Planning the trip of a lifetime: 5 budgeting tips

 Epic voyages are no longer the sole preserve of school or college leavers. More and more ‘grown-up gappers’ are embarking on trips of a lifetime too. Whatever your age and wherever your destination, budgeting for large-scale travel is essential. Here are our top tips to help you do just that.

1. Do your sums early on

Once-in-a-lifetime travel adventures rarely come cheap. So, for maximum enjoyment, budgeting is essential. Setting a clear figure from the outset will help you get a handle on what you can realistically afford - and whether you need to take some time to boost your travel fund.

If you plan to save towards your trip, it might be a good idea to work out your monthly income and outgoings so you can decide on an affordable figure to put aside on a regular basis. Lloyds Bank’s online budget tool, Money Manager, can help you do this.

2. Shop around

With the travel budget set, or at least a ballpark figure in mind, it is time to start looking at deals. Comparing prices between package providers is a good way to ensure you get the most for your money. There are many websites that offer comparison services.

Sometimes, building your own package can be cheaper than pre-arranged travel deals, but this leaves you in charge of your own trip. As such, it’s important to decide whether, or how much, you are willing to pay to have a tour operator or travel consultant on hand.

3. Get your priorities straight

Getting a range of travel prices can also help you decide what your true priorities are for your trip. Ask yourself what matters most: is it the destination itself? The experience? The luxury accommodation? The people you go with?

Ranking your priorities should help you see where to cut back your spending and where to shell out. For example, if your goal is to see the Northern Lights, you might find that travelling to Scandinavia is more cost-effective than travelling to Canada to see them. Similarly, if your main aim is simply to visit the Galapagos Islands, staying in local accommodation such as a B&B could be a much cheaper alternative to a large hotel.

Likewise, travelling at off peak times can lead to significant savings, so it is worth considering what time of year will get you the best trip for your money.

4. Consider the gap year experience

If your budget won’t quite stretch to meet your ideal destination, you could think about joining a volunteer programme which may cover some of your travel and accommodation costs.

After all, gap years aren’t just for those under 25. People in their 40s and 50s are now undertaking career breaks to embark on life-changing travel and volunteering experiences. In fact, Raleigh International, a sustainable development charity, runs volunteer expeditions in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Malaysian Borneo, Nepal and Tanzania that are open to anyone aged 17-75.

5. Don’t forget the financial extras

To make sure there aren’t any nasty financial surprises before, during, or after, your trip of a lifetime, take a moment to think about any extra costs and admin you may need to factor in.

This could cover anything from foreign exchange rates and travel insurance premiums to setting up direct debits to ensure that all your bills are paid while you’re away and speaking to your bank to make sure that your cards will work abroad.


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If you’re planning to take your mobile phone with you when you travel, it might also be worth checking with your provider about call and messaging costs from abroad. This should hopefully help to avoid a larger than expected bill on your return home.

Finally, remember to factor in any extra purchases you might like to make to ensure your once-in-a-lifetime adventure is as enjoyable and memorable as possible – such as a video camera to record every moment.


Further help and support

If you’re saving for a trip of a lifetime, take a look at our useful hints and tips for effective budgeting.

To find out more about volunteering abroad, gapyear.com lists a number of different opportunities.

Planning large-scale travel might also be a good time for a free personal financial review so you can see how your budget matches your aspirations.