People often ask me how I pay for all my travels. To be honest, it depends. I’ve had about half of my trips paid for by other organizations and I’ve paid for the other half out of pocket. For my backpacking trip through Europe, I paid my own way.
I’m a big believer in celebrating my accomplishments in life. After I graduated high school, I went skydiving. Towards the end of my sophomore year of college I started thinking about what I would do after I graduated and I decided that I wanted to travel. That summer I started working out a plan and looking at costs. I was giving myself 2 years to save.
I worked all 4 years of college. My 20 hours a week in work study helped pay for tuition the following year. I also worked full time in Idaho over my summers (although my Idaho pay always depressed me when I knew I could be making so much more if I stayed in New York.) Since I had such a long winter break, I would also usually pick up some temporary work for a few weeks after Christmas.
My junior year I worked hard, stuck to my budget and was excited thinking about how great my trip would be. A few months later an opportunity came up to study in China the following summer. It was a 6 week extensive program through the Honor’s College and almost everything was covered. 8 credits, housing, weekend excursions, a week playing in Beijing, visas and airfare and all I had to pay was $2,000. After a long talk with my parents where I asked for their guidance, I decided to take the $2,000 out of savings and go to China. I knew that meant I might have to shorten my Europe trip, but in the end I decided it was worth it.
My last year of college our tuition went up quite a bit and I lost one of my grants when the government rewrote the income parameters and I no longer qualified. I ended up dipping into my savings again to cover the difference so that I didn’t have to take out an extra student loan. As a result, the money I’d saved for my trip was quickly dwindling.
Since it was my last year, I knew everything I made would go towards Europe. It was a tough year as I had my senior Anthropology field work to conduct and thesis to write, but the credits I’d earned in China had been unexpected when I’d originally looked at my 4 year plan, so I could take some easy gym (a.k.a. no homework) classes to help balance my work load. After a couple months, I realized I was actually surviving my senior year so I decided to get a second part-time job on campus and work a total of 40 hours a week. I also decided to stay on campus that Spring Break. They always needed people to work extra hours and paid overtime since most people went home. I could work on writing my thesis and make money at the same time. Between my two jobs I clocked almost 100 hours that week, all of which I put towards my trip.
While most of the money I saved was hard earned, I did get some help from others. For Christmas, my birthday and for graduation I requested money for my trip instead of gifts. By the time I was ready to leave for my trip, I had enough money saved.
I am a budget traveler and I will gladly skip that night of partying so that I can spend an extra couple days on a trip. My daily allowance was $50 per day (at the time roughly 40 euros). I planned for 90 days, even though I knew I would probably have to leave a little early to make sure I could get back to U.S. in enough time to get my Visa before returning to Spain for work. But I also figured this created a little bit of a buffer for items that I would occasionally really want to do that may be a little over budget.
Daily allowance: $4,500
I purchased a 3 month unlimited Eurorail pass. People often ask if an unlimited pass is worth it, but that’s another post all its own. I can say, that for me, it definitely was worth the investment.
Eurorail pass: $1,500
When I left for Europe I didn’t know when my start date would be for my job in Spain, so I opted for a one way ticket. Fortunately, I scored an amazing deal on a one way from New York to Dublin. When I finally got my start date I had to return to the U.S. 6 weeks prior to get my Visa as they refused to let me do so oversees. This meant I had to purchase an additional round trip ticket. Also, I had to apply for my Visa in San Francisco and then head up to Idaho and wait for it to show up. It was a last minute purchase over the summer and I didn’t have a lot of time to shop around.
New York to Dublin-one way: $200
Madrid to San Francisco-round trip: $1,500
San Francisco to Boise-round trip: $300
Grand total: $8,000
Have you traveled for an extended period? How does this compare to your budget?