The Simple Travel Budget Formula (for Busy People)

By Jane Mountain | July 1, 2015

money, travel budget, travel money, foreign exchange

People talk an awful lot about money-saving tips, budgets, travel hacks and credit cards to use when planning a long-term trip. Ever notice how no one ever comes right out and tells you exactly how much your darn trip is going to cost? Why is it so hard to come up with an accurate travel budget?

Because there are so many factors involved that the cost of travel is unique to each traveller.

Your choice of destination will make a big difference, of course. Travelling in Laos is going to be much more budget-friendly than visiting Tokyo. Your travel style is a huge factor, too. Do you want to visit all of the big sights, even the expensive ones?

Related: How to Save Money for Travel (the Grown-Up Way) →

Angkor Wat through the backdoor.

Visiting big sites is more expensive than wandering around a small village.

Do you want to eat in Michelin-starred restaurants or are you OK with street food? Can you cook for yourself? Will you camp, hostel, or stay in flashpacker hotels? Do you like a beer or two with dinner? Will you travel by bus, plane, taxi, train, or bicycle?

Related: Busses, Planes, and Trains: How to Get Around While Travelling →

Here’s the thing. It’s almost impossible to know the answer to these questions in advance. Your travel style will evolve as you go and some days you’ll want to splurge while other days you won’t spend a cent.

That’s why, instead of taking hours to estimate a budget based on shaky facts at best, I use this quick and dirty formula for estimating a travel budget.

Travel Style x Destination x # Days on the Road x 15% Travel Cushion = Your Total Travel Budget

Here's a simple way to determine your travel budget for long-term travel, based on travel style, destination, and length of time on the road. Click the link for more details.

Let’s plug in some real numbers to see how it works.

First, I’ve used dozens of various travel budget articles on the web to establish a base rate for each travel style.

This is a rough per-day cost for a single person to travel in the least expensive regions of the world.

  • Down ‘n’ Dirty Backpacker = $25
  • Clean ‘n’ Cozy Flashpacker = $35
  • Craft Beer Loving Wanderer = $50
  • Fine with Finery Traveller = $75
  • Where’s the Bellhop Tourist = $125 +

Then, using cost reports for different regions of the world, I estimated the relative costs of travelling in the most popular regions.

  • Southeast Asia, South America, India & area = 1
  • China, Korea, Taiwan, Bosnia, Serbia, Romania = 1.25
  • Central America, Central Europe, The Baltics = 1.5
  • North America = 2
  • Western Europe, New Zealand, Australia = 2.5
  • Japan, Northern Europe = 3

Finally, we add 15% to our budget for unexpected incidents and to give us a little travel cushion.

So for example, a Flashpacker travelling to Western Europe for six months would use the Flashpacker base rate of $35, multiply it by 2.5 for Western Europe and 180 for the number of days. Finally, add 15% for a cushion.

$35 x 2.5 x 180 days x 1.15 = $18,112

For six months in Western Europe, a single Flashpacking traveller will need about $18,000.

If you’re travelling as a couple you won’t need quite twice that amount because you can usually save by sharing accommodation and meals. So, for two people, multiply the single traveller total by 1.75.

$18,000 x 1.75 = $31,697

For six months in Western Europe, a couple of Flashpackers will need about $32,000.

One of the reasons Southeast Asia is so popular? The solo Flashpacker trip through Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia would only cost about $7,200, leaving $12,000 for other travel adventures.

Voila! A simple but effective travel budget estimate.

Got a quibble with my math? Have some real numbers of your own? Please let us know in the comments.


  1. Comment by Carol Leisch

    Carol Leisch July 11, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    I am planning a solo trip in 2018 to celebrate my 75th birthday but I did not see a formula for SOUTH AFRICA. All the other info makes sense to me since I like to focus on budget friendly ASIA.

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane July 11, 2017 at 5:43 pm

      Hi Carol,
      Congrats on your 75th and congrats on planning a trip to South Africa. What a great way to celebrate! My parents are both in their late 70s and also avid travellers.

      I did a little research and for South Africa I would use the “Central America, Central Europe, The Baltics = 1.5” conversion. Accommodation can be quite expensive there but food is cheaper.

      I hope that helps! Let us know how your budgeting goes.

      Happy travels! J

  2. Comment by Jeremiah

    Jeremiah July 9, 2017 at 7:31 am

    Very nice tips to travel on a budget and money saving. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Comment by Bella

    Bella November 8, 2016 at 2:49 am

    Hi this is great steps to take while budgeting for travel.
    What a smart idea am totally using it.
    Thank you so much for sharing!!!

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane November 18, 2016 at 1:06 am

      Hi Bella,
      Thanks for commenting. I hope it works well for you!!


  4. Comment by Brittany

    Brittany October 6, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    This is so great! I always find it difficult to come up with a travel budget and am never quite sure where to start. I can definitely see myself using this formula when I am travel planning.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    – Brittany

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane October 6, 2015 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks Brittany. I’d love to know how it works out for you if you end up using in on your next trip!

      All the best, J

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