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Travel Budgeting

If you want to travel you’re going to spend money. It’s that simple. All the reward miles and points help but lets face it you are going to spend money it’s a reality you have to embrace. That’s why identifying your travel budget is critical.

Lets start with the basic question: “What is a travel budget?”. Hey, Geezer you think this is a simple question? Think again.

If you spend money each month on groceries if you are at home how does that effect your travel budget? What if you spend money on gas, or on eating out or on entertainment? How do everyday costs impact your travel budget? I hear your pain! What the heck am I talking about? What’s the point?

The point is: the first step in setting a travel budget is to figure out what you would be spending if you were just sitting at home working on your garden. To build your travel budget you have to understand your “normal budget”.

OK, for example,  Geezer Couple One spends on groceries, gas, eating out, electricity and entertainment every month, they have a monthly budget they will spend at home without traveling one step out of the comforts of their home town. That creates a travel budget that is available without going into their travel piggy bank.

So step one of setting up your travel budget: Identify how much money you can spend traveling that you would spend if you just stayed home. We like to think of that -0- loss figure as our base budget.

In December Charlene and I are flying to South East Asia. In countries like Viet Nam, Indonisia and Cambodia a very nice dinner for two costs between $15 and $19 and an inexpensive lunch or dinner can cost around $3. We can compare the cost of food where we live to where we will be visiting on an amazing little web site called In Numbeo you just enter your home location and your travel destination and compare the cost of living. As you can see on the left while Charlene and I are in Cambodia at Siem Reap enjoying the sights of Angkor Wat we will be paying about 63.92% less for dining out. Looking at the information on Siem Reap I’m thinking Charlene and I can eat fairly well for about $25 dollars a day. Numbeo not only gives you the comparison between the cost of your home and your travel destination it gives you specifics. I like the price of beer in Siem Reap. If beer in a restaurant is 50 cents how much is it at the grocery? Did I mention that beer should also be in your daily base budget?

So the second factor to be considered in your budget is the cost of your everyday living expenses where you are going which can be explored on the web thru

As Geezers we have basic needs: food, lodging, entertainment and transportation. When Charlene and I travel the basic act of the traveling is our entertainment. It’s free to just walk down the street and take in the sights and learn about the cultures of a new destination. In short once your on the streets of your destination if you choose you can have a blast and not spend one penny out of the piggy bank for entertainment. In reality you will spend money on entertainment but you don’t have to.

For a moment lets talk travel budget and lodging. Lodging like food varies depending on where you are. For example, in Siem Reap a 4 star hotel with an excellent review rating can cost $24 a night with a free breakfast. This is an exceptional deal but I think you can see that when your putting together a travel budget the costs of your destinations is a major consideration. If we were staying in Hong Kong the rooms would be averaging around $170 a night. The message being: spend more time in locations like Angkor Wat and less time in Hong Kong.

These lodging examples brings me to my third point. Let’s say I want to budget $30 a day for lodging on our trip to South East Asia. That might very well be reasonable if the days you stay with friends is -0- and in some countries the cost of a very nice room is $24. Another huge factor for our Geezer friends in their lodging budget is using their reward point for lodging. We cant justify paying for all of our lodging on our trip with points but in horribly expensive cities like Hong Kong using our travel rewards will ease the pain.

A fourth factor in calculating an actual dollars out or your piggy bank budget is how much of your trip you can fund with your saved travel rewards. In our Asia Trip example I showed how we were able to fund our round trip business class tickets to and from Hong Kong for 140,000 American Airlines miles. Once we’re in Asia we will fly from Hong Kong to Manila, Manila to Bali, Bali to Cambodia, Cambodia to Viet Nam and back to Hong Kong. Some of those flights will be with miles but some will be cash. In some of the following articles we’ll describe how we decide how to pay for these various flights. Our transportation like our flights have to be budgeted but a major cost cutter will be our saved travel rewards.

A fifth factor in calculating our actual dollar outlay for the trip will be miscellaneous costs. Miscellaneous costs are things like museum fees, taxi fees, tours, etc. If you have never been to a destination these costs take some research in order for you to get a feel for how much to budget for miscellaneous costs. We have discovered the best tool to explore miscellaneous costs is  We love this site. In tripadvisor you will find real life travel advice like the best way to see the ruins of Angkor Wat. How much a driver in Bali should cost. The cost of the art museums in Singapore and which museums have the best exhibit of modern Asian art. If your going to New Orleans or Manila take an hour and explore what tripadvisor has to say about your destination. In building your budget, free web sites like tripadvisor will be key research tools in calculating your budget but will also save you a ton of cash by guiding you away from common mistakes that other travelers have made.

So to recap in putting together your travel budget here are our five steps. First calculate your everyday spending because that can be taken off your budget, if you spend $40 on food a day at home consider that in your travel budget. Second, use to calculate how expensive the cost of staying in your destination is. Third consider your budget as an average, some days will be very expensive (Hong Kong) and some will be cheap (Siem Reap). You can control your budget by simply staying longer periods of time in the cheaper destinations. Fourth, use your travel rewards wisely and get the most bang for the buck out of them. Finally, use insider information sites like tripadvsor to control costs, project costs and plan the nitty gritty of your trip.

Charlene and I will be using for our trip to South East Asia as an example of how you can form and use a travel budget. First, we have calculated our base home budget and we spend about $2300 a month on the necessities of food, transportation and entertainment that we can use in our travel budget without ever taking a nickel out of our piggy bank ( that’s about $75 a day). Second, on this trip we will be traveling in areas such as Cambodia, Viet Nam and Indonesia where the cost of excellent food is very inexpensive, using the figures from we are designating $30 a day for food. Third our trip will have some serious ups and downs as far as lodging costs, Cities like Hong Kong and Singapore are horribly expensive for food, lodging and entertainment and cities like Da Nang and Siem Reap are very inexpensive. To keep our costs down we will limit out time in Hong Kong and Singapore and concentrate most of our trip on locations like Bali, Da Nang and Siem Reap. Fourth, we will only use our travel rewards when we can get really good bang for our buck. Why spend 10,000 hotel reward points when you can get an excellent room for $24. Finally, using local knowledge thru sites like trip advisor we are able to make our trip rich in experiences without breaking the bank.

Our budget for this trip less the travel rewards we will expend looks like this: Food $30 a day, lodging $ 30 a day, entertainment $15 a day, transportation $700 for the entire trip. We will actually be away from home a total of 47 days. Making our estimated dollar cost of the trip $4225. This does not count the ~200,000 travel reward points and miles we will use during the trip. Considering that we would have spent around $3500 if we just stayed home for that 47 days the reality is if we stick to budget we will do the whole trip and have to break about $725 out of our piggy bank.

No, we won’t be staying at many 5 star resorts, mainly we will stay at 4 star resorts and with friends and we wont be flying first class but we will be flying business class on the long legs of our trip. At it’s our goal to help our readers to realize their travel dreams and be able to afford those dreams. Over the next 5 months we will walk you thru the steps of planning, implementing and living this trip. Today we talked about our travel budget and how we try to calculate actual dollars we will spend. Starting in December we will talk the real costs of the real adventures. Please sign up below and join us on our trip to Asia.

Disclosure: The opinions expressed in this article are shared with our readers with the belief of the author that they are accurate but the author is unable to guarantee the offers expressed herein. supports the businesses mentioned above because they are businesses the author has found to be helpful in saving money while traveling. may get a commission for links on the blog. You don’t have to use our links, but we’re very grateful when you do. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or endorsed by our partners


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