of stops so always chance to get some more out of a cash machine, the ones at Walmart don’t usually charge you either.
Take your bank card with you and use wifi in places you visit to transfer money over to your pre paid currency card. I did this about 3-4 times the entire trip and never ran out.
Safety wise I kept my cards and money on me at all times.
I never use a wallet either as easier to steal and if you lose it, it’s got everything, where as if you keep things separated, you won’t but it’s all down to personal preference.
If you are someone who worries, you can always buy yourself something like this
Store your money, cards, passport and keep it on you at all times for peace of mind. Waterproof as well.
So now all that is sorted its time to shop for the stuff you’ll want to take with you so check out my next post, coming soon.